Hi, and welcome to the 21st edition of the Humanist Symposium! Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, and I was originally planning to do a whole pagan woo theme in honor of it. But I decided that wouldn’t be in keeping with the non-snarky, “atheism as a positive, fulfilling worldview” mission statement of the Symposium. So instead, I’m doing a “21st edition/ reaching the age of maturity” theme… and am illustrating this edition’s contributions with pictures of cocktails.
Much more classy, don’t you think?
So pull up a barstool on this fine Sunday morning, and let’s begin the Symposium!
Brian Lardner at Primordial Blog, on The Art of Living Selfishly. How giving up self-denial made the author both a happier and a better person. “Living in self-denial actually made me more judgemental and less helpful than I am now. Now that I no longer have a hidden agenda I find that I am actually more generous and giving than I used to be.”
Efrique at Ecstathy, on The Consolations of Probability. How understanding the random, non–purposeful, “everything doesn’t happen for a reason” aspects of life can help us live it. “I’m not just talking about the fact that there’s a lot of random stuff that happens that we aren’t responsible for, or that we’re incredibly lucky to be here… Probability and statistics, or at least an understanding of them, are incredibly useful things to have.”
Greg Perkins at NoodleFood, on Why the New Atheists Canât Even Beat DâSouza: Morality and Life. Thoughts on how the “new atheist” movement should present the question of godless morality. “Just like any other matter of fact, we can approach morality rationally and scientifically, working to discover, validate, and teach each other about the relevant fundamental principles.”
Dr. David Elkind at Sharp Brains, on Can We Play? Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play. Why play is an essential part of human life and development — for children and adults — and why we need to build a more playful culture. “For too long, we have treated play as a luxury that kids, as well as adults, could do without. But the time has come for us to recognize why play is worth defending: It is essential to leading a happy and healthy life.”
Phil at Phil for Humanity, on A Plan to Destroy All Weapons of Mass Destruction. Phil takes us through his thought process, from believing that countries that aren’t free and democratic shouldn’t have nuclear weapons… to believing that no country should have any weapons of mass destruction. “Even in the most democratic and financially sound countries, government leaders are not guaranteed to be psychologically stable or even capable of making moral decisions for the benefit of their own people, let alone for people of other countries.”
Chris Hallquist at The Uncredible Hallq, on Living With Uncertainty. Why accepting the reality of uncertainty helps us make better decisions… and makes us better people. “Iâm convinced that itâs a mark of emotional maturity to be able to live with uncertainty.”
Greg at Jyunri Kankei, on A Pet Peeve, or, Searching for a Deeper Meaning in Anime. Why it’s important to partake in the actual culture of other cultures, instead of just the sterilized American version. “Exposure to cultures other than our own takes us down a proverbial peg, which in turn promotes a level of tolerance for a greater subset of humanity and a wider understanding of human experience.”
C.L. Hanson at Letters from a broad, on Humanist blogging a la Voltaire! Optimistic thoughts on blogging and a new enlightenment. “We’re bringing back not only written communication but also a two-way flow of ideas… Are we ushering in a new “enlightenment” in the tradition of Voltaire et al? Perhaps.”
Jeffrey Stingerstein at Disillusioned Words, asking Would Creating Human-Animal Hybrids Be Immoral And Unethical? Edward doesn’t answer the question, actually — he just wants it to be asked, not reflexively rejected without thinking. “‘Keep humans human. Shouldnât be even a debatable concept.’ Case closed. No reason to debate it. We shouldnât even be allowed to talk about it. I think anyone who even thinks about it should be locked up and stowed in the cupboard next to the glow-in-the-dark Jesus.”
vjack at Atheist Revolution, exclaims Help! There’s an Atheist in My Garden! Why visibility and coming out are among the most important things atheists can do, for themselves and for other atheists. “Helping Christians overcome their fear and hatred of us begins by providing them more experience with atheists.”
The Chaplain, at An Apostate’s Chapel, speaks Of Life and Death. Meditations on a friend’s funeral, another friend’s illness, and facing death without an afterlife. “The corollary to my acceptance of death as the cessation of the one life I will be privileged to live is a greatly enhanced appreciation for life.”
Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism, on Quintessence of Dust. Why the reductionist, materialist view of life doesn’t diminish its meaning or our experience of it. “If we are made of molecules, then Shakespeare’s plays were written by a human being made of molecules, Verdi’s Requiem was composed by a human being made of molecules, Macchu Picchu and the Pyramids and the Buddhas of Bamiyan were built by human beings made of molecules. Would that make any of them less beautiful or less inspiring?”
And your host, Greta Christina, with For No Good Reason: Atheist Transcendence at the Black and White Tour. Why doing silly things for no good reason — such as Morris dancing — can be some of the most beautiful and meaningful parts of our lives. “It isn’t constructive, it isn’t important, it doesn’t produce anything. All it produces is joy. Which, if you’re an atheist, is kind of what life is like.”
Which brings us to the end of this Humanist Symposium. The next one will be held in three weeks on Sunday, July 13, at faith in honest doubt. If you want to get in on the action, please submit your humanist blog posts here. Thanks!