Do Black Lives Matter—to Humanism? That was the question the editors of The Humanist magazine posed for its July/August 2015 edition. On the one hand, I was encouraged to see the official magazine of our national movement address the thorny issue of racism in our country. On the other hand, I had to uncomfortably admit that even broaching the topic would be met with apathy and/or dissent by some within our ranks. Not because our movement has been infiltrated by racists. Hardly. Most self-identified humanists aspire to be people of goodwill and egalitarianism, but many white folks—especially those of us living in Minnesota—just don’t see how we have much responsibility for the problems of racism locally or in the country at large.
My name is Narayan P. Dhakal and I am from Kathmandu, Nepal. I am affiliated with the Humanists of Minnesota and currently working as a freelance Interdisciplinary Environmental Expert in Minnesota. You might have heard about the devastating earthquake that struck in Nepal on Saturday. Fortunately most of my immediate family members are safe, but the damage to life and property of my friends and relatives has been monumental. A total of 2400 people have been confirmed dead and 5900 are critically injured and many missing. There is no communication with some of the rural areas of the country where the situation is worst. The immediate relief assistance has not yet reached rural Nepal where people have been buried for more than 48 hours.
Every day is Earth Day for humanists and naturalists. But there’s no time like springtime to celebrate the earth and reflect on our relationship to the natural world. Especially here in Minnesota. The long-awaited changes from increased daylight and warmer temperatures are becoming more apparent every passing day. Minnesota’s springtime rebirth brings an awareness and vitality to life that borders on the therapeutic. Mindful observation of this cyclical change easily leads one to the philosophy of naturalism and a deeper connection to the earth itself.
What kind of people are humanists anyway? They are people like Autumn Meta. She's a University of Minnesota student organizing a large Spanish-language book drive to facilitate library growth and literacy efforts in Guatemala. After an experiential learning trip to this Central American country last year, Autumn returned with a passion to do some good in that part of the world. She's realistic and determined. As a pragmatic humanist, she's learned that you don't have to take on the whole world as a project. Just do some good where you can.
My wife and I want children, and in May, we will be welcoming our baby girl into this non-womblike world. To most people, the desire to have kids requires no explanation. After all, our families, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers all seemed to assume a baby was forthcoming within 9 months of our wedding day. It’s a tradition passed down by, well, every single ancestor of mine that has ever existed. As Humanists, however, my wife and I don’t really consider “tradition” to be best reason to do anything, let alone go through the inevitable tough times that parenthood tends to bring about. So why do I think this is a good idea? Certainly, there has to be a logical explanation. As mentioned, I AM a Humanist after all.
I was among hundreds of people at the state capitol a couple of days ago supporting the Second Chance Coalition and their work with ex-felons. This 2015 “Day on the Hill” event was spent advocating for “Restore the Vote.” Humanists of MN has endorsed the work of this Coalition since hearing from one of their key leaders, Sarah Walker, at a chapter meeting in the fall of 2013 when they successfully lobbied for “ban the box” legislation. But why should humanists take a stand on these issues?
I was first moved to pick up the book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, because of other reviews I had read in The Humanist, and Free Inquiry. Each had emphasized the dialogues that author Rebecca Goldstein had created to put Plato into the modern world, a concept that intrigued me. What I was not prepared for was the sweeping panorama she created by covering the roots of philosophical thinking, the timeless questions raised and discussed in Plato's Dialogues, and the entire historical background of the era--the eighth through the fourth centuries B.C.
"So you believe in nothing?" is a common question I get when I tell people I'm an atheist and Secular Humanist. Often these theists believe that life has no meaning without God, and they consider the purely naturalistic view of the universe to be bleak, heartless, and devoid of emotional resonance. What these people simply do not understand is that humans are fully capable of having meaningful and fulfilling lives without resorting to supernaturalism.