Are you feeling more “spiritual” these days—overcome by a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being and wonder about the universe? Apparently while Americans are getting less religious, spirituality is on the rise. The latest report from the Pew Research Center indicates that “spiritual” feelings are increasing--even among atheists, agnostics and the unaffiliated--along with everyone else. What should we make of this?
Happy New Year! An apt greeting for the beginning of 2016, right? During this holiday season, no doubt many of us have wished family and friends “good health and happiness” in the New Year. These are time-honored greetings of the season. Plus, living a good life and seeking happiness in the here and now are key aspirations for humanists, agnostics and atheists. But did you happen to read the latest research about happiness not being an indicator of longevity? (The Lancet, December 9, 2015) Could it be that Scrooge gets the last laugh after all? Maybe, maybe not.
Forget about the red cup controversy that some want to stir up about Starbuck’s seasonal packaging. Forget about the overwrought angst of a blue Christmas without a romantic interest or a Norman Rockwell family gathering in your life. Ignore the inflammatory “war on Christmas” rhetoric of the Christian Right or the secular scrooges (ala Tom Flynn) and settle in to a “green” winter solstice holiday groove. And then let’s just be civil to everyone with “Happy Holiday” greetings and work together for peace on earth. O.k.?
“Naturally curious, compassionate and rational.” Last summer as I was biking home from one of our summer picnics, a more fit biker approached me from behind and called out “good reading!” as he cycled passed—pointing to my Humanist t-shirt with our tagline on the back. Then at the NAMI Walk more recently, a fellow walker approached me from behind and queried—“So, what’s Humanists of Minnesota?” The terse tagline got his attention, but I must admit, I still need to work on a short and snappy response.
Recently Kerri Miller hosted a panel discussion on “Faith and Doubt” for her Friday Roundtable program on Minnesota Public Radio. I was invited to appear as a panelist representing the non-religious perspective with two popular progressive Christian authors, Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber. They were in town for a conference they had spawned called “Why Christian?” As media-savvy younger women and experienced radio guests, they clearly were in their element. Me, I was in uncharted territory.
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.