Naturally curious, compassionate & rational

Everyday Ethics: Building Cultural Competency

Thursdays: April 21st and May 19th, 2016
Lunds and Byerlys Community Room
Uptown Minneapolis


Join fellow humanists to review and discuss “What if I say the Wrong Thing:  25 Habits for Culturally Effective People”—a handy resource and practical book by diversity consultant, Vernā Myers. It’s a quick read but an important guide to help well-intentioned people identify and overcome their unconscious biases.  It also provides insights into how an organization (such as our own Humanists of Minnesota) can become a more inclusive and diverse community.

The book is readily available on-line; also check local bookstores. There is a waitlist for library copies at the major libraries I checked.  It’s preferable to have a copy of the book for the discussion, but anyone interested in the topic is welcome to join us—with or without the book in hand.

We are all influenced by biases—whether explicit or unconscious--because we are products of a society that historically gave power and privilege to some people over against others. Despite our best intentions—even as humanists—we sometimes say and do things that reinforce these biases and keep us from moving forward toward a more inclusive and thriving diverse society.

These two sessions—in April and May—are for those who want to practice with fellow humanists identifying biases and changing habits not only for oneself but to become a change agent where possible within one’s own spheres of influence.


Past Series


Revisiting One's Personal Philosophy:  The Big Questions

Fall 2013--Spring 2014

Do the BIG existential questions of life pique your interest?  Have you ever questioned what you have been taught to believe?  Do you have a desire to “make sense of it all?”  Are you working on your own coherent worldview by which to live?  If any of these apply, please consider joining this year-long discovery group for developing or updating your contemporary worldview or personal lifestance.  Check the Humanist Meet-up page for details about each session.

Over the course of the next nine months, we will explore many of the BIG philosophical questions of the ages.  Each session will begin with a power-point overview of the philosophical and/or religious thought regarding the question of the day, followed by group discussion. While people are encouraged to participate throughout the year, anyone is welcome to come to as many or as few of the monthly sessions as they are able.  The sessions will be led by Audrey Kingstrom, humanist, naturalist and atheist with master's degrees in theology and education.  Our discussions will be enriched by the experiences, perspectives and personal study of all of the participants.

Wherever you are in your life journey, whatever questions and curiosities you may have about the profound and existential questions of life: this series welcomes the inquiring mind, the pilgrim, the seeker, the doubters, the contemplatives.  Many religions and ideologies are static systems of belief as they adhere to an unchanging given TRUTH.  But as humanist, naturalist, agnostic, atheist, skeptic or “non-religious,” our assertions are more modest. We are open to new discoveries and information, and are willing to consider a revision of our worldviews based on an empirical approach to expanding, verifiable knowledge.  And then, perhaps equally important, we are intrigued by how to live with the uncertainties that remain.

Childcare will be available upon request with one week's notice.  Contact Audrey at

The questions to be contemplated are as follows. 

1.  How do we know what we know? 

2.  Is there a god? Or first cause? Or life force?

3.  What is the meaning of life?  Why are we here?

4.  How much control do we have of our lives?

5.  Is there a “human nature?”

6.  How do we determine right from wrong?

7.  What is justice?

8.  What happens when we die?

9.  What constitutes living a good life?


Thinking Critically, Thinking Effectively

September 2012-July 2013

The Humanists of Minnesota is pleased to sponsor an integrated series of sessions--in essence, a course--entitled “Thinking Critically, Thinking Effectively.” Conducted by Jerry Smith, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa, this course consists of ten sessions, to be offered one per month beginning in September 2012. It is based on a course he teaches to undergraduate business majors at UNI. As suggested by its title, the course covers traditional “critical thinking” topics, but it also addresses topics like creativity, problem solving, and decision making. Thus, broadly understood, it’s about “effective thinking.”

Critical thinking is an essential skill for the humanist lifestance, and many of us are quick to credit ourselves with that attribute.  But critical thinking is also a habit that needs to be  practiced and reinforced.  This in-depth course is designed to help attendees foster good mental habits more consistently.  While there is some “content-dependency” across sessions—later sessions might refer to material covered in earlier ones—interested parties can benefit from and are welcome to attend any sessions that fit their interests and schedules. 

The following is a brief synopsis of each of the ten sessions.

September 8:  Foundations. What is thinking? Good mental habits. How is thought related to reality? Types of questions.

October 13:  Cognitive Psychology/Thinking Mistakes. How the mind works and how it too often screws up.

November 10:  Language and Thought. The role of language in thinking. Concepts and their definitions. Threats to clarity. How language misleads. Critical reading.

December 8:  Science and Practical Inquiry: Elements of scientific thought. Scientific method and habits of mind. Evaluating sources of information.

January 12:   Reasoning: Deductive logic, its uses and limitations. Conditional and categorical reasoning. Practical reasoning.

February 9:  Inferential Errors. How our reasoning goes wrong. The fallacies of informal logic.

March 9:  Argumentation. Components of arguments. Rhetoric. Argument structures. Constructing arguments. Analyzing arguments. Debate tactics.

April 13: Analyzing Arguments.  Analyze and evaluate the arguments in our daily lives. 

May 11:  Problem Solving. What is a problem? Why are they difficult? Problem types. Problem identification, definition, and analysis. Diagnosis and design.

June 8:   Creativity. Alternative generation. Creative products, the creative process, creative people. Creativity techniques.

July 13:   Decision Making. Rational models of choice. Predicting outcomes. Evaluating alternatives. Heuristics and biases. Framing. Decision making mistakes. Intuition.


Past Single-topic Sessions


May 5, 2012:  Ecoliteracy

Sometimes the word “humanism” limits our purview. An evolving understanding of human flourishing must include the broadest perspective, one that encompasses the whole of the natural world. The human condition is inextricably linked to the health of the natural and manufactured environments we inhabit. Ecoliteracy--knowing and understanding the connections of all the species and systems in our environments--is essential for maintaining a livable and humane world.

In this session of Habits of Humanism, we will review the basics of ecological literacy and consider the impacts of this knowledge on our personal behavior and public policy. Try to make time to read the essay in the link below in preparation for our discussion.

If time and interest permit, here are some additional links for your perusal:  (2 min. video)  (website)  (18 min. video)

We will be in the Gamble and Skogmo Conference Room on fourth floor—N 402—to your left as you exit the elevator or stairs. Pick up a beverage at the Dunn Bros. on first floor if you’d like.

The library is readily accessible by bus. Free street parking is available on week-ends two blocks east of the library on Second Ave. An underground parking facility costs $5/day; some other nearby lots are $4/day.


April 7, 2012:  Critical thinking

Few terms are as widely used or as poorly understood.  What is critical thinking?  How is it related to creative thinking?  To problem solving and decision making?  Can critical thinking be reduced to certain mental habits or to stages of mental development?  Is intuition a reliable guide to action or must we rely on logical analysis? 

These and other questions will be addressed during this interactive session in the Habits of Humanism series.  It will be led by Jerry Smith, a member of the Humanists of Minnesota who teaches problem solving, decision making, and critical thinking to business students at the University of Northern Iowa.


March 3, 2012--Habits of Humanism: The Practice of Mindfulness

Simply put, mindfulness means being fully present in the moment, to be self-aware. The practice of mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity and credibility in the secular world as it branches out from its Buddhist origins. The scientific and therapeutic communities are exploring its benefits and Humanists are embracing this long-time “spiritual practice” in increasing numbers.

This session of Habits of Humanism, let’s discuss our understanding of mindfulness, our experiences with (or resistance to) meditation, our knowledge of its benefits and our critique of its assumptions. Is mindfulness possible without meditation? Are there other practices that might produce similar results: exercising, journaling, spending time in nature, listening to music, reading poetry, personal reflection, critical thinking?

What value does mindfulness practice bring to a humanist way of life? Come share your insights and pose your questions.

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