Below are remarks delivered by American Humanist Association board member and Rice University professor Dr. Anthony Pinn on the main stage at Reason Rally 2016 on June 4. Dr. Pinn served as the official spokesperson for the AHA, one of the major sponsors of this year’s Reason Rally.
Allow me to begin with a statement pointing out the obvious: This place, the Lincoln Memorial is a special place. Designed to resemble the Parthenon sitting atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, this memorial is meant to signify the birth of democracy and one of its most intense defenses. In both style and structure it speaks in a mighty way to the democratic vision of life that motivates—but often eludes—the United States. The power of this call to democracy marked out in word and image across this memorial is so great that some six million people come visit it every year—in the process absorbing its sobering message.
At this memorial, a profound dream was announced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Marion Anderson, denied Constitution Hall, sang haunting songs at this place; war has been protested here. This is a powerful space, one made that much more powerful, that much more compelling by our presence today. Here we are, coming together to announce and celebrate a better way, a way of life that is reasonable, that is compassionate, and that is grounded in human potential and nothing more!
This is a special day—a day when clear thinking is celebrated and notice is served on the superstition and nonsense that keeps us as a nation from being our best self. This is a country that is embarrassingly marked by rhetoric of hate and guided by a culture of fear. To our regret, it is a country that too often dismisses people who don’t believe in ghosts, who don’t reject evolution, and who don’t pray for change rather than rolling up their sleeves and doing what they can through creativity, compassion, and hard work. Despite this all, and as a sign of our effort to change this country for the better, we’ve come together to announce and honor a better way.
For much of the year, we may do this hard work to make this nation a more reasonable place, within the confines of our local communities and regional organizations—but this weekend we stand thousands strong. And we are prepared to carry our reason without regret, without shame, and with a determination to demand life free of prejudice and discrimination because we chose to live life based on reason rather than the words of old books deemed sacred.
Theists may try to dismiss us, but we will not be ignored. We will not stand by while religious paranoia rules the day—strangling public life with hate and fear.
Today marks a new day, a glorious day when we recognize the public importance of atheism and humanism. We are good without god or gods! Humanism is a philosophy of life, a way of moving through the world in connection with others that rejects supernatural notions and positions humans as fully accountable for the arrangement of our individual and collective life—having only the best of our thinking and doing. We, as my grandmother would say, move through the world knowing our footsteps matter.
We gather in this place in our diversity to promote a unified vision for the life of this nation that recognizes that difference is not a problem to solve but an opportunity, an opportunity for a type of strength and posture toward life that draws from the wealth of vision diversity entails. Theists may fear difference, may work to destroy difference. But today, in this place, we stand together across our cultural, political, economic, racial, and gender differences to promote a shared vision of life. This is a vision of reasonable life marked out by atheism and humanism as life stances grounded in reason and pushed forward through the best of our scientific advances.
This is a way of life so vital we devote all that is our best effort to support and advance its reach and impact. How could we do any less?
I want you to know that here, in DC, and from coast to coast—from wherever you’ve traveled to be here, the American Humanist Association stands with you. For almost a century, the AHA has committed itself to promoting a philosophy of life that, without appeal to supernatural claims and cosmic companions, promotes reasonable life drawing from the best of human possibilities to promote healthy life options for all.
This is about justice; it is about the promotion of policy and practices that enhance life for all—regardless of differences. With empathy guiding us forward, and without superstition holding us back, humanists understand that women’s rights, racial equality, LGBTQ dignity, and other rights struggles need our active support, involvement, and leadership.
The American Humanist Association recognizes the need to address issues of social justice in a powerful and sustained way—and it has committed resources to social justice work through the development of a new staff position—the social justice coordinator and the advisory boards that will guide the organizations’ efforts to promote nontheistic approaches to collective life that combat discriminatory practices and policies. We are bound together, and our lives are interconnected and framed by a delicate web of mutuality. The board and members of the AHA stand with you as you work to promote the good life without god. Friends, when you leave this place, get back to work knowing the AHA has your back!