As we close in on 2023, I look past my personal horizon and see events and circumstances in three main categories. I am either intrigued, or frightened, or elated by the state of my life at the moment. I sift this view through the kaleidoscope of self-perception and how I see the world in which I live.
I am intrigued by the prospect of retirement in about eight years. With every turn of the page, this date is looming. I have so many plans to write and become a citizen of the world. Of course, this includes the need for planning (a lot done) and good health as I reach my senior years. I acknowledge that demographically I’m getting to be an old man, living in an old house with old friends and a young family.
I am frightened that I will outlive my country. I will outlive the post-World-War-II world where antisemitism and racism are considered vile rather than normalized perspectives. I fear that civil, equal, and human rights are on the wane. I fear that, in our own country and around the world, the acceptance of secularism and democracy are under deep and constant assault by a trifecta of conspiracy theorists, alt-right influencers, and anti-democratic politicians.
I am elated by science. Science as a human-made construct, philosophy, and tool has built our civilization. We can use our science to heal as never before—while also seeing deeper within our genome, and well past the stars, to view both universes as spectacular. It is a privilege and exciting to live at this time when we can use science to eliminate the need for divine cause. Thus, we can place another human-made tool, construct, and philosophy known as theology into our historical past.
But the perspectives needed to make and keep alive a kinder, more humane, and more rational world will take time, effort, and energy. And here I must look to future generations to draw the blood and keep the flame of secular democracy and reason alive well past my own time on the planet. Here too, I am intrigued, elated, and frightened by the trends I see.
The rise of the nones, the decrease in formal religiosity, and the acceptance of natural rather than supernatural causes for why we exist are each wonderful. In addition, the next generation of humanist thinkers who are less blemished by real or imagined feelings of disrespect are fascinating to watch take the stage.
We may have lost Hitchens and Sagan but there are many eager to take their sublime leadership place. More than a decade ago, I lent my voice to the movement in blogs, books, and lectures across the world. Now is the time for newer voices to do the same and for us to support them as much as possible.
So perhaps one day they will write a letter in a bottle like I am today to the next generation of leaders of the humanist movement.