Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

This past Saturday, February 7, marked the one-year anniversary of, the official news site of the American Humanist Association. Formerly the weekly newsletter Humanist Network News, became a daily news site featuring humanist commentary on breaking news, stories from the humanist and secular movement, and online versions of articles published in the Humanist magazine.

We sat down with Senior Editors Maggie Ardiente and Jennifer Bardi to discuss their thoughts one year after was launched to the public. It’s been one year since the launch of What’s one thing you’re really proud of that the site has accomplished?

Ardiente: I’m so proud of our growing numbers. garners over 165,000 page views each month, and our email subscriber list is at 51,000. It’s difficult to count our total reach when we share articles through Facebook and other social media, but it’s likely in the hundreds of thousands. I’m thrilled by this—the more people who see the word “humanist” and learn about our values, the more likely we are to affect change.

Bardi: Like Maggie, I’m really proud of the size of our readership. In addition to the quantity there’s the quality. I’m proud that the comments section of our site is of a pretty high caliber in Internet terms. Even when our readers disagree with an article, they’re very thoughtful and civil for the most part. And if they’re not you can bet another reader or two will jump in to remind everyone what humanists value and the importance of staying on the high road. What was your favorite article published in over the past year?

Ardiente: I can’t pick just one article, but I’ll pick my favorite issue—the April Fools’ Day issue. We knew that we wanted to do something clever on April Fools’ Day, something akin to The Onion (the famous parody news site). It’s amazing the creative ideas that come from the American Humanist Association staff. “Kirk Cameron Converts Back to Atheism after Bruised Banana,” “Isaac Newton Found in Tofu”—I laugh every time I re-read them!

Bardi: I really liked Benjamin Dancer’s account of his high school history students walking out of their classrooms to protest the school board’s plan to push patriotism and avoid negative aspects of U.S. history. We’ve had some fantastic film reviews, Luis Granados’s “Rules Are for Schmucks” column is always a winner, and staff picks (favorite scary movie, blatantly religious songs we still like, etc.) are always fun. Lastly, I really enjoyed writing about the first few episodes of the Cosmos reboot, “I Was a Cosmos Virgin.” What articles or topics would you like to see in future issues of

Ardiente: We used to regularly feature “The Great Humanist Debate” where two humanists stood on opposite sides of a particular issue—the omnivore vs. vegan being the most popular. But humanists so often agree on issues that it’s difficult to find controversial topics to debate! Sometimes I wish we’d argue more—it boosts our readership!

Bardi: No Maggie, that’s a horrible idea! Just kidding—more debates would be great. I think people sometimes forget that the more folks visit your site, the more variety of opinions are going to be voiced. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d like to see more articles on cutting-edge science research and commentary on medical and other science-related ethical issues. These are certainly areas of potential debate amongst humanists. Bring it on! How do you feel about the quality of the comments and discussion that takes place on the site?

Ardiente: I love it when readers take the time to share their thoughts on articles. Even a simple “Great article!” makes us feel wonderful! But there have been times when I wish we do what Popular Science did and ban all comments, especially when I see people attacking our pro-feminist articles. It makes me sad because they call themselves humanists, yet they are clearly anti-feminist. You don’t have to agree with us, but you can be civil.

Bardi: Sadly, feminist articles do bring out the meanest trolls. So I just decided that I’d like to add to my previous answer: more feminism-related articles and more feminists commenting. As more people rely on the Internet and e-books rather than newspapers or magazines for information, how do you think will play a role in the future of online news?

Ardiente: When we were in the planning stages of building, we sought inspiration from many successful online news sites—Slate and The Atlantic being my particular favorites. We knew we had to jump on board—nowadays, news becomes old rather quickly. I want to be similar to these types of sites, a place where humanists of all stripes can go for quick humanist commentary on breaking news. And the general public will also benefit from understanding a humanist and secular perspective, especially on news that concerns religion.

Bardi: Conventional wisdom says that in a declining print media market, niche publications are still doing okay, which I hope is true since I’m still very committed to publishing the Humanist magazine in print. is also niche in that, as Maggie said, we provide a humanist slant. If people come to see us as a go-to source for that then we’ve accomplished our goal with In thinking about Charlie Hebdo, a fellow “secular and atheist newspaper,” is there any concern of threat when you publish articles that criticize religion or poke fun at religion?

Ardiente: It’s funny—the Comics Section of weekly email is usually the most clicked-on article that week, and it features Jesus and Mo, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad in cartoon form. We have no intention of stopping that. I respect some parts of some religions, and I always respect religious people as people. But that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize the bad parts of religion—in fact, it’s our obligation to do so, to make the world a more humanistic place.

Any hate mail or threats come mostly from the American Humanist Association’s work, particularly involving legal cases that report on prayer in schools or challenging religious monuments on public land—news that makes the major media outlets. I’m honestly not worried; they’re mostly people who say innocuous things like “you’re going to hell.” But when we do perceive a real threat, we take them seriously and report it to the police. That’s only happened maybe three times in the almost ten years I’ve been working for the AHA.

Bardi: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” –Voltaire. Guess we’re going to keep searching! If you could have any famous person or writer contribute to, who would he/she be?

Ardiente: Neil deGrasse Tyson. I know he doesn’t personally identify as a humanist or atheist, but it would be great to get such a high-caliber scientist to write a regular science column for us.

Bardi: Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle, Natalie Angier, or Dan Savage would all be fabulous, as would Mr. deGrasse Tyson, of course.