Journeys to Humanism: Finding Awe in the Complexity of the Universe

Journeys to Humanism,’s regular series, features real stories from humanists in our community. From heartwarming narratives of growth, to more difficult journeys, our readers open up about their experiences coming to humanism.

Alan England
Oak Ridge, TN

I am a Humanist.

I have been associated with liberal religion since about age eighteen, which is about eighty percent of my life. My mother spent some time as a foster child in a Unitarian minister’s home. As a result, my sister and I had early contact with the Unitarian philosophy. There was no Unitarian church or fellowship in the towns where I grew up but when I went to college I easily found a Unitarian church with a college-age group. As the Unitarian movement achieved a larger following, my parents finally helped found a Unitarian fellowship in their hometown. My sister was similarly inclined and became a UU later with her husband and family. My biological children started their religious education in the Oak Ridge Unitarian-Universalist Church, where I have been a member since 1965. We now have a small humanist discussion group there.

Alan England

In my study of nature as a physicist I have been awed with the size and complexity of the universe and all of its laws. The various known physical laws are a constant source of marvel to me. The various aspects of the known universe are so overwhelming that I find it incredulous to attribute its creation to any of the little gods conceived of by humans. These gods and their religions were all created at a time when humans had not yet achieved any significant reasoning power or knowledge of the true nature of the universe or had the ability to do meaningful tests of nature. In past millennia, the humans of the earth have achieved large and powerful civilizations but in the process have done great damage to our planet through destructive industrial and agricultural practices. Part of this damage was due to various oppressive, authoritative, and demanding religions. And many of these religions are constantly in conflict with each other. Such conflicts are neither necessary nor helpful and do not aid anyone, especially their own followers. If the energy that went into all the religious conflicts over the centuries could have been channeled into education and science we would have a much better world.

Humanism came later in my life and is presently my main source of inspiration, study, and consideration. Most human activities are due to the necessities of staying alive, eating, procreating, child raising, etc. and are not necessarily governed by cerebral activity. They, however, can be augmented by thinking and other cognitive behavior. Love is a very human behavior and certainly not directly affected by thinking but, nevertheless, very important to the maintenance of our health and positive outlook on life. Love is as important to humanists as it is to any other human endeavor or activity.

My concern is for the betterment and improvement of the health, freedom, and spirit of mankind as well as the need for improved living conditions and alternative energy sources, and protection of the only planet we know. I believe that humanity must become more rational and reject the damaging aspects of the superstitions and religions it has created. Humanism can help the world become more rational. I think that our main concerns should be the improvement of mankind closely coupled with protection of the environment, without which we cannot survive. Our current major concern is climate change or global warming due to human activity which if not controlled has the possibility of making the earth inhabitable to humans.

We all have our own stories of how we came to be humanists, and we want to hear yours! Fill out the form here to be featured in this series.