Rachael Berman, AHA Grassroots Coordinator, interviews Mark Reimers, president of the Greater Richmond Humanists in Richmond, Virginia to learn more about local humanist organizing!
HNN: Tell us more about your group. When do you meet?
Reimers: The Greater Richmond Humanists is an AHA Chapter, and we are affiliated with and mostly meet at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Richmond, Virginia. We meet monthly on the second Tuesday (in the evening) and one Sunday a month at 1:00pm for special programs. We have a new website at www.richmondhumanists.org, and we also have a Facebook page and MeetUp group.
HNN: Why did you decide to start the group? How did you decide to be an AHA Chapter?
Reimers: FUnitarian Universalism has always had a large number of humanists in its membership, so many years ago a group of us organized a humanist group which met once a month to discuss topics of interest to humanists. We decided that we wanted to become a chapter of the American Humanist Association because we thought it would enable us to reach out to humanists and others who not wish to be closely associated with a church.
HNN: What activities does Greater Richmond Humanists do?
Reimers: As a group we meet regularly to discuss a wide variety of topics which draw from religion, philosophy, ethics, science, the environment and beyond, our brains and ourselves, great ideas and the achievements and lives of noted humanists. Our program committee solicits input from members, reviews suggestions, condenses it into a “wish list” and then works toward securing speakers and planning programs that reflect the group’s desires, drawing from talents both within and from outside the group.
Recent presentations and discussions have included: Ethical Eating; Spiritual Thoughts for the Secret Freethinker; What Does It Mean to be a Religious Humanist?; The Meaning of Ethnicity in Contemporary Societies; Can We Have an Ethical Economy?; Mental Illness and Violence; New Directions in Humanism; What is Memory? Genes and Epigenetics; Health Care Reform: What It Means and What It Could Be; Religion and Politics in America; Humanism and Grief; Humanist roots of religious reform; and Homo Religiosus: How and Why We Are the Religious Animal.
In addition to speakers and presentations, we have met to view and discuss such films as: “Conversations with Atheists,” “Earth 2100,” “Transcendent Man,” and “Bowling for Columbine.” Books we have reviewed as a group include The Nature of Things , The Evolution of God, and The Swerve.
We attended the Reason Rally last year in Washington, D.C. and have also held holiday parties, celebrated Spring and Winter Equinoxes and joined in various group and line dancing programs – often needing additional instruction!
HNN: Any exciting events or speakers coming up?
Reimers: Our next monthly meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 14 at 7:00pm at the UU church. We will be discussing former AHA president Michael Werner’s book Regaining Balance: Humanism and the UUA. We also have a couple more exciting events in January 2014. encourage people to check out our MeetUp page for upcoming activities. I
We just led a Humanist Service on June 23; the theme was “What a Wonderful World” about how science is uncovering wonders that give us perspective on our lives. We hope to co-sponsor Richard Dawkins in a visit to Richmond in the fall. We plan to sponsor a talk by Dr. Barbara King, primatologist at The College of William & Mary, on “The Inner Lives of Animals.”
HNN: How big is the humanist community in Richmond? What has the public’s reaction to humanists and humanism been?
Reimers: We have about 100 on our email list, and typically have 15 – 50 attend each meeting. We cooperate with the Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association, which typically has about 15 attendees in a meeting and about 50 on the mailing list. There is also Science Pub (Science Café) which gets about 30 -50 people at their events. Still, most people don’t know what humanism is and many are suspicious, especially in the suburbs and rural areas of Virginia.
HNN: Where do you see the humanist movement in five years?
Reimers: This really depends on all of us. I see our challenge as translating the discoveries of science and empirical social research into meaningful actions and perspectives for human life, and for building a just society. If we rise to this challenge, I see us thriving.
Mark Reimers is president of the Greater Richmond Humanists, a Chapter of the American Humanist Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a leader or member of a local humanist, atheist, skeptic or freethought group? Learn about the benefits of affiliating with the American Humanist Association, or contact Rachael Berman at email@example.com.