The Humanist Hour #119, From the Archives: An Interview with Kurt Vonnegut

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In this episode, contributor Dan Moran shares his 1992 interview with the late Kurt Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922 – 2007) was an American writer of noted works such as Cat’s Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). Known for his humanist beliefs, he was awarded the AHA’s Humanist of the Year award in 1992 and served as the AHA’s honorary president.

Vonnegut grew up in a family of German-American freethinkers. His great-grandfather was the first president of the Freethinkers Society of Indianapolis and he maintained the family tradition of rejecting religious dogma in favor of humanism.

The sarcastic tone of Vonnegut’s work came from major personal traumas, including his mother’s suicide and witnessing first-hand the 1945 bombing of Dresden, Germany while a prisoner of war. Despite such experiences, Vonnegut never felt the need to fall back on irrational beliefs to explain irrational actions. He maintained his belief in a humanist worldview throughout his life.

“I am a humanist,” Vonnegut wrote in a letter to AHA members, “which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”

Daniel Thomas Moran served as Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York from 2005 to 2007. His work has appeared in The New York Times, National Forum, and the Poetry Salzburg Review. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine. His website is