Please welcome the newest addition to the American Humanist Association staff, Member Services Assistant Meredith Thompson!
TheHumanist.com: What is your educational and work background?
I studied humanities in college. The program focused on the critical analysis and exploration of the human experience through the interdisciplinary study of art, music, literature, history, philosophy, and science. My education stressed the importance of research, writing, and analyzing principles that strongly mirror what the freethought movement stands for. My senior thesis attempted to make visible the importance of nonviolent relationships with nonhumans in order to facilitate a reevaluation of the deep-rooted systematic oppression of humans.
I come to the American Humanist Association with a background in bookkeeping for a health food market. In college, I held a position on the committee that manages the university’s student activity budget, and I was the business manager for an on-campus organization related to political and social reform. In addition, I gained nonprofit experience through an internship with Mercy for Animals.
TheHumanist.com: How did you first learn about humanism?
I feel like I have unknowingly identified as a humanist for a large portion of my life. Humanism, to me, is a state of mind. However, my formal introduction to the AHA is a relatively recent event. I am learning more and more about the movement every day.
TheHumanist.com: Did you grow up in a traditional religious faith? How did it impact you?
Throughout elementary school I attended Sunday morning Mass, and once a week I participated in religion classes. I received Communion and was confirmed as part of the Catholic Church. Although my family members are Catholic, they have been critical of the church’s teachings. I feel that has allowed me to be open-minded and has provided me with certain insights related to organized religion.
TheHumanist.com: What interested you most about working for the AHA?
Due to my educational background I was excited by the prospect, and now reality, of working for an organization dedicated to the well-being of others through rational thought processes. This quote from the website sums it up simply, “humanists are concerned for the well-being of all, are committee to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views.” It’s exciting for me to not only have humanists as coworkers, but to actively be making a difference on a multitude of levels. When we hold ourselves accountable for our own failures and successes, it inspires us to live for the sake of good and for each other.
TheHumanist.com: What book has influenced you the most?
This is a difficult question for me. A good friend of mine once said that, “books are like past loves,” and I agree with his sentiment. Different texts are needed at different times in one’s life. Every book I have loved has influenced me in some way, and they all deserve that recognition. The book that has influenced me the most in this current phase of my life is Margo DeMello’s Animals and Society. I stumbled on this work while writing my senior thesis. Although it is technically a textbook, it is one of the first of its kind. DeMello creates a fantastic overview of our society’s different relationships and ultimate reliance on nonhumans. What has influenced me the most is that the text is about much more than the status of nonhumans— it is about our status as individuals and as members of a global community. She observes that our treatment of nonhumans and the environment informs hierarchical human relationships rooted in racism, sexism, and class privilege. DeMello warns that, “The danger lies in the existence of the line itself— as long as there exists in society a line separating some from others, then no group is truly safe from being on the losing side of it.”
TheHumanist.com: If you could have dinner with any three people in the world (living or dead), who would they be and why?
I feel it’s important to separate, to some degree, an individual from their work. I would love to hold conversations with the works of countless individuals; however, I am not sure I would have the same conversation with the person responsible. All people have shortcomings, but their work and their impact stand alone, and I can’t have dinner with that.
However, if I must choose, I would like to be an observer of a panel consisting of several current female writers and activists. Carol J. Adams, Margaret Atwood, and Malalai Joya would provide an interesting interdisciplinary discussion. Their commentary would be beneficial to the dialogue on women (and other denigrated groups) within the global rights movement.