The Humanist Association of San Diego (HASD) has been serving the needs of humanists and other freethinkers in the San Diego area since 1973. Since then, the group has only grown stronger with regularly scheduled educational programming and social events, including coffee conversations, hiking trips, whale watching, and the occasional snorkeling adventure. Also known for its social activism, the group has participated in protests against religious-based discrimination (such as Proposition 8), worked with Scouting For All to advocate for diversity in the Boy Scouts, and this year, for the 15th consecutive year, they will march at San Diego Pride, showing solidarity with and support for the LGBT community.
I recently spoke with HASD’s president Jason Frye who is always busy not only with his San Diego chapter, but as coordinator for the American Humanist Association’s LGBT Humanist Council.
HNN: The Humanist Association of San Diego has been around since 1973. Can you give me a little history of your group?
Frye: Since 1973, The Humanist Association of San Diego has been active in our community in many ways, offering lecture series, discussion groups, demonstrating, performing community service, and hosting regional conferences.
HNN: What kind of programs does the Humanist Association of San Diego offer its members?
Frye: At the moment, we currently offer a lecture series, a biweekly discussion group, and various fun social functions.
HNN: Your chapter is very active online. In what ways has keeping an online presence helped your group? Have there been any downsides to it?
Frye: Keeping an online presence has helped us gain a continual stream of fresh blood, as well as some rather interesting characters. We have had some unique issues with some ‘unique’ people who find us on Meetup.com, but overall, being online has been particularly helpful in letting the world know what we are up to.
HNN: Your chapter has been involved with the local pride festivities for years. How did your group get involved with this?
Frye: This will be our 15th year of consecutive participation and marching. One of our members (who unfortunately passed away recently) was one of the pioneers of the GLBT rights movement. Jay Murley was the driving force behind our involvement, and this year we are carrying on with him in our hearts.
HNN: Do you think it’s important that humanist groups get involved with LGBT issues?
Frye: It is absolutely essential for humanist groups to get involved in LGBT issues. There is a pervasive attitude stemming from the Abrahamic faiths constructing the idea of ‘thought crimes’. The word ‘heresy’ means choice. This idea of the freedom to choose your own path, to choose not to be coerced into the sexual and gender expectations of Bronze Age Southwest Asia, is central to the core of the humanist philosophy. As humanists we are passionate heretics. Choice is a right firmly established within the essence of what it is to be a humanist, and working with other communities to realize this shared right is part of our obligation and calling.
The LGBT community, though many are spiritual and religious, encounters the greatest resistance to achieving the warm embrace of full social and civil equality at the hands of primitive and untenable mindsets: the blare of the shofar, the wail of the happily-self-enslaved muezzin, and the unctuous clasped-hands of the charismatic evangelical, born-again ever so quick to make life the hell of their ad nauseum protestations and propitiations for everyone else. This fantasy can no longer maintain itself against the beauty, the splendor of the human mind, broken free of its shackles.
These shackles have the arrogant assumption that our lives are meaningless, and that we are unworthy without a direct connection to their cosmic summum bonum. These social chains have the nasty habit of creating social collateral damage in those neither choosing nor wanting to interact with shame born in dubious scripture. These appeals to the supernatural have constructed unnecessary social divisions and arbitrarily unpopular social groups. We bear the torch of reason. These ancient mindsets diminish the quality of life, and our tarnish shared experience of everyone.
Why is it important for humanist groups to get involved in LGBT rights? Because it is the right thing to do.
HNN: What advice do you have for humanist groups reaching out to the LGBT community?
Frye: Just reach out! The AHA has some wonderful new programs that are building, and the LGBT Humanist Council will gladly help you get something started.
HNN: This year you hosted the SoCal Secular Humanist Conference. How did that go?
Frye: Our conference went really well. Putting on regional conferences is exceedingly difficult but exceedingly rewarding. Feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will gladly let you pick my brain. We also have a video for sale to show you how good ones can go. You should go to www.backyardskeptics.org and pick up a copy of the several disc set.
HNN: Where do you see your chapter in five years?
Frye: I am unsure. Not to be immodest, but that is tied into me. Years ago, I made the cardinal mistake that affects a lot of enthusiastic group leaders. If I have one fundamental piece of advice for all new group leaders—though you may get wrapped up in the excitement of making a difference, and others get equally wrapped up in your excitement—make a concerted effort to promote group ownership of the group. If your group gets centered around a charismatic and enthusiastic individual, when that individual transitions away for whatever reason, the group can experience a level of separation anxiety. We are making the transition to a full group effort nicely. In five years, I see the Humanist Association of San Diego strong and thriving. I see us going into our 40th year as a humanist group with our own annual conferences and possibly having our own community center. I don’t know where we are going to be, not because of a lack of direction, but because there are ideas that have yet to come into being that will shape where we will be. I am quite excited by this. I personally am embarking on a host of new opportunities and challenges, and I’m slowly handing over the reins. We have some great people, we have done awesome things in the last 38 years, and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next.
HNN: Where do you see the humanist movement in five years?
Frye: Rightfully replacing the capital ‘A’ Atheism as our proud term of self-definition and replenishing the ‘Heart and Light’ tarnished and dimmed by the self-centered cult of Ayn Rand-‘Randroids’ who seem to pervade the “New Atheist” and freethought movement. I care about other people, and still see humanism as the answer to the question of how to thrive, living a shared life in a shared world. This awful libertarianism forgets that we are a social species that needs each other-and the life self-absorbed is toxic and meaningless.
Eric Nguyen is the field coordinator for the American Humanist Association.