Humanism on the Move


Dec. 16, 2009

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers will be allowed to place a display detailing the winter solstice’s history and celebrating such freethinkers as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt alongside a nativity scene at the Arkansas Capitol this holiday season.

The group had sued after Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels had rejected their request, saying the proposed display wasn’t consistent with the other decorations at the Capitol. However, the group was granted an injunction on Monday by a federal judge and will be allowed to put up their display.

“We just wanted the freedom to be included in the holiday celebrations publicly, just like anybody else can do if they fill out the appropriate paperwork,” said Tod Billings, president of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

The proposed display reads, “As the old year passes and a new year is born, we reflect on that which has passed and hope for a better tomorrow. May the light of reason be a beacon to a brighter future for us all.”

HumanLight celebrations will be held across the country next week. The holiday, which is a time for revelry and community for those who wish to affirm the positive values of humanism during the winter season, is celebrated on or about Dec. 23.

In 2001, humanists in New Jersey inaugurated HumanLight as a specifically humanist observance. Since then it has spread to dozens of cities around the United States. Celebrations differ from region to region and year to year, but generally include a meal with friends and family, a gift exchange and/or short talks, discussions or readings.

“Humanist families enjoy the holiday season in many of the same ways that other people do,” said Roy Speckhardt, American Humanist Association (AHA) executive director, about HumanLight. “Many people are under the false assumption that humanists are a bunch of Scrooges who don’t celebrate the winter holidays, but actually, we humanists appreciate and enjoy the season in ways that reflect and promote the humanist values of reason, hope, community and compassion.

Seattle Atheists‘ request to display a sign on the Washington State Capitol grounds that reads “In this holiday season let us remember that kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion. Happy Holidays, Seattle Atheists” has been accepted.

The group’s application follows last year’s fracas over a Freedom from Religion Foundation sign in the capitol rotunda that read, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Since the controversy, displays have since been barred from the rotunda (but not from the capitol grounds).

The New Zealand Atheist Bus Campaign, who will launch a new advertising campaign on buses in the New Year, has been receiving an outpouring of financial support for their campaign. Last week, the group surpassed a fundraising goal of $10,000 for the ads in only 48 hours. In reaction to the overwhelming response, the New Zealand Atheist Bus Campaign doubled their target to $20,000, which they met on Tuesday.

The group is planning on putting ads featuring the slogan “There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and start enjoying yourself” on busses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Simon Fisher, a spokesman for the campaign, says the ads aim to provoke discussion on religion and take away the stigma of atheism.