Humanist EDge: Taking the Humanist Life Stance

Ron Millar is the coordinator of the Center for Freethought Equality and the Freethought Equality Fund PAC (political action committee). He has spent more than thirty years in the Washington, DC, area working for nonprofit education and advocacy groups, including serving as the associate director of the Secular Coalition for America (SCA) from 2005 to 2009. He has served on the board of SCA and the Secular Student Alliance, and is currently a board member of The Humanist Institute.

After being active in the secular movement for more than a decade, I finally took The Humanist Institute’s introductory course: The Humanist Life Stance. I have a strong appreciation for the in-person Humanist Studies Program, celebrant trainings, and the online KOHE courses offered by The Humanist Institute; I’m a member of its board of directors. However, even as a board member, taking an in-person, three-day course was not a high priority for me. When the introductory course was offered, I always had a competing obligation or the setting was not convenient. But, when the class was offered not only in the area I live, but also in the building where I worked, I was out of excuses and finally took the class.

I’m very glad I did.

The course’s reading list offered an in-depth background for the topics discussed (I recommend at least a month lead time to be able to complete the readings prior to the class), and Rev. Dr. David Breeden, senior minister of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, was an excellent facilitator.

Class discussions were wide ranging and provided an engaging context in which to learn about humanism and the human experience. For example, we discussed E.O. Wilson’s proposition regarding the evolution of the conflict between individual-level selection (individuals competing with other individuals in the same group) and group-level selection (competition among groups). According to Wilson, this evolutionary process created a tension and balance between selfish behavior and altruistic behavior, which contributes to the sense of tribalism that now threatens our species.

This and dozens of other thoughtful discussion topics make the class engaging and intellectually rewarding.

The course also examines human nature by looking at humanity’s psychological and social qualities, engages philosophical perspectives from Aurelius to Rousseau to Sartre, and explores the development of humanism into the broad movement it is today.

I also found the class personally rewarding. Not only did I learn about the history and issues of humanism, but I also met a group of interesting, engaging people. The small class size created an intimate setting and the topics evoked challenging group discussions that helped us understand the secular movement leaders, and ourselves as emerging leaders.

If you’ve been thinking about taking a Humanist Institute class, but, like me, have been putting it off, I urge you to overcome the obstacles and register for the pre-requisite Course 101.

Following the introductory course, you can choose among eight other courses to expand your understanding of humanism, develop skills for advancing the secular movement, and build a strong network for your personal advancement. The classes offered are: Humanist Values and Principles; Humanism in Relation to World Religions; Critical Thinking, Knowledge, and Truth; Physical and Life Sciences; Social Science; Contemporary Culture; Leadership Theory and Practice; and Aesthetics & Celebrations.

Don’t wait like I did; sign up for your first course today.