The Future of the Humanist Movement
Humanism is a major force in the United States and the world, according to our critics, who claim that we dominate the schools and universities, the media, literature, the sciences and arts, the courts and other institutions of modern society. Certainly humanist ideas and values have had a powerful and continuing impact on the modern world. Yet those of us who have been involved in the organized humanist movement are dismayed to hear of the influence our critics attribute to us. We are perplexed by our failure to build viable humanist organizations, despite our alleged "success."
Indeed, some believe this is a time for deep soul-searching and hard decisions. The truth is that humanist associations are weak institutions. I am referring principally to humanist organizations in North America: the American Humanist Association, American Ethical Union, Fellowship of Religious Humanists, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, and the Canadian Humanist Association. My analysis, I believe, also applies to most other humanist organizations worldwide. They have pitifully small budgets, woefully small memberships and relatively low circulations of their publications. The average local church in almost any city has more members and resources than any of the major humanist groups, yet they claim to be a national movement. And so it is natural to ask: What can they do to increase their effectiveness?
I think we should recognize that humanist organizations are not the epitome of humanism; indeed, at times I think they have betrayed its ideals. We sometimes exaggerate their importance. These groups are certainly not coextensive with humanism as a movement. Humanism is broader in scope and will continue long after they are gone. There are many humanistic personalities, organizations, and publications in the world--perhaps hundreds-- who do not call themselves "humanist." Humanism, in this broad sense, is one of the deepest currents of thought and feeling in the world. It will not be easily swept aside. Nevertheless, historical trends are not predetermined, and humanist ideas and values may be overwhelmed by forces of unreason____________________
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Publication information: Book title: In Defense of Secular Humanism. Contributors: Paul Kurtz - Author. Publisher: Prometheus Books. Place of publication: Amherst, NY. Publication year: 1983. Page number: 177.
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