The Issue at Hand

Article excerpt

This issue of the Humanist is about breaking traditions--an endeavor readily associated with humanism because of the frequent humanist practice of challenging traditional faiths, mores, and social systems. When viewed negatively, such an endeavor is called iconoclasm. When viewed positively, it is often regarded as "breaking the cycle."

Today there is a cycle of violence in the Middle East desperately in need of breaking. David Schafer, in the second installment of his exploration into the origins of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, shows that irreconcilable differences and a consequent self-perpetuating system of mutual retaliation were established long enough ago to constitute a kind of modern tradition. In acknowledging this reality, Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the international Greens weigh in with their ideas for a humanistic solution. Meanwhile, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and 2002 Humanist of the Year Steven Weinberg calls for the abandonment of all forms of religiously motivated self-destructiveness--from suicide bombings to traditions of ascetic self-sacrifice.

Regarding religion, two generations of American schoolchildren have been raised on a version of the Pledge of Allegiance that institutionalizes monotheism. Unaware of past congressional changes, most believe the pledge has always been this way--that it's traditional. Therefore the decision in July by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning the Cold War era addition of the words under God has been mistakenly viewed by many, and opportunistically promoted by others, as iconoclastic and unpatriotic. Barbara Dority sets the record straight by pointing to the original tradition and showing how the foundational principles of the United States were actually violated by the intrusive two-word addition of 1954. …