Humanism at Work wraps up, but our work continues


Our first annual Humanism at Work conference has drawn to a close. For our final day, we had a collection of inspired and inspiring speakers who shared their visions about humanist service and community. For more pictures and updates, check out our Twitter feed. To read a summary of July 19 speakers, click here.

Greta Christina got us started this morning with a talk about the importance of coming out atheist. Greta gave three main reasons for why we should come out atheist: Coming out makes our own lives better, so we are more able to contribute to our community; coming out helps build the freethought community, letting us create structured organizations that encourage charity and volunteer service; and coming out chips away at anti-atheist bigotry, which is a huge barrier to atheist generosity. Greta paraphrased a conversation with Rebecca Vitsmun (who has the “mother of all coming-out stories”) in which Rebecca said that coming out enables you to be yourself in the world, and give more of yourself because you’re not holding back.

The Come Together panel on secular community included Humanist Rabbi Adam Chalom of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation, Nicole Steeves of the Chicago Sunday Assembly, Lisa Wertman Crowe of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, and Sharon Moss of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio. The panel discussed their views on why secular community is important and discussed the joys and challenges of organizing secular groups. As Rabbi Chalom says, “Secular community isn’t just about service—it’s also about serving our community.” This panel showcased the broad range of secular communities that meet the needs of very different atheists and humanists: “We can be unified without being uniform.”

Next, Leo Igwe spoke about his work fighting witchcraft accusations and helping the men, women, and children accused. Leo shared pictures, video, and his personal experiences of “witch camps” in Ghana and the victims of witchcraft accusation, who are ostracized and isolated from their families and communities. Leo is a powerful speaker, and he infects the audience with his urgency. Our community is often caught up with debates and discussions about our beliefs, and while these are important discussions, there’s a pressing need in the world for us to act. As Leo says, “It is time to leave the armchair of debate and put our hands to the plow of compassionate humanism.”

The Pathfinders Panel closed out the day, with insights and anecdotes from Pathfinders Conor Robinson, Wendy Webber, and Ben Blanchard. Conor spoke about his vision of humanist service—he stressed that it was important for the Pathfinders to come to each of their service sites as volunteers who were there to learn, not to teach. The role of humanist volunteers is not to act as saviors. “We need to reframe service, and we need to reframe the way we’re thinking about the people we serve.” Wendy talked about forming connections with the people she met, and working together regardless of their differing backgrounds and worldviews. Ben shared his new understanding of “community” after his experiences as a Pathfinder, observing the communities he worked with and the ways they cared for their members. Lessons learned from the Pathfinders' year of service will be the foundation for the forthcoming Humanist Action: Ghana, which will launch in 2015. 

Thanks so much to all of our speakers, sponsors, and attendees at our first-ever Humanism at Work conference. We hope you’re all as energized and inspired as we are. Stay tuned for details about next year’s Humanism at Work 2015 in Boston!