By Howard Katz
There is comfort in numbers. Sometimes it feels as though you are the only humanist within a thousand miles, and you have trouble talking to friends or family about what humanism is, and how the philosophy informs your daily life. You know that humanism is a better ethic, but you can’t talk to others about it. An isolated humanist is a lone voice trying to spread logical thought in a sometimes-hostile landscape. But there’s no need to feel alone.
Across the country, other humanists have discovered a way to discuss their thoughts in a community. In 245 chapters and affiliates of the American Humanist Association (AHA) in 41 states and the District of Columbia, humanists meet to discuss topics of interest, issues of the day, share a meal and yes, to discuss how humanism can impact the larger communities in which they live and work.
Humanism isn’t just for the few to discuss among themselves. Our philosophy can only take root and spread when the public at large gets to know both the ethical motivations, and humanists in general. Many of our chapters and affiliates do just that, by getting involved with community activities and service projects. Some work on “adopt-a-highway” cleanups. Some do on-the-spot science events. Food banks are a favorite activity, and many have humanist representatives at local interfaith alliance meetings. The AHA, knowing how important it is that members get the message out, makes it easy to start a chapter. All you need are five dues-paying AHA members—who agree to govern themselves democratically and agree with the Humanist Manifesto—to petition the organization in recognizing them as a chapter. After that, the AHA provides resources and works to promote those chapters by issuing Chapter Grants once a year to groups who apply for funding towards programs that help spread humanism and demonstrate to the community that we humanists aren’t the boogy folk that some like to make us out to be.
This year, eleven chapters applied for grants, and funding was provided to seven of those. The programs approved were:
• Community of Reason, KY: This new chapter’s grant will be used on growing membership, helping the homeless, raising awareness of secular values, supporting the local LGBTQ community, and encouraging civil dialog with religious neighbors by tabling at local conferences and LGBTQ events.
• Florida Humanist Association: The Florida group hosts an annual conference of humanists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and scientific skeptics. This grant will go towards funding scholarships for students to attend the event and presentations.
• Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, AZ: To promote humanism, the chapter will buy radio time on their local NPR station, airing an ad that explains who they are and inviting people to attend meetings to learn more.
• Humanist Society of New Mexico: In order to continue to inform their chapter members on issues of interest and help grow membership, the Humanist Society of NM will use their grant to pay for the travel expenses of a speaker and large-scale advertising to promote the event to the public.
• Last Frontier Freethinkers, AK: The chapter has identified a population of homeless teens and will work to supply them with basic necessities, in an effort to help protect them from the elements, meet their basic hygiene needs, and bolster their self-esteem and sense of dignity. The ultimate goal is to assist these teens in staying in school. The group will present each teen with a backpack silkscreened with the happy humanist logo and filled with items each teen needs.
• Morgantown Humanists, WV: Realizing that people more often share ideas and thoughts over a meal, the chapter has held a free Darwin Day Lunch that is open to the community. The chapter has grown their membership significantly through this annual event, and will use their grant to hold more lunches in the coming years.
• Secular Humanist of Western Lake Erie, OH: In order to promote their chapter and the AHA, this grant will be used to have a chapter table cover printed, purchase a button making machine to create humanist-themed wearables, and print literature to hand out. They will take their message to local community events and where permissible, college events, in order to introduce humanism to the Western Lake Erie area.
As you can see, the ideas and actions of the various chapters are both diverse and innovative when it comes to promoting the humanist message. If you’re currently a chapter member, create and share your ideas to let your community know you’re out there. If you’re not in a chapter, use the AHA website to find out if there’s one in your area to join. And if there’s no chapter, it’s not hard to start one!
The Chapter Grant application for the 2019/2020 cycle will go live on August 1, 2019. More information about next year’s grants will be sent to chapter leaders (if you’re not getting emails about these, give us a call) and announced in an upcoming issue of Free Mind. You want to grow your chapter and help spread the word locally that you’re out there. We want to help, and grant funds can go a long way to furthering humanist understanding throughout the country.