Monthly Archives: February 2012
CNCAH to host booth at
Rock Beyond Belief
The time is quickly drawing near when the secular community is going to be in the spotlight right here in our very own backyard. We are thrilled to see some of the brightest luminaries from the movement converging for a singular cause in Fayetteville, NC.
Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, and somehow aren’t familiar with the response to the controversial event held on Ft. Bragg two years ago, “Rock the Fort”; here’s a great promo for the event created by Scott Burdick:
Central NC Atheists & Humanists is proud to support Camp Quest SC at the event held on Ft. Bragg on March 31!
The secular community is known for providing support to other organizations for projects and special events. Many members of CNCAH are local to or stationed at Ft. Bragg, and several of our members serve on the Board of Directors for Camp Quest SC. As such, we are glad to provide assistance to the Camp Quest SC staff to help their event run smoothly while they are visiting our area.
This is a wonderful opportunity to announce that registration for the Camp Quest 2012 Summer Session is now open! Click HERE for details.
CNCAH Speaker Series
“Candidate Without a Prayer”
Saturday, March 17th @ 3PM
City Center Gallery and Books
112 Hay Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301
CNCAH is proud to present the second edition of our Speaker Series, as we continue to bring regional and national speakers to our area for the benefit of Humanists and the non-theistic community as a whole. Thus, we are excited to welcome, Dr. Herb Silverman Ph.D. who will be joining us on Saturday, March 17th, when will be personally sharing his remarkable story featured in his new book.
Candidate Without A Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt
In this deeply revealing and engaging autobiography, Herb Silverman tells his iconoclastic life story. Equal parts Bertrand Russell, Woody Allen, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, he takes the reader from his childhood as an Orthodox Jew in Philadelphia, where he stopped fasting on Yom Kippur to test God’s existence, to his adult life in the heart of the Bible Belt, where he became a legendary figure within America’s secular activist community and remains one of its most beloved leaders.
Never one to shy from controversy, Silverman relates many of his high-profile battles with the Religious Right, including his decision to run for governor of South Carolina to challenge the state’s constitutional provision that prohibited atheists from holding public office, and his experiences facing Christian fundamentalists of all stripes in open debate. He is equally candid about the battles he has faced in the secular community itself and the many hurdles he overcame in the historic step of politically uniting the country’s major secular, humanist, and atheist groups under the banner of the Secular Coalition for America.
Silverman combines a satirist’s pen with an activist’s passion, revealing in humorous and often moving ways a personal side few know. Famous for dispatching his opponents and those who might question him with a few carefully chosen words, here he disarms with refreshing candor about his own foibles and flaws, and unabashed honesty about his work and life.
With a voice that crackles with effortless wit and with prose that reveals deep, often hidden wisdom, Candidate Without A Prayer offers an intimate portrait of a central player in today’s increasingly heated culture wars. It will be sure to charm both believers and nonbelievers alike, and will lead all those who care about the separation of church and state to give thanks (if not a prayer) for Silverman’s many gifts to humankind and America’s future.
About The Author
Herb Silverman is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of mathematics at the College of Charleston. He ran for governor of South Carolina in the 1990s to challenge a state law that required religious belief to hold public office. After an eight-year battle, he won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which struck down this religious test requirement.
Come on out and join us in order to get early access to the book which won’t be officially published until June 15th!
After the presentation, you will have the opportunity to get your advance copy and have it personally signed by the author.
Officer wants humanism officially recognized
RALEIGH, N.C. — Soldiers who don’t believe in God can go to war with “Atheist” stamped on their dog tags, but humanists and others with various secular beliefs are still officially invisible in the Army.
Maj. Ray Bradley is applying to be the first humanist recognized as a “distinctive faith group leader” by the Army. In the meantime, he can’t be designated as a humanist on his official records or dog tags, although he can be classified as an atheist.
The distinction may not seem like a large one to those unfamiliar with humanism, but the Fort Bragg-based officer says it’s the equivalent of being told that “Christian” is an acceptable designation, but not “Catholic.”
“Humanism is a philosophy that guides a person,” Bradley said. “It’s more than just a stamp of what you’re not.”
Humanism’s core beliefs range from the assertion that knowledge of the world is derived from observation and rational analysis to the conviction that working to help others also promotes individual happiness.
The issue is another sign of the growing willingness of military personnel at Fort Bragg and other military bases to publicly identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, humanists or otherwise without belief in a supernatural higher power and seek the same recognition granted to Christians, Jews and other believers.
“There are a lot more people with these beliefs than just Maj. Ray Bradley, but he’s in a position where he can stand up and put in a request for this,” said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and an Army veteran.
Bradley, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who enlisted in 1986, is respectful and protective of the Army, and careful to say his views are his own. He said he has been a humanist since before he enlisted, when “No Religious Preference” was his only option. Now he feels getting his official records to match his convictions is an important symbolic point.
“There’s no regulation that says I can’t go downtown and get a set of tags made that say ‘humanist,’ but I won’t do that because it won’t be on my official record,” he said. “To me, this is an individual right.”
A petition campaign organized by Torpy’s group wants “humanist” and “spiritual but not religious” added to the currently available religious designations.
Bradley said he applied for the change to his record after learning that “atheist” was now an officially recognized choice for soldiers. His request was ultimately rejected by the Army Chaplain Corps, he said, which didn’t respond to a request for comment. Bradley believes some of the resistance comes from a lack of familiarity with humanism.
“I don’t think the chaplaincy really understands the difference between atheism and humanism,” he said.
Humanism goes beyond a simple statement of disbelief in the existence of a deity or deities, said Howard Katz, president of the Humanist Society, which is sponsoring Bradley’s application to become a lay humanist leader at Bragg.
“Atheism means just that: you don’t believe in God,” Katz said. “You could have an axe murderer who’s an atheist. Humanists have ethics and a philosophy.”
They also have formal “life-cycle celebrations” for occasions like marriages, funerals, even what Katz calls “humanist bar mitzvahs.” Founded in 1939 and chartered as a religious organization, the Humanist Society also certifies celebrants to perform the ceremonies, who then have the same legal authority as members of the clergy.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that humanists and other non-theists in the military are becoming more vocal, because their civilian counterparts are doing the same thing, said Penny Edgell, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota who studies American religion.
“There are lots more organizations for atheists, agnostics and humanists now than there used to be,” she said. “This is an emerging identity.”
The organization of non-theists parallels the mobilization of conservative religious believers in American society, Edgell said. As one group asserts its identity, the other feels the need to respond.
“People are aware that if you’re going to claim it, you have to claim it more strongly,” she said. “There’s kind of a cycle of mobilization.”
The Army currently has no humanist chaplains or laypersons authorized to perform limited chaplain duties, a position roughly equivalent to a deacon or elder in a Christian church. A soldier at Fort Meade, Md., has also filed the paperwork seeking the designation, which is a more formal process in the Army and Navy than in the Air Force, where a humanist lay leader is stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., according to Torpy.
Bradley sees his role as essentially organizing the humanists at Fort Bragg and securing a regular meeting place, for listening to speakers or just gather to talk about their experiences.
“I don’t want to make it sound too religious,” he said with a laugh, after catching himself using the word “congregation.”
“A minority is always much bigger than what’s visible on the surface until they’re accepted by society,” he said. “Once people realize that their neighbors are part of this minority, and they’re just regular people like anyone else, they become accepted.”
That’s important if non-theists continue to grow in the larger society, said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. Surveys vary, but between 15 and 20 percent of Americans now don’t identify with any particular religion, although not all of those people are non-theists.
“There is that trend in society, and we strive to have our military as representative of our society as possible,” he said. “That’s part of the reason the right to serve became so important for blacks, and then women, and then gays. You’ve got that added dimension of military service being a hallmark of citizenship.”
Darwin Day has come and gone already, and we are sad to see it go, for it was a great day for CNCAH. Not only was February 12th a grand day of recognition, celebration, and acknowledgment for Charles Darwin’s tremendous contributions to science and our understanding of the natural world in which we live; it also marked the first anniversary of CNCAH. In addition to our first anniversary and Darwin Day, it also ushered in the very first Happy Humanist Hour event; a positive, upbeat, social gathering that focuses on education, reason, understanding, tolerance, in addition to the other core ethics and values that Humanism embraces.
Since our first Happy Humanist Hour fell on Darwin Day, what could possibly be better than to make our first service about Darwin? Our very own Ray did a fantastic job with his enlightening presentation to our group which was followed by a group discussion on the topic of evolution and science. Indeed, it is extremely rewarding, inspiring, and far more satisfying to be able to hold intelligent, educated, and thoughtful conversation with like minds from various walks of life about the nature of our world and our existence in that world, than it is to subscribe to ancient, unfounded, illogical, and unsubstantiated mythological beliefs.
Later that day, we also enjoyed a visual feast of Darwin’s world as computer graphics brought him alive and right into the room with us where he courteously walked and talked with us, sharing his life story and the events in his life that eventually lead to a book of truth that continues to shake the human world to its very foundations more than 150 years later.
As if that weren’t enough festivities, we wrapped things up with dinner and cocktails at a local restaurant where we enjoyed the camaraderie and brotherhood of our group. Board members also presented an award to our past President, Geri Weaver, for her outstanding performance and leadership throughout our first year.
While CNCAH might be considered a young organization, that hasn’t hindered our mission to educate our community about Humanism. There is no doubt at all that this trend will continue throughout this year as well. Already we have big plans in the works as we continue to bring about awareness of a progressive and advanced philosophy for all humankind. We invite you to join us! Watch our website for information on how you can join us for our next Happy Humanist Hour which will be held every month. Check out our social site on Meetup.com. Or, you can learn more about Humanism by visiting the American Humanist Association website.
Thank you to all the members of CNCAH for a great year, and special thanks to Charles Darwin for his enlightenment and contributions to the collective of human knowledge which is immeasurable.