The 2007 celebration of 30 years of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University took place late in April, and had attracted speakers and participants from all over USA, and abroad. The Conference “The New Humanism” showed that atheists, humanists, sceptics and freethinkers are growing in number faster than before, and is beginning to be accepted by society at large.
The most notable event was the presentation of the “First Annual Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism” to writer Salman Rushdie. In a completely secular ceremony that took place in the Memorial Church at Harvard University, his writing was acclaimed by leading humanists, the organizers and his publisher. More that 1,000 people attended the award ceremony, which also included music and songs from cultural, but non-religious, traditions.
Photo: Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein (left), Salman Rushdie and Executive Director of American Humanist Association Roy Speckhart. (Photo: Juliette Melton)
A Symposium on “Dialogue Among Religions, Cultures, and Civilizations?” started by presenting the strong humanistic traditions around the world. John Loeb spoke on the Touro Synagogue as a symbol on Religious pluralism in the United States, Amartya Sen spoke on the Indian Humanism and Tu Weiming on Confucian Humanism. A panel then discussed the possibility of a development “Toward a Abrahamic Humanism?” The panellists were Salman Rusdhie on Humanistic Islam, Rabbi Sherwin Wine on Humanistic Judaism and William Murray on Unitarian Universalist Humanism. A common impression seemed to be that all religions are slowly becoming more humanistic from within, and that large groups of people feel at home in their different cultural traditions, even when they had abandoned the religious belief.
A later panel was discussing “The Future of Organised Humanism”, which turned out to be a good display of many of the different groups in the US, many of whom are now growing in membership, but also showed a broad range of ideas for further growth.
The Conference also included an Expo of National and Local Humanist and Secular Organizations, a session on cooperation between Humanists and Christians on biodiversity with E.O. Wilson, a special session on Humanist Education and an award for “Humanist Album of the Year” to folk musician Dar Williams.