First Principles Activism

by | October 21, 2017


Scott Douglas Jacobsen

I was reading the news. Something ‘struck’ me. An article by CBC News entitled “‘I don’t think it’s fair’: Ontario group pushing to end government funding for Catholic schools” (2017).

The basis appeared something of interest to me, for a decent amount of time now: working from first principles to enact secular change within province and territory, and the nation.

I saw (and see) different means by which to acquire change towards secularism. One is the use of national or provincial documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Government of Canada, 1982), as the organization is attempting to do in the article.

Another is temporary coalition building. For example, if you look at Humanist Canada, you can find a list of organizations counted as allies, or affiliates:

  • The International Humanist and Ethical Union, (IHEU), based in London England with an office at the United Nations.
  • Center For Enquiry, (CFI), based in the US and is represented in multiple Cana-dian cities.
  • Atheist International & Atheists of America.
  • AHQ our Quebec partners.
  • Secular Ontario.
  • Humanist Perspectives a humanist publication based in Ottawa.
  • Dying With Dignity, Canada.
  • One School System Network, OSSN, an Ontario based organization.
  • Imagine No Religion Conference, INR5, 2015.
  • Ontario Humanist Society, A positive force for Humanism in Ontario.
  • Quinte Secular Humanist Society, QSHA. This is the “freethinking” group started by Bill Broderic many years ago. It is an active and collegial group of friends. (Humanist Canada, 2017).

I could see this extended between the moderately religious and the stripes of the irreligious to provide a framework for change: said coalition. But the coalition must retain common marks, goals, or targeted objectives.

Those targeted objectives amount to specific, identifiable marks. Those which start small, work into the medium, and then into the larger, e.g. municipal, provincial, and then federal/national, respectively. And why not? It has been the tide of history for this country and for the world, especially the developed world or as countries/nations become more developed.

Women gain rights; minorities gain rights; children gain rights; labor rights become more instantiated; quality of life rises; lifespan and health span rise; education access, completion, and level of final achievement rise; and so on. Also: religiosity declines in raw numbers and level of markers of religious life, and secularism increases.

If activism becomes oriented within this axis, then the tides of history seem easier to grasp, manage, and ride.

Another possibility seems like the utility in the Freedom of Thought Report (International Humanist and Ethical Union, 2016a), which contains a section on Canada (International Humanist and Ethical Union, 2016b). These kinds of documents can act as guides as to what inequality exists and then where to acquire the targeted objectives.

That makes temporary coalition building, finding targeted objectives, utilization of robust documents for activism. There does exist such a thing as first principles reasoning, working from the basics and then develop the strategy. It seems robust.

Insofar as activism may contain first principles, the utility in documents capable of the provision of the basic fruits of the secular activist ideals. I would argue for a first principles process: identification of inequality, targeted objective acquisition, examination for coalition need or not, the creation of or building on prior successes, and persistence.

The documents can help find the inequality, or the locale or nation’s controversial discourse in a relevant secular domain. Basing decision of the targeted objectives on the availabe resources for those inequalities to be reduced or eliminated, the determination of the need for assistance, or not, given the magnitude of the problem. Then the creation of successes and persistence in the activism, or looking to prior successes to simply make the job easier.

And in Canada, we have the open, easy capability to make those secular changes, not for superiority but for equality.


CBC News. (2017, October 19). ‘I don’t think it’s fair’: Ontario group pushing to end government funding for Catholic schools. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (1982). Constitution Act, 1982. Retrieved from

Humanist Canada. (2017). Vision, Mission, and Values. Retrieved from

International Humanist and Ethical Union. (2016a). The Freedom of Thought Report. Retrieved from, ntries/.

International Humanist and Ethical Union. (2016b). The Freedom of Thought Report: Canada. Retrieved from

Category: Opinion Tags: ,

About Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

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