Interview with Robert Peoples – Founder and President, Affinis Humanity Coalition

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Robert Peoples is the Founder and President of the Affinis Humanity Coalition. Here we talk about his life, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When did humanism become the proper life stance for you?

Robert Peoples: Well, before I embraced humanism, I was raised in a Baptist Church in central New Jersey. I even sang in the choir. I attended church ever since I had a rattle in my hand and a pacifier in my mouth. I was naturally curious; as most children are. Although I participated in church, my thirst for knowledge was not satisfied by the clergy.  At the age of 13, my cousin Harold introduced me to, “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine. By the time I was 18 years of age, I fully embraced my humanist and atheist position. The writings of Thomas Paine changed my life.

Jacobsen: How is humanism incorporated into the work of the Affinis Humanity Coalition? Also, what is the source of the title of the organization?

Peoples: I’ve always believed advocacy is visibility. One of the various ways I incorporate humanism is visually displaying people through the Secular Faces project: an online photography campaign that seeks to normalize humanism one face at a time. Going into high schools is another venue to incorporate humanism through our nonprofit. Let’s face it; the youth today aren’t exposed to various philosophies until college. That’s too late. They’re still using the amygdala (emotional part of the brain) to attempt to rationalize their experiences. Adults utilize the prefrontal cortex (the rational part of the brain) to think with and understand the consequences of their actions. Humanism fosters critical thinking. It’s about teaching our youth how to think and not what to think.

The name Affinis [uh-fin-is] is the Latin derivative of the word, affinity: a natural attraction/liking to a person or thing. I choose the name because of the attraction to humanism. The proclivity of humanity is to depend on itself.

Jacobsen: Who have been important partners of the Affinis Humanity Coalition?

Peoples: The Secular Coalition for Arizona has been a pertinent partner of our organization. They are a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization that works to ensure a secular state government.  Mandisa Thomas, CEO of Black nonbelievers and Monica Miller, senior counsel for the American Humanist Association have partnered up with us to promote non-theistic dialogue through the Secular Faces project.

Jacobsen: What have been milestones in its efforts to advance humanism?

Peoples: On April 1st and April 9th of this year, I delivered two humanist invocations to the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives. Secular Coalition for Arizona invited me to speak. Neither Senate nor House of Representatives opposed the invocation. Based on the recent negative pushback for secular invocations statewide and the deliverance of “fire and brimstone” prayer, it was surprising and refreshing that my state accepted it well. Recently, being elected to the board of directors for the Secular Coalition for Arizona Communities was a great honor. I’m excited to serve my secular community.

Jacobsen: How can people become involved in Affinis Humanity Coalition?

Peoples: People can get involved by participating in our Secular Faces photography project and Secular Voices video campaign. Both platforms can be accessed online via our website. Our supporters can also purchase our humanist apparel where proceeds go towards facilitating school/business presentations, materials, and equipment management. Donations are always welcomed and needed.

Jacobsen: What should be some new endeavors of the work of humanists around the world now?

Peoples: I believe integrating philosophical curriculum in high schools is imperative to establishing critical thinking in America. There’s an agenda in our nation to promote theocratic principles in public schools. The most vulnerable demographic in our country is youth. It should be about teaching our children how to think and not what to think.

Another critical endeavor is marketing. Generation Z is the least religious demographic than any generation before its time. For a time, the millennial generation was the least religious generation ever. Now, atheism has doubled amid Generation Z. The question is, how do we invigorate engagement with the younger generation? Like the comic con and anime events that draw hundreds of thousands of participants, how can the humanist community create an attractive model that fosters high levels of interest?

The youth is our future foundation. 

Jacobsen: What are the threats to the global humanist community?

Peoples: Theocracy leads the way in global humanist threats. Wherever there is fundamentalism, there exists an oppressive aspect towards marginalized groups. Women’s rights come to mind. Fundamentalism breeds contempt towards the LGBTQ community. A peer-reviewed meta-analytic study stemming back from the civil rights era entitled, Why Don’t We Practice What We Preach, discloses the more overtly religious people are, the more racist they are. We can no longer afford to turn the other cheek and allow tenets of bigotry to rule under the guise of fundamentalist religion.

Jacobsen: How can humanists stand more strongly for human rights with various forms of activism?

Peoples: Activism in the cyber realm has, spread awareness regarding human rights issues. However, local community events pose the greatest immediate effect. I believe, collaborating with human rights organizations in one’s city and connecting joint efforts with humanism provide visibility. It’s one thing to post on social media with likes and comments. However, it’s another thing to be visible in your everyday community. I’m thinking of humanist community centers.

Jacobsen: Any recommended authors or speakers?

Peoples: Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life is a book written by historians R. Laurence Moore and Isaac Kramnick. It explores the plight of atheists in America stemming back from the early 17th century pilgrims up until today. It’s a provocative written work.

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Peoples: My final thoughts are with women. Religion is a tool to covet a more sinister identity—patriarchy. Controlling fertility under the fictitious auspice of God is truly about controlling the physicality of women. The Handmaid’s Tale comes to mind. A vast majority of women feel compelled to submit to their husbands. This notion is echoed in Ephesians 5: 22-24:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

The religious, psychological exploitation of wive’s devotion to their husbands keeps the Stockholm Syndrome continuing. Women are the key to a free society and religion is the last domino standing.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mr. Peoples.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Image Credit: Robert Peoples.

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