Here we talk about her life, work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start with some background, either family or personal, what are some important details and stories?
Kirstine Kærn: After following the beaten path pursuing a career in the IT-business the last 20+ years I decided to turn my life around. I sold everything I owed last year, decided to travel the world and experience our planet. So I travel the world interviewing non-believers and share their life stories in my podcast Babelfish.
Jacobsen: How did you become intrigued and involved in secular issues?
Kærn: 11 years ago I heard about the founding of Humanistisk Samfund and decided to join. I’ve never been religious nor a member of the Danish state church (75% of Danes are members of the protestant state church). Human rights and humanism have always been important to me, but besides sponsoring Amnesty I’d never considered being part of a humanist organization. I was a member for several years before I became active.
Jacobsen: How did the Humanistisk Samfund start?
Kærn: Some members from the Danish Atheist Association wanted to establish ceremonies for non-believers. Since the atheist organization didn’t want to support ceremonies they formed their own organization. We conduct humanist confirmations, weddings, name givings and funerals.
Jacobsen: What are the demographics of the community now?
Kærn: We have approximately 1,800 members in Denmark where we are just below 6 million citizens. Most members are located in the big cities. The average age of members is high. I’m 48 and might be one of the young ones.
Two years ago an independent youth organization was formed (Unge Humanister).
Jacobsen: What are your tasks and responsibilities in the Humanistisk Samfund?
Kærn: I’m member of the board and Vice President. My primary responsibilities is political activities, managing events and international relations.
Jacobsen: What have been important social and political activities of the Humanistisk Samfund?
Kærn: Our ceremonies are very important. They are getting more and more popular, especially our confirmations. This means we have a huge task to secure enough celebrants and instructors receive training to cover the demand.
Politically we are fighting to get acknowledged by the government and getting our weddings legalized. This entails new legislation or changing the existing laws. Only faith communities can be acknowledges in the current legislation. We hope to achieve this within the next 1 or 2 years.
Every year we participate in a political rally for politicians, NGOs and other on one of the Danish islands Bornholm. Almost 100.000 people visit and it is the best opportunity to meet many politicians and other organizations in very few days. We usually plan a lot of debates with politicians and experts.
Last year we established a secular ceremony for the opening of the Danish parliament in October. Normally the politicians are invited to join a sermon in the state church before the opening celebrations. The ceremony was a success and we have decided to do it every year.
Our local groups plan a lot of different debates and other activities such a celebrating summer solstice.
Jacobsen: What are some new projects for the Humanistisk Samfund?
Kærn: We have just hired a new halftime employee. She will be responsible for the volunteers, a new training program and looking into fundraising. We get more and more members and we must secure the organization can grow accordingly, while securing the best quality of our services and the support of the political activities.
We continue the work for acknowledgment. We already have a couple who wants to be the first legal humanist wedding.
Another project is our educational system. The state church has a lot of privileges in our schools which we want to remove. Our children are taught the subject Christianity, where the primary focus is Protestantism even though the curriculum also requires knowledge of other religions. We want to change the subject to be about Philosophy and Ethics instead.
And then we off course will start planning the Humanist World Congress in Copenhagen in 2023 together we the other Nordic humanist organization. We look forward to see everybody in wonderful Copenhagen.
Jacobsen: Who is an important person for secular work in your locale?
Kærn: Our President Lone Ree Milkaer.
Jacobsen: What are other important organizations in the area?
Kærn: The Danish Atheist Association. We also corporate with faith communities regarding the secular agenda. Due to our state church several faith communities are also pushing a secular agenda.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved with the Humanistisk Samfund?
Kærn: Besides being a member there are many options. You can become a celebrant, an instructor on our humanist confirmation weekend camps, local activist arranging debates and much more.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Kærn: I’ve been so lucky to be part of an organization which is growing stronger every day. We have had many success stories the last 11 years. It shows that it is possible to change the world even though it requires a lot of work to change peoples minds.
I look forward to meet a lot of humanists in different countries over the next year. I look forward to welcome everybody in Copenhagen in 2023.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Kirstine.
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.