On the About Us page: “The British Columbia Humanist Association has been providing a community and voice for Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious of Metro Vancouver and British Columbia since 1982. We support the growth of Humanist communities across BC, provide Humanist ceremonies, and campaign for progressive and secular values.
We are a registered charitable organization. Our mission is:
- to promote the ideas and philosophy of secular humanism by all available means of education and communication;
- to serve the educational needs of its members and others of humanistic, scientific and naturalistic outlook, in a democratic, non-dogmatic manner free from authoritarian doctrine;
- to provide opportunities for fellowship, study and service at all levels of humanistic endeavour, and to advance the values and welfare of humanity in dedication to the continuing enhancement of human life through human effort and understanding;
- to offer and provide meaningful ceremonies to members and non-members at significant times such as marriage and death; and
- to elaborate and to express publicly Humanist positions on issues of concern to people, including values, morality and ethics.
We are run by a democratically-elected volunteer Board of Directors and a small staff. We are funded entirely by donations from individuals who share our vision for a world based on reason and compassion.”
At a recent Sunday morning meeting we showed Alain de Botton’s TED talk where he argues for an Atheism 2.0, which most of our members quickly identified as the Humanist project.
De Botton has a new article up on Huffington Post arguing for “5 Religious Concepts That Atheists Can Use.” The concepts are familiar to anyone who has seen the TED talk and are innocuous enough: education, mind & body, community, art & museums, and pilgrimages. At our meeting we agreed that building a community and taking trips to natural wonders like the Burgess Shale and local museums are quite worthy pursuits.
What gets me about de Botton though is not just his ignorance of the British Humanist Association’s numerous activities in these areas, it’s his passive aggressive assaults on the success of New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. He refers to the New Atheists as “fanatical” and “fundamentalist” while making no effort to understand their position.
Of Dr Myers’ best writings are those that identify the core target of this movement, which ironically is the idea disparaged by de Botton in his very first sentence: that of truth. De Botton writes “Probably the most boring question you can ask about religion is whether or not the whole thing is ‘true’.” This very sentiment offends me deeply, not just as a scientist, but as a humanist. Religions make many truth claims about morality and the universe.
If the claims of the theistic religions are true, then our actions and lives have a very different meaning than what secular humanism proposes. In the former case, a magic super-being created the universe for its own amusement and in many traditions will punish or reward your behaviour depending on your behaviour while alive. In the latter case, this life is all we have and morality is derived from a desire to make it the best of all possible lives for ourselves and our future generations.
This is to say nothing of the implications for Big Bang Cosmology and the entire pursuit of science were the (literally) miraculous claims of religions to be true. Naturalistic science rests on the assumption that nature is consistent, that is the laws of nature are constant. This assumption gets tossed by the wayside in most religious claims where a supernatural entity is able to change the laws of nature to suit their personal ambition.
So rather than working within the growing humanist and atheist movements, de Botton has chosen to chastise those of us who value the truth and community. It seems like he simply wants to stir controversy to sell books. His thesis on the face is seems to be a fairly tame and reasonable contribution to the dialogue within our community. Instead his ego must take centre stage.
Originally published on the British Columbia Humanist Association website on March 2, 2012.
Canadian Atheist 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, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: British Columbia Humanist Association.