Croft Press / David / Religion / Sermons

The Founding of the Humanist Church
and the
History of Religious Humanism

David Wallace Croft

Presentation to the
Humanists of Fort Worth


* Invitation to join us at HCNT this Saturday the 20th
* Every third Saturday at 11:30
* Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (DUUF) building
* Shannon Croft, professional pre-school teacher, will provide child care
* Expecting about a dozen in attendance this month

* Speaking on the Scientific Method this month
* Tribute to Science
* S.A.C.R.E.D.:  Science, Art, Compassion, Reason, Education, Democracy
* Next month may be speaking on Socratic Method
* Tribute to Reason
* Appeal for speakers for HCNT

* Some Religious Humanists you know
* Rev. Dr. Russel Elleven
* HoFW Chair
* certified Humanist Minister
* Humanist Society of Friends

* Rev. Don Fielding
* former minister of Denton and Oak Cliff UU
* retired, gave last sermon last week at DUUF
* formerly Religious Humanist, now Religious Naturalist

* Religious Humanism, Religious Naturalism, Naturalistic Humanism
* All almost exactly the same in philosophy
* I am still working to pin down the subtle distinctions

* Former members of the North Texas Church of Freethought (NTCoF)
* Founding Members:  Cynthia Keaton, Shannon Woody, myself
* NTCoF religious and atheistic but not democratic
* Freethought Fellowship
* November of 2002

* Web search for similar organizations
* Some UU churches exact match
* Why not UU?
* "Spirituality for Atheists" or "A Super, Natural Religion"
* Rev. Dennis Hamilton, Horizon UUC in Carrollton

"I want to preface the readings with an explanation. Every Sunday people come to celebrate and worship together, but not everyone has the same theology. The same may be said for other churches but not in such dramatic contrast as in ours. As might be expected, in our ranks there are people who are quite comfortable praying to a personal God, a supreme Being. But there are others for whom such a notion is actually uncomfortable. Not only uncomfortable but hypocritical for them.

Most Unitarian Universalists express their theology as some form of a natural theology with God either embodying nature or imbuing nature with sacrality. For these people, it is far easier to hear the names of God as metaphor. For theists, nothing satisfies quite so much as direct prayer to a Supreme Being.

And so we gather knowing that each of us needs to be aware of the stretch others are making to accommodate us, just as we are being tolerant of their needs.

But for an atheist, one for whom the idea of God simply isn't relevant, there is a lot to tolerate. I sometimes say that since all of our names and ideas for God are just ideas, just names, we are actually creating partial and inaccurate concepts of the ultimate, and thus end up worshipping something false. The atheists are the only ones who are obeying the first commandment that we shall worship no false Gods."

* Freethought Across the Centuries
* Gerald LaRue
* AHA 1989 Humanist of the Year
* Definitions of various forms of atheism

"Rationalists reject the supernatural and argue that reason is the prime source of knowledge. Reason, not spiritual or supernatural revelations, provide the only valid basis for ethics and beliefs. Some rationalists are deists, others are atheists or agnostics.

Humanists. Basic to each freethought group is a humanistic emphasis. Each is concerned with the human dimension, with the affairs of life on planet earth without reference to supernatural interference or direction." [p29]

* Web search on "Humanist"
* Humanist Society of Friends
* American Humanist Association
* Ethical Society of Austin
* Humanists of Fort Worth

* Religious Humanism
* Religious and Atheistic
* Heavy emphasis on democracy
* Humanist Manifesto II, 1973

"EIGHTH: We are committed to an open and democratic society. We must extend participatory democracy in its true sense to the economy, the school, the family, the workplace, and voluntary associations. Decision-making must be decentralized to include widespread involvement of people at all levels -- social, political, and economic. All persons should have a voice in developing the values and goals that determine their lives. Institutions should be responsive to expressed desires and needs. [...]"

* What is a freethinker?
* Religious beliefs independent of authority
* Includes free-thinking supernaturalists
* Name change to Humanist Church of North Texas

* Multiple Humanist organizations
* Humanist Society of Friends
* American Humanist Association
* Council for Secular Humanism
* American Ethical Union
* International Humanist and Ethical Union
* Confusing but it turns out they have common roots

* History of Humanism
* primarily focus on roots of Humanism movement in America
* will not cover Ancient Greek or Renaissance Humanism
* will not cover other types of Humanism
* historic timeline assembled from multiple sources
* apologies in advance if facts muddled
* feel free to interrupt and correct me

* Sources
* "The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto" by Edwin H. Wilson (online)
* "Humanism as the Next Step" by Lloyd and Mary Morain (online)
* "Making the Manifesto:  The Birth of Religious Humanism"
  by William F. Schulz (just published a few months ago)
* "The Philosophy of Humanism" by Corliss Lamont (free w/ AHA membership)
* Links at

* 1825
* Unitarians break away from Congregationalists
* independent organization formed in Europe and U.S.

* 1850
* Positivism, scientifically certain or assured
* "a religion of humanity"
* Based on science
* Auguste Comte
* pioneer French sociologist
* Church of Positivism in Brazil
* national flag "Order and Progress"
* William James and F.C.S. Schiller liked his ideas for a humanist religion

* 1853
* Humanist Religious Association
* London, England
* forgotten and unknown until 1951 
* independent of Comte?
* article in The Humanist by James V. Grasso

"In forming ourselves into a progressive religious body, we have adopted the name 'Humanistic Religious Association' to convey the idea that Religion is a principle inherent in man and is a means of developing his being towards greater perfection.

We have emancipated ourselves from the ancient compulsory dogmas, myths and ceremonies borrowed of old from Asia and still pervading the ruling churches of our age."

Grasso noted:
"The objectives of the Association were to spread the knowledge of the time and to foster the cultivation of the sciences, philosophy and the arts. The group recognized the individuality, independence and equality of members, and established an electoral system for officers, which provided the vote for each member, male or female, at the age of 18.

The group provided for universal education of children, mutual assistance for those in need (provided that they were unable to help themselves), for the appointment of qualified speakers and teachers, and for social and cultural meetings. Their objective seems to have been to better the members as a whole through education of both children and adults, without neglecting the fine arts and worth-while social intercourse. The association would, they hoped, become 'a high school for the people' and would help 'form the groundwork for a higher period of cultivation.'"

* 1867
* Free Religious Association
* Boston, Massachusetts
* offshoot of American Unitarian Association
* non-Christian positivist theists
* scientific theism
* rejected Christian creedalism
* creed:  organizational statement of beliefs
* a creed excludes the non-believers
* Led by Ralph Waldo Emerson
* Humanistic Theism

* 1876
* New York Society for Ethical Culture
* Felix Adler
* former member of Free Religious Association
* ethical behavior, not creed
* social service instead of prayer and ritual
* American Ethical Union
* Ethical Society of Austin

* 1886
* Western Unitarian Conference annual meeting
* Christian Unitarians threatened by Free and Ethical Religion
* resolution passed to reaffirm that no creed would be established

* 1899
* book:  The New Humanism:  Studies in Personal and Social Development
* Edward Howard Griggs

* 1909
* book:  Religion and the Modern Mind
* Frank Carleton Doan
* used term "cosmic humanism"
* also used the term "modernism"
* disciple of William James and F.C.S. Schiller

* 1915
* "humanism":  a belief and trust in human effort
* magazine published by the British Ethical Societies
* Frederick James Gould
* a Positivist

* 1916
* article read by Rev. John H. Dietrich
* a Unitarian minister in Minneapolis, Minnesota
* adopted the term Humanism for his new beliefs

* 1917
* Western Unitarian Conference
* Rev. Curtis W. Reese
* Unitarian minister of Des Moines, Iowa
* Spoke on "The Religion of Democracy"
* promoted scientific method
* promoted achievement of human welfare instead of God's glory
* Met Dietrich
* "What you are calling the religon of democracy, I am calling humanism."
* Reese changes the name of his book to Humanism

* 1918
* Roy Wood Sellars
* book:  The Next Step in Religion
* promoted religious humanism

* 1920
* Reese addresses Harvard Summer School of Theology
* rocks the boat
* theistic Unitarians call for purge of Humanists
* was called the battle between the "God Men" and the "No-God Men"

* 1921
* Unitarian National Conference, Detroit
* debate between humanists and theists
* delegates reject another call for a theistic creed

* 1925
* Sermon by Rev. Dietrich
* showed how Unitarianism paved the way for Humanism
"Unitarianism offered opportunity for the enunciation of
Humanism by virtue of its underlying spirit of spiritual
freedom, by its insistence upon intellectual integrity
rather than intellectual uniformity, but its offer of
religious fellowship to every one of moral purpose without
regard to his theological beliefs."

* 1927
* Reese publishes volume "Humanist Sermons"
* contributions from 18 Unitarian ministers

* 1927
* Chicago
* Humanist Fellowship

* 1928
* journal:  The New Humanist
* by Humanist Fellowship
* book:  Religion without Revelation
* by evolutionary scientist Julian Huxley

* 1929?
* Reverend Theodore Abell forms Hollywood Humanist Society
* broadcasts regularly
* large personal following
* published periodical called "The Humanist"
* different from "The New Humanist" and "The Humanist" from AHA

* 1929
* First Humanist Society of New York, now defunct
* Julian Huxley and Albert Einstein on society advisory board
* founded by Charles Francis Potter, signer of Manifesto
* Former minister of the West Side Unitarian Church in New York City
* biblical expert for defense in Scopes "Monkey" Trial

"I had given up my fast dwindling belief in the deity of Jesus and the doctrine of the Trinity," he wrote. "Now, fifteen years later, I was leaving not only Christianity -- if Unitarianism is Christianity -- but Theism as well."

* 1930
* Potter publishes "Humanism:  A New Religion"

* 1933
* Potter publishes "Humanizing Religion"

* 1933
* Dr. Eldred V. Vanderlaan, signer of Manifesto
* Berkeley, CA
* Withdrew from Unitarian congregation and formed Humanist society
* short-lived

* 193?
* "Fellowship of Humanity" in Oakland, CA
* Rev. A. D. Faupel withdrew following from Unitarian Church
* obtained its own building, "Humanist Hall"
* still around today
* first and oldest affiliate of the AHA
* quoting from Thomas Paine, the American Revolutionary War author
  of "Age of Reason", the masthead of "Fellowship of Humanity" web site:
  "The world is my country, to do good is my religion"

"We are a Humanist Church
for the Left and the Left Out
Humanism is about what human beings
are and can do for each other at their best
without supernatural interventions"

* 1933
* Reverend Gordon Kent, Unitarian
* Humanist society in Moline, Illinois
* paperback:  "Humanism for the Millions"

* 1933
* Humanist Manifesto
* initiated by Sellars, Birkhead, Bragg, Wilson, Haydon
* 34 signers
* Published in The New Humanist
* not a creed

"The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in
religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere
revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have
disrupted the old beliefs. Religions the world over are under the necessity
of coming to terms with new conditions created by a vastly increased
knowledge and experience. In every field of human activity, the vital
movement is now in the direction of a candid and explicit humanism. In order
that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned, desire
to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our contemporary
life demonstrate.

There is great danger of a final, and we believe fatal, identification of
the word religion with doctrines and methods which have lost their
significance and which are powerless to solve the problem of human living in
the Twentieth Century. Religions have always been means for realizing the
highest values of life. Their end has been accomplished through the
interpretation of the total environing situation (theology or world view),
the sense of values resulting therefrom (goal or ideal), and the technique
(cult), established for realizing the satisfactory life. A change in any of
these factors results in alteration of the outward forms of religion. This
fact explains the changefulness of religions through the centuries. But
through all changes religion itself remains constant in its quest for
abiding values, an inseparable feature of human life.

Today man's larger understanding of the universe, his scientific
achievements, and deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a
situation which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of
religion. Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of furnishing
adequate social goals and personal satis- factions may appear to many people
as a complete break with the past. While this age does owe a vast debt to
the traditional religions, it is none the less obvious that any religion
that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be
shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a major
necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon this
generation. We therefore affirm the following:

* 1935
* Humanist Fellowship becomes the Humanist Press Association

* 1936
* The New Humanist journal folds
* Edwin Wilson replaces it with Humanist Bulletin

* 1936
* election for presidency of American Unitarian Association
* Dr. Frederick M. Eliot an ally of the humanists
* opponent Rev. Charles Joy
* possible divisive theological battle
* Joy persuaded to withdraw
* Eliot wins unopposed
* prevented split of Religious Humanists from Unitarians

* 1939
* Humanist Society of Friends
* humanist Quakers
* magazine:  Humanist Friend

* 1941
* Humanist Press Association becomes American Humanist Association
* Humanist Bulletin becomes The Humanist

* 1946
* Hugo Robert Orr
* conducted the San Francisco Humanist Society
* subsidized by John Danz, moving-picture theater owner
* Danz wanted sharp break between organized Humanism and Unitarian movement
* ethically Jewish, wanted "humanist temples"
* Attempted to recruit Ed Wilson to set it up

* 1952
* International Humanist and Ethical Union founded
* Edwin Wilson

* 1957
* Fellowship of Humanity wins in court to establish Humanism as religion
* Decision upheld by California Supreme Court

* 1961
* Unitarians and Universalists merge

* 1961
* footnote to a Supreme Court decision:
"Among the religions in this country which do not teach what would generally
be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical
Culture, Secular Humanism, and others."

* 1962
* Fellowship of Religious Humanists
* Edwin Wilson
* Keep humanism alive within UU
* later becomes The Friends of Religious Humanism
* Published the journal "Religious Humanism"

* 1963
* Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine
* Founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism
* Detroit, Michigan

"Humanistic Judaism  embraces a human-centered philosophy that combines the
celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to humanistic
values and ideas."

* 1973
* Humanist Manifesto II


It is forty years since Humanist Manifesto I (1933) appeared. Events since
then make that earlier statement seem far too optimistic. Nazism has shown
the depths of brutality of which humanity is capable. Other totalitarian
regimes have suppressed human rights without ending poverty. Science has
sometimes brought evil as well as good. Recent decades have shown that
inhuman wars can be made in the name of peace. The beginnings of police
states, even in democratic societies, widespread government espionage, and
other abuses of power by military, political, and industrial elites, and the
continuance of unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult
social outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority
groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.

As we approach the twenty-first century, however, an affirmative and hopeful
vision is needed. Faith, commensurate with advancing knowledge, is also
necessary. In the choice between despair and hope, humanists respond in this
Humanist Manifesto II with a positive declaration for times of uncertainty.

As in 1933, humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially
faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to live and care for persons, to
hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about
them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism, based on mere
affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of
heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.

Those who sign Humanist Manifesto II disclaim that they are setting forth a
binding credo; their individual views would be stated in widely varying
ways. This statement is, however, reaching for vision in a time that needs
direction. It is social analysis in an effort at consensus. New statements
should be developed to supersede this, but for today it is our conviction
that humanism offers an alternative that can serve present-day needs and
guide humankind toward the future.

-- Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson (1973)"

* 1980
* "A Secular Humanist Declaration"
* Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism
* later renamed the Council for Secular Humanism
* Paul Kurtz

* 1987
* Humanist Society of Friends becomes chapter of AHA
* Responsible for AHA ministerial and religious programs

* 1996
* journal:  Religious Humanism
* Friends of Religious Humanism
* "Strained Bedfellows:  Pagans, New Agers, and 'Starchy Humanists' in
  Unitarian Universalism" by Richard Wayne Lee
* creedlessness of Unitarians tolerates humanists, even though predominately
* later the creedlessness of UU lets new religions in and drives the
  humanists out
"Despite the considerable resistance of its largely humanist membership,
Unitarian Universalism in recent years assimilated such new religious
movements as neopaganism and new age. In accounting for this apparently
unlikely development, I examine the historical development of Unitarian
Universalism, its integration of new religious movements, and the internal
conflict this provoked."

* 1996
* Ethical Society of Austin applies for religious tax exemption
* exemption initially granted
* revoked by Comptroller since does not worship supreme being

* 1998
* ESoA files suit, citing Comptroller violated Texas Law and 1st Amendment

* 1998
* Federal prisoner Ben Kalka attempted to form a humanism group
* part of the Religious Services Department at a federal prison
* Federal district court rules that Humanism is a religion

* 2000
* U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agrees

* 2001
* ESoA wins in court to be considered a religion
* Comproller threatens to appeal
* Quoting from Judge Paul Davis of the Travis County District Court

"...a review of case law suggests that while some courts include worship of
a Supreme Being as an element of "religion," it is not a dispositive factor,
and courts have expressly rejected the contention that it is the linchpin
factor. ...If we rule otherwise, universally recognized world belief systems
such as Buddhism and Taoism, which do not subscribe to a theistic
world-view, would not be consisdered religions."

* 2002
* Friends of Religious Humanism changes name to HUUmanists
* web site moved to AHA
* back issues of journal "Religious Humanism" archived at AHA web site
* "Religious Humanism" still published but only 1996-1999 online
* They also have newsletter "The Communicator" available online

* 2002
* Humanist Church of North Texas founded

* 2003
* book:  Making the Manifesto:  The Birth of Religious Humanism
* William F. Shulz, UU Minister
* youngest original signer of the Humanist Manifesto II
* Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA
* President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (1985-1993)
* wrote his dissertation around 1974 on the 1933 Humanist Manifesto
* lost his attraction to Religious Humanism as his relatives
  started dying about the same time
* stated that he worked to keep humanists within UU while he was President

* 2003
* William Sinkford, President of the UUA, creates controversy
* calls for more God-talk in speech at
  First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Worth
* later backs off a bit but still describes himself as a former humanist

"For many years, Sinkford said, he held to a humanist belief that reduced
the concept of God. But he had a change of heart and mind when his teen-age
son was critically ill after a drug overdose.
'I found myself praying, and I felt a loving hand of the universe reach down
to hold me,' he said."

* 2003
* Humanist Manifesto III

* 2003
* Humanist Church of North Texas holds first service

* 2003
* U.S. military now permits Humanist emblems on veterans graveyard

* 2003
* Lester Mondale died just last month at age 99
* Unitarian minister, AHA, AEU
* President of Fellowship of Religious Humanists in 60's and 70's
* youngest signer of 1933 Humanist Manifesto I
* only individual to sign all three Manifestos

* I find the AHA to be the organization for me personally
* It has the right set of principles and the right kind of heritage
* Accepting of Humanist organizations that are religious
* The HCNT is considering becoming Membership Chapter of AHA
* one benefit of Membership Chapter status is a share of AHA dues
* May vote on this on Saturday after service
* Please contact us about joining
* Opportunity to be listed as founding member of the Membership Chapter
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