Tag Archives: barry klassel

WARM UNIVERSE, COLD UNIVERSE: GRIEF, CONSOLATION & THE ATHEIST/RELIGIOUS DIVIDE

Barry Klassel
Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers University

It’s almost midnight.  Two friends in their twenties walk down the beach toward the water.  Behind them, the lights of the city glow in the distance.

Earlier in the day the two attended the funeral of a third friend.  His family seemed devastated, but one by one various speakers did their best to talk about the life of the deceased and his last days in pain as they tried to deal with the difficulty of accepting his death.

The two friends sit silently on the sand.   (more…)

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RUTGERS HUMANIST CHAPLAINCY, THOUGHTS ON RECENT TRAGEDIES

By Barry Klassel
Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers University 

The school killings on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, brought representatives of various belief traditions together for a Memorial Service in a Somerset County (NJ) Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) a week later.

I went to express compassion for the survivors and to share some humanist thoughts.  The event was sponsored by the Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition.  The following is from a short few words I was able to offer while there.

The Human Community

Good evening.  I’m an atheist and a humanist.  You probably don’t have many people like me here with your group so thank you for inviting me to speak to you good people.

Joyful events bring good people together, like (more…)

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MAXIMIZING ‘FREE WILL’

by Barry Klassel

I remember discussing this topic in 9th grade with some precocious friends, but with the publication of Sam Harris’ book called (what else?) Free Will, there is new interest in the debate.  I think it’s important to present a humanist perspective.

What is the ‘will?’  To put it as simply as I can, it is the conscious power to make choices and control one’s actions.  I believe there is an important sense in which humanists should embrace the notion of free will for ourselves, our children and others, i.e. by increasing, as much as we can, the degree of freedom human beings have in exercising their wills.

Free will involves making decisions and decisions always have realistic constraints.  We can’t choose chocolate ice cream if only vanilla is available.  Someone may not be able to attend their college of choice if the financial aid doesn’t come through.  Average citizens can’t choose their leaders if their society isn’t democratic; women can’t vote if the law excludes them.  What we should support is…

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My Personal Journey – from the World Trade Center to Rutgers U

by Barry Klassel

As humanist chaplain at Rutgers I think I’m in a unique position to help others learn about humanism as a truth-seeking, life-affirming philosophy that can open minds and be of great benefit to everyone. My own learning process began just over ten years ago, in 2001, when my life was affected by the awful tragedy of 9/11.  I had just started to work earlier that year as marketing director for Tribeca Performing Arts Center, which is located on Chambers Street in lower Manhattan, just a few blocks north of the World Trade Center.  Every day I had taken the Path train to the WTC stop and, on that morning, riding in from New Jersey, I saw the dark smoke streaming out of the towers after the first plane hit. The two theatre spaces at T-PAC became rest areas for the rescue workers and afterwards had to be decontaminated.  We lost our theatre season and I was let go because there was nothing to market.

I took the opportunity to make a list of what I wanted to do with my life.  I wanted to find a job, first of all.  I wanted to act again and direct again.  I wanted to volunteer in a way that made use of my background in psychology.  And I wanted to learn more about humanism and the humanist groups in my area to see if they were right for me.  I had the time to do all this and I can say I have accomplished everything on my list.

At one of the first humanist meetings I attended (more…)

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Humanist Ceremonies – “Singing in the Rain”

By Barry Klassel

Ceremonies are organized celebrations.  They are parties with a purpose. Humanists are right to question traditions that may come from religious custom because we have a legitimate fear of enforced conformity. But it would be a mistake to unthinkingly refuse to look for the possible benefits of events that bring people together and strengthen community.  There are no ceremonies required if one wishes to be considered a “good” humanist.   And there are no set of formulas for humanist ceremonies, the features of which can always be adapted to serve individual needs.  Each of us can choose to partake in those ceremonies that we decide enhance our lives. 

It must be noted that ceremonies can be thought of as having rational ends. They promote self-reflection and so can bring clarity to our thinking.  They give us insights into our own and others’ lives.  They allow us to see our role in the history of humankind.  They show us how our life-cycles fit into the wider cycles of nature. (more…)

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