Tag Archives: Humanism


By Boris Yakubchik
President of
Giving What We Can: Rutgers

One thing that makes life meaningful is our relationships with others, especially so when we feel our position within the social fabric is appreciated by others.

Perhaps the easiest way to feel valuable within this wondrous universe is to help others, and the demand for help is so high we can be busy for the rest of our lives. There are few issues you can look at without seeing room for improvement.

Humanists, non-religious, and atheists are no strangers to charity: it’s obvious we are very generous and eager to help others. Kiva.org distributes micro-loans to people in developing nations and the self-identifying group of people who have contributed by far the most are the non-religious.

I don’t mean to argue about which group gives more to charity – I simply mean that anyone who thinks those without religion are not ready to help a fellow human are mistaken.

I encourage you to get involved in helping people, but I urge you to do it methodically. For me, helping others isn’t about how good I will look in public, or how good it will make me feel once I am done (though I assure you it’s the most rewarding experience); for me, helping others means helping as many people as I can with the limited resources I have available.

For example, (more…)

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So, Mars.  Pretty awesome, right?

But what good does landing on the planet do for those still here on Earth?  Sure there will be some benefits in material standard of living and well-being that result for our children.  And there might be some low hanging fruits we’ll pick in our lifetime.

But let’s say only the next generation will reap those rewards.  Does that mean the landing has no meaning or value for you and me?

Looking over my Facebook feed and various headlines of articles it seems that a lot of people running around and alive today think it is pretty important.  But why?

Well that is a question we’d like to ask you, reader: If landing on Mars doesn’t effect your material quality of life, why is it still important?  What intangibles can we reap now?

*via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
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This September, at the Chaplaincy’s first event of the semester, we will be presenting David Niose, the President of the American Humanist Association.

He will be presenting his new book Nonbeliever Nation: the Rise of Secular Americans.

The meeting will be Sept 17th at 7:30pm at the RU Student Center in Multipurpose Rm A, New Brunswick.

Details about the event in the flyer below:

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Check out and rate Professor Dan Ogilvie’s funny and intimately engaging new TED Talk speech!

Although a materialist, Ogilvie has been leading a research team at Rutgers University called the Soul Searching Project.  The project has been investigating a wide range of interdisciplinary questions on what people believe about the soul.

As TED describes the talk,

Rutgers University Professor of Psychology Daniel Ogilvie is researching what causes people to believe in souls and the afterlife.

But as atheists and materialists, why should we care about the soul and (more…)

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We finally got a new page up under the What is Humanism? tab.  You can see the YouTube: Videos & Music page here.

We are trying to create a collection of inspiring and informative videos by bloggers and artists on YouTube.  These are not dry academic pieces or lectures explaining some intellectual argument.  These are rather, I’d like to think at least, works of art.

In fact, I’ll give you my personal guarantee that if you walk away from your chair after watching 2 or 3 of them and haven’t had your heart and mind lifted up and (more…)

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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…


This Article has been moved to Applied Sentience.  To continue reading, please follow the link.

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By Barry Klassel

What do you miss, if anything, from your former religious affiliations?  I once asked this of students in a humanist group at Rutgers.  The first answer I got was “music, singing.”  There are those who, like my wife, attend religious services in large part for the wonderful sense of personal and communal engagement engendered by joining others in song.  For many of us, I’ll bet, the joy of singing or listening to favorite music is a welcome release from the stress of the work week.  Being open to the inspiration found in music can help us become more expressive and more rounded human beings.  Of course this is only if we do so willingly and not out of the need to conform.

I think we should start to be aware of the music that expresses human ideals and human struggles, whether or not it was written by or explicitly for humanists, so that we can think of ways we might incorporate such music into our lives. 

I did a memorial ceremony last weekend where the family asked me to include the songs printed below.  The songs are about (more…)

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Of course the so-called argument from authority doesn’t amount to an argument or any kind of proof.  Everyone could be wrong, after all.  But if we didn’t give some weight to authority you’d have to dismiss everything your teacher told you in school which you didn’t observe yourself.  So asking what the experts say is of some value.

So where do the ‘authorities’ who study the questions of God’s existence, the nature of the world beyond the senses, and what morality is like stand?  When the greatest minds who have devoted themselves to these questions get together and mull over all the arguments that history has produced, what do they conclude?

A survey published in PhilPapers asking academic philosophers 30 different multiple choice questions has broken it down for us.  It turns out that a significant majority of Philosophers are (more…)

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It is a time honored tradition among heretics and heathens to propose new Ten Commandments.  Humanists don’t believe in dogmas, so we don’t take the truth of some authority as an end all and be all.  But we still see the wisdom in advice from others and understand that only by standing on the shoulders of giants can we then see farther.

Here are some modern ‘updates’ on the Ten Commandments by Bertrand Russell and Christopher Hitchens.

What are some that you would add??  Make sure to let us know in the comments below.

Bertrand Russell

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything. (more…)

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Pat Robertson and a large bulk of American Fundamentalists today believe that Christianity is under attack.  Robertson himself has said it is currently “more terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.”  But not only is the hyperbolic degree of this persecution silly, the question of what ethnic or religious group is persecuted internationally the worst is highly debatable.

It is true that the last person to be executed in England for blasphemy was 20 year old university student Thomas Aikenhead all the way back in 1697.  But the crime of not believing in a Deity is still around.  Blasphemy is still on the books and is being enforced by governments and courts of law for a long list of countries.

Whether it is (more…)

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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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Barry to Teach at Funeral Directors’ Edu Course

This weekend, Barry Klassel, the Rutgers Humanist Chaplain, will be one of the speakers at a Continuing Education course for Funeral Directors taking place on Tuesday, May 22, in Queens, New York.

The course is called “Serving Today’s Diverse Funeral Client: Tradition or Personalization? Is there room for both?” Barry will describe how to use ceremony to promote healing in a talk titled “Stenghtening Human Connections.” Barry has been officiating at end-of-life ceremonies since 2004.

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New Website Content Added!

The website is almost complete!

We’ve added loads of new pages and posts, such as Student Clubs, In the News, Further Resources, COHE Online Humanism Course, Humanist Organizations, and others.  The Donate page and feature, while up, is still disconnected as we are changing our PayPal account. Everything else, however, is up and open.  If you haven’t already, please subscribe!

The Chaplaincy is also planning a few new pages, such as a Hear from Our Students page, in which you can read more about what Humanism means by listening to students working with the Chaplaincy.

If you have any ideas, let us know!  We want to have as much information and features up as we can.  We are always looking for new ideas.  And of course, especially ones which you would like to see up!

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Religion, Conflict & Cooperation, Recent Study & HCRUs Approach

A recent article was published in the journal Science about the effects that religion has for both encouraging conflict and in group trust.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  However, the research in the article also discussed the possibilities for religion, or in-group identifications around the ‘scared’, benefiting inter-group reconciliation.  Science Daily published a review of the article as ‘Religion is a Potent Force for Cooperation and Conflict, Research Shows‘ here.

What struck me about the article is what it said about how to approach people. It reinforced the Humanist Chaplaincy’s view that humanists/atheists will get more cooperation from religious people if we show some respect and humility rather than confront them aggressively. If our objective is, as I think it should be, peace and mutual tolerance with the religious, then this tells us how to proceed rationally to achieve that objective.

Gary Brill

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Tabling at RU New Student Events – May-Aug 2012

The Humanist Chaplaincy regularly Tables at Student orientations throughout the summer.  This year we have over a dozen events planned and will be sending out more information as they approach.  Most events are for either Incoming Freshmen or Transfer Students.  However, like this previous weekend, we also set up tables for Alumni events.

Even if you don’t know what ‘Tabling’ is, you’ve likely already seen it.  The Chaplaincy sets up a fold-able table, among sometimes dozens of other organizations, and then sets up poster boards, pamphlets and other information about the Chaplaincy.  In past events we’ve also had games, like Guess the Humanist.

We could always use help setting up for events or you could come by just to keep us company.  If you are already familiar with the Chaplaincy, please come and talk to students that stop by to ask questions.  If you are an incoming Rutgers student, please stop by as well!  We would love to have conversation.

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