On Friday May 27, 2016 after the Annual General Meeting of the Council of Australian Humanist Societies delegates participated in a discussion workshop about the future of organised Humanism in Australia and its role.
The workshop was initially meant to discuss the Executive Committee's discussion document which proposed a radical restructuring of the association, providing the opportunity to merge the individual state societies into one national body which could draw upon the strengths, skills and experiences more readily. However, the discussion instead took a much more basic approach to organised Humanism and what its goals and purpose should be.
The discussion was wide ranging with people talking about their experiences in Humanist and secular communities and what was important to them. Lyndon Storey was particulary strong in his belief that organised Humanism must offer a type of pastoral care or community support framework for our members, non-religious people and particularly for those leaving religion. This view was seconded by many present.
At the end of the discussion the group had agreed to 6 broad areas that organised Humanism should focus on. However, no agreement on priorities was made. Those areas were:
The need to build a community where all those who are Humanist, atheist, secular or non-religious was regarded as important. The group recognised the work that global movement Sunday Assembly has been doing in building such secular communities by taking the working parts of organised religion and church services and transfering them to a secular environment. However, some present felt that if Humanism were to follow a similar path we would be denying the desire many have to break away completely from anything to do with religions
Advocacy and Promotion
Advocacy for and promotion of Humanism and its world view was seen as vital to ensuring that it can continue as both an organised movement and with having a substantial impact on the public discourse in Australia and around the world. If Humanism isn't visible, why should policy makers listen to us when we approach them with our concerns and desires for the society we live in?
Closely linked to Advocacy and Promotion was the idea that organised Humanism has a responsibility to educate the public about what Humanism is and why it's a viable way of living a happy and enriching life.
Pathways in Humanism
Lyndon Storey posoposed pathways in Humanism as a way of providing Humanists who want to do more and devote more of their life to their Humanism with an avenue for doing so. This, he speculated, could take the form of Humanist chaplaincy or community support workers; acting as counselors, or as celebrants at important times in peoples lives.
Humanists have a responsibility to help make the society we live in a better one. This can be done through social outreach programs helping those that are less fortunate than ourselves in ways that they need. From helping the homeless to helping young people achieve their education and career goals by acting as mentors, Humanists have the opportunity to impact the lives of others for the better.
At the heart of everything Humanists do, ethics plays a vital role. The system of ethics that Humanists tend to follow - one that is secular and based on reason and evidence - should be promoted as a viable way of helping diverse communities live together. We also shouldn't shy away from promoting secular ethics being taught in schools around Australia.
It's clear that organised Humanism is at a cross roads at the moment as we try to decide what we should be doing and what deserves our attention first. These topics are set to be discussed in many forms at the upcoming Australian Humanist Convention 2017 so we hope to see you there sharing your views and passion for Humanism and what it can o to help make Australia and the world more just and progressive for all.