Atheists and Humanists care about social and environmental justice!
A surprising statement for far too many Americans. Do atheists even care about anything besides internet shouting matches? Isn’t Separation of Church-State their big issue? Once they die that’s it, right, so why care about the world after that?
There is only one way to change people’s stereotypes. We’re social animals. We’re emotional beings. To show humanists and atheists are more than cranky internet trolls or ‘one issue voters’ we need to get front and center. We need to organize as Humanists and atheists on social justice and environmental issues.
Most importantly we need to organize right alongside other faiths and religions, as we did today by joining the ‘Interfaith’ section of marchers. And that goes just as much for those that don’t see Humanism or atheism as a ‘religion’ or aren’t interested in dialogue and holding hands. We need to stand alongside interfaith groups in public events like the People’s Climate March today – with well over 400,000 people attending and millions watching – because it makes salient the fact that we’re on the same exact footing as these other religions and worldviews in terms of caring about these important issues. Religions don’t have a monopoly on ethics and activism. If you want social justice, you don’t have to join a church or temple. You can have and do all of this and be part of a Humanist or atheist community – like the one standing right there in front of you and marching along with just as many voices shouting and signs waving.
A range of Humanist and atheist groups were represented at the People’s Climate March. In fact, at least 3 separate flag poles were given by PCM staff for 1) Atheists, 2) Humanists, and 3) Ethical Culture Humanists (see photos above). Banners, signs, and representatives came from a variety of groups. Ethical Culture was prominently represented with the NY Society for Ethical Culture and the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, as well as societies from outside the city. Other groups include the Center for Inquiry, Greg Epstein from the Harvard Humanists, UU Humanist congregations, and the CT Coalition of Reason as well as members of many other chapters, clubs, assemblies, societies, groups, and communities.
With so many Humanists and atheists, at least 300 by my and others’ rough estimates, which was as many or more than most other religious groups, we were able to assert ourselves in interesting ways. For instance, before the march began, the entire interfaith section started singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Instead of opting out and standing there silent and awkward, dozens of non-theistic voices shouted in unison “We‘ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands.”
Throughout the march, I didn’t over hear or hear about a single anti-religious shouting match or shocked dismissal of atheists belonging in such an event. Some issues are much bigger than the religions and worldviews we clump ourselves into. Today we showed we were able to overcome those differences and meet them head on.
Paul Chiariello (Chief Editor, Rutgers & Yale University) Paul Chiariello graduated from Rutgers in 2009 after studying Philosophy and Anthropology. Currently he is on the Board of Directors of the Rutgers Humanist Community, Co-founder of the Yale Humanist Community, and Director of the Humanism & Philo Curriculum for Camp Quest. Paul has a MSc in Sociology of Edu from Oxford, completing his field research in Bosnia on religious identity conflict. He also spent a year studying philosophy of ethics and religion at Yale on a PhD fellowship. He has worked with research organizations and schools DC, the UN, Uganda, Kenya, India, Indonesia and Germany.