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Ask Rob 8 – A More Rounded Circle: Communities Become More Inclusive, Values Better Approximate Universalization


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/11/22

Rob Boston is the Editor of Church & State (Americans United for Separation of Church and State). Here we talk about secular and freethought communities, the American story.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What defined communities of secularism and the values of freethought in earlier periods of the American story? What define the communities of secularism and the values of freethought now?

How is this reflected in the newer writers and speakers – and their content – in the secular and freethought communities now?

Rob Boston: If you read the history of freethought in America, you’re struck by how the early battles were basically about the struggle for these ideas to even exist. Both the government and the larger culture were hostile to the idea that God might be mythical. Some freethinkers were arrested for blasphemy, and freethought materials were sometimes banned. Anyone who wants to learn more about this period should read Susan Jacoby’s book Freethinkers.

Modern-day secularism is like any other philosophy or idea in that it contains a range of people who bring different ideas and aspirations to the table. Some secularists want to focus on increasing the acceptance of non-theists in American society. Others want to work on separation of church and state. Still others argue for a broad social justice approach.

I remember the days when organized freethought groups were dominated by older white men. I’m thankful for the work theses leaders did in launching the movement. However, demographically, America is undergoing a lot of changes.

For secularism/freethought to be viable in the years to come, it will have to broaden its approach and welcome younger people, women, communities of color and members of the LGBTQ community. For freethought to appeal to the members of these communities, we need to make it clear that we share their concerns.

I see this happening, but it has been a slow process, and there has been a backlash to it. The rise of the internet has amplified some atheist voices that are misogynistic and racist. One of the reasons I hew to humanism is that the values of humanism rebuke misogyny and racism. I believe that an embrace of a truly inclusive humanistic ethic is not only the moral choice, it is our best hope for the future.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Rob.


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