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An Interview with Warren Alan Tidwell — Volunteer, Humanist Services Corps

2022-12-13

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/01/04

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Was there a family background in humanism?

Warren Alan Tidwell: Not really. My father wasn’t really anything, but my mother was and is a devout Christian. I was raised in the Missionary Baptist Church and the rest of my family is Pentecostal.

My mother really stressed caring for others and helping people and encouraged me to think critically. While she can compartmentalize her Christianity, I cannot and have settled on Secular Humanism as my vehicle for interacting with the world around me.

Jacobsen: How did you come to find humanism, or a humanist community?

Tidwell: It’s kind of funny. I saw an interview with a local child here in Auburn, Alabama on Nickelodeon. He was the nonbeliever among a group of religious children. I tracked his father down and we met up and we have all been friends ever since.

I settled on humanism as it expands on atheism, which, of course, only says, “I reject the idea of a god.”

Jacobsen: What seems like the main reason for people to come to label themselves as humanists, from your experience?

Tidwell: I think there’s two reasons for this, especially where I come from in the South. It’s a way of saying you’re a nonbeliever without saying I’m an atheist. It’s sad but “humanist” generally flies over people’s heads here when you use it and you’re rarely pressed for more information.

Atheist is a four-letter word in the world and you’re seen as an anti-religion person who wants nothing more than to tear down their god. It’s also a way to find like minded atheists who want to work to help each other. Atheist as a descriptor doesn’t go far enough.

Jacobsen: What was the experience of finding a community of like-minded individuals?

Tidwell: As a young child, I knew I truly didn’t believe. Accepting that most of the world is filled with functionally delusional people came early on as well.

It was nice and reassuring, but my nonbelief is such a small part of my daily thinking that I was just happy to meet some caring, nice people who didn’t expect me to be a Christian to do humanitarian work. All I’ve ever really wanted to do is help others without any prerequisites.

Jacobsen: You write for Patheos and volunteer through the Humanist Services Corps. What do you write about, mainly?

Tidwell: I haven’t written enough on the Patheos blog lately, but when I do I write about Secular Humanism from the perspective of a lifelong southerner. I am currently spending most all my time working on my book about my year in Ghana with the Humanist Service Corps. I returned to the US in July 2017.

Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come with this Humanist Services Corps position?

Tidwell: I was told early on it is what you make it. I have a history of organizing and working disaster relief projects, so I know the situation was going to be different from what I expected. I focused on building relationships in the community in between visits to villages with my Ghanaian teammates.

There we would work to reintegrate women who had been banished from their homes due to witchcraft allegations. While Ghana is a wonderful country filled with brilliant people, there are still areas that believe strongly in the traditional African belief system and believe witchcraft is real.

My work was to compile data to choose who we would target as a likely candidate for reintegration. My Ghanaian teammates worked as mediators with the local chieftaincy leadership and the families of those who were accused.

Jacobsen: What seem like the core parts of humanist thought? Who are living and dead exemplars of humanism as an ethical and philosophical worldview?

Tidwell: Humanism to me is simple. We are all in this together and we need to take care of each other and work to develop a better, more reasonable, and caring world. I often say I have an atheist mind and a humanist heart.

My humanism is how I choose to interact with the world around me. The exemplar of humanist thought, to me, is someone I truly admire and attempt to emulate, Dale McGowan. He has published many books and founded the Foundation Beyond Belief that oversees the Humanist Service Corps.

Jacobsen: How we expand the internationalist, humanist movement and its message of compassion, science, rationality, and unity?

Tidwell: I think efforts like the Humanist Service Corps are key. It never failed to make me happy when someone in Ghana would ask me, after receiving some sort of support, what did I want from them. I would say tell me about your family, your culture.

They have grown so accustomed to people coming in and expecting something in return for any sort of help that they were often taken aback but happy with my response. We treated them as the equals they are, and I don’t think that has happened in many cases.

Jacobsen: There can be many damaging effects from religion. What are the damaging effects of and the positive aspects of religion? How can humanism ameliorate those damaging effects — as you see them? How can humanism improve upon the positives of religion?

Tidwell: Wow, that’s a good question. I see both negatives and positives of religion. While it does tear families apart when, let’s say, someone comes out as a homosexual it also provides structure and community where a lot of good gets done as well.

I still truly think that living good and decent lives as humanists will grow the number of humanists in the world as they see us as an example. I no longer hide from the atheist label, but I do clarify that my humanism means so much more to me and live as an example for others when I can. That and writing about it is all I know how to do.

Jacobsen: What are some of the big future initiatives for you?

Tidwell: THIS BOOK. Ha-ha. I’ve spent the morning researching inter and intra ethnic conflicts in Northern Ghana, but I must finish it, so I can get back on the front lines where I love to be.

This is an important work that humanizes a region and a people for westerners and one that will hopefully allow me to continue work in Ghana to fight the stigmatization of witchcraft allegations and work to assist the women who already live in the refugee camps there.

Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Tidwell: Thank you for allowing me to talk about HSC and Ghana! Like I tell everyone I meet if I can ever be of assistance in any way please let me know!

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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