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This Week in Humanism 2017–11–19


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/11/19

“The tolerance drama Wonder centers on August (Auggie) Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay, of Room), who is born with congenital facial deformities and, after years of being taught at home, is lovingly but tremulously compelled to go to a private New York middle school. He is predictably shunned and, in some cases, ridiculed, resulting in much grief for his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts); father, Nate (Owen Wilson); and older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic). But slowly — with many ups and downs — Auggie comes in contact with the better angels of our nature, even our notoriously mean-spirited middle-school nature.

Wonder is the sort of movie that seasoned cynics dread, but the best-selling book and its sequels by R.J. Palacio are written in a matter-of-fact style (Auggie has largely come to terms with his face) that can make you cry by indirection. The filmmakers have mostly taken their cues from Palacio. Mostly. Okay, only somewhat. Shots of noble people are held too long and the music tugs insistently on our heartstrings. But director Stephen Chbosky did the exquisite adaptation of his own YA novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the dread of isolation comes naturally to him. And while screenwriter Steve Conrad wrote Ben Stiller’s unforgivably mush-brained The Secret Life of Walter Mittyhis script for The Pursuit of Happyness evoked without undue sentimentality a parent’s primal terror of homelessness. Both are well-versed in unhappyness.”


“DONETSK, November 16. /TASS/. Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko stated that the initiative to exchange prisoners in Donbass fully corresponds to the principles supported by the republic, his press service said in a statement published on the Donetsk News Agency’s website.

“Yes, I supported Russian President [Vladimir Putin’s] initiative. The reason is simple: it does not run counter to our principles and the way the republic acted on the issue of detainees previously,” the DPR head is quoted as saying.

“I agree with the Russian president’s position on the prisoner swap issue: We should be guided by humanist principles here. The detainees exchange should not remain an issue of war and trade. I’d like to reiterate that back in 2014, when hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen surrendered to us as POWs, I sent them back to their relatives and wives numerous times in return for a promise that they won’t return to the war,” Zakharchenko noted.”


“Judaism and humanism are increasingly seen as diametrically opposed in Israel today. Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay’s recent remarks, in which he echoed Netanyahu’s infamous comment that “the Left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish,” thrust back into the public discourse the sad and false notion that Judaism is incompatible with the belief in equality of all human beings.

If nothing else, the current controversy presents an opportunity to discuss the matter.

Sadly, in the current Israeli political climate, humanistic values are identified solely as universalistic and left wing; in the past, these values had more of a foothold across the political spectrum. Many understood that humanistic values were closely connected to Judaism as a religion and a culture, largely due to the history of the Jewish people as a persecuted minority.”


“I was overjoyed to read that Jared Huffman has come out as an un-closeted humanist (“Huffman: I am a humanist,” Times-Standard, Nov. 10, Page A1). As a liberal atheist humanist myself, I want my elected officials to work for us in the here and now and not the hereafter. My respect for him, considerable as always, has grown. His honesty is refreshing and real.

My own religious upbringing has led me to yearn for the betterment of mankind without needing belief in a supreme being. I’ve learned it is good to be good — it is really that simple.”


“ The Nov. 11 Religion article “Having faith to break the silence,” about Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-Calif.) decision to declare himself a “humanist,” was timely given the state of religious affairs in the United States in 2017. I think it was especially helpful for the article to explain the difference between atheism and humanism. However, I suspect Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) might take issue with religious experts’ presumption that Huffman is only the “second member in contemporary records to describe his ethical system as not being God-based.” Johnson and Gabbard are the first Buddhist and Hindu, respectively, elected to the House, and Hirono is the first Buddhist elected to the Senate. For the record, both belief systems are non-Abrahamic, meaning that capital-G God is a part of neither, giving the article a surprisingly narrow view of the complexities of American spirituality.”



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


© 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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