Skip to content

Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/07/15


Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous are the President Emeritus, President, and President-Elect of Humanist Students, respectively. They discuss: becoming involved with Humanist Students; getting the word out about what Humanist Students does; the work by Sofocelous in secularism and humanism; the movement of humanism; professional accomplishments; similar faiths of the Parekh, Timson, and Sofocleous; and concluding feelings or thoughts.

Keywords:  Angelos Sofocleous, Hannah Lucy Timson, Hari Parekh, Humanist Students, President, President-Elect, and President Emeritus.

Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous[1],[2],[3]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let us start with Hari, how did you become involved in Humanist Students, in brief?

Hari Parekh: In brief [Laughing], before Humanist Students was an entity, it used to be known as Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Students (AHS). That entity was the student sector for the British Humanist Association (BHA).

I originally started my own Atheist, Humanistic and Secular (AHS) society at the University of Northampton. It became the first society within the student sector to receive an award from its own Students Union for being the best society of the year, and for myself being the best president. During my second year at university, I was the East Midlands Regional Officer for the AHS – in which I supported the development of the society at the University of Leicester. During my final year at university, I was the New Societies Officer where I helped to start fifteen societies across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and the following year I was elected as President of the AHS during my MSc at the University of Nottingham. Thereafter, I was involved in the successful transition (with the support from the members) from the AHS to Humanist Students as it is now known, and am now President Emeritus of Humanist Students.

The AHS was taken under the wing by the BHA to support students at universities. The problem was, the way it was ran; all of it was organized and actualized by students. So, students were the cohort of the president, the treasurer, the secretary, and, as a result, with students being students having to manage an organization at the same time as managing their academic careers and everything else that they have to do, whether jobs or whatever else.

It meant the framework of the AHS at the time ran, ran pretty much on loose ends, when people had time to do it. As a result, it fractured the way students were supported. It fractured the way students were able to get involved with the student organization.

In actuality, it affected the progression. If you were a student at the time, it was less likely that you would be carrying on within the arena of humanism. It was unlikely that you would be in the arena of being an activist or being interested in what was occurring outside of the student sector.

The other thing is, it managed to last 10 years, but for those 10 years it had a steady decline. It is difficult to see those spaces form. It is difficult to see the gaps and see it sliding down. When others and myself, when I was president at the time, it was kind of about that time that the gaps were shown.

We thought that there needed to be a difference in how this was ran. We needed support from the BHA or more support for the administration and everything else. After the AGM last year in March, an independent review needed to see what the issues and qualms were.

In July, we had an AGM. The caucus passed the amendments to the organization. The changes occurred to the organization. It became Humanists Students, and was allowed to be a part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK supported Humanist Students in changing the way it operated.

It allowed for the new world of the student and youth coordinator in the office of Humanists UK to relinquish all of the advocacy that [Laughing] others and myself have to do. It balanced the load that others and I did, and Hannah and others will do in the future!

As a result, we are able to do the roles we were elected to do rather than the roles plus everything else. We had a good opportunity to re-energize the people interested in it. Those people that are not can observe from the sidelines and hopefully become a part of it later.

As president emeritus, to come back to your point, it has been to see it from a distance, to be there to support Hannah when she needed it and to play that role as an advisor.

Hannah Timson: Yes, so, from my perspective, it has been a bit more of a thing about a welcoming community. When I came to university, I didn’t really know what I believed. I called myself agnostic for a little while, but then I went with my friend, Sammy who is a physicist, to a meeting, It was an AHS meeting, where I met all of the people that I know now. I realized, “Wow, these people are speaking my language” [Laughing], but also that there was a community network that I may have missed not being part of a church group. A lot of people go to a community church group at university because they are looking for a welcoming community, there is nothing wrong with that. However, the fact that there was an alternative to that, where I could say, “It is okay that I don’t believe in this stuff.” That was what led me to the AHS. I hadn’t been that involved in the National organisation until I decided to last year and stood for president.

I think I stood because I realized the value of a community and political organization such as Humanists UK. By political, I do not mean sitting on one side or the other, but an organisation that actively pushes for changes for, in my opinion, a more liberal and better society. I realized the need for an organization that was accepting of everyone from all walks of life – regardless if they were religious or not, I think that is what led me to stand. I had a chat with Hari. I hadn’t met him, actually, at the time. We chatted [Laughing], and I thought he seemed cool and seem to think the same things as I do.

Parekh: Do you remember that chat?

Timson: I do, and it worked out! What I realized was with the role, it wasn’t about – I hate the term president to be honest, because the term “president” sounds so grand and, actually the job itself is putting yourself at the level of your fellow students and saying, “How can we work together?” – its about facilitating dialogue and bringing people together.

It is about building community with other people who may have similar values to our own, but also with the others who frankly don’t, it is highly important that we do that. This was a platform to do that sort of work, not only local but also national level. That is how I ended up where I am.

I am studying Theology and Religion, so this has always been a massive interest to me. Actually, one piece of highly untapped research that I have encountered in Religious Studies is a growing need to understand The non-religious. Even if we act in similar ways to the religious and have similar needs – whatever words you might use to describe those – there is something missing from the academic conversation.

“Who are those people in our society who are now the majority in Britain at least? Who are they? How do they act? How do they interact with other people who are religious?” That has always been a massive interest to me academically.

It has been nice to be involved in an organization that has been working to actively answer that question. Being non-religious doesn’t mean we can’t have community and can’t build important and interesting structures, even though the questions might be fluid. In some ways Humanity needs those structures in order to identify itself, develop and be progressive.

It has been really nice to be a part of an organization like that, its is nice from both the practical and academic sides.

Jacobsen: How about yourself Angelos?

Angelos Sofocleous: Firstly, a few things about myself, religious background, and how I got involved in humanism, in general. I grew up in an Orthodox Christian family and society, was a devout Christian myself, and followed religious practices. Apart from that, I also was what would someone describe an ultra right-wing nationalist, I believed in conspiracy theories, and also followed pseudoscience. At the age of 16-17, a few years before I went to university, I started a process of questioning the whole set of my beliefs, a process which lasted 1-2 years. I ended up on the opposite side of the spectrum on each of my beliefs, managing a full 180o turn. At the age of 21, when I went to university, I defined myself as an agnostic atheist. I was looking for a group to get involved in to meet people with whom we shared a similar worldview, and a place where I could develop and express myself. I found this in the AHS.

Now, on how I got involved with Humanist Students. At Durham University, I joined Durham Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist society (DASH). Mostly, the BHA supported us at the time, which is now Humanists UK. I first became an officer for DASH. The year after, I became president and became even more involved with the AHS and Humanists UK.

Through those organizations, I met many likeminded people, which, at the time, provided me a community feeling but, more importantly functioned as a think tank where ideas were exchanged and shared. I was also very glad to find out that there were other people like me, who started off as religious and then started to question their beliefs and became atheists.

In June 2017, the structure of the AHS changed and became Humanist Students. Later in the year, elections were held and I was elected by Humanist Students members as president-elect. It is not only a leadership role, I would agree with Hannah, but a community director role rather than just being a top figure in the organization.

It is about supporting all those who do not believe or who start to question things as we did at some point in our lives or still do. It is really important for non-religious people, or people who are skeptical about their religion (people who constitute the majority of the student body at UK universities) at all universities to feel that they have a community to which they belong; to feel that they have likeminded people in their universities.

Also, it really is not only about religion. We want people to start to think about freedom of speech in universities, blasphemy laws, and other things which are not directly related to religion. We want to develop a more freethinking mindset.

2. Jacobsen: If you look at the demographics of universities and university-colleges with the United Kingdom, there about 130 as of August 2017. I want to ask a question first to Hannah about the ways in which we find best to reach out to universities and the university-colleges in terms of getting the message out about humanism as well as the work that Humanist Students does.

Timson: At this stage, having changed the way that we work, we are now in about 119. We have about 800 students signed up to us, which is pretty good having only opened September time.

That is continuing to grow, we beat the target for this year [Laughing]. It is trial and error because we, obviously, do not know everything. Sean, who is the Student and Youth coordinator for Humanist Students, may know more because he knows more about how the Students Unions work.

It will be trial and error: What do people like? What is it people are interested in? How do you identify yourself? What is it that makes you want to be involved? A lot of outreach is via social media, and communication with student unions and saying, “Hey, we exist,” [Laughing], “Would you be interested in doing stuff with us? We’ll go to university Freshers weeks and run stalls etc., if there isn’t a current society and have been attending things like the National Union of Student’s Annual Conference and holding Fringe events.

We are not focusing on societies as the main affiliations of students. We are, as we say, placing the onus on the individual. We want them to feel like they are part of a bigger organization, but as individuals their opinion and the way that they want to do humanism and want to achieve and what they want to achieve is an individual process.

We have reached out, “So, we will open to all universities, whether they have a society or not. You can be a member of Humanist Students as well and get free access to Humanist UK material.” We are in about 119 universities and we have at least one student who identifies as a Humanist Student on those campuses. The question is now, how active are those students? That’s a question we are beginning to be able to understand. Then how we reach out to those members, is really just trial and error. We have our national conference coming in a month’s time. I do not know how many people we will get. I do not know if it will be a struggle. We have always struggled to kind of attract people.

This year, the focus is going to be on “Who are we? What do we want to achieve?” Whether we have 20 or more people, we can ask them because those are the people who have purported to support humanism in the UK. If we get 100 people, it means we have more voices and more independent addition to that conversation. However, obviously, the more people are involved and the more democratic you can become, so we are opening forums and looking to have ambassadors where there isn’t a society and asking, “There are 4 or 5 of you there. Would you be interested in starting a society?”

If there isn’t anybody or only a student, the idea is to say, “Okay well, would you be interested in being a representative when we have our society in Birmingham in being the ambassador for the Birmingham area?” We would give information to them in that area and then give them the contact and get them in contact with local groups and attempt to arrange local events with our help.

It would be to get the word out about humanism. We will have that set up when we have our conference set up in about three weeks time. It is a difficult one. But there are things that do work. We are setting up the foundation now. We are trying and seeing how far it can go.

We are and will continue to grow, I believe. 70%, based on the Vatican report, of young people in the UK, 116 to 29 years old, are non-religious. That’s a huge percentage, not all will be Humanists, but a large percentage will be. It is about reaching out and saying, “Hey, don’t be apathetic, let’s build community, let’s tackle this loneliness issue in young people, let’s tackle mental health by building communities that are safe and welcoming and open. Let’s look to the future and be positive and optimistic,” which is what I think humanism offers.

It is a starting place, but I think we will get there: trial and error [Laughing].

3. Jacobsen: Also, Angelos, you have a lot of editing and writing experience in the promotion of atheism, humanism, and secularism. How can other humanist university students develop those skills in order to articulate the humanist message on campus?

Angelos: One of the things that I included in my manifesto when I ran as a candidate for the election as the president-elect was to develop a magazine or blog or more generally a platform for humanist students to be able to express themselves.

We have, at the moment, over 700 members all across UK who, however, do not have a voice to express themselves through Humanist Students. We want to give them the opportunity to raise awareness about what is happening at their universities on issues relating to freedom of speech, human rights, treatment of religious societies.

We really want these issues to come out for people to know about them. Of course, in order to do this, it would be a good idea to have workshops at some of the next conferences.

But from there, it seems that students are, of course, able to express themselves. I am looking forward to giving students a platform to show what is going on at their universities.

Jacobsen: Hari, your own research at the graduate level was on the treatment of those who leave religion. In your time as the president-elect and president, and now as president emeritus, did you come across stories of individuals who had become apostates but then were living at home as students and were mistreated while in a religious home even though they themselves have renounced their religion?

Hari: I started the society back at the University of Northampton, where there was no society at the time for non-religious people. It was unheard of at the university or in the student population [Laughing].

When you get up and start a non-religious society in the campus, you turn some heads [Laughing]. You have people saying, “What are you doing? You are going against your skin color and who you are!.” Etc. I sense from that. The statement is made from within whatever household is whatever way you want to put it.

There is always going to be some sort of back question about what that person is doing and why they are doing it. When I started the society, there was a young lady had just renounced that she is not part of Islam anymore.

She said, “I told my parents at the time. You know what, they literally abandoned me and told me to leave. They told me to get out of the house and do not look back because she was not welcome anymore.” As a result of that, it let me know what else is going on and thinking, “Where else is this going?”

That is ridiculous. Evolutionarily, you have children, or as a social psychology argument, it makes no sense for going against them – they’re your children. This is where the emotionality of apostasy comes from, because it triggers a nerve with people that listen to the countless stories; working with Aliyah Saleem and Imtiaz Shams in Faith to Faithless for example, of people not being able to simply be open to the thought that their child/children could potentially think differently from yourselves – and as a result, they may not agree with you on things that you deeply care about. That should not stop you as a parent from loving, caring and looking after them. By abandoning or shunning your own child, all you are doing is facilitating the notion that the religious/cultural/traditional niche you identify as remains stringent, cold and isolative to those that think and feel differently.

As a result, the organizations highlight the emotionality and the problems that happen with it. The research shows this as well. It shows that this has not been tapped into much. It is something the academic community still struggles to identify as an issue. The reason for that is because, obviously, getting to people who have left their religious faith, that have been abused within their household, and actually getting to that community remains quite difficult.

It means that they have to be hidden. If it is not hidden, you end up losing everything that you lived for. There was a guy in Aston, in Birmingham, who said a few months ago, “I do not believe in any of the religious faith at the moment. I am a refugee. You know what, what am I left with if I renounce my religion? I am on the street and then homeless – because my family cannot process the idea or very thought of this being true. There is no reason for me to do this. There is no quality of life for me if I leave. What else can I do?”

It is for that reason to do the research, to highlight that population of people. It exists, most definitely.

4. Jacobsen: So, Angelos, when it comes to some of the movement of humanism, not only in university but outside of it, I ask because the students themselves with 2-4 years depending on the degree program the are a part of will become part of the general public.

So if that is the case, and it is, what are some healthy ways of transitioning that students could bear in mind when they are working not only within an academic environment – which is a closed environment for the most part – and learning about and developing a humanist life for the most part and also when they leave the university living that outside as well as they can?

Sofocleous: To be honest with you, most humanist groups functioning outside of university have this problem. There are not a lot of young people within those organizations. It is people in their 60s and 70s. These people are doing an amazing job, no doubt. They are educated, smart, intelligent, active. But, at the same time, we cannot continue to ignore the problem of sustainability these societies face. Younger generations need to take over.

As Humanist Students, we mostly address issues that affect young people. We realize, however, the problem that exists in the sustainability of humanist societies which function outside universities, and we try to take steps, within the broader framework of Humanists UK, to address this issue. We have, for example, the Young Humanists branch of Humanists UK, which accommodates for people aged 18 to 35. It is vital that we keep people within humanism when they are in that age group as it is during that period that people enter and leave university, get a job, and start raising a family. Thus, other priorities may act as a barrier, but there is always something that we can do.

It is important for them to receive help from us. Lots of young people are not involved in humanist groups in universities, but there is the potential for those people to get involved in humanism as, as surveys have shown, most are non-religious.

It is important to reach out and have those people who are not religious to know about us. There are people who are humanists for years and do not know about humanism as an ideology or a way of life. So, they do not publicly identify as humanists.

Jacobsen: Hari, you are farther along in your academic a career and academic completions than the three of us.

Parekh: [Laughing].

5. Jacobsen: When I reflect on some of the academic and professional accomplishments that you have, what are some issues that you might notice for those humanist youth that are further along in their studies or professional career in terms of still remaining active to some of the concerns noted by Angelos?

Parekh: [Laughing] It makes me feel a bit old. Longevity remains an issue, whether it is a student group, local group, or national. Longevity ensures that people remain encapsulated to the issues that once touched a nerve. But, as Angelos said previously, local groups have an attendance that are predominantly elderly. As a result, how can this be true with an increasing population of people identifying as non-religious?

I guess it remains important to highlight what Humanism actually is to a wider audience. The moment someone has a conversation about the actuality of humanism, the usual reply is, well that makes sense. As a result, it remains more important to engage in discourse, to make people aware of this ideological stance and to allow people to be able to ask questions without threat.

The other issue that remains is time. Working professionals, or people progressing within their studies are busy! It can be really draining to be at work throughout the day, to come home afterwards. To be fair, the best thing is rubbish television and an early night. So how does one occupy their spare time with activism or humanism when they have other priorities? The good part is that there is a good sense of transition from Humanist Students to Young Humanists for young people wanting to be involved. As a result, social media remains a great function to reach members from far afield.

It can be a long road before someone actually comes to the decision that they could be part of humanism. There remains no reason for the non-religious to attempt at converting people to being non-religious. It would be absurd. As a result, it is a decision that someone comes to on their own trail of thought. We are reliant on an individual’s ability to think differently to what they may have been brought up thinking, and this is why longevity is a factor – it is a difficult decision to come to, and as a result, we need to be more prepared to ensure that we can support people when they come to such a junction. We need to work to find ways in which young professionals and young adults can be more involved, where they can find their sense of purpose.

6. Jacobsen: Hannah, you had a background not only with the Amish, but also with the Evangelical Baptists or Evangelical Baptist communities and then transitioned into the humanist community. Same with Hari, being an apostate. Same with Angelos being a former Christian.

These are three common experiences. Two from similar faiths. One from another Abrahamic faith. These are narratives of transitioning from a religious faith, out of it, and into not only rejecting the faith in atheism but also affirming a humanist life.

What have been some similar experiences that you have noted from others as well as insight that you can bring to those who have not had religion discussed in the household and who grew up agnostics, atheists, and so on?

Timson: That is quite an interesting question. You do come across a lot of people – and this more and more the case – who simply never talked about religion. It has never been on their radar. I do not know. It is very interesting. I tend to find, and this will sound really cruel, that the people who come from religious backgrounds, who have transitioned from being religious to then being a Humanist, tend to have a hell of a lot more – this will sound really mean – empathy with people who are religious.

I think it takes time to get there because, I think, a lot of people when they first leave religion…

Parekh: [Laughing].

Timson: …are kind of mad. They are like, “Man, you have lied to me for all of this time,” [Laughing], “Like wow.” But then you realize, a lot of people did it out of love because they truly, truly believe in this religious tradition.

You can kind of empathize because you were in that position, because you did believe all of that stuff. A hell of a lot more than people perhaps who never talked about religion. It flummoxes me. I cannot empathize with people who don’t ask these questions, to be honest. My house is literally like a theology seminary. It is just non-stop conversation about the meaning of the universe and stuff. I sometimes I wish I could talk abut Jeremy Kyle.

That is the biggest difference that I have noticed. It is that there is a lot less empathy and understanding. But not everybody, obviously, this is a generalization from people who perhaps come from a less religious background. I also think there is an interesting conversation and something I am thinking about while I write my dissertation about non-religious people and how they interact with the religious people.

There seems to be a difference in language. This might have something to do with the empathy thing. Not necessarily the words that we use, but the way that we use them. I haven’t read enough studies on this, but it is quite interesting.

I will be on a panel with people who have never been religious, ever, and, obviously myself who was hugely religious – an Evangelical, proselytizing Christian [Laughing] – and I’ll be sitting beside people who think, “Wow, what idiots,” [Laughing], not everybody, but I tend to find there is more dismissiveness from people who have never been religious.

You are on this panel with somebody else who has never been religious. Perhaps, you are against the Evangelical Christian Union or whatever. There was this one time when, for example, we were discussing relatively interesting but, in my opinion, pointless questions of theological questions with some people from Oxford.

The answers from my friends, who have always been relatively non-religious; as logical and sensible as they were there was a kind of a lack of empathy, we didn’t speak the same language. When I spoke, people said, “Wow, you have got a heart. God is working in you.”

I was like, “That was not God.”

Parekh: [Laughing]…

Timson: “I am just a really soppy human being,” you know? I use very romantic language and always have. I do not know. This is not a scientific study. I have been to other debates with scientists. You have Christian scientists – not the Christian scientists who go looking for the Ark, but scientists who are Christians – and non-religious scientists.

You do see a marked difference in the way you use language in the conversations that you have. For me, actually, it has been a real – going to use the word – “blessing” [Laughing] or a real benefit to be able to use the language and understand what people say.

You can’t always, but generally to understand what people mean when they use certain words or say certain things, “God is in the space. Can you feel the Holy Spirit?” From my experiences,I can empathize, I do not say, as many do, “That is non-sense, what are they talking about?”

I think, “At this moment in time, they are expressing a feeling.” That ability to, in some ways, be bilingual is interesting. I was talking to Quakers, who tend to have a lot of non-theist Quakers – so are a mixture atheist and theist Quakers. Some will say, “This religious language is not useful in everyday life.  We do not use it in that way. We use it express ourselves, to express something that we can’t quite get out in secular terms.” That has been an interesting field of study for me because I couldn’t quite understand what people weren’t quite getting.

It was really frustrating when having conversations with other atheists. Having to say, “don’t you understand that these people aren’t stupid, that actually they are expressing their emotions and feelings in a way that perhaps people who have never been religious, there’s a dimension there that they have never ventured in to?” So therefore, there’s a whole realm of language that was never used. Maybe, you do not need to use it. But it is an interesting distinction.

Jacobsen: Any concluding statements or feelings? We are out of time.

Timson: I just think that it is very, very important to remember that humanism is an alternative. It is a community. It is growing, however, slowly it might feel. Sometimes, things take a little while to catch on, particularly among young people.

Young people are feeling disenfranchised from labels: Church of England, and this and that. People feel, I think, worried about this word “humanist.” We have a conversation about whether we call ourselves “Humanist Students” or the “AHS.”

Parekh: [Laughing]

Timson: The semantics of it all got a bit too much, but I think at the end of the day, we are trying to build a non-religious alternative and say, “You know what? You can think for yourself. You can do things for yourself, but sometimes you need some help.”

We are here to provide a community that says, “I will respect your actions. I will respect that things that you do, but I am here to catch you when you fall.” I think that is something that religion sometimes does, not always, but they have those structures in place. We need those in some ways. [Laughing] Maybe, people will probably not like to say that we can learn from religious organizations, but I think sometimes its unnecessary to reinvent the wheel [Laughing]. It is necessary as social creatures to have a support unit to catch you as you fall: no man is an island.

Quite a lot of the time, non-religious people either don’t think about it or they do think about it and are so mad about the whole organized religion thing that they reject all forms of structure and community and say, “I am better off on my own, don’t touch me.”

At the end of the day, you end up with communities that are quite lonely. Humanism is the answer to that. That’s my ending statement [Laughing].

Parekh: I think young people that are trying to understand religion better, trying to rationalize religion, trying to move away from religion – anyone of these situations is going to be difficult. There is always going to be the feeling of, if I leave my religious faith, what will make me feel secure. Religion has the ability to make people feel soothed and secure, and as a result, leaving their religious faith can be a really difficult decision for them to make.

This is the thing about religion. Religion does not happen in its own entirety. It happens in support of community, tradition, and culture. As a result, when people lose a religious faith or someone decides it is not for me and does not work, they are losing not just their religious faith, but also moving away in the eyes of others, from their culture and tradition and the system they know. By doing so, this creates the opportunity for that person to be shunned and abandoned by the people they love.

When they are at university and are isolated, and are alone, and like, “I am trying to find my feet again,” they may feel isolated and lonely. The issue: who is there to catch you before you fall? That is important. Having Humanist Student Societies on campus can help to support that person, to be their community.

This community should not be the isolated either, by supporting such students. It requires chaplaincy services at university, mental health services at university, further work from student unions to understand that there are people going through such niche transitions that need support.

There remains a need and a purpose to help students who are going through a transition of being non-religious whilst at the university. It is not the role of the non-religious society to convert them to a life of non-religion/ humanism, and it is definitely not the role of the chaplaincy service to convert them back to religion. It remains the individual’s sole decision, whether they decide to make the decision for themselves of whether they are religious or not. If you are just atheistic, that is fine. But there is a need and a purpose to have mechanisms that can support students in such a way.

Sofocleous: As a final point, I’d like to say that humanists are not obsessed with religion. Humanism is much bigger than that – it is not only for non-religious people. It is also for people who are skeptics and like to question things, question pseudoscience, people who fight for freedom of speech and human rights.

As humanists, we base our approach to issues that concern humanity and human societies on reason and rational thinking, which for most of us is a way away from religion and towards science and rationalistic ways of thinking. That is really a characteristic of humanists.

It is also the case that most of us are ex-religious – I don’t know if I would prefer to grow up as an atheist – probably I would. But, as a non-religious person, I can now see the ‘positive’ side of me growing up in a religious environment. Like most other humanists I’ve met, we are able to understand the spread of fear, irrational thinking, and discrimination, among others, that takes place in religious communities. We are able to know how religious people think, and that’s because we were, at some point in our lives, one of them.

This is not to say that we should build barriers between religious and non-religious people. Not at all. It really helps to bring both non-religious and religious people together in the way that we can communicate with them because it really is important that we speak the same language when we communicate.

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

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] President Emeritus (Hari Parekh); President (Hannah Lucy Timson); President-Elect (Angelos Sofocleous).

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018:


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.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: