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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Harvard's 'New Humanism' conference, April 20-22.

Humanist Chaplaincy at HarvardHarvard's Humanist chaplain, the energetic Gen-Xer Greg Epstein, has pulled together quite the all-star lineup for a conference celebrating the "new Humanism," April 20-22, including novelist Salman Rushdie, singer Dar Williams, and evolution hot-shot E.O. Williams. (Notably missing from the lineup: the anti-religion triumvirate Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett, even though Dennett is just up the road at Tufts.) Rushdie will be speaking at a panel on "Abrahamic Humanism" with Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of Humanistic Judaism, and Bill Murry, former president of the Unitarian Universalist Meadville Lombard Theological School. (Tiny quibble: There is such a thing as Christian Humanism, and it isn't the same as Murry's naturalistic religious humanism. Then again, I'm not sure Rushdie is necessarily an advocate of liberal or humanistic Islam. So perhaps these are really "post-Abrahamic" humanisms?) Personally, I'm also drawn to hear Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist from India whose "capabilities approach" to human well-being was one of the most exciting ideas I encountered at Harvard. I'm still hoping someone comes along to popularize that concept.

At any rate, here's the conference website: The New Humanism: A Conference Honoring 30 Years of Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, April 20-22. Registration is not too expensive for students, $129 for the rest of us.

For more on Epstein, here's an interview: "Harvard humanism: Beyond the walls of the secular cathedral" (David Niose, The Humanist, March/April 2007; PDF) — and a profile: "Godless church: Inside the humanist chaplaincy" (A. Haven Thompson, Harvard Crimson 3.8.06). For background on the chaplaincy and the oldtimer who ran it until Epstein replaced him in 2005, Thomas Ferrick: "Humanist at Harvard" (Lauren Byrne, Harvard Magazine, May/June 2005).

Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 29 March 2007 at 9:44 PM

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Bob Keim:

March 31, 2007 12:24 PM | Permalink for this comment

Christian Humanism is stronger in the Church of England. The God Problem by Nigel leave give a good overview. It does show five views that one might find in a UU congration, and makes the distinction that you make.Two radical Christian leaders are Lloyd Geering (New Zealand), author of Christianity without God and Don Cupitt (England) author of Radical Theology.

Thanks for publishing the notice of this event. I consider myself to be a humanist chaplain, but do not use that term.


March 31, 2007 03:39 PM | Permalink for this comment

For another scientific naturalist's take on William Murry's book "Reason and Reverence," see this review at Tom Cook's

David Schafer:

April 1, 2007 06:24 PM | Permalink for this comment

Hi Chris,

Your comment about Christian Humanism's not being the same as Bill Murry's view is accurate, of course, but what the "Abrahamic Humanism" panel participants have in common is that they want to talk about the existing and/or potential developments of nontheistic Humanism within the three main branches of Abrahamic religion. Perhaps we could imitate Sherwin Wine's Humanistic Judaism and call it not "Christian Humanism" but "Humanistic Christianity" (thus, to borrow Michael Dowd's phrase, "pissing everybody off"--a reference to Dowd's picture of the ICHTHUS fish kissing the Darwin fish).

David Schafer

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