As last weekend's Reason Rally on the National Mall showed, the secular movement in America is reaching a critical mass. When 20,000 enthusiasts show up on a rainy day to celebrate secularity, joining together to oppose the unquestioned exaltation of religion in American public life, there can be little doubt that change is coming. As president of the American Humanist Association, one of the rally's major sponsors, this left me exhilarated, optimistic that the destructive anti-intellectualism of the religious right might finally be meeting its match. Those rallying for reason were a diverse group, cutting across all lines of race, age, and class, and they hopefully represent a movement that will escort the religious right off center stage, into the history books.
As I looked out at all the young people cheering for Richard Dawkins and Tim Minchin, however, I also realized how important it is that humanism, and not just atheism, be part of this revolution. Indeed, for humanists, the success of the secular movement is only half the battle. After all, humanism is not just an arm of secularism, but a hybrid of the secular movement and the progressive movement.
If this seems difficult to understand, bear in mind that Karl Rove is reportedly an atheist, but he certainly would not find the American Humanist Association to be a comfortable fit for his worldview. Atheism, which addresses only the issue of the existence of gods, has no social, political, or economic philosophy, nor must an atheist reject all supernaturalism. An atheist might believe in astrology, ESP, magic, and of course, even worse, the conservative politics of Karl Rove (though thankfully most don't).
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