Becoming a Spokesperson for Humanism

Graduate Spotlight: James Croft

About the Author:

James Croft is outreach leader at the Ethical Society of St. Louis and a board member of The Humanist Institute. He studied education at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and completed his doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His writing can be found in the Humanist magazine, on The Huffington Post, and Patheos blog. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan, and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay humanist.

I believe humanism has the potential to change the world. When I was studying for my doctorate and traveling the United States giving presentations on humanism, I wanted to find a way to make humanist leadership into a career. I wanted to create a more reasonable, compassionate, and hopeful society—and so I joined The Humanist Institute to learn the skills needed to become a strong voice in our movement.

The Humanist Institute was an essential part of my preparation to become an Ethical Culture leader. It provided in-depth study of the humanist tradition, including its philosophical and scientific aspects, as well as practical training in critical leadership skills such as speaking with the press and conducting ceremonies. I was continually impressed by the knowledge of the teachers, and their willingness to spend time with Institute participants. The assignments were intellectually stimulating and fun, and challenged me to think about humanism in new ways. I now view humanism as a lifestance that promotes the values of reason, compassion, and hope: the ability of human beings to use our own intellect to make sense of the world; the equal dignity and worth of every person; and the ability of people to improve the world on our own.

When I discovered there are humanist congregations that bring people together to deepen their understanding of and commitment to humanism, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I use the skills and knowledge I gained from The Humanist Institute every day in my work as a leader at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. I provide pastoral care for members, speak on Sundays, organize events for the community, and lead educational workshops and discussion groups. As outreach leader, I represent the Ethical Society and humanism in general when I participate on panels, visit college campuses, and speak at rallies.

My friends and teachers at The Humanist Institute helped me stay hopeful when I thought humanism wasn’t worth the effort. Now as a board member, I inspire students to find which aspects of humanism most interest them. If I can help build a community of love and justice—and help others do the same—I believe the future of humanism is bright.

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