Understanding Humanist Heritage
About the Author:
Stuart Bechman is a past president of Atheist Alliance International and has served on the boards of the Secular Coalition for America and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He is a graduate of the 17th class of The Humanist Institute.
I became an atheist on my own, somewhat of an antitheist rejecting my religious background, and I wanted to find more positive perspectives of nontheism. Before attending The Humanist Institute (THI), I had a hard time expressing my nonreligious views without using the language of religion with which I was familiar. The program did a fantastic job of providing me a vocabulary and a construct that others would appreciate. The curriculum challenged me to rethink a lot of strong beliefs and values that I was carrying. I learned to appreciate the diversity of worldviews and not exclusively argue against theism.
Initially, we reviewed the history of humanism and the heritage of freethought communities, which I found extremely satisfying. There are so many flavors of humanism and it is important to understand where they come from and what values we share. Later, we learned about secular theories of psychology and discussed some dense material. My classmates were always engaged and willing to face challenging ideas. Together we developed an emotionally fulfilling and satisfying environment. I really looked forward to participating in those weekends, which kind of amazed me. I only saw my classmates twice a year and yet I quickly felt like they were some of my closest friends.
When I entered THI’s program, I was the newly elected president of Atheist Alliance International and wanted to know more about atheist communities. For me, The Humanist Institute provided underpinnings for me to understand what humanist values are, what communities are here, and how I am a part of it all. I encourage everyone to learn and connect with The Humanist Institute.