Humanists Hawaii

July meeting at Krauss Hall, U of Hawaii

July 2005

Hawaii Silver Legislature How You Can Make a Difference
presented by Carolyn Golojuch w/ a guest appearance by Jim Brewer July 31, 2005 10:30 a.m. Krauss Hall 112 University of Hawaii

The Hawaii Silver Legislature is a mock legislature for senior citizens. It will meet November 17 and 18, 2005, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm at the State Capitol. Our July meeting will be a planning workshop designed to explore and select issues of concern to be considered at the Silver Legislature in November. So bring along issues that you’d like to see the State Legislature take action on. You’ll be able to discuss them with fellow HH members and attendees and learn how participants can act to take these relevant current issues through the law-making process. Roles to be played at the Silver Legislature will be explained as well as how we might participate and influence legislation, how issues are selected and what these issues are likely to be. Issues brought by members and friends to the July meeting will be moved forward and considered at future workshops scheduled between July and November to give actual hands-on training on how to get our bills passed. Bills will be drafted incorporating chosen concerns. These more extensive workshops will teach the best ways to advocate for our issues and to develop personal skills as lobbyists to influence decision makers. Bills passed by the Hawaii Silver Legislature will be considered by the Hawaii State Legislature beginning in January 2006. The issue of health care will be presented with a video and an explanation of its place as a major issue and how it can be introduced and advocated in the Legislature. At the November mock legislature, attendees will have the opportunity to introduce bills, attend committee hearings, testify, influence others, decide on legislation, experience and enjoy the process. __________________________________________________________________________________________

HH Marches in Gay Pride Parade June 25
The banner of Humanists Hawaii was again prominently displayed in this year’s Gay Pride Parade. Mike Mueller and Dave Mielke carried the banner and other members marched or rode in the bloc comprised by HH, Unitarians and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). PFLAG brought a full sized bus this year which was quickly filled with celebrators from the three organizations. Among HH participants were: Gene Bridges, Carolyn and Mike Golojuch, Dorothy and Phil Morris. Sunshine graced the entire parade this year and continued into the afternoon when festivities continued at Ala Moana Park and in McCoy Pavilion.

Hawaii International Forgiveness Day August 7
"Hawaiian tradition is filled with examples of the importance of forgiveness as a way to breathe new life into our families, communities, politics, courts, education, religion and culture,” says Merton Chinen, spokesman for Forgiveness Day in Honolulu. Forgiveness Day provides an opportunity for “sharing many tools and personal experiences . . . to entertain, educate and inspire." Forgiveness will be celebrated as it crosses many secular and religious traditions. The celebration will happen Sunday, August 7, 2005 in the Parish Hall of Central Union Church, 1660 S. Beretania St. Doors will open at 2:00 p.m. and the two-hour festival will begin at 3:00 p.m. This event is for the whole family; it is free and open to the public.

The United States House of Representatives has voted to renew the Patriot Act with the inclusion of further restrictions on our liberty, restrictions which were originally to be introduced as Patriot Act II.

"Why did the German people not act?”
Patriot Act vs. German Enabling Act: Information Clearing House

The Decrees of 1933
(a) The February 28 Decree. One of the most repressive acts of the new Nazi government, this one allowed for the suspension of civil liberties ....The president was persuaded that the state was in danger and, hence, that the emergency measures embodied in the decree were necessary. Even though under Art. 48 of the constitution, the decree would have been withdrawn once the so-called emergency had passed, any hope of this happening was prevented by the establishment of Hitler's dictatorship following the Enabling Act (see below). It was in fact never withdrawn and remained until the end as an instrument of Nazi terror against ordinary citizens who ran foul of the regime. ARTICLE 1. In virtue of paragraph 2, article 48,* of the German Constitution, the following is decreed as a defensive measure against communist acts of violence , endangering the state: Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty [114], on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press [118], on the right of assembly and the right of association [124], and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications [117], and warrants for house-searches [115], orders for confiscation as well as restrictions on property [153], are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed. *Article 48 of the German Constitution of August 11, 1919: If public safety and order in Germany are materially disturbed or endangered, the President may take the necessary measures to restore public safety and order, and, if necessary, to intervene with the help of the armed forces. To this end he may temporarily suspend, in whole or in part, the fundamental rights established in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 . . .

5.. Sections 411 and 412 which give the Secretary of State broad powers to designate domestic groups as "terrorist organizations" and the Attorney General power to subject immigrants to indefinite detention or deportation even if no crime has been committed; and 6.. Sections 507 and 508 which impose a mandate on state and local public universities who must collect information on students that may be of interest to the Attorney General.

Why did the German people not . . .
"What no one seemed to notice . . . was the ever widening gap . . . between the government and the people . . . (it) gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about . . . and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated . . . by the machinations of the 'national enemies,' without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us . . . “Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures' . . . must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing . . . . Each act . . . is worse than the last, but only a little worse . . . You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. “You don't want to act, or even talk, alone . . . you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble' . . . But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes . . . The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed . . . You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father . . . could never have imagined." From Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans 1938-45. University of Chicago Press, 1955

Patriot Act
3.. Section 218 which amends the "probable cause" requirement before conducting secret searches or surveillance to obtain evidence of a crime; 4.. Sections 215, 218, 358, and 508 which permit law enforcement authorities to have broad access to sensitive mental health, library, business, financial, and educational records despite the existence of previously adopted state and federal laws which were intended to strengthen the protection of these types of records;

Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Buffet, Alan Greenspan and the Estate Tax
American Progress Report The quintessence of why the majority of Americans feel Congress has no idea what's important in their lives: the right-wing drive to repeal the estate tax. You'd be hard pressed to find legislation that benefits such a minute few at the expense of so many, as does the estate tax repeal that recently passed the House. The gap between the richest and poorest Americans has been growing for decades. In today's New Gilded Age, the wealthiest 20% of Americans take in fully half of the country's income, while the poorest fifth take in just 3.5%. As billionaire Warren Buffett put it recently, "It's class warfare. My class is winning, but they shouldn't be." Even Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan admits the income gap poses a serious danger. "(T)his is not the type of thing which a democratic society – a capitalist democratic society – can really accept without addressing," he told Congress in June. Thus, it makes sense to look to the advice of one of our greatest Republican presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, who helped end the first Gilded Age. Roosevelt made the argument for taxing inheritance almost a century ago, claiming that the "really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore I believe in a . . . graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate." Theodore Roosevelt also said, "We are bound in honor to refuse to listen to those men would make us desist from the effort to do away with the inequality, which means injustice; the inequality of right, opportunity, of privilege."

Humanists Hawaii Officials
President: Andi van der Voort – 261-3452 Vice President: Carolyn Golojuch – 672-9050 Secretary: Mike Golojuch – 672-9050 Treasurer: Marcia Lambeth – 955-2086 Membership: Alice Lemon – 922-5135 Sunshine Lady: Lolly Poole – 234-1864 Program Chair: interim Carolyn Golojuch – 672-9050 WebMaster: Mike Mueller – 926-9995 Newsletter Editor: David Mielke – 836-6303 Visit our website at email the WebMaster if you’d like to receive email at

HH Membership
HH dues are collected on a calendar year and are $25 a year for individuals and $40 a year for couples. Please submit your dues directly to our treasurer Marcia Lambeth or by mail to the address on this newsletter.

HH’s Meeting Place
Turn mauka on East West Road then ewa on Correa Road. Drive to the end and turn makai toward the circle with the big tree. There’s free parking on part of the circle, on the other side of Krauss Hall and various lots around campus. Enter the Krauss Hall 112 is at the Diamondhead end of the lily pond. We’ll have an HH sign by the door. Hope to see you all.

The small business & family farms myth
The sole claim that persuades many middle- and working-class Americans to support estate tax repeal is that it will benefit small businesses and family farms. As President Bush put it, "For the sake of family farmers, Congress needs to get rid of the death tax forever." This argument is profoundly misleading. Virtually all family farms and small businesses are already exempt from the estate tax. "Even one of the leading advocates for repeal of estate taxes, the American Farm Bureau Federation, said it could not cite a single example of a farm lost because of estate taxes," the New York Times reported. And, as the Washington Post points out, retrograde provisions in the bill mean the repeal "may actually hurt more family farmers and small businesses than it would help."

Citizens Without a Prayer Speak Out
Individuals unite via the Internet to present their case for civic justice The Brights’ Network July 12, 2005 Sacramento CA – The Brights’ Network recently launched its revised website ( The new information and action hub serves people in 115 nations. It links to “Brights sites” in five languages. Brights have a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements. The international Internet constituency of Brights is speaking up for civic justice. Brights advocate “a level playing field” for citizens whether their worldview is religious or naturalistic. The noun "Bright" resonates with the Enlightenment. In that optimistic era, people had confidence that, with reason and science, we could create a just society. South Carolina in 1990. He jokingly called himself “the candidate without a prayer.” By making his naturalistic worldview known, he had no chance of being elected. A straightforward fellow, Herb made his outlook clear, faced the slings and arrows, and lost honorably. Herb’s campaign slogan was funny, but the situation is not. No matter how excellent a candidate’s character and qualifications, divulging a naturalistic worldview is politically fatal. Hope of winning elective office hinges on utmost silence or, worse, a violation of conscience to imply, however mildly, that one is a “persons of faith.” Herb is one of the Brights seeking change in the civic values that lead to such situations.

Who are the Brights?
The Brights’ Network hub registers as Brights persons who are free of belief in supernatural forces. The US alone has millions of such individuals – skeptics, humanists, agnostics, atheists, rationalists, secularists, and many others. People who have naturalistic worldviews bring thoughtful and principled actions to bear on matters of civic importance. The Internet constituency of Brights wants public recognition of that reality.

What Do Brights Want?

It is time to open access to political office and civic participation to all deserving persons. No religious litmus test is acceptable or appropriate for civic suitability. Ethical actions are not a monopoly of the religious. Paul Geisert, Co-Director of the Brights’ Net says “In the United States, capable citizens like Herb Silverman are socially and politically marginalized. Many would like to contribute in leadership capacities, but they ‘don’t have a prayer’ unless they conceal their views or feign a modicum of religious belief. We No-Prayer Politics believe many religious people will recognize this Society has progressively become more civically problem and support change. It’s reasonable. It’s fair. inclusive regarding ethnicity and sexual orientation. It’s necessary. We know there are principled people Still, deep prejudice exists at all levels of society who hesitate to speak out. We invite them to learn regarding those who do not claim to be religious. more about the Brights.” Math professor Herb Silverman ran for governor of __________________________________________________________________________________________

Ashcroft gone, Justice statues disrobe
Associated Press Washington – With barely a word, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3½ years. Spirit of Justice, with one breast exposed and arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall. The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of Ashcroft. The 12½ foot aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building opened in the 1930s. With a change in leadership at Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced the question: Would they stay or would they go? He regularly deflected the question, saying he had weightier issues before him. Paul R. Corts, assistant attorney general for administration, recommended the drapes be removed and Gonzales signed off on it, spokesman Kevin Madden said, while refusing to allow The Associated Press to photograph the statues Friday. In the past, snagging a photo of the attorney general in front of the statues has been somewhat of a sport for photographers. When former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him. The first attorney general to use the blue drapery was Republican Richard Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had the drapery put up only for a few occasions when he appeared in the Great Hall, rather than permanently installed as it was under Ashcroft.

Memo: Language at Work
Dear Faculty: It has been brought to the attention of administration that some faculty at the Honolulu Campus have been using foul language during the course of Normal conversation with their CCC's, academic advisors, other faculty, and students. Due to complaints received from some individuals who may be easily offended, this type of language will no longer be tolerated. We do however, realize the critical importance of being able to accurately express your feelings when communicating with others at UOP. Therefore, a list of "TRY SAYING" new phrases has been provided so that proper exchange of ideas and information can continue in an effective manner. 1) TRY SAYING: I think you could use more training. INSTEAD OF: You don't know what the f___ you're doing. 2) TRY SAYING: She's an aggressive go-getter. INSTEAD OF: She's a ball-busting b__ch. 3) TRY SAYING: Perhaps I can work late. INSTEAD OF: And when the f___ do you expect me to do this? 4) TRY SAYING: I'm certain that isn't feasible. INSTEAD OF: No f___ing way. 5) TRY SAYING: Really? INSTEAD OF: You've got to be sh__ing me! 6) TRY SAYING: Perhaps you should check with... INSTEAD OF: Tell someone who gives a sh__. 7) TRY SAYING: I wasn't involved in the project. INSTEAD OF: It's not my f____ing problem. 8) TRY SAYING: That's interesting. INSTEAD OF: What the f___? 9) TRY SAYING: I'm not sure this can be implemented. INSTEAD OF: This sh__ won't work. 10) TRY SAYING: I'll try to schedule that INSTEAD OF: Why the hell didn't you tell me sooner? 11) TRY SAYING: He's not familiar with the issues. INSTEAD OF: He's got his head up his a__. 12) TRY SAYING: Excuse me, sir? INSTEAD OF: Eat sh__ and die. 13) TRY SAYING: So you weren't happy with it? INSTEAD OF: Kiss my a__. 14) TRY SAYING: I'm a bit overloaded at the moment. INSTEAD OF: F__ it, I'm on salary. 15) TRY SAYING: I don't think you understand INSTEAD OF: Shove it up your a__. 16) TRY SAYING: I love a challenge. INSTEAD OF: This job sucks. 17) TRY SAYING: You want me to take care of that? INSTEAD OF: Who the hell died and made you boss? 18) TRY SAYING: He's somewhat insensitive. INSTEAD OF: He's a d___k. Thank You, Human Resources University of Phoenix Ed. note: This memo may be apocraphal . . . __________________________________________________________________________________________

Wise Quotes
heard on Prairie Home Companion Paula Poundstone on being an atheist: I’m an atheist. We have no mandates to convert anybody. You won’t find me on your doorstep some Saturday morning saying: “Just dropped by to tell you there is no Word. I brought along this little blank book I was hoping you’d like to take a look at.” I sneezed the other day and my daughter said “Bless you.” I said “What?” And she said “Just kidding.”

Gay Marriage Speech
by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, July 1, 2005 When the Spanish parliament took its historic vote legalizing both gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero – who put the full prestige of his office and party behind passage of the gay human rights legislation – made one of the most remarkable speeches in favor of full equality for those with same-sex hearts ever delivered by a head of government anywhere. Here are some excerpts. – Doug Ireland We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members. In the poem 'The Family,' our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?' Today, Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty. It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty. Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage. Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to express that, like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of decent human beings is a better society. With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of government. Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had fewer rights than our fathers, or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our recognition and praise. Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet] one century ago: 'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society/someone else, made like me/certainly will come out and act freely.'

Update to Direland on July 9:
I just watched on C-SPAN a tape of the vote in the Cortes (the Spanish parliament on the gay marriage and adoption bill, including part of the debate, Zapatero's speech, and the approval of the bill by a 40-vote majority. Just before the vote, the chamber's president asked the gallery – crammed with gays and lesbians – to refrain from cheering or hissing when the vote was. Naturally, when the bill passed, the queers in the gallery couldn't restrain their joy at this extraordinary event, and the chamber's president, as he'd warned he'd do, ordered them out of the gallery. Then, a remarkable thing happened – Zapatero and the Socialist deputies rose and gave a sustained standing ovation to the gays and lesbians as they left. It was a stunning tribute to the homosexuals' sacrifice, courage, and refusal to accept less than full equality before the law – a recognition that this was their victory. I've seen many parliaments in operation in many parts of the world at times of crucial debate – but I've never, ever seen the parliamentarians applaud the gallery. I'm a tough-minded old cynic, but to see the Spanish parliamentarians give lesbians and gays the standing ovation actually made my eyes rather moist. Thanks to Doug Ireland for putting these excerpts – and the following update – on his Direland website and to journalist Rex Wockner for providing translation. Doug Ireland is a longtime radical political journalist and media critic, who considers himself a purveyor of what the great I.F. Stone (at whose feet Doug sat as a lad) called "investigative opinion." Even those with whom Doug has profound disagreements respect him – like Christopher Hitchens, who wrote (in the May, 2004 Vanity Fair) that Doug "is one of the country’s toughest and brightest radical columnists."

Brazil to US: Keep Your Money
“Biblical principles [are] their guide, not science,” Pedro Chequer, director of Brazil’s AIDS program told media outlets on Wednesday. “This premise is inadequate because it hurts our autonomous national policy.” Acting in accordance with a 2003 federal law, U.S. Congress demanded that Brazil publicly condemn prostitution before accepting $40 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Prostitution is a legal industry in Brazil and a key player in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Leadership Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 refuses government aid to organizations that do not explicitly oppose sex trafficking and prostitution. But bowing to those demands, say experts like Jodi Jacobson of the U.S.based Center for Health and Gender Equity, would mean contradicting crucial civic cooperation undergirding Brazil’s AIDS program, considered a model by international health organizations. Jacobson said Brazil’s sex industry plays a crucial role in the battle against AIDS in part through its role in helping the government review donation assistance. Sex workers are also a key target for the government’s AIDS education effort, and are routinely tested, thus eliminating one of the major sources of infection. Brazil, which claims a third of Latin America’s HIV cases, has reaped international praise for its twopronged approach of providing free condoms to citizens and free medication cocktails to impoverished AIDS sufferers. The Ministry of Health distributes 20 million free condoms each month, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based research group. from HALVASON Newsletter June 2005 ___________________________________________

million acres of government land was redistributed to 135,000 poor families. However, concerns about environmental degradation have already been taken to court, as some landowners claim their vast holdings are used for eco-tourism and are unsuitable for farming or ranching. See SojoMail June 15, 2005. Read the full article at ___________________________________________

Vatican Prepares Reentry into Evolution war
Rationalist International Bulletin #145 According to Darwin's theory of evolution, the history of life is driven by accidental mutation and natural selection of the fittest – a theory, which does not face any credible scientific challenge and is recognized as the foundation of modern biology. The last pope grudgingly assented to some of the basics of the theory of evolution. Many scientists and educators hailed this as a step toward the 21st century. But now the Vatican appears ready to reenter the Christian fundamentalist war against Darwin's theory of evolution, which is raging in the United States and other countries. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna, fired the starting shot with an op-ed article in the New York Times on July 7, in which he wrote candidly: "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not." The article does not have the formal approval of the Vatican, Schoenborn said in an interview. But he got green light from the Pope himself, who has been "angry" for many years about Catholic writers and theologians, who "misrepresented" the position of the Church as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process. In a meeting in March, the Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, encouraged him to go ahead. Schoenborn is also in close contact with Mark Ryland, vicepresident of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, who had urged him to write the article. The Discovery Institute is spearheading the aggressive campaign for the idea of "intelligent design", which argues the complexity of life could not be explained except through the intervention of a creator god who also intervenes from time to time to change the direction of the universe. They try to drive the theory of evolution out from the biology curricula through propaganda and legislation. Cardinal Schoenborn is the right man to lead a Catholic attack on the foundation of modern biology. He is on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic education. The office, he said, had no plans to issue new guidance for teachers in Catholic schools on evolution. In his opinion, students should simply be taught that evolution is "just one of many theories".

Forty Acres and a Burro
SojoMail, Globe Watch Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has twice been elected president of Venezuela, survived a coup attempt, and won a nationwide referendum on his presidency – despite criticism from the U.S. government and mainstream media of his "authoritarian" tendencies. No such criticism was initially made of the forces that briefly overthrew his democratically elected government in the 2002 coup. Now, reports The Christian Science Monitor, Chavez is again arousing controversy with a land reform plan that would take "underutilized" property from owners of large private holdings and give it to the poor. Land distribution has been the root of many of Latin America's conflicts, with ownership tending to be concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy oligarchs while the vast majority – often indigenous peoples – are impoverished and landless peasants. When Venezuela's first land reform bill passed in 2001, 5.4

Skepticism Through the Ages
Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht. HarperCollins, 2003, paperback, 576 pages, $16.95. comments from various sources
Jennifer Michael Hecht says that as a scholar she always noticed the "shadow history" of doubt out of the corner of her eye. She defines doubt generously, broadly addressing the human impulse to question what is given in order to find meaning and understanding. In her sweeping history, Dr. Hecht celebrates doubt as an engine of creativity and as an alternative to the political and intellectual dangers of certainty. Just as belief has its own history featuring people whose unique expressions of faith have forever changed the world, doubt has a vibrant story and tradition with its own saints, martyrs, and sages. Among these, she includes Socrates and Jesus, Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. She suggests that only in modern time has doubt been narrowly equated with a complete rejection of faith, or a broader sense of mystery. Dr. Hecht blends her wide-ranging historical expertise, passionate admiration of the great doubters, with a poet's sensibility to tell a stimulating story that is part intellectual history and part showcase of ordinary people asking themselves the difficult questions that confront us all. Hecht views the history of doubt as not only a tradition of challenging accepted religious beliefs, including the existence of God, but also as a progression of attempts to make sense of life, the natural world, and the self, each on their own terms. Speaking of agnostics and skeptics, Hecht says “According to common usage, the term agnosticism holds that we cannot reasonably make an assessment on the question of whether God exists. Why not then extend skepticism to all knowledge; that is, why are agnostics supposed to be skeptics regarding only one question? Agnosticism often ends up being a catchall term for those who do not think there is a God, but who harbor a tiny suspicion that there might be some force that creates meaning and makes possible an afterlife.” Dr. Jennifer Michael Hecht is an assistant professor of history at Nassau Community College, Garden City NY. She is the author of The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France and The Next Ancient World, her book of poetry, which won the Poetry Society of America's prestigious Norma Farber First Book Award for 2002, the Tupelo Prize, and ForeWord's Poetry Book of the Year.


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The American Humanist Association ( is dedicated to ensuring a voice for those with a positive outlook, based on reason and experience, which embraces all of humanity.