by Kimberly Hansen, from the group Parenting Beyond Religion
For some among the ranks of humanists and atheists, their secular world view has been lifelong. But for many more of us, we have transitioned from a religious worldview, full of faith, ritual, and community, to a road much less traveled. And what a journey it can be.
My personal experience, through the tragedy of Pan Am 103, put me suddenly and squarely at odds with the faith I grew up in and the new reality of the world.
It was both a sudden and a lengthy process, but once I removed God from the equation I emerged into a world that finally made perfect sense. The flaws, the evils and tragedies lay plain as natural events and human foibles, completely understandable and expectable. Goodness became a source of encouragement and a noble, attainable goal. And the wonder of the natural, known world remained in all its unexplained glory. No need for the supernatural. A treasure trove of exploration, people in need, and endless possibilities abound to find meaning in our lives among the vast realm of reality.
Although our newfound freedom from supernatural thinking gives us a sound base and solid footing, this journey is largely socially unguided, and now our fellow travelers along the way are fewer and farther between. Here we are, emerging in larger numbers, together, yet spread apart around the world; secular free-thinkers, a small but poignant commonality uniting us. But most of us have left a larger social structure in well-organized communities full of support and resources to begin the climb at the bottom of the mountain to build new family and cultural foundations largely alone.
Lately I have come to realize the time we are living in is magical. Unlike the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, we actually ARE living in the heyday of this new movement. We can not only read, but meet and talk with the intellectual giants who, today, are influencing this cultural shift. It is incredible, if you think about it.
I actually met Paul Kurtz, the Father of Secular Humanism, before he died. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, David Silverman, can be seen, heard, communicated with, if not in person through social media and the internet or their organizations. The wealth of content and ideas abounds. We have the capacity to be at the heart of it all, almost no matter where you reside. And we can contribute to it, unlike the Renaissance of art, philosophy and science that was left much more to greater minds.
We are living through an evolution of our own making. Negotiating this change, and trying to construct my own world view as an independent free-thinking adult feels as daunting as the idea of nation building. But it seems to me like this is the best time there has ever been to do it. And for my children, it is a worthwhile venture. I am encouraged to help grow and foster our new secular communities and meetups and to build camaraderie and support for each other as we forge a rational future for our children.