Humanist Perspectives: issue 151: three letters

the world around us
three letters
assembled by Theo Meijer

photo by Amanda Park Taylor from the protest of the Republican National Convention
(New York City, August 2004)

Remembering Peter Ustinov

from The Humanist, published by the American Humanist Association, May/June 2004:

Peter Ustinov died at the age of 82 on March 28 of this year in Switzerland. He was a member of the Advisory Panel of the British Humanist Association and named a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.

A writer of plays, books and film scripts, Ustinov also directed and starred in numerous films, plays and operas and was the winner of two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards for his performances in Spartacus (1960) and Topkapi (1964). In 1971 he became a goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and spent thirty years travelling around the world to bring attention to children’s needs. In 1991 he became President of the World Federalist Movement, a non-governmental organization that strives for peace through world law. For his efforts to build friendship and understanding between all nations and generations, Ustinov received the UNICEF Medal for Distinguished Service in 1993.

During an interview with Warren Allen Smith, Ustinov remarked: “I’m depressed that once children are born they’re so often neglected… Our responsibility should be with children, not merely with embryos.”

Recognizing Ron P Reagan

from Freethought Today, vol 21, no 6, August 2004:

In 1999 the Freedom From Religion Foundation inaugurated the ‘Emperor Has No Clothes’ award, a golden statuette reserved for public figures who are plainspoken on their dissent from religion. The inaugural recipient was the Nobel Laureate physicist, Steven Weinberg. Other awardees include Richard Dawkins, Katha Pollitt, Alan Dershowitz, George Carlin, Penn & Teller and Andy Rooney.

In his address to the National Democratic Convention on July 27, 2004, Ron P Reagan, younger son of former president Ron W Reagan, referred to religious opponents of stem cell research: “Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it. But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.”

During a Larry King Live interview on June 23, 2004, Reagan stated: “When you hear somebody justify a war by citing the Almighty, I get a little worried, frankly.”

The FFRF contacted Reagan to offer him its award [July 2004].

holding together without God

from Australian Humanist, issue 75, Spring 2004, quoting from a speech by Donald Horne on May 2, 2004:

“There is still a strong idea around that without a belief in God societies will fall apart. Some of the keenest supporters I know of this idea are themselves atheists. Although they lack a belief in the supernatural they are sure that belief in God, and religious practices and religious faith generally, are essential to keeping society in order — at least for people other than those like themselves. Without any religious belief of their own, they can admire Pope John Paul II as a pillar of consistency in an uncertain age; they can attack as error the reforms of the Second Vatican Council; some of them even have doubts whether the Enlightenment should have happened.

What are some of the questions raised by asking whether a society can hold together without god? I don’t know that there is any order of priority — except one. And that is that religious fervour can be one of the greatest causes of civil disorder, of tearing societies apart. For one thing, religions can rise in opposition to a social order. For another, religions can threaten the social order by their contests with each other. The religious wars that followed the Reformation in Europe were remarkable for their material destruction and human savagery, and, even to a lesser degree, religious bigotries — as in Northern Ireland or India — can run as chronic diseases of civil distrust or occasional terror.”

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