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Secular Humanist Meeting

I've put together a Secular Humanist Meeting as an alternative Sunday activity for atheists/Secular Humanists.  Directly below are updates to the activity.  And below that is a full description of the activity (APPENDIX A, below).

1.  With no Chaplain Support, I put out a listing of the local services and scheduled myself for one.  The local commander was hesitant, but allowed me to do so after a short explanation.  Unfortunately, the word didn't get out until late because of 1) my commander's hesitancy, and 2) the nature of the operation resulted in everyone just going separate directions on Saturday before I could get the word out.  So, in the morning, no takers for the Secular Humanist Meeting.  But, interestingly enough, out of 50 people, fewer than 5 takers for any services, with Catholic, Protestant, LDS, and Gospel available.

2.  By the end of the day, I had several people ask me what exactly the Secular Humanist Meeting was all about.  They didn't even know what it was.  Including one person who said they were atheist, but had never heard of Secular Humanism.  I explained in several ways, but basically that it was an Atheist equivalent to a religion.  I felt that was the clearest explanation.  Most people were surprised, but no one was horror-stricken or anything.  So far, not much support, but no real opposition.

3.  Given that no one knows what Secular Humanism is, and to attract a larger group, I changed the listing on the flyer from "Secular Humanist Meeting" to "Secular Humanist (Atheist) Meeting."  This also falls in line to other listings, like Protestant (Episcopalian).

4.  Today, I got a meeting from a very religious senior NCO.  To make a long story short, he told me I needed to check with a chaplain before I posted a Sunday schedule.  So, I concurred and will do so.  I didn't totally overlook this.  I conferred with my chain of command, and I had every intention of working totally through the chaplain once the regular exercise started.  However, they're not on the ground yet, so I put it off.  I also ensure that I checked out all the other Sunday activities and ensured they were listed.  So, anyway, a little push has me making a little extra effort to check with the chaplain.

5.  Dead End.  I've been stonewalled by the Chaplains for my meeting.  I can't have a Secular Humanist meeting scheduled through the Chaplains because Secular Humanism is not a recognized religion.  I still have the option of posting my own flyers, but I refuse to do that, as it's too much proselytizing.  So, the next step is to backtrack and begin paperwork to establish Secular Humanism as an officially recognized religion.  And, actually, getting the religion recognized is a much more useful activity than what I was doing.  Instead of influencing a couple thousand people, I can influence a few hundred thousand or more.  So, we have an indefinite suspension on this project until the official recognition paperwork goes through.

6.  I have included a draft of the recognition paperwork below (APPENDIX B, below).  I will of course attach the appropriate headers as necessary.  One thing I expected was a lot of support from the Humanist community for this.  I haven't gotten it yet and won't continue until I do.  I don't claim sole ownership of the title Humanist.  I'm not sure how this will turn out right now, but we'll see.

7.  I have added a new section based on work to recognize nontheist beliefs.  This is an extension of this activity, although a slightly different angle.


Appendix A:  SHM OPORD

I need to write this down to explain, and I'm in the middle of an exercise, so my brain is operating in Army mode.  So, here is your five-paragraph OPORD format.


References:  See Appendix A (Reference Materials)

1.     SITUATION.  All personnel are considered friendly, but one should be cautious.  We must understand that chaplains and the direct chain of command have possible censure power over the operation.  We have no choice but to face opposition from those personnel directly so that they understand the operation and give their support.  For other personnel who oppose the operation, for example senior leaders from participating units, the best action is to avoid contact.  The have no direct authority or control over this type of operation, so we have no need to deal with them.  We must only ensure that they do not interfere with their soldiers’ free exercise.

2.       MISSION:  Spread Awareness and Understanding of Atheism and Secular Humanism.


a.        Commander’s Intent:  Basic success is begins with getting a listing for a Secular Humanist Meeting on local Chaplain flyers.  Auxiliary factors for success include maximizing attendance, presenting informative and innovative meetings, presenting the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, setting up future operations in future exercises, developing contacts and networks within the secular military community, and eliciting inquiry and support from the religious community.  The operation should be used in a community that has had no recent or high-visibility secular activities.

b.        Concept of Operations:  This operation consists of (2) phases.

I.        PRE-PLANNING – up to startex – Gather materials and information to pass out and develop curricula from for Secular Humanist Meetings.

II.      ADVON – advon arrival to startex  – During this time several hundred personnel will be on site, but Chaplain Support will not yet be organized.  However, there will be Chaplain support.  In order to get the word out, I will gather information about local activities and add a meeting of my own.  Hold meetings to present information.

III.    MAIN-EVENT – startex to endex – Confer with Chaplains to ensure Secular Humanist Meeting is listed on the flyers for services.  Also, ensure they understand the concept to gain their support and enlist their help in spreading the word about the meeting.  Hold meetings to present information in an appropriate venue, ensuring we act in accordance with our own beliefs about Separation of Church and State and non-proselytization.

IV.    POST-EVENT – endex and later – contact those who wish to be contacted and send information as requested.  Ensure that we do not overeagerly pursue contacts.  The intent is to inform interested parties, not proselytize.  In particular, keep contact with interested chaplains.

c.        Coordinating Instructions

(1)     DISCLAIMER:  This operation may at one time be officially sanctioned by some part of the military.  However, one should, in no case, treat anything in this OPORD as an official product or activity of anyone or anything.  To avoid this, I have stripped names and any reference to the exercise from this OPORD.

(2)     Secular Humanism will be the ‘religion’ by which I will identify the activity to the Chaplain.  When questioned, it may be appropriate to just explain that Secular Humanism is just a general name for atheist religion.

(3)     Keep records of the makeup of attendees.  Don’t require any sign-in, but record the number of attendees and the constitution of the audience at a minimum, i.e., Secular Humanists, Christian investigators, Chaplains, Atheists, undecided investigators, etc.

(4)     Expect many of the attendees/interested personnel to not know what Secular Humanism is.

(5)     Expect participants who are not Secular Humanist.  The spectrum may range from open hostility to honest interest and inquiry.  To hostility, it will probably be appropriate to ask them to leave and refer them to the Chaplain if necessary.  To honest inquiry, for example Xians/Theists who don’t intend to change, treat them just as Secular Humanist/Atheists.  The gray area will be those who are looking for debate about the issue.  It will be policy in this case to discourage adversarial debate.  Whereas in a more developed forum, this kind of atheist/theist debate would be desirable, in this case, this debate is unnecessary and detracts from the stated mission of the exercise.

(6)     The meeting will be conducted more as a round-table discussion than as a lecture.  First, this will be more appropriate to the limited preparation, and, second, because this is an introductory meeting to an uneducated audience, there will be many questions.

(7)     Provide a contact roster for those who wish to receive more information.  We must ensure we contact these people after the operation.

(8)     In the face of opposition to the nature of the meeting, whether because it is unsanctioned by an official body, or because it is not headed by ‘clergy,’ refer to general Bible Study groups that meet.  Also refer to the lack of regular Secular Humanist support by the local Chaplains.  However, the bottom line is that a good plan, well-presented will be highly likely to be allowed by the command.

(9)     As appropriate, the discussion leader will introduce the participants to The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.  MAAF is not specifically a Secular Humanist organization; however, it does support Atheists and Freethinkers in the military.  Providing meetings that bring together soldiers with a secular worldview and engaging in activities that spread awareness of the atheist contingent in the military directly support the mission of MAAF.  Because of this, not the Secular Humanist content, this activity falls in line with MAAF.

(10)  We will present the term “Sunday Activities” to refer to mass, services, worship, meetings, and all other types of religious activities on Sunday. 


        a.     Material and services.

            (1)   Location.  The suggested location will be in a DFAC after lunch on Sunday.  This is  a common location for auxiliary religious services.  One should also utilize the Chaplain if they have extra locations.  However, a Chapel would be inappropriate because it would discourage participants. 

(2)     Transportation.  The location should be within walking distances for most.  For those outside walking distance, one cane use shuttle buses to other Sunday activities.

            (3)   Literature.  Humanist and Freethought organizations are happy to provide support in many instances, especially for a developed plan; however, for these meetings, we will use personal materials, and prior donations from the American Humanist Association.


a.        Command.  Command Information consists of local representative and Chaplains.  Information has been omitted

b.     Signal. 

(1)    Location of Website for the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers:  http://www.infidels.org/org/maaf

(2)    Location of Reference Activity:  http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/1357/other/wfx01.html

(3)    Personal Website of author:  http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/1357


Annex A (Reference Materials)

 Humanist Manifesto I
Drafted 1933 by Raymond Bragg

The following excerpt is precedes HMI, and provides a good introduction for the 3 Manifestos and one declaration that serve as foundational documents for Secular Humanism.  The following documents show snapshots of the evolution of Secular Humanism.

“The importance of the document is that more than thirty men have come to general agreement on matters of final concern and that these men are undoubtedly representative of a large number who are forging a new philosophy out of the materials of the modern world.”   

Secular Humanist Values (1933):

·         Non-created Universe

·         Evolution

·         Mind/body monism

·         Cultural Evolution

·         Rational & Scientific Ethics

·         Obsolescence of Religion

·         Human living is a secular activity

·         Living in the present

·         Human flourishing

·         No supernatural

·         Comfort through understanding

·         Encourage human thought

·         Economic Socialism


Humanist Manifesto II
Drafted 1973 by Paul Kurtz

I.  Religion:  good and bad points, highlights detrimental effects of a focus on afterlife instead of the present.

II.  Ethics:  Morals arise from human experience.  Reason and intelligence are means of discovery of ethics.

III.  Individualism:  preciousness and dignity of all individuals.


A Secular Humanist Declaration
Drafted 1980 by Paul Kurtz

The Declaration is a rewrite of the previous Manifestos.  It recognizes the benefits of Secular Humanism, and notes the good and bad effects of religion.  The Manifesto itself is meant to present an updated list of values of Secular Humanism.   

Secular Humanist Values (1980):

·         Free Inquiry

·         Separation of Church and State

·         The Ideal of Freedom

·         Ethics Based on Critical Intelligence

·         Moral Education

·         Religious Skepticism

·         Reason

·         Science and Technology

·         Evolution

·         Education



Humanist Manifesto 2000
Drafted 2000 by Paul Kurtz


This is the most recent snapshot of Humanist Values.  It begins with a review of the prior documents.



·         HMI (1933):  Atheists needed an alternative to religion.  Focused on social and economic planning.

·         HMII (1973):  Focus efforts on a global scale.  Protect minorities.  Reevaluate sex rights.  Support euthanasia.  Focus on an optimistic attitude.  Eliminated economic ideas of socialism in favor of general charity towards others.

Secular Humanist Values (2000):

·         Prospects for the future are bright

·         Presents a worldview of scientific naturalism

·         Identifies benefits of technology

·         Presents SH view of Ethics and Reason

·         Makes a universal commitment to the whole of humanity

·         Presents a new global agenda supported by the following institutions:

·         Proposes new planetary institutions:  World Parliament, Security Organization, Court, Environmental Oversight Committee, Tax Service, Corporation Monitor

·         Optimism about prospects for humanity



Fighting Back: A Manual for Freethinkers
Edited by Tim Madigan and Tom Flynn

This book presents a very colloquial and informal approach to problems for Secular Humanists and Atheists in today’s society.  It is not meant to serve as a guideline for action.  Rather, it is primarily useful to present topics for discussion.


Responding to Religious Culture:

·         "God Bless You"

·         "Did you have a Merry Xmas?"

·         Family Pressures

·         Religious Charities at Work

·         Suggestions to say Grace at your home

·         Suggestions to say Grace at others' homes

·         Religious functions at work

·         Missionaries

·         Prayers at School Events


Responding to Religious World View:

·         Freethought History

·         "What Happens When You Die"

·         Personal Revelation 

Religion in Politics:

 Secular Humanist Living:

The Atheist Debater's Handbook
By B. C. Johnson

This sounds like an adversarial book, but, in fact, it is very fair and informative.  It presents philosophical perspectives on the following topics:


God & --

·         Atheism

·         Science

·         Laws of Nature

·         Design

·         The Universe

·         Existence

·         The Mind

·         Miracles

·         Religious Experience

·         Morality

·         Faith

·         The Problem of Evil

·         Christianity

·         Jesus

·         The Meaning of Life






SUBJECT:  Recognition of non-religious belief systems, including Secular Humanism

 1.       The purpose of this memorandum is to request that Secular Humanism, a non-religious system of belief that includes a world view, set of ethics, and way of life be granted official recognition and support by the Chaplains Corps commensurate with that support traditionally reserved for religions and religious systems of belief.

 2.  Secular Humanism is system of belief that includes an atheistic and scientific world view with reason-based ethics and a way of life devoted to promoting human flourishing.  Other in-depth explanations are available at the following links:

a.       Council for Secular Humanism:  http://www.secularhumanism.org/intro/what.html

b.       International Humanist and Ethical Union:  http://www.iheu.org

c.       Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance:  http://www.religioustolerance.org/at_ag_hu.htm

d.       Virginia University Religious Movements Site:  http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/secular_humanism.html

3.  The following people and organizations support this petition. 

[-- soliciting Council for Secular Humanism, American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, other members of Coalition for the Community of Reason]


                                                                        Jason Torpy


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