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Humanist Essay for June 2013
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[Reprinted from the HSNM June 2013 Newsletter.]

There are a couple of things we hear frequently about the nonreligious:
1) There are a lot of us.
2) We are a maligned minority.

So which is it? According the Pew Research Center poll taken on October 9, 2012: "The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public and a third of adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling." (Executive Summary)

That is significantly higher than all the "other" (than Christian) religions combined. However you slice it, "nones" are doing a lot better percentage-wise than all the other minorities; but we are all swamped by the Christian majority of seventy-something percent. Among non-Christians, as among Christians, there are many who have an affinity to the humanism and freethought movement. But there are also those who, being strongly religious, will connect to people of other faiths more readily than to those of no faith.

So, we are indeed a minority, but we are a majority among the other minorities. Now, are we more or less maligned than anyone else, keeping in mind that the "majority" Christian religion encompasses such wide sectarian variation that it has its own multiple mainstream groups as well as many outliers?

In accepting the 2012 Humanist Media Award at last year's AHA Conference, journalist Cenk Uygur offered a good natured challenge to our community, which went something like this: If every atheist/agnostic/humanist "came out" tomorrow, and publicly proclaimed their nonbelief, that would be the end of discrimination against the nonreligious. There are simply too many of us, and the workings of commerce and social discourse would quickly find a way to adapt and include us.

Our experience at the recent Southwest Book Fiesta over Mother's Day Weekend demonstrates that this process is already underway. HSNM shared a booth with Amador Publishers, and we put on a good display of humanist books and organizational literature. Two or three volunteers were always in the booth to engage the public, with special emphasis on promoting our Family Co-Op and their Children's Humanist Sunday School, and our Feminist Caucus' Pass the ERA campaign. As far as I could tell, not an eyebrow was raised, and we had many positive responses. In fact, the display of gently-used humanist titles we put out for re-sale to benefit the school drew people to us with statements like: I have that book; I've read that, it's really good; I may come back for that one.

As we took breaks from the booth to circulate through the extensive exhibits and tables, we found authors and organizations that felt close to our humanist hearts. We chatted with historians, artists, scientists, and community organizers and collected contact information for people we might want to hear from at our speaker meetings. Of course there was also a good representation by authors and publishers of religious, spiritual and metaphysical material, but - what do you know - we all got along just fine.

The Book Fiesta was not all that it was promoted to be with regard to public attendance, so we didn't get a chance to bring our message to as many as we would have liked. For the authors and publishers, the disappointing sales activity was distressing. Sure I would like to have sold more books, but the weekend was enjoyable and rewarding for me thanks to my team of Amador and HSNM helpers and having a broader purpose than sales. I look forward to seeing some of the new friends we made at future HSNM events, and I encourage all to simply "tell it like it is" when it comes to your belief/nonbelief and the issues you hold dear. There are more individuals of like mind out there than you may think; and those who do not hold the same views will be less likely to disparage ours once they have encountered our warmth and honesty.

[You may have missed the Book Fiesta, but you can still support our independent humanist press. Shop for books and purchase online right here, 24/7.]

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Copyright © 2013 Zelda Gatuskin

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