The Humanist

27 Jan. 2023

An anonymous Medieval poet wrote this:

A moth ate words. It seemed to me
a strange occasion, when I inquired about that wonder,
that the worm swallowed the riddle of certain men,
a thief in the darkness, the glorious pronouncement
and its strong foundation. The stealing guest was not
one whit the wiser, for all those words he swallowed.

Now, reflect: This poem represents a human-centered point of view. Yes, wisdom is being lost, especially true in a time when books were hand-copied. It could be that the moth has eaten pieces of the only copy of a manuscript going back centuries or millennia. The anonymous poet may be correct that a certain wisdom has been lost forever.

And the moth? From the moth’s point of view, the paper and ink that it eats constitute sustenance and survival. Were we capable of communicating with the “worm,” I assume the worm would express that the paper and ink are yummy or yucky or something of the sort. Though, as Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out, if a lion could speak, we still would not be able to understand the lion. The lion and a human interlocutor would be playing different “language games.” Living in different realities because of the varying metaphors and narratives that we have learned to navigate reality by.

And, come to that, how does the poet—or any of us human beings—know that eating wise words does not make the young moth wiser?

The anonymous poet saw only the loss of words of wisdom from a narrowly human point of view; the moth most likely sensed sustenance alone.

What about the feelings of the book? So far, I have been bio-centric in my consideration. Might the book have something to say about the matter?

I use this example to point out how location and point of view affect what and how we think. Moths and human beings appear to have very different uses for those stacks of paper we fondly call books.

What I have not yet considered is the social and historical location and worldview of the poet who wrote the poem. For me, as a product of Western cultures only nominally exposed to other human points of view, the feeling expressed by the poet makes sense. I, too, have opened old books and found chewed pages. I, too, have felt regret that worms have eaten words.

Yet, is my view the only human view of the situation? It’s certainly not the only available human view of the situation. For example, were I to find a book’s ideology particularly pernicious, I might feel some schadenfreude concerning the book’s partial destruction by insects.

Then there is imagination. I might imagine, for example, that moth larvae are actually robots sent from another star system and pinpointed to acquire specific knowledge from human books. The larvae eat the book, thereby transmitting the knowledge to an alien civilization.

You get the drift. That each of us is the product of a specific time, geographic location, and social location is a given. Yet it is a given that is tough to learn. Some theorists have begun calling the process unlearning. More commonly the process is called decolonizing the mind. That is exactly what Dr. Jé Hooper and I will be attempting to do in our series Metanoia: Changing the Humanist Mind for the American Humanist Association’s Further Reflections series. The course will meet on three successive Thursdays at 7-8:30pm ET, starting on February 9th. You can register for the course here.

Humanism is arguably a worldview that has evolved within many cultures throughout human history: In China, India, pre-colonial Africa, Persia, Greece, and countless other places and cultures. However, in the United States and other English-speaking nations, we often focus on a continuum that begins in pre-Socratic Greece and traces through to our own post-Christian era. This is as myopic as the moth larvae that I mentioned earlier.

As a concept and worldview, humanism calls us to an understanding that transcends historically Euro-American thinking and the institutions rooted in that thinking. We owe it to ourselves and our planet to open ourselves to a truly multicultural way of living and being.

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27 Jan. 2023

This is the third in a series of articles this month about alcohol and addiction that are part of the American Humanist Association’s Dry January Challenge.

New Year’s resolutions have been a thing as far back as the late 17th century. Not only were we making resolutions to become better versions of ourselves 200 years ago, we were also using resolutions as excuses to indulge in our favorite vices before the new year began. Dry January is a much newer phenomenon, starting in the U.K. around 2012. And in just over a decade, it’s become an international phenomenon that now accompanies new year mass migrations to gyms, diet programs, cosmetic procedures, motivational speakers, and anything else that promises us a “New You.”

According to CBS and others reporting on Dry January, roughly fifty-five percent of Americans say they want to reduce their alcohol consumption. About thirty-five percent say they re-evaluated their relationship with alcohol by participating in Dry January in 2022, which is an increase from past years. So why are Americans struggling to limit our alcohol consumption? And what are the benefits of living a sober life?

One reason folks are trying to reassess their adult beverage habits may be that many of us increased our alcohol consumption during the years of the pandemic. Alcohol sales in the U.S. increased by 20 percent in just the first three quarters of 2020. But maybe the scariest statistic, reported by the Washington Post last spring, is: “A new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) finds that alcohol-related deaths in 2020 were so high that, for 16- to 64-year-olds, they exceeded the number of deaths from covid-19.”

That’s pretty crazy. Most of us know that habitually drinking too much alcohol is not the healthiest choice. The CDC reports that over time, over-indulging can lead to the development of chronic health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, cancer, memory problems, poor school or work performance, depression, anxiety, etc., etc.

But drinking is fun, right? Going to the pub with friends, after work happy hours, bottomless brunches with your besties. Drinking relaxes us. It’s how we unwind after a stressful day. And even moreso, drinking is part of our cultures, family traditions, and social expectations. Which means trying to complete a Dry January (or dry any month) can be more challenging than we expect. And choosing to be sober when you don’t have a “drinking problem” can be incredibly perplexing to folks in your social circles. How do I know? I have been sober for 980 days, or about two-and-a-half years.

As a Gen Xer, my relationship with alcohol started early and intensely. We were inseparable friends for decades—from underage high school parties to drunken graduate school deliberations on Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, to happy hours, brunches, and vineyard vacations. I was not an alcoholic, but as I got older, I began to notice that the habit of alcohol was becoming an unwanted obstacle in my life. I wasn’t as fit as I used to be. I was exhausted in the mornings. My skin was beginning to look older, drier. I generally felt more anxious than usual. I didn’t feel healthy or honestly very happy. So I decided to see what life was like on the sober side of the coin.

My choice was more of an experiment than anything, one aimed toward optimizing my experiences, my abilities, and my quality of life. Would I be a better human, wife, mother, co-worker without regularly drinking alcohol? Would I feel/look younger, run better, think quicker? Turns out, the answer to these questions is yes.

The quality of my life improved exponentially with the removal of alcohol. Since beginning this new journey, I have hiked almost 200 miles across our national parks and seen more sunrises than sunsets. My mind is sharper, clearer, and calmer. I am more productive both professionally and personally. I am present in my life and my community in a much more authentic way. My bloodwork and sleep are great, and the savings from abstaining have afforded many new adventures.

Is it easy to change your relationship with alcohol? No. Is it worth it? That’s a question for each of us to decide for ourselves. Sobriety is definitely the road less traveled, and for me it has made all the difference.

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27 Jan. 2023

The latest from Cagle Cartoons.



America’s Gun Problem Solution by Dave Whamond, Canada,


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26 Jan. 2023

The creative impulse is inspired by a multitude of experiences. Music has long served as an outlet of that creativity. In virtually every culture, music has been a key component to humanity’s expression of love, sorrow, joy, pain, awe, wonder—really, any emotion that makes us, well, Human.

One such source of musical inspiration over the ages has been from the realm of religion. From Gregorian chants to Requiems to congregational hymnody, classically conceived music has been a mainstay in the religious expression of many faith traditions.

One need only to spend some time listening to Bach’s Mass in B minor; Messiah by Handel; or Hayden’s The Creation—among countless other examples—to understand the significant connection between classical music and religious expression.

When exploring the inspiration for works of classical music, it is important to be careful not to assume that only a faith perspective can spark the imagination that brings forth great musical masterpieces.

Throughout the history of what we know as classical music, there have been composers inspired to create for many other reasons than religion or faith. A review of some of the more well-known nontheistic composers and their work offers important insight into the wide-ranging sources that fill the repertoire we know as “classical music.”

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was regarded as the preeminent Italian composer of his generation. His contributions to the musical canon are still very much beloved and performed often. Growing up in early 19th-century Italy, he was heavily exposed to the Catholic faith. He even began his musical education at his local village church at about age seven.

In addition to his contributions to the musical world, he was very much a humanitarian. He supported schools and hospitals that were not connected to the Church. And, as a part of his will, he left a sizable gift to the city of Milan to establish a retirement home for musicians of limited means. This home is still in operation today!

And yet, John Rosselli in his biography The Life of Verdi, writes, “Like many 19th-century artists, Verdi was an agnostic whose elevated sense of morality and duty bypassed divine sanction. Strepponi (his second wife), replying in 1871 to a friend bent on Verdi’s conversion, at first wrote that, with the highest virtues, her husband was an atheist; she then revised this to ‘I won’t say atheist, but certainly very little of a believer.’”

Georges Bizet

Georges Bizet (1838-1875) was a musical prodigy who entered the Conservatoire de Paris at age nine. Bizet was a gifted pianist having won many prestigious performance prizes during his teen years, including the Prix de Rome. But he opted to focus on composing rather than a career as a performer.

During his formative years, French culture was very much influenced by religion and Bizet wrestled with his religious and philosophical views. At one point, when he was asked to compose a Mass, he replied, “I don’t want to write a mass before being in a state to do it well, that is a Christian. I have therefore taken a singular course to reconcile my ideas with the exigencies of Academy rules. They ask me for something religious; very well, I shall do something religious, but of the pagan religion” (Georges Bizet: His Life and Work by Winton Dean, 1965).

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) began his musical career in the 1860’s and was a member of group of composers known as the “Mighty Handful.” This group’s goal was to establish a Russian national style of music. Other members were Balakirev (the leader), Mussorgsky, Borodin, and Cui.

A prodigious composer, his most well-known works include Scheherazade, the Russian Easter Festival overture, and Capriccio espangnol. His work output includes fifteen operas, ninety songs, fifteen chamber works, and twenty other orchestral pieces.

In a Guardian article about the Mighty Handful, the writer relays the following regarding his opera, Kitezh: Vladimir Belsky, the librettist, initially wanted the new work to “be based entirely on the life of Saint Fevroniya of Murom,” but Rimsky-Korsakov “rejected such explicitly Christian subject matter and insisted that the story…be combined with elements of Russian history and a strong dose of pantheistic legend.”

Leoš Janáček

Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was baptized as a Catholic at the age of eleven and had choral, organ, and piano training through the Abby of St. Thomas in Brno. At age twenty he enrolled in the Prague Organ School. He composed many orchestral, chamber, and vocal works—even some church music. Additionally, he made periodic use of folk songs and dances in his compositions.

Janáček generally rejected traditional religious beliefs. In a letter he wrote to his wife in 1918, he noted that a colleague he was working with “believes in the soul and in its wandering, and I know that all is just a process of life which ends so quickly—and there is no continuation. And, I’d like now to live long.” In correspondence to Kamila Stösslová in 1928 in which he commented on the consecration of new church bells, he wrote, “Today they are lifting the bells into the tower. It would be nice if they weren’t calling people to bamboozling” (The riddle of life: The letters of Leoš Janáček to Kamila Stösslová, 1990).

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) attended the Royal College of Music from 1890 to 1892. He later earned a music degree from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1894. He also was awarded a degree in history in 1895. It’s worthy of note that he also studied with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel.

His musical compositions ranged from orchestras to chamber music to operas, and even hymns. Some of his most loved pieces include Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, The Lark Ascending, and Fantasia on Greensleeves. He wrote nine symphonies, including A Sea Symphony, Pastoral Symphony, and Symphony No. 4.

In her biography of her husband, Ursula Vaughan Williams noted, “He was an atheist during his later years at Charterhouse and at Cambridge, though he drifted into a cheerful agnosticism: he was never a professing Christian.”

Vaughan Williams was a great-nephew of Charles Darwin as his paternal grandmother was Darwin’s sister. There’s a story that she told the young Ralph, “The Bible tells us that God made the world in six days. Great Uncle Charles thinks it took rather longer.”

Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel (1875 -1937) attended the Conservatoire de Paris, France’s premier music academy, even studying with Gabriel Fauré for a time. He clashed with the school’s leadership and was actually  kicked out twice!

Ravel was a master of orchestration and in the 1920s and 30s was considered by many to be France’s greatest living composer. As noted in a 1914 article in the French magazine Comoedia illustré, there’s “a notable absence of religious forms or references” in his works. “His habitual inspiration came from nature, from fairy tales and folk songs, and from classical and Oriental legends. Nor was he always sympathetic to the religious works of other composers.”

Aram Khachaturian

Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) is considered one of the three greatest composers of Soviet Russia and its republics, together with Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev. His initial musical education was at the Gnessin Musical Institute, and he later studied at the Moscow Conservatory.

His Piano Concerto in D-flat Major in 1936 helped to bring his name to a wider musical public in his country and beyond. He is perhaps best known for some of his ballet compositions: Happiness (1939), Gayane (1942), and Spartacus (1954).

Ethnically, Khachaturian was Armenian. He regularly used Armenian folk music—along with eastern and central European and Middle Eastern—in his compositions. He is considered a “national treasure” in Armenia.

While he did not hold any religious beliefs, he did visit the Vatican at one point. When asked about this, he responded, “I’m an atheist, but I’m a son of the Armenian people who were the first to officially adopt Christianity and thus visiting the Vatican was my duty” (Solomon Volkov, Novoye Vremya, Aug 22, 2014).

This quick survey of some of the more recognizable classical music composers who did not hold traditional religious views is, of course, not an exhaustive exercise. These examples demonstrate that the human creative impulse is influenced—and even inspired!—by various life experiences.

It turns out that the musical impulse provides an outlet for all types of philosophical expressions. Just as it would make no sense to deny the beauty and power of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus or Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, disregarding the great masterpieces that were composed by individuals who did not profess faith in the supernatural would significantly impoverish the classical music canon.

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23 Jan. 2023

Like many secular advocates across the country, humanists in Minnesota are becoming increasingly concerned about the rise of Christian Nationalism and the impact of religious dogma on our legal system.

Many trends are worrisome: the January 6th insurrectionists who used Jesus-laden rhetoric to justify overturning an election; the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reject fifty years of precedent and end the constitutional right to abortion; high court rulings that erode the separation of religion and government, for example backing a football coach who led Christian prayers on the playing field; attacks across the country on transgender rights, often on “biblical” grounds.

My organization, HumanistsMN (a chapter of the American Humanist Association), gives top priority to advocating for secular government. In recent years, this has included organizing events at the State Capitol to observe the National Day of Reason in May. We gather legislators, secular groups, and advocacy organizations to promote public policy based on reason, science, evidence, and inclusive humanistic values, not religious preference.

After the last Day of Reason event, we decided to step it up a notch, working over the summer to help some of our state legislative allies set up a Secular Government Caucus dedicated to protecting the constitutional separation of religion and government. Thanks to the leadership of the co-chairs—state Senators John Marty and Jen McEwen and Representatives Mike Freiberg and Athena Hollins—the caucus has attracted more than twenty members.

“We are troubled by the efforts from some politicians to push a Christian Nationalist agenda, where right-wing Christian politicians are attempting to break down the wall of separation between church and state in order to push their beliefs on others,” it said in a press release.

In an effort to publicly support the Secular Government Caucus as it gets off the ground, the HumanistsMN Board agreed to pay for two billboards in the vicinity of the State Capitol in St. Paul starting in February. They both feature a photo of the Capitol, with the messages:  “Protect Our Democracy. Keep Religion Out of Government” and “Reject Christian Nationalism. Keep Religion Out of Government.”

The Board agreed to cover the cost of the billboards for two months, but decided to try to raise money to pay for an additional month so that the messages could remain up during our Day of Reason event in May. We launched a Separation of Religion and Government Campaign in December—and our members came through, donating more than $2,000, enough to cover the third month.

Once the billboards go up, we will work to amplify their messages by arranging photos of our supporters in front of them that can be shared on social media.

In addition to billboards, we are considering concrete ways we can work with the Secular Government Caucus, for example by advocating for laws that protect the rights of nonbelievers.

And we will be on the lookout for efforts that attempt to bolster Christian Nationalism in Minnesota. The secular caucus can act as a counterweight to the Minnesota Legislative Prayer Caucus, which aims to “use prayer and use the legislative process to preserve our nation’s Judeo Christian heritage and religious liberties.”

The secular caucus noted in its press release that in recent years, the prayer caucus has proposed posting “In God We Trust” signs in public schools and threatened the funding of the Minnesota Historical Society after it invited a historian to speak about how the nation’s founders were not interested in creating a Christian government.

We are also working with other groups that are concerned about Christian Nationalism—for example, the new Rights, Faith, and Democracy MN Coalition. Led by OutFront Minnesota, an LGBTQ rights group, and other advocacy organizations, it wants to reclaim “religious freedom” as a progressive value rather than one that has been “co-opted by Far Right Christians to codify Christianity into public law.”

Let’s hope our joint efforts can accomplish that goal.

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19 Jan. 2023

This is the second in a series of articles this month about alcohol and addiction that are part of the American Humanist Association’s Dry January Challenge.

I used to think I had no connection to substance abuse or addiction. I was wrong.

I was born a daughter of two Nigerian immigrants in a small borough in New York. A borough so small and often forgotten about that folks squint, thinking hard about where it is in proximity to Brooklyn or Harlem, whenever I mention it.

I was born the daughter of two Muslims, and like most Muslims, my parents prayed five times a day, fasted during Ramadan, and didn’t drink. Consequently, growing up, I had no experience and very little knowledge about alcohol—let alone addiction.

What I did know came from watching my favorite sitcoms. Like the episode in Family Matters when Carl Winslow gives his son, Eddie Winslow, an ultimatum to stay off the bottle after he repeatedly comes home drunk from college frat parties. I was too young to recall my initial impression of the episode, but I could have never foreshadowed its relevancy in my future.

I had my first cup of alcohol in college. My dad and younger brother drove me eight hours from my hometown to Upstate New York, where I would graduate four years later with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and a concentration in International Relations. Shortly after my folks helped me settle in and we said our goodbyes, I heard a knock at my door. It was a frat boy who also attended the college. He invited me to hang out and I agreed. Later that night, we drank some cheap liquor. That moment marked the beginning of my relationship with alcohol.

Throughout the next four years, I focused on school and work during the week and partied hard on the weekends. I was a sorority sister and a resident assistant. I worked morning shifts at a local hotel and evenings at the college’s computer lab. I served in multiple positions on the student government council and consistently held a grade point average above 3.3. When the weekend rolled around, I was at whatever club the hype was at with a drink in hand. Sure, my drinking caused problems like arguments with my then-boyfriend and embarrassment when I listened to my friends’ recollections of what I did and said the night before. But I was a hard worker and a great student so I thought nothing of it. I was young and deserved to live a little!

I started law school in 2014 and throughout the next three years studying, on and off-campus jobs and alcohol still centered my life.

I noticed a change in my drinking habit in 2018—a year after I graduated from law school. I worked at a mid-size law firm while living in a waterside apartment. I drove the car of my dreams and made a decent salary, yet I was unhappy. Nothing felt good enough. I drank to manage my thoughts and numb my feelings. I self-medicated with alcohol until I physically couldn’t and sought help soon after.

I made an appointment with a therapist, and during our first appointment, she suggested that I had a drinking problem and recommended that I stop drinking. I was experiencing depression. Alcohol would only make things worse.

Her comments about my drinking infuriated me. Me? Have a drinking problem? That’s impossible, I thought. I am funny, smart, and pretty, and didn’t have a family history of substance abuse or addiction.

I left the therapist’s office, ignored her advice, and continued drinking. A year or so later, when my life went completely south, I surrendered to the idea that I did have a drinking problem and needed to give up alcohol. To my surprise, I couldn’t and I checked into a rehab.

When I left rehab, I searched online for sober communities and noticed that many pro-sober platforms talked about sobriety as if it was a luxury. Though sobriety can be a luxury for some, it wasn’t for me. Pink hats, heart shaped lattes, and yoga are cool but I needed more.

I needed to understand how someone like me—someone who works so hard and had accomplished so much—could end up in addiction.

When I turned to in-person, traditional organizations for the answer, I felt underwhelmed, annoyed, and out of place. I could no longer afford my dream car, and it took me two hours to get to their meetings by public transportation. Oftentimes I was the only Black attendee there. Speaker meetings consisted of folks with years of sobriety talking about all of the tangible things they were able to obtain because of their recovery. Then, there was a rule that we couldn’t talk about “outside issues.” This meant that I couldn’t talk about my experiences as a Black, queer woman.

I was told I had a disease even though my primary physician told me my vitals were perfectly normal. I was told that I lacked willpower even though it was my determination and grit that got me through the most trying times and helped me accomplish so much in my twenty-seven years of life.

Hoping to get to the bottom of my addiction, I went back to therapy. In therapy, I learned that my earlier depression stemmed from having low self-esteem and a lack of self-awareness. For years I based my identity on awards and accolades. My self-worth was intertwined with my accomplishments. I took pride in working multiple jobs and holding multiple positions while tackling a rigorous course load. I had no concept of rest, self-care, or peace. My entire life consisted of being the best (or at least trying to be) in my classes, afterschool programs, dance company, gymnastics team, soccer squad, sorority, school organizations, and places of employment.

I craved validation from my parents and other authority figures, who innocently, but mistakenly, raised me under the white gaze. I was to be seen but not heard. I was to look, act, and perform a certain way so that white folks wouldn’t view me as dangerous, stupid, or lazy.

My sense of identity was shaken when I graduated from law school and entered the 9-5 workforce. For the first time since I could remember, my life focused on a single event—work. It felt dull and uninspiring. I was a new attorney and spent most of my time writing briefs for more experienced attorneys. I hardly went to court, and when I did, it was to file paperwork. I typically went to happy hour after work. If I was too sad to drink with other people, I went straight home and drank alone. Drinking seemed like my only option. Looking back, I could have picked up a hobby, but (at the time) the thought of doing anything that didn’t bring me tangible awards or acknowledgment was unfathomable. The idea of going home to “rest” was, too.

In an attempt to share my journey and connect with other Black folks practicing sobriety, in recovery, or curious about it, I created Sober Black Girls Club. Despite experiencing more consequences, Black people start drinking (and eventually abusing alcohol) at a later age than other demographics. From my experience, this is due to the realization that no matter how hard we try to impress our parents, teachers and those we were taught to look up to, we will never feel “good enough” when white supremacy, patriarchy, sexism, and other damaging societal and cultural practices are at play. This understanding brings on a feeling I thought only alcohol could make go away, but the true solution was to go within and get to know, accept, and love who I am, even when I am not creating or accomplishing.

In the beginning, Sober Black Girls Club was just a blog. Today we run a newsletter and mentorship program and host support meetings and events. We assist members in paying for out-of-pocket rehabilitation expenses through our medical fund and believe in the power of community, inclusivity, truth-telling, creativity, and social justice.

Sober Black Girls Club is not a sector of any one program. We are simply a group of people in sobriety coming together to share our experiences and hopes with one another. We honor each member and understand that no two paths are exactly the same.

And as far as a family history of substance abuse and addiction was of concern—I did have one! The danger(s) of alcohol has been known for decades. Alcohol has caused so many problems that it birthed an entire movement in the 1800s—the Temperance Movement. Even abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass struggled with alcohol addiction. Yet, I thought I was untouchable. I thought that a person like me could never be associated with addiction. Meanwhile, I was born and living in a country with an extensive history of it.

Understanding that I wasn’t different and that my addiction was not just a “me” problem was life-changing for me and my recovery. Alcohol was doing to me what it had done to hundreds and thousands of other people before me, ruing a life. I wasn’t unique, but my path to sobriety was.

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19 Jan. 2023

January 22nd marks what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision being in effect. For nearly half a century, women and people who can become pregnant relied on the protections afforded by the landmark 1973 ruling, which asserted that the Constitution protects a person’s decision to terminate a pregnancy as a right to privacy and revolutionized the health, lives, and possibilities of many.

According to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), “In 1965, abortion was so unsafe that 17 percent of all deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth were the result of illegal abortion.” Under Roe, health outcomes and mortality rates related to pregnancy and childbirth vastly improved, with “less than 0.3 percent of women undergoing legal abortions at all gestational ages sustain[ing] a serious complication requiring hospitalization.”

Not only did Roe protect against dangerous health outcomes, it also acknowledged for women and those who can become pregnant one of the most important rights of all–agency. PPFA continues, “The Supreme Court noted in 1992 that ‘the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives’ (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1992). Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, called the decision ‘a step that had to be taken as we go down the road toward the full emancipation of women’ (Greenhouse, 1994).”

Yet, as tirelessly as the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) community fought to maintain and further the principles established under Roe v. Wade, a radicalized Supreme Court hellbent on upending hard-fought progress, power, and precedent decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022. The opinion professes that the Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion, and overturns the landmark cases of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

There’s a reason why many refer to Roe as having been the floor, and not the ceiling: the Center for Reproductive Rights comments that “while Roe’s legal implications were enormous, even Roe could not make access a reality for everyone, and low-income people, people of color, young people, and others continued to face obstacles to abortion care.” Existing minimal access to abortion care has only been exacerbated, and in some cases, completely diminished, with the overturning of Roe and the establishment of Dobbs in just the past six months.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “24 states have banned abortion or are likely to do so” since Roe was overturned, of which twelve of those are “enforcing a near-total ban with very limited exceptions.” Other states are categorized by Guttmacher as having: 1) gestational age bans in effect; 2) bans that are being challenged in court; 3) a projection to ban or restrict abortion; or 4) simply a lack of abortion availability. Read Guttmacher’s full analysis, which, as of this writing, was last updated on January 9, 2023, here.

Adjusting to the new reproductive legal landscape is ongoing and difficult, to say the least. As just one example, many clinics are forced to deal with an inpouring of people seeking abortions from heavily restricted states, which is causing backlogs that delay the procedure. Democracy Now! points out that “the push to ensure access to abortion has spurred new legal challenges and greater reliance on the abortion pill mifepristone, as medication abortions account for more than half of all U.S. abortions,” but anti-abortion opponent are now zeroing in on this as well.

The 2022 State of the Secular States report by American Atheists, in addition to analyzing the onslaught of devastating legislation from 2022, makes a grim prediction for 2023 legislative sessions: while many alarming efforts were defeated, “there is every reason to believe that the state legislative trends we saw in 2022 will continue into the 2023 legislative session”, which would include bills related to complete bans, further limitations, and personhood bills.

Organizations dedicated to SRHR and civil and human rights, including the American Humanist Association, are fighting to ensure that the right to an abortion does not continue to be bludgeoned as the upcoming 2023 legislative sessions commence – but these organizations, and all those experiencing the strife and desperation of losing access to their healthcare, need your help.

Commemorate Roe’s 50th anniversary this week by committing to breaking barriers and freeing abortion access for all.  Support or volunteer with organizations fighting on the front lines for our reproductive rights at the local state, and national levels. Continue to uplift and utilize website like and, and donate to abortion funds that help those seeking care. Find a rally near you and make your voice heard, and attend an event with Planned Parenthood. If safe to do so, have conversations with your relatives and friends, explaining how critical it is that abortion rights are secured, and highlight real stories of individuals facing the consequences of these draconian laws. Importantly, register to vote and vote, recognizing the significance that state legislative activities and abortion ballot initiatives play in this fight.

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19 Jan. 2023

A friend to humanity and a foe to tyrants, Thomas Paine championed the rights of the “common” people and believed emphatically in the dignity and rights of all humans, which drove him to challenge the divine rights of kings, forever changing the course of history. The Thomas Paine Memorial Association (TPMA) is proud to announce we’re getting closer to honoring his legacy with a monument in Washington, DC thanks to the passage and presidential approval of House Bill 6720.

Under the leadership of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana), the bill was included in the 2022 Omnibus Package. The House and Senate passed the package and, on December 27th, President Joseph Biden signed the bill. TPMA will now begin working with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC) on advancing the project with the goal to unveil the monument in 2026 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Thanks to a generous pledge and triple match made by Todd Stiefel, president and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, no government or tax-payer money will be used for the creation of the Thomas Paine monument. TPMA will work with commissioned sculptor Zenos Frudakis to memorialize Thomas Paine in a way befitting his central role in the founding of the United States of America, as well as his worldwide call for liberty, justice, and equality.

We encourage you to commemorate this success during the annual Thomas Paine birthdate celebration held on Sunday, January 29th at 12pm PST/3pm EST on Zoom: Rep. Raskin will deliver a heartfelt welcome and Rep. Spartz will share why she supports the monument. Gregory Claeys, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of London, will give the keynote speech about efforts to uncover previously unattributed Paine writings. The event will also feature songs from The Crossing, a new musical about Thomas Paine by Jason Huza and John Allen Watts.

The 2023 celebration is co-sponsored by Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Secular Student Alliance, Center For Inquiry (CFI), and The Freethought Society. While we will celebrate Thomas Paine’s birthdate on January 29 (born 1737), Thomas Paine Day is June 8 (when he died in 1809), recognized as a time to reflect upon and honor his life accomplishments. In keeping with the 2023 event theme, Thomas Paine Birthdate Proclamation Celebration, TPMA board members—including actor Ian Ruskin; author, comedian, and monologist Julia Sweeney; author and educator Christopher Cameron; actor John de Lancie and his wife Marnie Mosiman de Lancie; FFRF’s Annie Laurie Gaylor; CFI’s Robyn Blumner; author, editor, and educator Frances Chiu; and author, producer and director Ann Druyan—will read Thomas Paine Day proclamations and provide instructions on how to get more written and approved by mayors, governors, and city councils for June 8, 2023.

Thomas Paine was one the greatest political writers and philosophers of the Revolutionary era and a patriot far ahead of his time. He served in the Continental Army, designed and patented a revolutionary design in single-span bridge technology, helped to establish the nation’s oldest and most honored abolition society, and advocated for old-age pensions, public education, and much more.

“More than any other contemporary, Paine grasped the importance of political and economic justice,” said Chiu. “He was not only among the first to propose American independence and a fully representative government in Common Sense, but also the first to lay the foundations of the modern welfare state including universal suffrage, assistance for the poor, and ‘Social Security’ in his book Rights of Man.”

Druyan stated, “Through his love of reason, his bravery, and his thrilling prose, Thomas Paine was the genius who created the dream of America. May the future monument created in his honor be a token of our renewed commitment to fulfill it.”

Cameron, a professor of history and chair of the Africana Studies department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, stated, “Thomas Paine was one of the most significant Founding Fathers in a number of ways, especially in his early and consistent condemnation of slavery. Shortly after publishing Common Sense in 1776, Paine authored an antislavery essay and remained active in the abolitionist movement for the next thirty years, supporting Pennsylvania’s 1780 gradual abolition law, joining the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1787, and opposing the British slave trade in the 1790s. For this and so much more, he is worthy of a fitting monument in Washington, DC.”

Join the celebration of the life and work of Thomas Paine on Sunday, January 29th at 12pm PST/3pm EST on Zoom:

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19 Jan. 2023

The latest from Cagle Cartoons.



Exxon Knew by Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune, UT


California: The Way of Water by Rick McKee,


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13 Jan. 2023

This is the first in a series of articles this month about alcohol and addiction that are part of the American Humanist Association’s Dry January Challenge.

I spent more than ten years of my life sitting across from my affirming and highly skilled psychologist, Dr. Susan Clemons. Each session we sifted through the relational and environmental trauma I’d endured as early as the first three years of my life. Dr. Clemons, now retired, was an expert at cognitive and dialectical behavior therapy. Her acumen was critical to address the onslaught of ruminations I brought to every session. “But what if I am an alcoholic and I’m just fooling you,” I asked pointedly as she modeled slow and deep breathing. Dr. Clemons would give a slight grin and she would begin cognitive restructuring. It always started with a reminder of my history: “Jasmine, remember that you were forced to attend Alateen meetings when you were still an adolescent… this has led to cognitive distortion regarding alcohol and drugs…” I saw alcoholics and addicts everywhere, all the time, and especially when I was under intense stress. When my environment was overstimulating and my fight or flight response was activated, I would experience a deluge of intrusive thoughts about alcohol and drugs. The cognitive distortions socialized into me by state-mandated Alateen mixed with Evangelical religious indoctrination and became fodder for the obsessive compulsive components of the disordered behaviors I dealt with in my twenties.

My first Alateen meeting was court mandated. My father, a retired United States Army veteran who served in the Vietnam war, dealt with intense substance misuse disorders since before my birth. He arrived home from the brutality of the Vietnam war with intense and complex post traumatic stress disorder. With no social or psychological safety nets for veterans, especially working poor, African American veterans, my father found relief in cannabis, narcotics, and alcohol. By my sixth birthday he began to display severe substance-induced schizoaffective behaviors. The criminalization of his mental illness, along with the crime of being too poor to register his vehicle he needed to get to his job, resulted in multiple arrests. During one of his court hearings, he was offered a deal: plead guilty for his crimes and accept a mandated family sobriety program. He would be required, along with his wife and children to attend the “12 Step Program” with Alcoholics Anonymous. Knowing another prison sentence would keep him from financially supporting our already impoverished house, he accepted the deal. My father attended A.A., my mother attended Al-Anon (for partners of alcoholics), and my brother (barely 6 years old) and I attended Alateen. For a full year my father would have his sponsor sign the form proving our faithful attendance and return it to his parole officers. On top of the Judeo-Christian undertones of the meetings, our interracial family struggled with underlying norms of white supremacy, classism, and ableism embedded in the A.A. culture

I began drinking alcohol in my mid-twenties under the supervision of my psychologist as a form of exposure therapy. Prior to the completion of exposure therapy, I would drink alcohol and have a panic attack from the triggering effect and intrusive thoughts. I lived in terror that one drink, just as I was taught in Alateen, would turn me into an alcoholic who would destroy my life and the lives of others. On the other side of healing, I understand how inappropriate and harmful it is for states to mandate recovery and sobriety programs and refuse to allow for culturally responsive and non-religious options. Dr. Clemon’s excellent therapeutic care helped me to understand how being taught that my father and I were powerless to this “family disease” created fear-based schema and hypervigilance in an already traumatized child. I have spent the better part of my life rebuilding a sense of agency and empowerment that does not revolve around being the child of an alcoholic. I’ve swapped curiosity and compassionate self-inquiry for judgment, adaptability for rigidity and control.  Many humanists have deconstructed from their social and religious indoctrination, but struggle to rebuild new thought patterns and behaviors.

This January I’ve participated in the American Humanists Association’s Dry January Challenge to bring awareness to non-religious options for recovery and sobriety. On the 18th of January, I am hosting a discussion with Khadi A. Oluwatoyin (founder of Sober Black Girls Club) and Joe Gerstein (humanist and founder of SMART Recovery). We will explore the nuances and intersections of addiction across race, class, and gender and trouble normative beliefs about addiction that shape so much about our society.

Humanist solutions can and do transform human problems. I hope you’ll join us.

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