October 1991

The “Other” Half of the Human Race?


I have listed to Mack Gift’s tapes, read your two newsletters and was about to dash a check off to become a member. Then, I reread “The Thesis of Humanist Manifesto I.” The language used is exclusionary. The words “man” and “he” and “his” and “manly attitude” are used. I refuse to continue playing the game that I know when these terms include me as a woman and when they do not. This organization seems too important to fall in the old male supremacist linguistic traps. I can no longer in good conscience bow my head and say that I understand that “man” used in an important document includes me and all of human kind and when “man” is used on a restroom door it excludes me and approximately half of the human race.

This is not a trivial issue to me. If your group is willing to engage in dialogue on this matter, please let me know.

Doris P. Lancaster

Response from the Editor:

Dear Ms. Lancaster,

Thank you for your letter. You are on to something, and yes, I think Humanists of Utah could use some dialogue on the matter of male writing: should we just assume that it is understood that historical documents that only mention “man” include the other half of the human race? Or should we make that explicit?

I’ll also ask Ed Wilson, who is one of the few surviving signers of the 1933 Humanist Manifesto I, if the writers were aware of the exclusive nature of the “man” terms put in there.

A note from Ed Wilson:

A Humanist Manifesto, 1933, was written to be read as a whole, including the introductory statement by Raymond Bragg, its initiator and principal editor. Under pressure to revise the document, the A.H.A. Board very early voted that the statement was a dated document and would not be revised, but reaffirmed the original declaration by Bragg that it is not a dogma or creed.

Point XIV, always controversial, reflects the influence of the Depression. Inequality of wealth, homelessness, unemployment and poverty are still with us and of humanist concern, but with humanism emerging in many nations and a global movement, current wisdom seems to favor the view that humanism should not be inflexibly linked to any one type of economic solution.

Basically, humanism is linked to “the scientific spirit and democratic faith”: Curtis E. Reese after talking to John Dietrich in 1917 changed the name of his first book from The Religion of Democracy to Humanism.

–Anne Zeilstra

Abortion Clinics

Humanism is a life-stance, a way of looking at the world. If that life-stance does not translate into action, it is no more than a sterile intellectual game,. Someone who wants a better world here and now will see plenty of room for improvement of the way things are; too much room, maybe, because who has the time, money and stamina to pursue every worthwhile issue?

This column provides simple ways to change the world, not because humanists would have nothing better to do than help other groups special interests, but because all these special interests combined help humanism.

Working at an abortion clinic must be a lonely job these days. No one looks forward to having or doing an obrtion in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. In Wichita, Kansas and Aurora, Illinois, militant “life savers” engage in vicious personal attacks on doctors who do abortions. Arendje Visser tells me that the Nazis started out using identical tactics, and she ought to know: she worked in the Dutch resistance during World War II.

In this state, the elected representatives of the people declare that the job these medical people have been doing their best to do well is a crime, a despicable profession. If the voice of the people speaks so harshly to you, that must make you feel rather isolated.

There are only two clinics in Utah where abortions are performed medically. Please send the professionals who work there a note to tell them that there are people who appreciate the value of the work they do, and the courage it must take to do it. Their addresses:

Utah Women’s Clinic
515 S. 400 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Wasatch Women’s Center
3450 South Highland Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84106

Discovering Liberty of Conscience

Nancy’s Corner

“Liberty of Conscience” is a phrase used by Roger Williams in 1625

My journey into liberty of conscience began as I was leaving the door of the church behind. My inherent sense of freedom was calling from within, and I finally gave myself permission to heed its promptings. I began to think, to feel, to read, to challenge, and to express my innermost self. It was a both an agonizing and exhilarating time of my life, because I experienced confusion, fear, guilt and at long last triumph and joy!

I have conquered that part of myself which was programmed to believe that I should trust more in authoritarianism than in the wisdom I could acquire myself, or already had.

I have discovered that the kingdom of enlightenment is within me, and that each person has the capacity to discover that personal and sacred place for her or himself.

I am grateful for early Americans such as Roger Williams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who had the courage and foresight to separate church and state. I am indebted to psychoanalyst Eric Fromm who taught me to trust in myself, and to the philosopher Joseph Campbell who encouraged me to “follow my bliss.” I am thankful for historians Fawn Brodie and Sam Taylor who jolted me out of my dogmatic reverie; for human sexuality researchers Masters and Johnson who helped me increase my pleasure; for Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall whose decisions expanded social justice; for humorists Steve Allen and Woody Allen who keep me chuckling at our human foibles; for dedicated scientists who gave me a sense of rational order; and for gifted artists who reward me with lasting joy!

I now feel free enough to seek knowledge, beauty and love in whomever and wherever I choose. I see truth in the religious as well as the non-religious, for truth springs from many sources. And, it appears to me that the mystery of life is too awesome and complex for any of us to do any more than simply wonder at it. Anything else, as far as I am concerned, is presumptuous.

Life offers a multitude of opportunities, and I am delighted to have discovered my liberty of conscience to explore and experience that which I choose is best for me.

–Nancy Moore