Recordings of Sunday Platform addresses
For this year’s “compare and contrast” Platform address, we’ll look at what Ethical Humanism has in common with and where it differs from Christianity, in its many forms. Some of the founders of the first Ethical Societies had Christian backgrounds, and many members today grew up in Christian households of one kind or another. Christianity is also still the dominant religion in America. What is the relationship between Ethical Humanism and Christianity today?
Ethical Humanism was founded as a new religion, a revolution in religious thinking which put people at the center, rather than God. Yet today, many would consider Humanism a non-religious philosophy, given that we do away with so much that is central to traditional religions. So what to do? How should Ethical Humanism – and Humanists in general – relate to religion?
Black Nonbelievers was founded in 2011 to provide support and increase the visibility of black atheists and religion doubters. Mandisa Thomas will discuss the organization’s historical context, its founding, its work, and her vision for the future.
Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York City, is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., Mandisa encourages more blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones. Mandisa has many media appearances to her credit, including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and Playboy, The Humanist, and JET magazines. In 2019, Mandisa was the recipient of the Secular Student Alliance’s Backbone Award, and named the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Freethought Heroine.
In modern culture, the concept of a spiritual dimension to life is commonly associated with religion, the supernatural, or new age concepts. But more and more, the idea that there can be spirituality without religion, and without any appeal to the supernatural, is being recognized by non-believers as a fundamental quality necessary for living a fulfilling and meaningful life. It may finally be time reclaim the idea of spirituality and its benefits for humanists.
Rich Feldenberg, M.D., is an Associate Professor and Pediatric Nephrologist, at St. Louis University School of Medicine, where he cares for children with kidney disease and conducts research on the genetics of birth defects in the kidneys. He grew up in St. Louis and has been passionate about science from an early age. His other interests are cycling, philosophy, and writing. He also leads the Science Enthusiasts Club at the Ethical Society each month.
Since July 2012, Dr. Karen I. Hall has served as the superintendent of the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, where she oversees more than 1,500 students, 275 employees, and a $25 million budget. She joined the MRH district as assistant superintendent in 2008, coordinating a wide array of programs: human resources, professional development, curriculum and instruction, federal grants, home visits, gifted instruction, and social justice training, among many others. Dr. Hall has held principal positions in the Pattonville and Ritenour school districts and was a third-grade teacher in Kirkwood. Under her leadership, MRHSD was named a “District of Distinction” from District Administration Magazine and has consistently earned national attention for its system-wide sustainability practices.
One of the most important roles we each play for others is that of mentor. People learn from example, and we can choose to set a good example by identifying our best qualities and relentlessly living up to them. At a time when there are so many poor examples in public life, it’s important to remind ourselves that by living up to our own highest standards—by being our best selves—we can help others to do the same.
Dr. Will Ross grew up in a gritty, hard-scrabble ghetto in Memphis, Tennessee. His life was changed at age 15 when a prominent Jewish couple was able to send him to a summer program at a boarding school in New Hampshire, as well as provide financial support until he graduated from college. Mr. Wexner, a local businessman, and his wife, Shirley, were both active in the Civil Rights movement in Memphis and instilled in Will a strong sense of social justice and an embrace of Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophy of inclusion and non-violent protest against racial injustice. Dr. Ross continues that legacy as he advocates for health equity throughout St. Louis.
Will Ross, MD, MPH, is associate dean for diversity, principal officer for community partnerships, and professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Ross has recruited and developed a diverse group of medical students, residents, and faculty. He helped establish free local medical clinics and has worked nationally and globally to promote health equity. He is a charter and founding member of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission and Chairman of the St. Louis City Board of Health. He is a founding member of the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, a magnet high school for students pursuing careers in medicine and biomedical sciences. He previously served as Chief Medical Officer of St. Louis Regional Hospital, the last public hospital in St. Louis. Ross earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and an MD from the Washington University School of Medicine.
He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Vanderbilt and a Renal Fellowship at Washington University. He also completed a master’s degree in epidemiology at Saint Louis University.
Humanism is often presented as a tradition grounded in Classical teachings, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment – essentially a project of the West. Is this picture accurate, or are there more diverse expressions of Humanism than this? This Platform will explore the many diversities within the philosophy and tradition of Humanism, giving life to the rich and complex worldview the Ethical Society promotes.
Ethical Humanism promotes the idea that truth and ethics are discovered and created by human beings working together, learning to communicate across all lines of difference and to listen deeply and learn from each other. But how do we learn and teach appreciation for diversity? How do we react to differences between people and bring out the best in each other, when difference can also be a source of conflict?
In keeping with June’s “Celebrate Diversity” theme, Jia Lian Yang and Ethical Society member Treasure Shields Redmond will be discussing the genesis of their award winning podcast, Who Raised You? The Who Raised You? podcast is a kitchen table conversation with St. Louis’s artists, educators, and change makers that explores how culture, family, and intersecting identities pave our way toward liberation.\
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