Opening Words from Sun. June 5 by Chinn Zou

Good morning. It is my honor standing here to talk to my fellow humanists and sharing my long journey to the humanism and the Ethical Society. My journey is literally a long one. It goes all the way back to the later years of the Culture Revolution in the city library at a coastal city of China.

My mother was a librarian there and I was fortunately enough to be allowed to browse many books that were censored from the general public, including some religious scriptures. Ironically, the city library was converted from a church building. That was no surprise at all because religion was deemed as a poison at that time and the radical communism in the “little red book” prevailed.

Flash forward many years later, I came to the States to further study science and I never heard of humanism before. My professor was quite an open-minded person. Besides our science, we were never shy away from various religious subjects, from Buddha to Jesus to Intelligent Design. I was hungry searching for the human values that matter to me. However, my professor later quit his professorship to become a pastor. That sent shock waves to many of his students and fellow scientists. I should’ve seen this coming since he gave me a book by Clive Staples Lewis as my graduation gift. It is called “The Screwtape Letters”. Lewis converted to Christianity after being an atheist for many years.

I was kind of depressed, but I never felt that religion is poisonous. To me, religion is all about the fear of the unknown. Robert Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic, famously said: “Fear is religion, courage is science”. I just want to say that it is OK to have the fear but it is better to have the courage.

Later, I came out of the shadow of my professor’s unexpected conversion and got much closer to the humanism ideas. That being said, I still love all the religious rituals and expression as part of human history. I absolutely like Christmas songs. I once used a giant Chinese character of Daoism in my thesis defense seminar. “Science without religion is lame”, Albert Einstein once said.

Scientists without humanism thinking are no fun either. We can be lost and will be in constant battle between the law of nature and the power of supernatural. Nevertheless, we have freedom to choose, to reason, and to decide what we want to believe. The Ethical Society is the place to do all these and that’s why I am here.

Finally, I want to read you a paragraph from a book called “The Good Book: A Humanist Bible”, by A. C. Grayling.

The good is two freedoms: freedom from certain hindrances and pains, freedom to choose and to act. The first is freedom from ignorance, fear, loneliness, folly, and the inability to master one’s emotions; The second is freedom to develop the best capacities and talents we have, and to use them for the best”(THE GOOD, Chapter 4).

Thanks for taking me in and for your warm welcome.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.