OPINION
The Times, Trenton NJ -- October 29, 2001


LETTERS


Humanists believe in you

Many have said that the attack on the World Trade Center is not to be considered an attack on religion by religion. I differ on this point. I am a humanist minister and my faith has been attacked by terrorism. My small congregation of religious humanists and the larger congregation of secular humanists are feeling quite vulnerable now. I listen carefully to the mass media's eulogies and I hear celebrities, politicians and religious leaders using theological and nationalistic language in what appears to be a successful campaign to whip up support for military action. Interestingly, both sides of the vengeful battle call the others godless. Humanism is under attack by Jerry Falwell, Osama bin Laden and others while people grieve the loss of firefighters and police. I wonder how many notice that it is the humanistic values that we most respect in those who rushed to save others regardless of their beliefs.

Yes, we know that public servants gave their lives bravely to help rescue people of many faiths, but do we understand that the values of diversity and multiculturalism are humanist values and are inconsistent with the true motivations of many religious fundamentalists? The democratic principles that our politicians espouse in this time of deep sadness are ignored when it comes to our privileged veto power in the United Nations. We, the richest civilization in history, do not pay our debts to the United Nations.

Every year at election time, someone somewhere wants to put prayer in public schools. Every year someone somewhere lobbies to limit the freedom of choice for women, to end affirmative action and to prevent legalized domestic partnerships for homosexuals. The religious beliefs that once legitimized slavery, segregation and apartheid were fought by humanists who courageously worked within the power structures to change these archaic notions. Humanists are proposing and winning the important battles slowly and anonymously. It is not without cost, however. We endure the insults of those who hold that the old ways were better and that they alone understand God's universe. We hold our tongues when we hear about the "angels whose names we know" and we smile when the descendents from the Tower of Babel use humanistic ideals to create interfaith services that usually exclude humanists and atheists.

During times like these, it is easy to forget that our unethical behavior has a high cost in human suffering.

Humanists are sad now because we have lost good people. Humanists are angry, too, because we have to fight harder against those who believe that certain ideologies justify murder at worst or indignity at best. We insist that the rule of law applies to all and that we hold human worth to be inviolate. We remind you now, as you fill your mosques, synagogues, churches and other holy places in record numbers, that human kindness and human endeavor will find permanent solutions that enhance the quality of the times in which we live and that human cruelty and ideological arrogance will slow our progress. Humanists will prevail because we believe in you.

The Rev. GENE QUEVAL
Hamilton Township


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