Our New Age of Reason: The Institute for Humanist Studies Brings the Humanist Perspective to Washington, DC
By DIANE GRIFFIN
Mar. 17, 2010
At its core, humanism is the appreciation of the oneness of humanity. It's the acceptance of the ties that bind us as human beings and a rejection of the ideologies that divide us. The Institute for Humanist Studies--a new think tank based in Washington, DC that will research and advise on public policy, and of which I am the managing director--will seek to infuse our national policy debates with this appreciation. We seek to bring the focus back to the human element and eradicate discourse based on fundamentalist agendas.
Some argue that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation and our public policy should be based in that tradition (and unfortunately have done a good job convincing many in power of as much). But the IHS rejects that assertion as false. In fact, the founders of this nation purposefully drafted the Constitution with the direct intent to have a clear and total separation of church and state. In addition, it does not serve the needs of our society to make decisions based in beliefs that do not benefit the needs of all. The Institute for Humanist Studies takes the position that scientific understanding is the only practical basis for making policy decisions that impact us all--and this is especially true in a pluralistic society, such as the United States, where people come from many varied faiths and ideological persuasions.
Of course, we realize that individuals have the right to believe as they desire and make decisions that affect their personal lives accordingly. But that should never translate into the arena of public policy. A same-sex couple's ability to marry, a woman's right to control her reproduction, a child's ability to receive health care and a soldier's ability to have freedom of conscience are all things that cannot be left to the whims of ever-evolving religious doctrines. These decisions, amongst many others, must be made through critical inquiry based in logic and reason.
That is what the Institute for Humanist Studies represents. We are that voice of logic and reason. By bringing together top minds within the academic and scientific communities, we serve the unique role of providing policymakers with the information they need to make sound decisions, focusing on what we know serves our interest as human beings and removing the justification to make policy decisions based on personal belief systems. We also will promote greater public awareness, understanding and support for humanism, and will provide accessible and authoritative information about humanism and nontheists to the media, academia and the general public.
One of the people leading this charge is Anthony B. Pinn. Anthony is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is the author of numerous scholarly works, and his professional commitments involve his role as the executive director of the Society for the Study of Black Religion and as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's Black Theology Group. In addition to all his other responsibilities, he is serving the Institute as its research director. Known for his insight into the complexities of the sociopolitical realm--especially its intersection with theology--Anthony sets the bar for academic excellence at the Institute.
We are in the early phases of our organizational development, but we are poised to make a huge impact in the political discourse of our nation. The conservative fundamentalism that took us into two wars, pushed abstinence based sex-education, upheld Don't Ask, Don't Tell and introduced the Defense Against Marriage Act was powered by think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. It is time that the secular community levels the playing field by offering another voice: a voice of reason, a voice of inquiry. This is why the Institute for Humanist Studies exists.
If you would like more information about us, please visit us online at http://www.humaniststudies.org.
Diane Griffin is the managing director of the Institute for Humanist Studies.