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Dr. Howard Radest, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Humanist Studies, has died. A memorial will be held on Saturday, November 15 at 10:00am at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (2 West 64th Street and Central Park West) in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Humanist Institute toward The Rita Radest Scholarship Fund.
Radest, a graduate of New York City public schools and Columbia College, became Leader of the Bergen, New Jersey, Ethical Society in 1956. He signed Humanist Manifesto II and from 1971 to 1973 was a professor of philosophy at Ramapo College in New Jersey.
He became a director of Ethical Culture Schools in 1979. He also is Dean of the Leadership-Training Institute of the Northern American Committee for Humanism (NACH) and is one of the “Troika” of co-chairmen of the IHEU, which includes Bert Schwarz of Holland and Mihaelo Markovic of Yugoslavia. Radest’s Toward Common Ground: The Story of the Ethical Societies in the United States (1969) is the definitive work to date on the topic.
Radest is the founding dean of the Humanist Institute and also founded Columbia University’s Seminar on Moral Education. He was on the editorial board of The Humanist and was a contributing editor of Free Inquiry. He once was secretary general of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), and from 1964 to 1970 was executive director of the American Ethical Union. The proceedings of the 1970 International Humanist Congress he edited as To Seek a Humane World.
The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment (1990) is somewhat pessimistic, lamenting that humanists are committed to anti-clericalism, reason, progress, science, and democracy but fail to supply individuals with their heartfelt needs. Heir to the legacy of Felix Adler, Radest holds that somewhere around 1973, with the issuance of Humanist Manifesto II, the humanist movement toned down the religious humanism which had been an early influence going back to the 1941 founding of the American Humanist Association.
He laments secular humanists’ being “raucous” and “strident” in their protests, believing that anti-clericalism is in “bad taste” and is apt to “alienate liberal allies.” Radest believes that “It is the radical claim of humanism that we can live rich and full lives while denying eternity. It is the even more radical claim that such lives are more satisfying precisely because they come closer to truthfulness and do not rely on illusions.” However, he differs with the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry that what is now needed is a thoroughly secular, atheist, or agnostic humanism, one that cuts the umbilical cord of religion and religiosity. Radest is on the editorial advisory board of Religious Humanism, the quarterly published by the Fellowship of Religious Humanists.
At the Seventh International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) World Congress held in London (1978) and at the Tenth held in Buffalo (1988), Prof. Radest addressed the groups. Two of his books are Understanding Ethical Religion(1958) and On Life and Meaning (1963). He has retired as Director of the Ethical Culture Schools in New York. In 1993, he received the American Humanist Association’s Distinguished Service Award. Radest signed Humanist Manifesto 2000.