Tag Archives: humanism

Atheist’s Invocation, Florida Legislature

January 12, 2018

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by investing time this coming weekend to make a positive difference for our communities through volunteer service (Join us!!). However, we must also honor his vision of a world where people are judged on the content of their character.

There are many Humanists, Atheists, and other secular citizens concealing their non-religious identity.  Living in the glare of hate that is ignited by ignorance isn’t easy. We might fear damage to professional relationships and even impact to job security.  We might fear loss of friends and family.  Many feel alone, isolated, or unrepresented in our community.

Dr. King said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.  As compassionate people concerned with the well-being of others, uplifting and serving our community must include valuing and creating a world that is safe for everyone.

Picture4It is extremely important that non-religious people– and all underrepresented identities – have a voice. We are grateful to Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, a champion for his constituents, for inviting a secular invocation for the House of Representatives.  As far as we know, this is the first Atheist to deliver an invocation, and the first intentionally secular invocation, for the Florida Legislature.

The invocation focused on diversity and inclusion, reminding us all that there are many identities around us whose voices are seldom heard.   As Humanists,  we are “concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views.” (Humanism and Its Aspirations).

All leaders of our state need to be aware that nearly a quarter of the people they represent identify as unaffiliated with a religion, and more than 1.4 million Floridians identify as Atheist or Agnostic*.  This invocation was an amazing opportunity for our voice to be heard, for our existence to be noticed, and to work toward normalization of inclusion for people of all perspectives.

A special shout of gratitude to the Central Florida Freethought Community for their support and coordination.  And thank you to House Chaplain Tim Perrier for his kindness and hospitality.

LINKS

 

Below is the transcript of the invocation.  You can watch it here: https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/1-11-18-house-session/

It is an honor to represent your Humanist, Atheist, and other non-religious constituents and colleagues with a secular invocation.

 Those you serve and those around us today include people of different cultures and races, gender identities, levels of financial stability, and backgrounds. They vary in physical and cognitive abilities. They speak many languages. They include people of many faiths and non-faith perspectives. But while we are diverse, we are united by our common humanity.

 The deliberations in this chamber are of the highest consequence to the people of Florida. As you work together toward solutions that address challenges facing our state, may you have the fortitude to make difficult choices while holding the needs of the diverse public at the forefront of your decisions.

 As we seek to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month, I am reminded of his words: “The time is always right to do what its right.”

 May your leadership be guided by integrity and compassion to uplift all people today and every day of this legislative session.

 Thank you for your service and your work today to make a positive, meaningful difference for all.

 

*Based on US Census Bureau v2107 Florida Population (20,984,400) and Pew Research Center data identifying 7% of Floridians as Atheist or Agnostic.


 

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BE. Inspired – January Newsletter

2018 is going to be AWESOME.

We’re starting off 2018 strong with some great events in January – join us & help kick off a GREAT year for Humanist service in Central Florida.  BE part of it!

Year-End Summary:

  • In 2017 we hosted 72 events and performed 880.5 hours of service;
  • Our 2017 blood drives collected 67 units;
  • Our 2017 summer book drive raised 97 books and our holiday toy drive raised more than 50 STEM-themed toys;
  • Our total 2017 expenses were $7,960.70; and
  • We achieved Gold team status with the Foundation beyond belief.
  • Detailed summary: http://JustGottaBE.org/service-impact 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

2018 Member Surveyhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZPZGQKR

Board of Directors vacancies: There are three openings on our Board. Contact BEOrlando@live.com for more information.


 UPCOMING EVENTS

Details & RSVP: https://www.meetup.com/BEOrlando/events 

  • 6th – join us for Orlando Distaff Day!  A day of fiber crafts & philanthropy with the fiber artist community. We’ll host a vendor table collecting hand-made warm items and food for homeless people in Central Florida.  Volunteer with us or bring a project & just come enjoy the day. Learn more: http://orlandodistaffday.org
  • 10th – prepare & serve dinner at SafeHouse of Seminole.  Must RSVP by January 3rd.
  • MLK Service Weekend (MLK service pins for volunteers at these events)
    • 13th –  sort food donations at Second Harvest Food Bank
    • 14th –  prepare & serve lunch at Ronald McDonald House (Nemours at Lake Nona)
    • 15th –  sort destroy mattresses!  Prepare mattresses at the Mustard Seed for recycling.
  • 17th – Humanist Peer support and Discussion Group – This is hosted by Humanist and Secular Services at UCF; however, it is free and open to the public.  The location is just off campus and parking is free and adjacent to the building.
  • 20th – climb into the woods for the annual Invasive Species Raid with Seminole County SERV.
  • Online, anytime – 15 minute online Meal Serve training for those joining us to prepare and serve food at upcoming events. Electronic certificate upon completion.

Announcing our 2018 12x12x12 Challenge!!  Each month, make a care pack with 12 items.  You can turn them in at any BE. Orlando event.  Last year we used these items to support the Coalition for the Homeless as they served an influx of people who needed shelter during and after Hurricane Irma.  Whether there is a similar event or not, these care packs make a real difference for people in our community.  Item suggestions and agency wish lists are posted on the event description.


 JANUARY HUMANIST OBSERVANCES

Humanist Calendar: http://HumanistCalendar.wordpress.com

  • Birthdays: Stephen Hawking (8th)
  • Founding Dates: ACLU Founded (19th, 1920)
  • Half-Pi Day – If the Tau Day enthusiasts can call Pi Day “Half-Tau Day”, then we can have Half-Pi Day as well. Celebrate on January 5th!
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – The third Monday of every January is designated a national day of service by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Foundation. We celebrate  “A day on, not a day off”: investing our day out of the office to make a difference in our communities. BE. Orlando hosts one or more service events on MLK Weekend.  Volunteer with us or visit NationalService.gov/MLKday for national projects & information.
  • Thomas Paine Day – One of the founding fathers of the United States and author of The Age of Reason, Paine promoted reason and free thought, and argued against institutionalized religion in general and Christian doctrine in particular.
  • January is National Mentor Month. Learn more about International Mentor Day, Thank Your Mentor Day, and other mentoring celebrations at Mentoring.org

Members’ favorite positive life quotes

Contributed by Amanda, member since May 2012:

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” Anthony J. D’Angelo


Favorite Photos from Dec 2017:

Elfing Day – toy & blood drive – we collected more than 50 toys for SafeHouse and 11 units of blood.  In addition, BE. Orlando beat Oneblood at badminton.  Kind of.IMG_20171216_134113215.jpg

Christmas Eve hike on Klondike Beach: seven members & friends did a beautiful (but not easy) 6 hour beach hike starting at 6:30 a.m.  Near the end we slowed down to each fill a trash bag.IMG_20171224_071925595.jpg

 

New resource at UCF includes Humanism

May 26, 2017

voicePlease join BE. Orlando in thanking the University of Central Florida for their commitment to an inclusive community. Take a moment to sign the thank-you letter to UCF for enhancing inclusion for secular and religious minority individuals: https://srmaucf.wordpress.com/thank-you-ucf

Signing the letter will show UCF – and other institutions that might consider similar initiatives – that inclusion MATTERS.

martin-luther-king-jr-quote-anextraordinaryday-net_Faith-related discrimination is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time, and much effort needs to be focused on supporting people of non-faith,  one of the most hated and misunderstood marginalized populations in America.  We can work to change this through education to overcome misinformation; building bridges across our differences; and working together to make the world a better place for everyone.

There are shining examples in our own community of individuals, organizations, and institutions making inspiring efforts to ensure inclusion and equitable resources for people of all faith and non-faith perspectives.

In June 2016, the University of Central Florida revised its official non-discrimination statement; the changes included explicit recognition of non-religious identities as a protected class.  This month (May 2017), they have published a website providing both religious and non-religious resources for inner-life support of students, faculty, and staff.  You can view the site here: http://rnr.sdes.ucf.edu.

The University of Central Florida is an innovative, progressive national leader in diversity and inclusion. It is the second largest university in the nation, serving more than 65,000 students and employing more than 10,000 faculty and staff.  We should be proud of UCF for many things – and one is its clear commitment to ensuring an inclusive campus for everyone.

We hope you will join us in signing the thank you letter to UCF.

For more information, contact nonreligion@ucf.edu.


 

An Intentional 2017

January 1, 2017

2016 was an interesting year, leaving many of us feeling motivated to become even more engaged in making a difference, helping others, and strengthening our communities.  As we journey into the new year, let’s focus as Humanists on what we can do to uplift others and make the world a better place.

We’re going to make it easy to expand your kindness footprint this year.

Some upcoming events are highlighted below – join our member site and keep an eye on the calendar for more ways to get involved.

We also have a list of Volunteer Resources  featuring other local and national volunteer organizations.

Join our 12x12x12 Challenge

In this dodecagon of kindness, pledge to make one care kit every month this year with 12 items for someone in need.  Find care kit ideas: SafeHouse Wishlist or Coalition Wishlist or join our event for additional ideas. You can drop off kits at the shelters or at any BE. Orlando event in 2017.  (This challenge was initiated by our Gulf Coast project leader, Kim; if you’re in the Tampa area, contact us to get in touch with her to find shelters and people in need in your local community.)

MLK Day of Service Event

Join us on January 16th for “A day on, not a day off”.  We’ll be preparing and serving lunch at the Ronald McDonald House.  This will be our first time at their new location in Lake Nona.  RSVP here.

You can find other MLK Weekend events through Allforgood.org.

Pi Day!!

Share math & science activities with kids on March 11th at the 5th annual Math, Science, and Pi(e) Festival for at-risk children at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  RSVP Here.

Blood Drives

Donate blood with us and/or volunteer at the BE. Orlando tent at Earth Day (Apr 22) and Veg Fest  (Oct TBD).  We’re also planning a Pulse Anniversary blood drive at Target in Oviedo on June 3rd (a week before the main Orlando activities will be taking place) and we’re looking forward to a 2nd annual blood drive & STEM toy drive collection in December.

Learn more about our blood drives here: http://JustGottaBE.org/the-gift-of-life

STEM-Themed Summer Book Drive

Commit to help us provide STEM-themed books and books that highlight successful women and minority leaders in STEM and other fields to assist with the summer reading initiatives in our community.  Learn more at https://stem4youth.wordpress.com/stem-book-drive/ or RSVP with us on Meetup.

Monthly Meal Serve

We have hosted monthly dinners at a local shelter since January 2013. All of the 2017 2nd Wednesday SafeHouse dinners are posted and themed, including Taco Nite, Breakfast for Dinner, Challenge ingredient: Chocolate, Luau, and of course holiday themes for Oct, Nov, and Dec.  Join to view events on our calendar.

Free professional development workshop on faith diversity

Join us on Saturday, March 25th, for a free, fun, interactive workshop exploring faith and non-faith diversity in our culture and how we can can each play a role in generating respect and inclusion for everyone.  Workshop hosted by the UCF office of Diversity and Inclusion; certificate of completion provided. Visit http://SRMA-UCF.org  for details and registration information

How YOU can help us BE more successful in 2017

  • Become a member – it is free, and we have some great service and social events planned for 2017
  • Suggest our group to others
  • Join our member-based Board of Advisors (contact BEOrlando@live.com)
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
  • Visit http://JustGottaBE.org to learn more about us and our initiatives & follow our blog
  • share http://JustGottaBE.org on your social media and other networks.

THANK YOU for making a difference!

kindness-footprintYou do so many things every day that make the world a better place: from the support you provide to friends and family, to the child you made smile in the grocery store, to the larger more intentional acts like volunteering, donating blood, and investing in charitable causes.  What you do MATTERS. 

Making kindness a priority means discovering the ways you are already making a positive impact, and doing more of those –  then adding to the list.

Whatever the cultural climate, political absurdity, or human atrocities dramatized by headlines, we must remember that we have the power to make a difference around us every day.  Let’s focus on the good, together.

We wish you an amazing, rewarding, uplifting year of kindness and compassion.

 

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Holidays & Happiness, Humanist Style

beholiday

BE Present: Mindfulness is about connecting to the world and others around us, and connecting that awareness to our thoughts, words, and actions.

BE. Orlando celebrates the holiday season by hosting events and drives that make a difference in our community.  Investing our time and talent to have a positive impact on the world around us honors our commitment as Humanists; we recognize each individual’s connection to others and empowerment to do good.

I was asked recently why a secular organization would focus so much energy on giving to Christmas drives and supporting holiday activities. The holiday season is a time of increased economic and other stress, increased travel and accidents increasing need for blood – yet there’s a decrease in blood donorship, and a time when those without the means to provide for their families are more impacted than ever by heartbreaking challenges.

Inequities, tragedies, and other human struggles transcend faith or non-faith perspectives – they touch everyone. Parents may be unable to provide a holiday for their children in the tradition of their family. Those facing loss of family and loved ones, isolation, and fear for the future may feel that the greater community has forgotten them.  Those in need should never go a day without receiving a kind, uplifting word or deed.

Together, we can make a difference. A Humanist’s wish for a happy holiday season is communicated through our actions. This December, our members enjoyed creating and sharing a holiday meal at SafeHouse, donating blood, and collecting STEM-themed toys for local at-risk youth.

HOLIDAY MEAL AT SAFEHOUSE

BE. Orlando’s monthly dinner at SafeHouse of Seminole takes on a special meaning during the holidays.  For October, November, and December, we host super-special meals and share a meaningful evening with each other and with the residents of SafeHouse.

Serving to create an evening of joy for people who are facing challenges is an honor. And those challenges are not only among “others” – but also potentially a current or past part of the lives of volunteers and staff. We must remember that every face we see has a story that we do not know; at this event we join together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder to make a positive difference for everyone around us.

274029We brought a honey-baked ham, and the ten volunteers prepared homemade side-dish recipes that have been meaningful in their lives during the holidays to share with the SafeHouse residents.  The 17 unique dishes included whole-potato-sweet-potato casserole, green beans (from the family garden), apple & snickers salad, Spanish rice,  fresh field greens salad, anniversary potatoes (like potatoes au gratin), homemade mac & cheese, green bean casserole, steamed veggies, cheese, olive, & nut trays, and of course holiday cupcakes an peppermint brownies.

There was a grab-bag with toys for every child at the shelter (and grown-ups are kids, too!), and the volunteers dressed in festive attire of aprons & antlers.  There was singing, laughter, and a great feeling of community.

We are grateful to our members who contributed time, food, and supplies, to the Foundation Beyond Belief for a project grant that assisted with the December food costs, and to the staff and residents of SafeHouse for the opportunity.  We can’t wait wait for Taco Nite in January as we kick off our 5th year of hosting monthly dinners at SafeHouse!

See more photos on our Facebook album.

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BLOOD DRIVE

On 12/10 we joined with the Central Florida Freethought Community at Target in Oviedo and hosted a blood drive, raising 12 units.  Each unit can impact three lives – our donors gave the gift of another holiday, another hug, another sunrise to 36 people!

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TOY DRIVE

Throughout December at all of our events – including the toy collection & blood drive event on 12/10 at Target, BE. Orlando and the Central Florida Freethought Community together collected 68 STEM-themed toys and games and 65 books.

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Special thanks to Target in Oviedo for their support!

JOIN US – MAKE A DIFFERENCE TODAY!

If you are still looking for a way to give back this holiday season, consider making a donation to the Central Florida Freethought Community to support their programs and initiatives, or to the new scholarship fund promoting volunteerism among secular students at the University of Central Florida.

If you’re in Central Florida and interested in joining our 2017 volunteer adventures, membership to our event calendar, Meetup.com/BEOrlando, is free – we hope to meet you at an event soon!

PSA: International Human Rights Day

December 10th, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Pause today and think about people around the globe, and in our own local communities, who face marginalization, bullying, discrimination, and violence.  Today, reflect on our own empowerment to make a difference for others around us and make the world a better place, one kindness at a time. Take time to learn about the experiences of marginalized individuals around the world – and around us in our own spheres of influence, and pledge to help make the space around us more welcoming and respectful for all.  Defend human rights where you can, and pledge to focus on uplifting others. How can you make a difference for someone today?

If a country doesn’t recognize minority rights and human rights, including women’s rights, you will not have the kind of stability and prosperity that is possible. –Hillary Clinton

 

From the Council on Human Rights 2014 report to the United Nations General Assembly:

Section 9: Victims of violence come from all religious or belief backgrounds. They comprise adherents to large “traditional” communities and followers of small or new religious movements, which are often stigmatized as “sects”. Furthermore, atheists and agnostics suffer in many countries from a climate of intimidation, repression or violence. Another frequently neglected group of people are the adherents to different indigenous beliefs, who are also targets of violence carried out by State agencies and/or non-State actors.

Section 10: Countless examples demonstrate that violence in the name of religion usually displays a pronounced gender dimension. Many women and girls are victims of “honour” killings, acid attacks, amputations or floggings, sometimes pursuant to penal codes that are based on religious laws. Women and girls also disproportionately suffer from sexual violence, such as rape, abduction, sexual enslavement, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, often in conjunction with forced conversion, or other cruelties.

Section 11: Furthermore, homophobic and transphobic violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons may also be perpetrated in the name of religion. Those perceived as LGBT may be targets of organized abuse, including by religious extremists. Violence against LGBT persons includes brutal gang rapes, so-called “curative” rapes and family violence owing to their sexual orientation and gender identity. There is a strong connection between discrimination in law and practice, and incitement to violence in the name of religion and violence itself. Violence against women and against LGBT persons is often justified and given legitimacy by discriminatory laws based on religious laws or supported by religious authorities, such as laws criminalizing adultery, homosexuality or cross-dressing. The Human Rights Committee has noted with concern hate speech and manifestations of intolerance and prejudice by religious leaders against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, in a broader context of acts of violence, including killings of LGBT persons. There have also been reports of direct violence exercised by religious authorities against LGBT persons, although many of them are religiously interested in practising.

 

LINKS

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948 – International Bill of Human Rights

BBN Team of the Month!

We’re grateful to the Beyond Belief Network, a part of the Foundation Beyond Belief, for their many national programs and initiatives that foster, empower, and recognize Humanist volunteerism & philanthropy.  And we’re honored to be a Volunteers Beyond Belief team.

BE. Orlando was recognized as the 2016  November Team of the Month for our role in initiating a scholarship fund supporting secular students at the University of Central Florida.  Winners will demonstrate a commitment to community engagement through their hours of service and their written reflections on secular volunteerism in America.  BBN also recognized our November meal serve at SafeHouse.

In 2015, BE. was awarded the Heart of Humanism Award for media coverage around the Math, Science, and Pi(e) Festival, and Jocelyn Williamson, BE. member and co-leader of the Central Florida Freethought Community, accepted the award for us in D.C. at the Reason Rally.

Little groups like ours around the nation benefit from the support and resources provided by the Foundation Beyond Belief.  They increase the scope of service impact through grants, provide encouragement and recognition, and create visibility for the good work of Humanists around the country.  Thank you, Foundation Beyond Belief!

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