Tag Archives: inclusion

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.



A day on, not a day off.

January 13, 20171

Monday is a national day of service – this weekend, seek out ways to make a difference in your communities.

On the third Monday in January, individuals across the nation rise together in service to our communities to honor civil rights activist and unity visionary, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Now more than ever, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder to support the vision of a united, inclusive, multiracial, diverse nation.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our organization has been criticized in the past for our celebration of this holiday by Humanists who disesteem King’s message because of his faith, which was an integral part of his identity. But divisiveness was not.

King came from perspective of Christianity and promoted ecumenical unity, an inherently divisive concept marginalizing non-christians.  However, if he were here today, in an openly perspective-diverse nation, wouldn’t he see beyond the barriers of his faith? King looked on the world through a lens of inclusion; rather than ecumenical unity, couldn’t he evolve to focus on human unity?  Some people are pent by their faith or non-faith and are not courageous or compassionate enough to truly value those of different perspectives.  Would King have been?  Are we?

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 King was a vehement advocate of equity for all races; would his vision have been mature enough to see the evidence of inequities, discrimination, bullying, and other unacceptable transgressions against people of non-faith and minority faiths?

How can we, in our small spheres of influence, both honor his work to overcome the sadly still-relevant racism in America and further celebrate and promote a message of inclusion for all?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

King made a famous, uneducated response to a youth who asked him for advice about his feelings of attraction to other boys (Ebony Magazine advice column, 1958).  The  response was misinformed, but it was not judgmental.  While it may lead some to believe he was blind to diversities beyond colour, he did not have the culturally facilitated opportunities for enlightenment that we are privileged to have today. That statement was made 11 years before the Stonewall riots that began the journey toward equality and brought the LGBTQ+ community into the national diversity conversation. Dr. King was tragically assassinated the year before Stonewall.

Subsequent to the riots, his wife, Coretta Scott King, joined the efforts to stand for LGBT equality, as she felt that her husband would have done the same. Mrs. King said: “I’m proud to stand with all of you, as your sister, in a great new American coalition for freedom and human rights.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Those  who value and speak for equality only for the demographics of which they are a member are brave self-advocates whose voices make a difference, but they are not true inclusion champions. When equality is one of our core personal values, we join the conversation to promote inclusion for other marginalized demographics when we learn about, and have compassion for, their challenges. We become an ally.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Uniting people through service

One of King’s core values was service, and he lived his life in service to others.  On the third Monday in January we strengthen our communities by joining with others – of all diversities, of all faiths and non-faith perspectives – to make a difference.  We make the world a better place through service; we are empowered to overcome challenges through service; we are connected to one another through service.

As Humanists, we value action-oriented, solution-focused answers to the needs in our communities.  Tomorrow, on MLK day, honor your lifestance of Humanism by putting your values into action and engaging in service.


From the Corporation for National and Community Service:

After a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”


Local Events & Info:


Community Without Religion

A church is a religious perspective-specific organization.  Nonreligious perspective-specific organizations exist as well and serve human needs similarly.

According to Church Angel, there are more than 400 Christian congregations in Orlando (only those self-registered through that site).  If you search Yelp for Orlando faith perspective-specific organizations, you get more than 1200 results for Christian and 155 additional non-Christian religious organizations.

Although recent Pew Research data indicates 24% of our central Florida population (445,367 individuals) is not affiliated with a religion and 6% identify clearly as Atheist/Agnostic (133,610 individuals)*, there are fewer than 20 local perspective-specific organizations and resources for people of non-faith in Central Florida, and few active leaders.

There is a significant gap in resources for secular American individuals and families. Many people of non-faith identify the concepts of congregation and fellowship with acknowledgement / worship of god(s) or other higher-power supernatural forces.

It has always seemed to me that the saying “Eagles don’t flock” applied to the strong, independent-minded, intelligent community of non-faith individuals. Yet as the most hated and misunderstood minority in America, the lack of visible, active non-religious leadership, congregation, and fellowship only feeds the myths and negative misconceptions about people of non-faith.

That is changing. A more positive, inclusive movement is developing. The growth trend of secularism continues to rise and the global secular community is becoming more diverse, rich, collaborative, and available. The sense of Humanism – our connectivity and responsibility to others and to our world – is increasing. Successful organizations such as the Sunday Assembly and Oasis, are gathering momentum and creating positive congregation and fellowship opportunities for secular communities.

Atheism is neither a church nor a religion. Neither is Humanism, or any other label used by persons of non-faith to identify their perspective. But we need to shift our focus and understand that congregation (coming together) and fellowship (friendship) relate to humans.  Churches and religion own the perpetuation of belief in the supernatural; they do not own the concept of community.

happy-humanIn Central Florida, collaborative secular organizations like BE.(positive Humanism & volunteering), Black Nonbelievers of Metro Orlando, CFFC (secular political activism), F.A.C.T.S. (social and educational engagement), and Hispanic American Freethinkers each offer unique involvement opportunities and leaders who coordinate activities around around the group’s specific area(s) of focus and interest.

There are others, including collegiate organizations like the Secular Student Alliance and secular help organization such as parenting groups, addiction recovery, and Orlando’s chapter of  Recovering from Religion.  Each offers some combination of in-person meetings and activities, online communities and discussion forums, and information sharing.

Gathering with other humans and finding fellowship in the community is about more than religion, god(s), and faith in the supernatural. Here are some non-religious aspects of perspective-specific organization*:

  • SAO_2014Community
  • Joy
  • Sharing ideas
  • Promote community engagement / civic duty / volunteerism
  • Strength in numbers
  • Meeting new people who share our values
  • Learning
  • Guidance
  • Social activities
  • Safe place
  • Leadership
  • Connection to others
  • Something to look forward to
  • Celebrating special days
  • Contributing – being active and productive
  • Validation – others who share your views & values
  • Friendship & fellowship
  • Speakers, presenters, and other extended leaders who share and promote similar values
  • Youth programs
  • Employment assistance (referrals, networking, references, opportunities for professional development and involvement that can enhance a resume)
  • Finding mentors
  • Mentoring opportunities
  • Routines
  • Positive habits
  • Involvement
  • Support for other members who need help
  • Resources
  • A market / customers for your business
  • Contact with adults outside of the family
  • Youth programs and camps
  • Values education for youth
  • Groups – women’s groups, men’s groups, youth groups, volunteer groups, and other subgroups that bring individuals together around common causes
  • Advocacy for issues we support
  • Response to local and global disasters
  • Opportunities for leadership and personal advancement, accomplishment, and growth
  • Online communities and forums
  • To set a positive example of community engagement to our families and others in the community.
  • Being part of the community honors our human connectivity to others.
  • Helps you find ways to improve your life
  • To get out
  • To seek, develop, and pursue a life of purpose
  • To ask and seek answers to life’s questions
  • Community pot lucks & celebrations
  • To develop personal leadership
  • A local organization that does work in the local community we can donate to and know our dollars are helping that organization’s mission
  • To feel that you wisely invest your time
  • Supports a positive worldview
  • Officiants for (and guidance for) marriage, funerals, welcoming or naming ceremonies
  • It helps keep youth (and all of us) out of trouble
  • To help you understand your life story in the tapestry of human community and in the natural world
  • Encourages creativity
  • Provides hope and understanding
  • Gathering together strengthens your compassion and connection to others
  • To look outside of yourself and be part of something greater/larger/beyond yourself
  • Provides a larger community for your children and your family
  • To step outside of your comfort zone
  • To help you be a happier person
  • Teaching children about values, traditions, and community
  • To learn about others’ perspectives on life
  • To share your life story with others, and to hear theirs
  • To develop your children’s self-confidence
  • Acceptance
  • It gives you a sense of responsibility – it is a responsibility.
  • Conversations
  • Social activities
  • reminds you that you are not alone
  • To be informed about local events of interest to you
  • To be informed about great things that others are doing and that your organization is doing in the community.
  • Being part of the community, actively, is the right thing to do.
  • Debate important issues, philosophies, and viewpoints
  • Because you belong there.
  • Because you want to be there.
  • Provides an opportunity to give financially to those in need with others in your congregation
  • Institution recommends charities aligned with your personal values
  • Suggest others

The pretense of inclusion

Organizations specific to non-faith perspectives are essential resources.

The faith community often invites the secular demographic to “interfaith” activities, councils, organizations, and churches that claim to be open to all, but do not appeal to many nontheists.

True, collaboration builds bridges across our differences and partnership is needed.  We should indeed work shoulder-to-shoulder with interfaith and faith-specific organizations for community impact.

While partnering is important and meaningful, joining such organizations can seem offensive to some:  One of the many reasons is that interfaith communities perpetuate the delusion that “at least they believe in something” means that persons of any faith are superior to persons of nonfaith.  If an interfaith is truly inclusive of secular constituents, they will need to change their name.

quotes-and-sayings-about-kindness-with-pictureOwning Human Concepts

Many words you see on church signs could also be used for secular organizations because they are words reflecting human concepts not dependent on faith:  Truth. Gratitude. Kindness. Answers. Meaning. Purpose. Positivism. Fellowship. Here are some church taglines that could apply to a secular organization:

  • Where people gather to share and learn
  • Serving our growing community
  • Everyday Matters
  • Building people through a loving, caring fellowship
  • Where Truth and Love Make difference
  • We Build Hope
  • The Journey Matters
  • Building Community, Empowering Leaders
  • Discover Life
  • Live for more
  • In the Heart of the City – With the City at Heart
  • Large enough to serve you, Small enough to know you
  • Transforming Lives and Building Dreams
  • A Place For You
  • Family Oriented Dynamic Fellowship
  • Living Hope For Real People
  • Proclaiming & Demonstrating Love
  • A Community Dedicated to Service
  • Start a New Way of Living!
  • Building a Community of Gratitude
  • Unique, Expressive & Powerful!
  • Building Healthy Lives
  • Growing Together
  • Proclaiming Good News

Not to mention quips like “Our members are like fudge: sweet with a few nuts!”

Here are a few traditionally faith-oriented terms and concepts re-branded for secular individuals:

  • Being saved in secularism is a self-actualization; realizing that every moment of this one life is precious, and how we choose to spend those moments is an investment that has an impact beyond ourselves. Seeing the error of wasting personal resources of time, money, and compassion on faith when this life is what we have.  Overcoming the solipsistic hubris of religion. Taking personal responsibility for actions. Finding an inner moral compass guided by compassion, integrity, and kindness.
  • Gratitude means mindful living through appreciation of the positive.  See Secular Gratitude for further discussion. 🙂
  • Truth is evidence-based.
  • Meaning and Purpose are elements of life identified through our talents and interests and the impact we have on others. Have you written your personal mission statement? What is your vision? What are your goals? Does your mission connect you to something greater than yourself (such as community, nature, impacting a focus area like hunger or homeless pets)? Can you identify things you intentionally do each day to work toward those goals?
  • Good News is the sharing of inspirational, positive current and historical events or views that promote positive human living and a positive outlook. (Check out The Daily Good and the Greater Good Science Center for real good news.)


From the Online Etymology Dictionary

congregation (n.)
mid-14c., “a gathering, assembly,” from Old French congregacion (12c., Modern French congrégation), from Latin congregationem (nominative congregatio), noun of action from congregare (see congregate).

Used by Tyndale to translate Greek ekklesia in New Testament and by some Old Testament translators in place of synagoge. (Vulgate uses a variety of words in these cases, including congregatio but also ecclesia, vulgus, synagoga, populus.) Protestant reformers in 16c. used it in place of church; hence the word’s main modern sense of “local society of believers” (1520s).

fellowship (n.)

c. 1200, feolahschipe “companionship,” from fellow + -ship. Sense of “a body of companions” is from late 13c. Meaning “spirit of comradeship, friendliness” is from late 14c.

 Call to Action

4c8e51a7650c6d7c24b7c4f5f6c90832Join local, state, and national secular organizations that align with your values and mission

Lead by finding ways within those organizations to make a difference.  Do you want to host events? Help with advocacy? Serve on a board?  If you don’t see an organization offering the opportunities that you think should be in your community, local and national support is available to help you start a new organization.

Serve others in the secular community and the greater community by being active and vocal.  Your involvement matters.


If there were a summit of all Central Florida faith leaders, including leadership of each individual congregation/fellowship/church/place-of-worship/spiritual-center, how many individuals do you think would be invited? 400? 1,000? What if we added faith-biased community assistance organizations?

If there were a summit of all non-faith leaders in Central Florida, how many do you think would be at that table? 5? 10?

Secular perspectives need leaders, representation, and participation. Join a local group, or get help starting one.




Thanksgiving for all.

Gratitude is a ubiquitous human emotion shared by those of all faith and non-faith perspectives;  routine thoughtfulness and mindful living include creating meaningful, personal traditions to honor others and ourselves. There are millions of people in America (20% of Americans, and 32% of young adults in America*) who might celebrate gratitude on Thanksgiving without reference to religion.

Facing faith.

Secular individuals experience many challenges, one of which is Thanksgiving dinner.  People of faith perspectives feel and express gratitude for the good in their life, but often project nonacceptance toward anyone who feels that same gratitude without sharing the same faith perspective. Imagine sitting at a table surrounded by people you love as they talk about – or subtly imply – how they hate people like you.

“Be careful who you hate.  It could be someone you love”

While those who are openly nonreligious may experience this differently than those who are not able to risk that openness, all feel a bit awkward when those around them speak of love and gratitude in a way that perhaps unintentionally vilifies and degrades other human beings. Including everyone at our table means being cognizant and respectful of the many perspectives around us and recognizing gratitude as a positive human experience.

What if i’m asked to say Grace?

If you are among those who share your faith or non-faith perspective, this is not an issue.  When we are among the majority, the comfort of openly expressing our perspective without fear of judgement is part of our privilege. As a minority, however, whether or not to be openly true to yourself may involve risk assessment, safety planning, and acceptance of consequences. Thanksgiving dinner may not be the best time to “come out” to your family as not sharing their faith perspective – unless you assess that it is.  But think it through.

You have choices, and you should feel empowered to do what is right for you in that moment.  You can respectfully decline or give the expected grace. Or you may feel comfortable enough to say grace in a way that expresses gratitude without reference to religion.  There are many examples of secular grace, or you can write your own. Choose words that reflect your appreciation of the good in life; words that everyone present can connect with and find meaning in.

Secular grace for the religious.
…Wait, what?

Secular grace for the non-faith community means, simply, pausing to express gratitude.  The focus is on genuine appreciation for bounty, goodness, joy, and the things in our life we have that others may not.  For this community, doing so without deferring to supernatural entities, powers, or other religious concepts is natural, comfortable, and meaningful.

For the faith community, a secular grace can be a way of including everyone in a diverse group.  The focus is the same, and allows everyone to be empowered to consider that gratitude from their own faith or non-faith perspective. Families, workplaces, teams, social entities, faith/non-faith groups, and other ways that humans come together provide opportunities to benefit from diverse ideas and perspectives. Pausing for gratitude by saying a grace that includes everyone is an act that demonstrates gratitude for everyone in our lives.


*2012 PEW Research Center, “Nones on the Rise“, 2012