Humanists at Celebrate Barrie

For the third year, I had the pleasure of spending the day at Celebrate Barrie. It’s a great festival where the children from Barrie and the surrounding area come to participate in activities. I spoke with random people about Humanism. I met some new atheists who want to come out to our meetings. I played with Oobleck with some children. (Video below.) The day was a success.

What is a success? I have had 4 goals when at Celebrate Barrie. The most important one was to find Humanists* who might want to join our monthly meetings. Second was make the presence of Humanists* visible and friendly. Also, to have fun with the children playing with weird science. And to have fun discussions (or debates!) about atheism and religion with passersby.

There are two things I learned at Celebrate Barrie that will make me a better contributor to our group. One is a phrasing of who we are. The other is why we are a group of atheists and agnostics, despite having topics anyone should enjoy.

In my welcome message to our new friends, I described us in a way that I think lays it all out there. I hope to use this wording in the future. I said:

We are atheists and agnostics who value reason and ethics.

I think that sums up Humanism and the approach we try to take with our group. I will try to use this going forward.

Finally, I had a conversation with a lady who believed in the supernatural and had faith in God. I described what we do: have many interesting meetings on science, ethics and big ideas. She said, ‘why do you have to be an atheist for that?’ Afterward, she admitted that while she has doubts about God she just takes it on faith.

I realized later that this was the key difference. The F-word. The reason we are a group of Humanists rather than a general interest group is because we don’t use faith.** Humanists believe that you must use reason to come to conclusions. But if you can have faith in anything, you could end up believing anything. In our opinion, we are less likely to be wrong if properly guided by reason than by faith.

We talk about big ideas. And contentious ideas. Our discussions (and debates) would be far less fruitful and satisfying with the faithful! If you think faith is a good enough reason to believe then you are not being guided by reason to your conclusions. No evidence or argument could resolve a disagreement if you use faith as your foundation. Ideas based on faith is like a building on a foundation of sand.

I look forward to next year at Celebrate Barrie.

* Humanists include atheists and agnostics who value reason and ethics.
** Faith as in belief in things without sufficient evidence. Not as in trust or any other definition of faith.

This was also posted on the Central Ontario Humanist’s Facebook page.