I had the pleasure of participating yesterday in an author panel at the American Humanist Association‘s 75th annual conference. I have written previously for a publication known as The Humanist, and my book Tending the Epicurean Garden was published via Humanist Press, which are both affiliates of AHA.
The author panel was facilitated by Luis Granados, who edited my book and also wrote a piece some years back on the celebration of that quintessentially Epicurean holiday: the Twentieth. He is the author of Damned Good Company, a survey of history’s secular heroes and their religious counterparts, which explores what contributions each made to society.
Tasha is the author of Once You Had Hands, a poetry book that explores issues of religious upbringing and issues of violence, and how they are interwoven in the experience of a woman who grew up in a violent, and very religious, household. Her work accentuates the intersection between art and healing. Tasha is very outspoken about the therapeutic benefits of art, and particularly of poetry and of sharing our wounds and vulnerabilities with others via poetry. She says that, by doing so, she has opened up and connected with others in a manner that turned out to be highly gratifying, encouraging the flourishing of compassion as well as difficult-yet-necessary conversations about domestic violence, religious indoctrination, and atheism.
David, aka The Paleolibrarian, has an interest in anthropology and is AHA’s ambassador to the United Nations. He is the author of Godless Grace, a book on “how nonbelievers are making the world safer, richer, and kinder”, which lists examples of everyday people who are non-religious and are fixing the world by dedicating their lives to various sorts of charitable and humanitarian work.
At the conference I also had the opportunity to mingle with a few organizations, including the Ethical Humanist Association of Chicago and Kol Hadash Secular Humanist Congregation. Secular Humanist Judaism is one of the younger and lesser-known of the denominations within contemporary Judaism. It was founded half a century ago by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, and reinvented the entire liturgy of Judaism by replacing references to God with humanist principles in order to reflect a secular humanist outlook. Although the vast majority of modern Jews are secular and although Judaism has produced a vibrant secular culture, literature, and intellectual life, the SHJ tradition is sometimes viewed by the more mainstream, religious denominations as a somehow less legitimate expression of the Jewish tradition. Hopefully that will change in the future.
Among the books available from their umbrella educational organization, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, I found a counter-history book titled Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore. I also found Epicurus and Apikorsim, which carries the subtitle “The Influence of the Greek Epicurus and Jewish Apikorsim on Judaism“. I am of course excited to see that there is a denomination of Judaism that proudly proclaims its Epicurean heritage, and will be writing a book review in the coming months.
The conference was a great experience, and I’m also happy to say that my book sold out. Please support the good literature that humanists put out and the huge amount of work that goes into writing these books by sharing the love of literature with others!