Have you ever wondered what ‘Humanism’ was all about? Have you even ever heard of it? Well if you are curious then a public meeting in Clonmel, next week, might be for you.
The Humanist Association of Ireland is marking its twentieth anniversary this year by reaching out to communities and raising awareness of who they are. It is not a religion but a way of living that makes sense of the world based on rational thought and responsible behaviour.
They are the first secular group approved by the Dail to legally solemnise marriages.
Next Thursday night, at Raheen House, a life-long humanist and a humanist celebrant will speak about what Humanism means to them.
Philip Byers is a HAI board member and Brian Whiteside is a HAI director and Humanist Celebrant. The men have different traditional family religious backgrounds and came to Humanism in different ways, which they will explain and be happy to answer questions about.
The meeting will talk about the meaning of life from the Humanist perspective - living a good life without religious or superstitious beliefs and choosing alternative, secular celebrations for life events like weddings, funerals and baby naming ceremonies.
Humanism places reason above faith, embracing modern science, democratic principles, human rights and free inquiry. It’s a philosophy for people who think for themselves, for the here and now rather than the promise of life after death. Humanism is a philosophy of compassion, concerned with meeting human needs and problems for the individual and society.
There is no Humanist group in South Tipperary or even in the Waterford-Kilkenny region. If enough people come together following this meeting it will be possible to form a local group for people who think in a similar way. But this is not a recruitment meeting, it’s simply to raise awareness of the HAI and people of any religion and ‘none’ are invited to come along.
The nearest groups to Clonmel are currently in Cork, Limerick and Dublin. All the groups act individually, based on members’ plans, but most meet once a month to discuss various subjects including those in current affairs, like the recent abortion debate or the blasphemy legislation. They are structurally unusually in that they are independent to each other.
Already a member of the HAI, local woman Mary Clare Heffernan explains it was a curiosity that led to her discovery of the HAI. She attended meetings in Cork, Dublin and Limerick, and the annual summer school, and took her time to find out more about the organisation. She stresses “it’s not a cult, not something you ‘convert’ to, it’s just a way to live your life, people living good lives.”
At a recent Humanist meeting in Limerick there were five new members, illustrating how wide an appeal Humanism has - a garda, a teacher, a farmer, a businessman and a mother.
Mary Clare also described how the summer school attracted a lot of older people who have gone through their lives and having thought about things for a long time came to Humanism. By comparison, the Cork meeting was a younger group, including university students and young parents. None were ‘church bashers’ but people who believed in the Humanist philosophy.
Mary Clare says next Thursday’s public meeting is more of an informal chat and people are welcome to come along and hear about Humanism, people who are looking for a moral and philosophical way of life. It is the first time the HAI have held a public meeting like this.
Organisers hope this meeting will dispel ‘the fear of the unknown’ for people, or even just satisfy people’s curiosity.
“It’s for people to see what it’s about and not be afraid of it. If they would then like to ‘sip from the cup or drink it to the dregs’ it’s totally up to them.”
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