I just spent the most glorious five days in Cambridge at the American Humanist Association conference this past week where I met hundreds of high-quality Humanists, listened to diverse voices creating a vision for our movement, and was constantly inspired. There was something particularly magical about spending time with a huge group of people in which nontheism was the standard—where it was celebrated and affirmed as both beautiful and true. And then I came home.
It took about three days for the culture shock to set in, but it happened. After getting back to the grind of facing (with SC Arizona) the harmful, religiously motivated legislation that is raining down on our state like a flood straight out of Genesis, of once again waking up to the realities of living against the grain in a religiously conservative town and state, of knowing my nontheism is always going to be a fight here…I’m quickly dropping off of my conference high.
It is not as if I am hopeless—how could I be? I met dozens upon dozens of young, talented, motivated student leaders at the conference who are working hard for change all across the country and who will guide our movement into a more compassionate, more rational future. I met older leaders still fighting hard for our ideals with no signs of growing tired. I heard new ideas, new strategies combined with seasoned wisdom and a mature clarity—an intergenerational dynamic that creates a wonderfully hopeful vision for Humanism. I have great confidence in my colleagues and what we can do together.
It’s just that….it’s hard. And, in my conservative town in Northern Arizona, it’s sometimes lonely. So now, I’m back to the lonely, hard work. Back to building my loving, nurturing, social-justice-seeking community on an island of reason in the Arizona sea of religious ideologues who aren’t afraid to tell us we’re going to hell. But I’ll do it knowing that there are brilliant, competent, idealistic leaders doing the same work all across the country and that, while we’re divided geographically, our goals are transcendent in that they belong to all of us and they unite us. We are building something shared—a safer, saner, more satisfying world for all of us. I have a sadness that the culture of reason and compassion I experienced when all of these wonderful Humanist minds were in the same place at the same time isn’t the dominant culture—and I miss it. But it was so beautiful, so very much what I want our world to be like, that I will work more passionately for it—and I know I am in good company.