Comments by Patrick Colucci of the HumanLight Committee (NJHN),
at the Morristown NJ HumanLight celebration, Dec. 20, 2008
Welcome to the New Jersey Humanist Network’s 8th Annual HumanLight Celebration! Thank you all for coming! It’s a real pleasure to see you all here today!
My name’s Patrick Colucci, of the HumanLight Committee, and I’ll be your Master of Ceremonies today. We have a wonderful evening planned for you all, with an interesting speaker, great live music, great live entertainment, great live food — No, no, only kidding! The food’s great but it’s not alive!
To begin, I’d like to share some brief personal remarks.
As many of you know, HumanLight was created and founded as a new humanist-oriented winter holiday, by Joe Fox and Gary Brill, members of the NJHN. I wasn’t there at the founding, but it’s been a great honor to work with them and the rest of the Committee for the past 8 years, planning these annual Celebrations.
I was telling a friend recently about our event today, and she said, “Oh, that’s just a made-up holiday”. So I had to point out that all holidays were “made-up” at some point in the past! There are some holidays like July 4th that are based on a historical event – but even there, some folks decided at some point to celebrate that event and make a holiday out of it! Other holidays like Labor Day or Thanksgiving were “made up” in order to celebrate some idea or concept.
And so it is with HumanLight – it was “made up”. It was created, — an “Intelligent Design”, you might say! — in order to celebrate, and to promote, the ideas, and the ideals, of Humanism, during the winter holiday season. Perhaps because the origins of HumanLight are within recent memory, it seems strange to some people. Many other holidays originated long before any of us was alive.
Will HumanLight ever reach the stage in the far distant future when it’s so widespread and commonplace that no one remembers who created it, or when? We hope so!
Will people someday lose all understanding of what it means and WHY it was created, as with Labor Day? We hope NOT!
Some would say that, because HumanLight is a holiday that’s strongly based on certain ideas, that it will never catch on with the general public, who don’t care about such ideas. Well, maybe so.
But we hope that many more people will come to realize that they really DO agree with Humanist ideas, but they just didn’t know it before!
And what about these ideas and ideals of Humanism? Another recent experience comes to mind…
I saw a letter to the editor recently in a New York newspaper where the letter writer was talking about the various holidays in December and he said, “The atheists now have their own holiday called HumanLight.” I’m glad they’ve noticed! But at the same time, I’m slightly disappointed that the meaning of HumanLight was sort of muddled.
As I’ve often explained – yes, I’m an atheist, and I think most Humanists are too. I don’t believe in supernatural beings, gods, or other faith-based and religious claims. But HumanLight is NOT about what we DON’T believe in. We’re not here today just to negate theism, and we don’t want to criticize anyone’s religious holidays. Instead, this is an occasion to celebrate the values and ideals of humanism – the things we DO believe in.
You see, atheism is fine and good, but it’s only a position or decision on the question “is there a god?” Atheism is not a set of values or a philosophy of life, as Humanism is.
So, by being a positive expression of humanist values, the HumanLight holiday helps us spread the word about these ideas, and helps more people find a shared community. When we celebrate HumanLight, we let others who are of like mind know that they have a community of people they can belong to and share with.
And guess what else? Celebrating HumanLight can be enjoyable and fun!
It’s great to now have a holiday when we can gather with friends and loved ones in a sense of community, while also celebrating the great ideals of humanism, among them being: reason, hope, compassion, and a deep concern for human rights and freedoms, human needs and interests.
By the way, this year marks the 60th anniversary (last week, on December 10th), of the adoption by the U.N. of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We should remember that great declaration of humanist-oriented values as an important achievement in human history, something which all people can point to with HOPE, and can strive for it’s fulfillment. We know we still have a long way to go in this country, and around the world!
We also know that we CAN make a better world for ourselves, for each other, in the here and now, — that’s an essential Humanist value!
And we know that we don’t need supernatural beliefs in order to live an ethical and meaningful life.
Hope — change for a better world. There’s been quite a lot of talk about this in the past year.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, — it’s been a motto for my life — from Margaret Mead, the great anthropologist, who was also a humanist. Think about this:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Another one of my favorite quotes is from Mohatma Ghandi:
“Become the change that you wish to see in the world.”
My hope is that we can, and will, work for, and achieve, positive change in ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and the world.
And I also hope, of course, that you all have a great, fun time today! My friends, Happy HumanLight to you all!
And now for our annual candle-lighting. I’d like to ask four of our guests to come up here please.
To help express the meaning of this holiday, we light candles, rather than curse the darkness.
We light candles to symbolize lighting the way forward to a better future for humanity and for the
planet. We believe that people can build this future by working together, drawing upon the best of our capacities and the better parts of our nature.
Please light the first candle, symbolizing the light of Reason.
Now please light the next candle, symbolizing the warmth of Compassion.
And now please light the third candle, symbolizing the glow of Hope.
And finally, please light the main HumanLight candle.
Thank you all very much!