Monday, December 29, 2014

85 years ago: The founding of the First Humanist Society of New York

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,...
...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Romans 1:22, 28

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
II Timothy 3:1-5

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
II Peter 2:1-2

Another backlog item:
Charles Francis Potter (1885-1962) (see Unitarian-Universalist biography here) was a Baptist minister in his youth who apostatized, became a Unitarian minister (including founding and serving as minister of the first Unitarian church in Edmonton, Alberta from 1914-1916), and later served as minister at a Universalist church before founding, in 1929, the First Humanist Society of New York, whose advisory board included Julian Huxley, John Dewey, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. Mr. Potter was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. As reported in the Calgary Herald, Tuesday, October 1, 1929, p. 10 (bold in original):

New York Clergyman Expects Rapid Extension for New Beliefs
(By United Press)

NEW YORK, Oct. 1 -- A new religion, designed to teach people "how to get along with one another," has risen here.

The founder, Dr. Charles Francis Potter, calls it humanism and expects it to spread rapidly because he believes there is the same dissatisfaction with present day religion as there was when Christianity gained its foothold in the Roman Empire.

He stood on the platform at Sternway Hall, Sunday, and enunciated what might be called the Ten Commandments of his creed. All of the 300 chairs in the building were occupied and 400 persons surged outside in an attempt to hear Potter.

To Abolish Prayer

He began by abolishing prayer and followed with an outline of his creed that virtually reversed every tenet of existing religions, according to Potter:

1 -- God did not create the world. It evolved.

2 -- The conventional conception of heaven and hell is wrong because right deeds bring their own satisfaction and wrong deeds are their own retribution.

3 -- Man's chief aim should be to improve himself, not to glorify God.

4 -- Religion should deal with the natural instead of the supernatural.

5 -- Man is born inherently good and of infinite possibilities as opposed to the theory he is inherently evil and a worm of the dust.

6 -- Man should attempt to remove injustice and suffering instead of submitting to them as manifestations of the will of God.

7 -- There is truth in all religions and truth outside of religion.

8 -- The ideas of sin, salvation, redemption and prayer are unimportant.

9 -- No man or God can save another man for improvement comes only from within.

10 -- Suffering is the natural result of breaking the laws of right living instead of being a manifestation of hell on earth.

A drastic revision of the marriage ceremony is proposed with couples encouraged to formulate their own ceremony. Women will not be "given away" because women are persons of their own right and not property to be given away.

"Prepare" for Marriage

The world "obey" will be omitted; if rings are used a double-ring ceremony will indicate the equality of the sexes.

The Humanist Society will not object to divorce, but will seek to eliminate it by preparing people for marriage.

Sunday's service lasted about an hour, Potter speaking for 40 minutes with the remainder devoted to music and Bible reading.

Potter resigned from the Universalist church after executives of that denomination declined to accept his liberal views.

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