November 17, 2002
Language Lessons for Humans
At this meeting, HAGSA member, Mynga Futrell, provided a lesson in semantics. Mynga and her husband, Paul Geisert, have prepared a curriculum on comparative religion and freethought. More information about that can be found by accessing their Teaching About Religion website.
Mynga's talk dealt with the meanings of certain words as they apply to and are used by humanists and with the connotations those same words have in the broader community. Meanings of words can be different to different people and fear of others' reaction to certain words can and has inhibited many non-theists from "coming out of the closet." For instance, the American Humanist Association failed to co-sponsor the recent Godless March on Washington (in which Mynga participated), possibly because of the connotations of the word "godless." A second dictionary definition of that word is "wicked."
The other three words Mynga analyzed were atheist, secular and faith, each with more than one possible meaning. For example, she took issue with one sign that was displayed at the Godless March on Washington. It read "Secular Humanists for a Secular America." The word "secular" had two different meanings on that sign, but the sign's effect was negative. An outsider might think from that sign that they were on a mission to actively convert all religious persons to secular humanism. That was not the case. The real purpose of the march was to assert our rights to be regarded as legitimate American citizens and not be stigmatized and silenced because of our lack of traditional religious belief.
Report prepared by Wayne Luney, Recorder