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1 Humanists The People. 2 Humanists Curtis Williford Reese was born September 3, 1887, on a farm in Madison County, North Carolina which is in the western.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Humanists The People. 2 Humanists Curtis Williford Reese was born September 3, 1887, on a farm in Madison County, North Carolina which is in the western."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Humanists The People

2 2 Humanists Curtis Williford Reese was born September 3, 1887, on a farm in Madison County, North Carolina which is in the western part of the state in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Reeses were very devout Southern Baptists and many of them had been ministers. Reese once said: "One of my paternal great-grandfathers was a Baptist preacher, one of my paternal grandfathers and two of my paternal uncles were Baptist preachers, my father is a Baptist deacon, two of my brothers are Baptist preachers, and a sister married a Baptist preacher.“ He entered the Baptist College at Mar’s Hill, North Carolina, and graduated in May He was ordained into the Baptist ministry. It was during his seminary studies that Reese first began to have any doubts about his religious faith. Since he felt that the Bible was divinely inspired, it came as quite a shock to encounter "higher criticism" even in a conservative Southern Baptist context. Also, Reese had a friend, Ralph E. Bailey, who later made the transition from the Baptist ministry to the Unitarian. CURTIS W. REESE: STATESMAN OF RELIGIOUS HUMANISM

3 3 Humanists Graduating from seminary in 1910, Reese took a job as an evangelist in the Illinois State Baptist Association In 1911, he obtained a Ph.D. from Ewing College – a Baptist School that has since gone out of existence. He said: “I preached twice each Sunday, but following the evening service my conscience bothered me. I could and did preached what I believed, but I did not feel free to say what I did not believe…” He decided to examine more closely the Unitarians because of a work that he had read by Francis G. Peabody, a Unitarian social reformer. Children at the Abraham Lincoln Centre, where Reese was the Dean from

4 4 Reese wrote the minister of the Unitarian Church in Toledo, Ohio, and set up a meeting with him. At this meeting Reese presented a statement of his faith which consisted of the following: “ (1) a Universal Father, God, (2) a Universal Brotherhood, mankind, (3) a Universal right, freedom, (4) a Universal motive, love, and (5) a Universal aim, progress. When Reese inquired if his faith were consistent with Unitarianism, the minister assured him that it was. This move from the Baptist faith to the Unitarian was not taken lightly by Reese, for it caused him great personal turmoil as well as creating a problem with his family. He said: "My mother said very sincerely that she would rather have seen me dead. This is understandable, for had she heard of my death she would have had the satisfaction of knowing that I was flying around with angels in heaven. But now she was sure that if and when I died, I would burn in hellfire and brimstone forever and ever.” Humanists Reese becomes a Unitarian

5 5 Humanists  Reese then became the minister of the Unitarian church in Des Moines, Iowa in He also became involved in a number of social problems. It did not take long for Reese to be moved by the poor housing conditions The Iowa Housing Bill was drawn up and, with Reese's intense lobbying, the bill passed without a negative vote.  He accepted the position of Secretary of the Western Unitarian Conference in Reese’s new base of operation was Chicago, and in his new administrative position his main responsibility was to help churches secure the “right,” most capable minister for their pulpits.  Reese was elected to the Board of Directors of the Meadville Theological School, which at that time was located at Meadville, Pennsylvania. Reese wanted the school to be relocated in Chicago.  In January, 1930, Reese gave up his position as Western Conference secretary and accepted the position as dean at the Abraham Lincoln Centre in Chicago. The Centre was founded in 1905 by the Unitarian minister, Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Reese lived in an apartment in the Centre designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It should be stressed that Reese spent the larger part of his professional career as the dean of the Abraham Lincoln Centre; namely, from the spring of 1923 until February 12, 1957, when he was forced to retire as the result of a severe coronary.  The Centre was so well-known that both the House and the Senate of the State of Illinois, on separate occasions, passed resolutions commending it for its fine service to the state. It was from the context of a kind of settlement house and social and cultural centre that Reese worked and wrote about the world, rather than from a vantage point such as an academic institution or a church pulpit. Chronology of Reese’s Career

6 6 Traditionally, said Reese, humans have claimed to arrive at truth in four ways: through revelation, intuition, speculation, and the scientific method. It was obvious to Reese that revelation cannot be accepted as a source of truth for “supernatural revelation is itself a product of the human mind. Humans determine what revelation is. Intuition is also invalid for arriving at truth. While people may “intuit” certain truths, their validity must be checked by experience. Consequently, the truth derives not from intuition but from the test of experience. At most, intuition provides the possibility of truth. Humans speculate because they have highly developed minds. If speculation is to be trustworthy, it must be premised upon the facts blasted from the quarry of reality by the power of human investigation. Hence, there is both true and false speculation. The scientific method is the only way to establish truth, said Reese, and the specific method was the “source of authority.” Although Reese cautioned that the scientific method cannot always separate truth from falsehood, he thought it was the best method for arbitrating conflicting claims to truth. Reese wanted to extend the method beyond the limited domains of the hard sciences. Reese frequently quoted Thomas Huxley: “The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.” Humanists Authority of Evidence

7 7 For Reese, the responsibility for morality resides in humans, for they initiate morality and experiment in ethics. One aim of humanistic ethics is to develop individual freedom. Moral living is possible only to people who have the freedom to initiate behavior and who operate in a universe where nothing is ultimate and fixed. To act from passion or prejudice always causes suffering. Reese held human life to be of “supreme worth.” He did not believe its value derives from our creation by a Supreme Being, but life is inherently good. This view led Reese to take verbal swats at both traditional Christianity and Marxism – Christianity for holding that people were created to glorify God, and Marxism for holding that people are an instrument for establishing the social order. Humanists Reese on Ethics

8 8 In his theological writings, Reese did not use the concept of God to account for the existence of the universe, for humans, for ethics, for the church, or for religion. He ignored the subject of immortality. Reese did not declare himself among those who held to a pantheistic view of God. After 1920, the nearest that Reese came to affirming a belief in a God was a statement in his book on Humanism: “… the liberal recognizes and zealously proclaims the fact purposive and powerful cosmic processes are operative, and that increasingly man is able to cooperate with them and in a measure control them.” Liberalism is building a religion that would not be shaken even the thought of God were outgrown. Reese was a pioneer of religious humanism. His type of humanism was undoubtedly a religion without God. Humanists Religion Without God

9 9 John H. Dietrich was born on January 14, 1878, on a farm near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. His family had descended from some German-Swiss who had emigrated to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, in 1710 from the vicinity of Berne, Switzerland. Dietrich's parents were simple, uneducated farm people, his father being a fairly successful sharecropper. His family professed the Reformed faith, which had originated with Ulrich Zwingli, the Zurich reformer in the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. It was a rural minister who suggested that young John, who was a good student, become a minister. In 1893 the Dietrich's moved to the village of Marks, Pennsylvania, and John entered Mercersburg Academy. He managed to crowd four years work into three, while walking eight miles a day to and from the Academy and doing farm chores; yet, he graduated as valedictorian of his class in In 1900 he graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and returned to Mercersburg as a teacher Dietrich entered the Eastern Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church which was affiliated with his alma mater. Immediately after his graduation from seminary in 1905, Dietrich became the minister of St. Mark’s Memorial Church in Pittsburgh. A certain professional jealousy had developed among the Reformed clergy against Dietrich, for he had been too successful. During his relatively short tenure at St. Mark's the membership had doubled and attendance at the Sunday services had tripled; even members of other Reformed churches often came to hear the popular young minister. Dietrich did not believe in the infallibility of the Bible, nor in the virgin birth and deity of Jesus, nor in the traditional understanding of the atonement. He accepted the theory of evolution and revised the worship service so that the Apostles Creed was delineated and secular readings were incorporated. The heresy trial was set for July 10, At first Dietrich thought that he would give a well prepared defense, but in time decided that such a move would not accomplish anything of a positive nature; hence, he refused to defend himself and was "defrocked." This occurred in spite of the continuous support of his board of trustees and the members, generally, at St. Mark's. After his last Sunday as minister, St. Mark's was closed and the next service was not held until a year later. Humanists JOHN H. DIETRICH: THE FATHER OF RELIGIOUS HUMANISM

10 10 The minister of the First Unitarian Church in Pittsburgh, Dr. Walter L. Mason, was much impressed with Dietrich; he recommended that Dietrich be invited into ministerial fellowship with the American Unitarian Association, and Dietrich accepted the invitation. Mason even went so far as to invite Dietrich to become his associate with the idea that in time he would take over as senior minister of the church, but Dietrich refused the generous offer because he was not sure that it would be honorable to locate so near his old church. On September 1, 1911, Dietrich became the minister of the First Unitarian Society of Spokane, Washington. When he arrived he had a congregation of about sixty which met in a run-down frame building. He left Spokane in 1916, and at that time he had a congregation of over fifteen hundred, which met in the newly completed Clemmer Theater. During his Spokane ministry, Dietrich lectured on comparative religions in , and as a result, he began to question even his liberal view of Jesus as the greatest spiritual leader of all history. He came to believe that the world owed a great debt to Buddha, Confucius, the Hebrew prophets, and the Greek philosophers. He also accepted the "scientific method" as the most effective means for arriving at truth. He began to refer to prayer as "aspiration" and used secular readings in his worship service. In a sense, he saw the church as a kind of continuing education center for adults, and his sermons became well prepared lectures. Crowds came in 1914 to hear him lecture on the various countries involved in the First World War, and in 1915, he came out strongly for family planning in a sermon entitled, "The Right to Be Well Born." As a result of his sermon topics and his views about them, he was constantly being attacked by fundamentalists. It was also during his Spokane ministry that Dietrich began to refer to his “faith” as being “humanistic.” Humanists Dietrich Becomes a Unitarian

11 11 On November 1, 1916, Dietrich became the minister of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis: a church which Professor Zueblin of the University of Chicago would later describe as "an organization in whose nest had been hatched most of the liberal and reform legislation of the state of Minnesota." Again Dietrich took a church, which, although it had seen better days, was currently in a depleted condition, and built it into a large, vibrant, and effective institution. As his congregation progressively swelled, in December, 1925, it was necessary for the First Unitarian Society to move to the Garrick Theater which could accommodate the large crowds. In 1933, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree by the Meadville Theological School. In 1935 Dietrich announced to his congregation that the time had come for him to resign from his pulpit and to retire from the active ministry. Although he was only fifty-seven at the time, he felt that many ministers held onto their churches long after their usefulness, with the result being a decline in the effectiveness of the church. Hence, he wished to retire while his church was strong. He helped secure a successor, who took over more and more of the responsibilities until Dietrich was able to fade completely from the picture. Dietrich, then, was minister of the Unitarian Society of Minneapolis from , senior minister from , and minister emeritus, After retirement, Dietrich continued to deliver occasional lectures. Humanists Dietrich Moves to Minneapolis

12 12 Dietrich's main concern was to develop a religion which was not dependent upon the existence of God for its basic premise. Traditionally, religion in the West, whether orthodox or liberal, has been so closely identified with belief in the existence of God that, at least one of the criteria is, if one believes in God, he is religious, and if he does not believe in God, he is not religious. Dietrich and the other religious humanists were challenging this view. Dietrich was maintaining that it is possible in the best sense of the word to be religious without belief in God. Humanists Dietrich’s Main Concern

13 13 Dietrich said, “I seek not so much to persuade you to my way of thinking as to stir you up and stimulate you in your attempt to solve the vital questions of life for yourself.” Dietrich asserted that what people need is not a theological doctrine about the unity of God as advocated by the early Unitarians; they need a human doctrine stressing the unity of all people. Morality is not imposed from without, but is based on human experience of what brings about individual and social welfare; specifically, “right action is that action which leads to the preservation and enrichment of both the individual and the social life, and wrong action is that which tends to the destruction and impoverishment of life.” Dietrich maintained that wrong is wrong, not because some god forbids it, but because it is wrong. Humanists Dietrich’s Thoughts and Quotes

14 14 Charles Francis Potter ( ) was a Unitarian minister, theologian and author who changed, over half a century, from an evangelical Baptist to a radical Humanist. Such a transformation reflects remarkable openness to new ideas, flexibility of personality, and capacity for intellectual and theological growth. As an innovative and energetic Unitarian and Humanist, he significantly impacted both traditions. Potter was born in Marlboro, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Henry Potter, a shoe factory worker, and Flora Ellen Lincoln. Raised in a pious evangelical Baptist family, Potter was a precocious boy who by the age of three was able to recite entire Bible passages from memory. Ordained at the age of 17, Potter began preaching in rural Baptist churches while attending Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in Potter accepted a Baptist pastorate in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1908 and another in Mattapan, Massachusetts, in During Potter's years as a Baptist preacher he began to question many of the orthodox Christian tenets with which he had been raised. He was increasingly influenced by liberal theological ideas, especially the "higher criticism" of the Bible. In 1914 frustration with Baptist church leaders who questioned his theological views led to his resignation from the Baptist ministry and conversion to Unitarianism. Humanists CHARLES F. POTTER: THE REBEL OF RELIGIOUS HUMANISM

15 15 After his conversion Potter moved with his family to Edmonton, Alberta, to found a Unitarian church and served there as minister from He found a new interest in the humanist ideas of Unitarians John H. Dietrich and Curtis W. Reese. From Potter was the minister of Unitarian churches in Marlboro and Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. In 1919 he was called to be minister of the West Side Unitarian Church in New York City, where he served from Potter came to national attention in when he participated in a series of radio debates with the formidable fundamentalist Baptist pastor, Rev. John Roach Straton of the Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan. The debates at Carnegie Hall stirred public interest in the fundamentalist-modernist doctrinal questions that were circulating at the time. In 1925 Potter resigned as minister of the West Side Unitarian Church and took a two-year sabbatical to study the varieties of religious thought in American culture. During this period he was a fundraiser and professor of comparative religion at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and traveled widely throughout the United States. In another encounter with national fame, Potter acted as the librarian and Bible expert for Clarence Darrow and the defense during the Scopes evolution trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Humanists Potter’s Unitarian Ministry

16 16 Humanists Reflecting the continual development of his personal religious thought away from orthodoxy toward more liberalism, Potter founded the First Humanist Society of New York in The organization stated as its philosophy a "faith in the supreme value and self-perfectibility of human personality, conceived socially as well as individually." The First Humanist Society, whose advisory board included such notables as Julian Huxley, John Dewey, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, served as a model and catalyst for other humanist organizations and for the humanist movement in general. In founding the Humanist Society, Potter left the Unitarian ministry behind and declared that the Society would have no creed, clergy, baptisms or prayers. "I had given up my fast dwindling belief in the deity of Jesus and the doctrine of the Trinity," he wrote. "Now, fifteen years later, I was leaving not only Christianity—if Unitarianism is Christianity—but Theism as well.“ In his later years Potter lectured, wrote and was active in the liberal theological movement. He was almost 77 when he died of stomach cancer in New York City. Potter Leaves Unitarian Ministry

17 17 "The ideal humanist" Potter once observed, "is a well-rounded person, intellectually informed, keenly intelligent, intuitively developed, and emotionally sensitive. He is well-balanced, appreciative of beauty in poetry, music and art; that is, responsive to sound and harmony, form and color, and to the infinite inspirations of nature— sunsets and stars, mountain-tops and flowers—but, most of all, appreciative of the marvelous depths and heights and infinite possibilities of human personality.“ Generally speaking, Potter thought that science should be the source of authority in religious humanism. Potter disagreed with the ways religious thinkers have traditionally sought to establish the truth of their statements. Theism said Potter, originates in the unknown. The existence and attributes of God are founded on superstition, and “to start with God is to beg the whole question.” Goodness, said Potter, exists only in humans; logically, then, to define God as an impersonal cosmic force is to deny his goodness. What is good and bad must be determined by humans; simply stated, whatever limits and cramps the human personality is bad, and whatever contributes to the development of the creative personality is good. “God gets credit for what man has done for himself.” Potter thought religion and gods were created by people, and “religion itself is but a means to an end, the improvement of man. It fails if it does not further that purpose. Obviously Potter thought religion can exist without God. Humanists Potter’s Thoughts


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