The Society should immediately extend its invitation to speak and its apologies to Sunsara Taylor, and to the rest of us. I was in the Free Speech Movement 45 years ago this Fall, and have been involved in its reunion Conferences. You should know that our student body representatives to our top committees had people for Goldwater and Ayn Rand to people way left of Sunsara Taylor. That is the point of free speech. As adults you should do no less.
I can also say as a nationally recognized speaker for 3 decades that no one cancelled my talks without proper payment of my fees and out of pocket expenses and profuse apologies. It happened twice, once because I was preempted by Charles and Diana of England when touring Canada and the American group really could not help the situation. It was not pre-censorship of the content of what I had to say, and believe me it was controversial in its day!
Sincerely yours, and I expect a reply
-- Laura X, founder/director of the former
National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape
Women's History Library, Berkeley , CA
Let me say up front that Sunsara Taylor is one of six regular hosts (including myself) on the radio program I produce for WBAI-NY (Pacifica), 'Equal Time for Freethought' (ETFF). And while I want to mention here that Ms. Taylor's interviews have been among the best the program has had to offer, ETFF does not pretend to share all of her world views. Indeed, all six of us have different political philosophies (though I admit we are all left of center), yet we ALL share the common core message of philosophical humanism. In the proud humanist tradition of respecting the diversity of thought, let me then say this.
I have to admit that while I am disappointed that the Ethical Culture Society of Chicago would UN-invite Sunsara Taylor to speak on clearly humanistic topics, I am not surprised. Organized humanism in America has developed over the last 50 years or so as a mirror image of American society itself, which means it's more concerned with it's popularity, mainstream "image," and ability to appeal to the most possible individuals it can. In other words, organized humanism has more often than not traded it's principles for profit (albeit sometimes required just to stay alive in a capitalism system).
This ineffective and neutered 'humanism' has too often turned a blind eye to the sociopolitical and economic heart of humanism, while creating in its absence either a sort of flaky New Age "spirituality," or a narrow-minded, bitter atheism. And while humanism IS about heart, and a naturalistic world view, it's so much more than either.
At its core, I feel humanism is about humanity's drive toward real freedom, social equality, and individual liberty...both of mind and body. Humanism is therefore opposed to that which reduces our chance of obtaining such, including reactionary or authoritarian forms of religion, authoritarian styled power concentration (whether governmental or privatized), and economic systems which are inherently exploitive, oppressive or unfair. In this regard, Sunsara Taylor's message agrees with humanism where it critiques Imperialism, Capitalism, Organized Religion, and Religious Fundamentalism (no matter what one calls the latter).
Do I assert that ALL of Ms. Taylor's approaches are humanistic? No. Then again, how many humanists can claim this these days? I do not agree, for instance, that a rethinking of Leninist-Maoist "communism" will lead us toward a truly humanistic society due to it's own authoritarian and 'concentrated power' limitations. I also do not think that the evangelical, 'tough-love' atheism Ms. Taylor seems to embrace (along with capitalist atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens), is the way to bring people to a humanistic consciousness.. Nor is it true to Marx's own understanding of religion and the kind of society which embraces it.
But all in all, Sunsara Taylor's message gets to the core of what the humanist world view is all about, and to silence her simply because one may disagree with some (or even many) of her prescriptions, is to argue that humanists can no longer recognize their own philosophy when they see it, and have forgotten the "market place of ideas" motto of historical Freethought itself. If humanists are not willing to embrace such ideas in these times of political, religious and economic turmoil, who will?
Barry F. Seidman
Exec. Producer: Equal Time for Freethought!