Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

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Statement to mark World Humanist Day

21 June 2005 • 445 words

Today (June 21) is World Humanist Day. The Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association would like to use this opportunity to outline our basic tenets and goals. Although humanist organisations exist in most countries, ours is the first such in the Caribbean. Our Association was formed because of our conviction that a humanist perspective is crucial for any people who want their country to be peaceful, stable, and progressive.

But what, exactly, is a humanist perspective? Humanist tenets are based on the principles of rationality, ethics, tolerance, and compassion. We believe that if we apply these tenets to our politics, social policies, and economic programmes, it will help to draw us back from the abyss of increasing crime, spiralling poverty, and incompetent governance. We can only effectively meet these challenges on the basis of reason and common humanity. Humanists hold that the problems of the world must be tackled with the tools of the world. In analysing policy matters, we draw upon relevant scientific theories, reliable research, and available data. Where policy decisions require a moral dimension, we apply ethical reasoning - i.e. a moral argument based on logic and evidence and compassion.

Although humanism is usually painted as an anti-religion movement by its critics, there is nothing in the values listed above which runs counter to the beliefs of any enlightened person of faith. Our perspective does, however, offend religious fundamentalists, whose intrusions into public policy, in our view, help keep our society backward. But part of our purpose is to provide an alternative forum for the expression of moral viewpoints, since our religious leaders have, for the most part, failed the country in this regard.

We believe that this approach, although it takes more patience and more work than the vikey-vie responses which characterise our culture, is more effective in the long run. Our traditional habits of mind have not served us well in the project of creating a just and harmonious society. Trinbagonians have become disillusioned and apathetic about our ability to solve our own problems. As a result, many of us are pessimistic about the possibilities of our society.

However, the TT Humanist Association has been greatly encouraged by the number of persons expressing interest in the organisation since we began our public campaigns. If it shows nothing else, it shows that many citizens realise that our country needs a new approach, a new perspective, and a new ethos. The humanist philosophy embraces everyone who believes in rational thought and ethical principles, and who is willing to be active, whether in a public or personal capacity, in the service of these principles.

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