A very human way of looking at life: Part 2 of 2
The Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia (HAGP) holds a variety of programs for like-minded people who believe in living a good life without organized religion.
Part 2 of "A very human way of looking at life"
The Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia (HAGP) offers those with a secular world view a chance to interact with like-minded people in the area.
Joe Fox, vice president of HAGP, founded the Secular Book Club five years ago, when he was HAGP's president. The club discusses books about issues important to secular humanism.
"The books tend to be about science and history," said Martha Knox, HAGP current president.
Eileen Childress has moderated the Secular Book Club for two years, and she has participated in the discussions since its first meeting along with her husband, Jim.
“The nature of the books” got her interested in the club, she said, and humanism itself is "a philosophy of life that just makes sense to me. It's a logical way of thinking."
Besides science and history, Childress said that the books also deal with philosophical and psychological matters.
“It gives people a chance to discuss books that their neighbors and friends might not be reading,” Childress said. “They’re not bestsellers.”
One of the first books the club read was “Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy” by Ted Nace, which discussed the history of large corporations in the country.
Other past selections have included books about Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as books about the oil crisis, clean water and evolution.
“We like history, and we like anything of community interest, books that affect us all,” Childress said.
For this month’s meeting, which will take place tonight, Jan. 15, members will discuss “The Lives of a Cell” by Lewis Thomas. Thomas’ book is a compilation of various articles about biology.
The club often invites authors of the selections to the discussions.
“We do encourage authors to come and speak with us,” Childress said.
At every meeting, the featured book sparks a robust discussion among club members that often stretches into the late evening hours.
"The members are very vocal and friendly, but they're not afraid to question things," Knox said.
Typically, 10 to 12 people attend meetings of the Secular Book Club, and Childress said the club always welcomes new members.
“The book club is open to the public, not just members of the humanist organization,” she said.
Club members come from all walks of life. The heterogeneous mix includes doctors, crane operators, architects and professors, and Childress, a teacher, said that’s part of the club’s appeal.
“You could be a ditch digger or a senator, and we’ll welcome you,” she said. “We have people who are 18 years old and people who are 90.”
Even if members disagree, they are open to discussing different ideas.
“Everyone accepts diverse opinions,” said Childress.
And, the club promotes a sense of camaraderie among its members.
“I think one of the biggest benefits is that we have developed friendships with the members in the club,” Childress said. “We have many friends we have just because of our involvement in book club.”
People interested in the Secular Book Club need not attend every meeting; they don’t even have to read the book, Childress said - they can just come to participate in the larger discussion.
Besides the book club, HAGP hosts a monthly program meeting. This month's meeting will take place Sunday, Jan. 30, at 1:30 p.m., at the Upper Moreland Library in Willow Grove, and the speaker is Ted Schick, a professor of philosophy from Muhlenberg College.
HAGP also sponsors a movie night every month at the Giant on York Road in Willow Grove. Knox said that the movies chosen tend to be independent documentary films about current issues.
"There are a plethora of movies out there that are of interest," said Fox of the selections.
The next movie night, slated for Saturday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m., will feature the film "D.M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker," and director Rod Bradford will attend the screening for a discussion.
And, each month, HAGP hosts a casual lunch at the Olive Garden on Moreland Road in Willow Grove. The next lunch gathering will take place Saturday, Feb. 12, at noon.
Annual events include the HAGP's summer picnic and HumanLight, a winter solstice celebration that ranks as one of the organization's biggest events, according to Knox and Fox. Last year's event, which took place Dec. 19 at Williamson Restaurant in Horsham, featured Paul Kurtz, a prominent figure in secular humanism.
For information about the book club, call Eileen Childress at 215-657-0389, or e-mail Jim Childress at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about HAGP's other events, call 330-242-4741, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.hagp.org.
HAGP is also on Facebook; search for "Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia."