I Have a Dream

Part of a Series: American Humanist Retreat Center

A University of Toronto study says that individuals with strong religious beliefs may have lower stress levels when thinking about God… exposing atheists to religious beliefs provokes anxiety.

“I have a dream today.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.” – Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo

I have a dream. In the dream I am in a place where rationalism trumps ritual, where friendship trumps prejudice and where thought plus activism leads to progress every day. And in the dream there are Humanist communities all over the country that are alive and growing and speaking out.

I know a lot of you reading this share a part (or all) of my dream already. And that is why I want to share with you through this blog in the coming months, a very special part of the dream: The American Humanist Retreat Center.

The findings of the University of Toronto study mentioned above may or may not be accurate. But I don’t think many will question that nontheists do experience many of the same stresses of modern life that theists do, plus the stresses of being a non-conformist in a world that rewards conformity.

Many of us are at various stages in forming Humanist communities on a local level or participating in the American Humanist Association on a national level. In Phoenix, Arizona, where I lived for the past seven years, we have the first membership owned, full time Humanist Community Center. In at least twelve states and one province we have Camp Quest programs for kids. And Harvard has the Humanist Community Project (which sponsors this blog) supporting the further growth of Humanist communities without each one having to reinvent the wheel (or at least the same wheel).

I see the American Humanist Retreat Center as a place nontheists can get away from religiously-based communities and think, study, socialize or play. It would be a place for both structured and unstructured education. It would be a place for people of all ages and offering accommodations at different levels so that it could be available to people of varied economic levels. Some programs might be a day long and others might be a month or even longer.

Right now it’s just a dream. And until now it has been my dream. But now that I’ve shared it with you it can be our dream, if you want to dream it, too.

I know it isn’t easy to take a dream like this and make it come true, but I see what we’ve done in Phoenix and I know it is possible. In the coming months I’ll continue to share the dream and the specifics like philosophy, location/population, programs and fundraising. I hope those of you who want to share the dream with me will write in with your ideas.

Think about it. The American Humanist Retreat Center. Together we can make this a dream come true.

About Myra

Myra Rubinstein and her husband Leo, are full time RVers volunteering at National Parks, Historic Sites and Wildlife Refuges all over the U.S. She was previously a full-time mom, teacher, paralegal and respiratory therapist but has always been and will always be, a Humanist. She is a former Membership Chair and Vice President of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix and will be in the 19th class of the Humanist Institute of the AHA.

10 comments on “I Have a Dream

  1. The idea of a humanist retreat center, or many!, sounds like one whose time has come. It could provide seculars with a place to go, to be, to recharge and relax, to commune with others, and to get a change of scenery in an environment other than the usual conference atmosphere. A fun idea: you may want to use the word “advance” instead of “retreat,” as the Washington Area Secular Humanists have done for their yearly board weekend. :)

    • Thank you, Mary Ellen. I will certainly keep you “fun idea” in mind and hope you will continue to follow the blog and continue to contribute to it. It is together that we will make our dreams come true.

  2. I strongly believe this is something that needs to happen. There are many considerations, and it would probably be an expensive undertaking. But I think it would be well worth the trouble to raise the funds to make it a reality.

    • Thank you, Paulo. Yes, I agree that it is a complex and expensive project but that must not deter us from making our dreams come true… together. Please continue to follow the blog, share it with others and continue to contribute.

  3. I love this idea beyond my ability to express it. Before my deconversion I had decided to make my career in the Christian Camping ministry. (http://www.oceanwood.org) Running a camping and conference center was the happiest I had ever been in my life.

    There is a lot of thinking and work in the idea of a camp or retreat as a “temporary community”. It’s a way to strengthen interpersonal bonds and create an environment where participants can feel safe and supported as they grow as individuals and members of a larger community.

    Having one (or more!) central locations for retreats, camps, events, etc. In a beautiful location would be a huge step towards addressing the “community problem” in the humanist and secular world.

    Let’s keep in touch as this moves forward, I don’t know exactly how I can help right now, but one thing I know is the nuts and bolts of working at a non-profit conference center. ;)

    • Thank you so much, Scott. I really need people like you to help me get this project going. For right now please keep responding to my blog posts and as we move ahead I hope things will fall into place for you to play a larger role. Please feel free to friend me on Facebook or to send me your e-mail address (mine is myrarubinstein@hotmail.com) as I don’t think there is currently a system to let you know when I’ve written a new blog post. Be well and I hope you find that happiness again.

  4. Pingback: The Who | The Humanist Community Project

  5. About thirty of my friends and I are trying to realize this dream is SLC UT. I’d love any updates you have. The challenge we have that we don’t see any addresses for is the question of youth and children. For any sort of pragmatic enduring solution, we must begin to address that.

    • Thank you for your comments, Brent. I hope you’ll keep reading the blog. In Phoenix, where I was Membership Chair and then Vice President, the question of children and family oriented programming was raised a number of times. Our core group at the time we started fundraising to have our own building was age 40 and up and we had very few children. So for several years we focussed on the fundraising and not on developing programming to bring in young families. Now that we have the building, we can start recruiting young families and seeing what kind of programming they want. It’s tricky, as you may have found, because we want to offer programming but not indocrinate children as religious organizations do. I believe it CAN be done and will make a note to discuss this in a future blog post. Certainly it is something that could be discussed in a retreat setting over a weekend or even longer… don’t you think? Does anyone else have ideas on this topic?

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