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'Humanism as Religion'

March 15, 1987

The editorial (March 8), "Humanism as Religion," expresses puzzlement as to the nature of secular humanism. It states "Whatever secular humanism may be--and no one is exactly sure what it is--it is not a recognized religion in any sense of the word."

There have been many comments about the nature of secular humanism and one pithy observation comes to mind that seems to sum up its essence--"Human living and human thinking without reference to God." When religion is ignored, says Dr. Luther A. Weigle, a former dean of the Yale Divinity School, it is natural for children to conclude that religion is negligible or unimportant or irrelevant to the main business of life.

The late Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell, a noted Episcopalian clergyman and educator, wrote many years ago, "As the American school system is now conducted there is no such thing as religious liberty in American education. There is liberty only to be unreligious."

For a time the writer of this letter attended the oldest public school in America, Boston Latin School, founded in 1635. I entered the school in 1916 and it was the custom at that time for the classroom teacher to begin the school day with a reading from the Bible--the practice had been in existence for almost 300 years. It was usually one of the psalms from the Old Testament. The class was composed of students of various faiths--Protestants, Catholic and Jewish. No one was offended by the Bible reading and I believe that it lent a spiritual tone to the school. The Bible reading and the recital of the Lord's Prayer in state-controlled schools were struck down by a decision of the Supreme Court in 1963. Since that time the doctrine of secular humanism has become entrenched strongly in public education.

It is to be hoped that U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand's decision will arouse an interest in the historical roots of religion in public education and prove to be a stimulus for the promotion of educational freedom.

B.F. FLYNN

Los Angeles

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