Symposium Videos  



Day 1 Robert Tapp-Moderator


The Broad Range of Humanisms

by Robert Tapp, ISHV Board Member

Humanist organizations, sites, writings are the most available indicators of the wide range of persons who identify as “humanist.” Those are also the best correctives for humanists’ many hostile critics. Some of us are “religious,” some “secular.” But our values are typically “secular/modernist,” stemming from the Enlightenment, emergent from reasoning, enlarged by the sciences, enhanced by the arts, fostered by the emergence of democratic societies.

In contrast, the values of traditional religions are conservative, resistant to progress from cultural status quos. For humanists, there is but this world; values are human-made -- and tested by consequences: will they promote human well-being.



Day 1 Ana Lita


Do people have the "right to die"?

by Ana Lita

The “right-to-die movement,” is rooted in ideas of classical Greece and gained momentum from the rights-based culture of the sixties. It has since become a more prominent movement due to a expansion of life- prolonging technologies that alter the dying process as well as evolving patterns of disease burden and mortality included (but not limited to) the HIV/AIDS pandemic, whose many faces have forced us to re-imagine inevitable death and suffering.

Recently, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman from California with terminal brain cancer, ended her life with physician prescribed medications. Currently, only five states in the United States authorize death with dignity, including Oregon, where Maynard and her family moved. However, her decision has prompted both support and criticism of aid-in-dying. The Vatican official Ignacio Carrasco de Paula condemns assisted suicide and calls Brittany Maynard’s act ‘reprehensible,’ although Brittany was not a Catholic.


Day 1 Jennifer Michael Hecht


"Stay" and the Secular Argument Against Suicide

by Jennifer Michael Hecht

There are two major secular arguments against despair suicide: 1) what you mean to the community, and 2) what you owe to your future self. Historically people have been aware that suicides can lead to more suicides; in a school, a town, a profession and other groups. Sociology statistics now bear out these observations. Because a suicide can do fatal harm to others, it is not a morally neutral act. That means that just by persisting we are making a life-saving contribution to our community.

It can be a great relief to realize that as much as you might be a burden, your suicide would be an exponentially worse burden, so you are no longer responsible for assessing your worth. As to your future self, you do not know what you will have or what you will be wise to in ten years. You owe your future self a little respect - at least don't kill yourself. Dr. Hecht will describe some of the philosophical antecedents to these ideas throughout history.



Day 1 Jamila Bey


Body Not Soul: Encouraging Organ and Body Donation After Death

by Jamila Bey

For myriad reasons, many Americans hold beliefs and ideas that preclude them from donating their bodies to research after death. This talk examines some of these reasons, and further discusses how these concerns can be addressed, and even dismissed. The case hasn’t yet been made well enough, but as we witness increasing rates of organ donation, making the choice an easy one, telling the story of how others will benefit could turn the tide such that there may be more families and individuals making the choice for body donation.



Day 1 Opening Session Q&A


Opening Panel

Question and Answer Session


Day 2 Morning Remarks Bob Tapp & Charles Murn    

The Paul Kurtz Legacy

by Robert Tapp

The Paul Kurtz legacy trumps that of any academic I have known: scholar, activist, publisher, organizer, fundraiser, international facilitator, manifesto stylist and mentor to many successors. On a few occasions his humanist pioneering led to institutional rejections, from which he recovered. The humanism he shaped and lived was indeed planetary.

The Human Prospect: A Neohumanist Perspective”

by Charles Murn, Editor

The Human Prospect is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, scholarly and professional journal founded by Dr. Paul Kurtz to advance society’s understanding of the juncture of science and values in the form of humanist ethics. The journal focuses on contributions addressing the tasks of: (1) understanding the implications of recent scientific discoveries and conclusions for daily life, (2) discerning how refinements in naturalist epistemology support, or compel refinement of, specific humanist values and ethics flowing from them, and (3) with the tools of reason and science, deriving pluralistic ethical rules on specific issues that implement humanist values based in scientific understanding.


Day 2 Sam Ilangovan


Humanist Community Panel Moderator

Somasundaram Ilangovan, ISHV Board Member

There are humanists all over the world, with the prevailing view that, regardless of our heritage, race, creed, gender, age, sexual orientation, status, age or physical ability, we are all brothers and sisters. Humanists strive to make the world a better place now and in the future by employing the scientific viewpoint, using compassion, reason and observation to look for answers to questions concerning ethics and respecting human rights.

In 1952 in Amsterdam humanists brought some groups together to form the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU). At the UN in March 2015 a resolution by the IHEU called for the eradication of the deep-rooted, inhumane caste system in India. Paul Kurtz wanted to create a more inclusive organization. The Institute of Science and Human Values is his vision to bring about a more progressive, purposeful and exuberant humanism to the world.


Day 2 Joe Beck


Secular Patients Graciously Accept Second Class Status

by Joseph Beck

Rosa Parks’ arrest for civil disobedience in December 1955 inspired the modern civil rights movement for equality, which eventually led to the 1960s civil and voting rights legislation victories. The modern gay pride movement for equality was given impetus at Stonewall in 1969, when the LGBT community began relentlessly protesting their second-class status.

The secular community of humanists, atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, however, still seems to be in denial about the nationwide religious discrimination we face when we enter a hospital, hospice, rehabilitation center, assisted living facility or nursing home. We will examine religious discrimination at medical facilities in New York, Florida and California, and discuss the changes needed in order for the secular community to receive the same recognition and support as is provided to the religious community.



Day 2 Ralph Lewis


Cancer as Existential Crisis:

Coping styles of believers and nonbelievers

by Ralph Lewis

Psychological difficulties in the context of cancer warrant a referral to a psychiatrist if those difficulties have become a source of functional impairment, such as disabling anxiety or depression leading to social withdrawal. Cancer patients with more average, expectable emotional and existential struggles can be served by other kinds of professionals. Among those other professionals are hospital chaplains, who often serve as a valued source of support for religiously oriented patients.

Secular patients generally do not avail themselves of chaplaincy services, and chaplains tend to avoid engaging non-believers. This need not be so. Many chaplains are skilled at providing general emotional support. They are also capable of engaging in existential counselling without invoking “God-talk”. Dr. Lewis is working with hospital chaplains in Toronto and at the national level in Canada to help them to better understand and serve non-believing patients.



Day 2 Anne Klaeysen


A Different Kind of Immortality

by Anne Klaeysen

Felix Adler, founder of Ethical Culture, wrote, “The dead are not dead if we have loved them truly. In our own lives we can give them a kind of immortality. Let us arise and take up the work they have left unfinished.” I use this quotation whenever I officiate at a non-theistic memorial and invite family and friends to recall something about the person who has died that they can imagine incorporating into their own lives, some way in which they can take up the work that loved one has left unfinished.

It addresses an experience of both mourning and celebrating our finite lives. Awareness of our mortality and accepting that there is no life after death frees us to be more fully ourselves: appreciating life with all its joys and sorrow, recognizing that we are part of the natural world, realizing our potential and responsibilities as human beings, and choosing to engage in ethical relationships.



Day 2 Humanist Community Panel-Sam Ilangovan-Moderator


Humanist Community Panel

Question & Answer Session



Day 2 Saroja Ilangovan


Moderator ~ Saroja Ilangovan

Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a great man, a Humanist and a social revolutionist who fought for women’s rights and eradication of caste in Tamilnadu , India, said, in the 1930s, “Scientific advances will allow man to easily live to 100 years or more. Scientists will be working on easier ways to die.” There is a multitude of research, scientific and otherwise, being conducted today on longevity.



Day 2 D. J. Grothe


Against the Dying of the Light: Is Radical Life Extension Pseudoscientific Quackery, Medical Science, or a Moral Imperative?

by D. J. Grothe

Is aging a curable disease? Surveying both recent advances in the medical sciences aiming to extend human life indefinitely, and also the secular social movements promoting and supporting such technologies, D.J. Grothe details how much of the life-extension trends are based on false hopes and delusion vs. solid science and evidence-based medicine. If you could live forever, or at least dramatically extend your life expectancy, should you? Or should you just accept the fact that everyone should die at some point?



Day 2 Toni Van Pelt


ISHV Programs and Progress

by Toni Van Pelt

The President of ISHV shares the founding story, history and mission of ISHV. As the Public Policy Director she discusses executive orders by the President and the introduction and passage of laws by the Congress that favor religion, threatening secular democracy.


Day 2 Debra Smietanski


Legal Issues Around Death and Dying Panel

Moderator Marcia Cohen, ISHV Pro Bono Attorney

Keeping Clergy Away: Preventing Unwanted Religious

Intrusion Through Advance Directives.

by Debra Smietanski

Attorneys will discuss the drafting of various documents to ensure that religion will not be thrust upon an unwilling non-religious person. These advance directives include wills, trusts, health care surrogacy, powers of attorney, living wills, special needs trusts and other documents describing the manner in which one wishes to have one's serious or final illness conducted.



Day 2 Carol Ann Johnson


Keeping Clergy Away: Preventing Unwanted Religious Intrusion Through Advance Directives.

by Carol Anne Johnson

Attorneys will discuss the drafting of various documents to ensure that religion will not be thrust upon an unwilling non-religious person. These advance directives include wills, trusts, health care surrogacy, powers of attorney, living wills, special needs trusts and other documents describing the manner in which one wishes to have one's serious or final illness conducted.



Day 2 Marcia Cohen


Religious Influence In Secular Hospitals:

The Bayfront Medical Center Case

by Marcia S.Cohen

When religious hospitals, particularly those of the Catholic faith, merge or otherwise affiliate with non-religious hospitals, or those of another faith, religious doctrine almost always influences patient care. Where the affiliated hospital is of a secular nature, its patients are unaware that their health care will be governed by religious dictates they may not share.

Often, there is little that the community can do about such hospital alliances, but when one of the hospitals is owned by a government entity, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution can protect against religious entanglement with a publicly owned institution.



Day 2 Legal Issues


Legal Issues Around Death and Dying Panel

Question & Answer Session


Day 2 Janis Landis


Closing Session

Moderator Stuart Jordan, ISHV Board Member

Why does the concept of suicide cause such outrage?

by Janis Landis

Why do many psychologists allege that ‘rational suicide’ is an oxymoron? The Final Exit Network (FEN) is the only organization in the United States that advocates for the right of competent adults to determine that due to irremediable medical conditions, the quality of their life is insufficient.

This paper looks at the legal landscape in several States that have waged war against FEN and the right to self-determination. It provides an update on current rules, including the Canadian Supreme Court decision, and it examines why the right to individual autonomy in the way we exit life has become the next battleground in the evolution of basic human rights.


Day 2 Sarah Morehead


Recovering from Religion

by Sarah Morehead

The executive director shares the story of this international non-profit organization that helps people who have left or are in the process of leaving religion to deal with any impacts of leaving their faith by creating support groups, providing a telephone hotline for “people in their most urgent time of need”, as well as offering a range of online tools and practical resources



Day 2 Massimo Pigliucci


Dying with Dignity: Lessons from Stoicism & Co.

by Massimo Pigliucci

Preoccupation with death and the process of dying is probably as old as the appearance of self-consciousness in human beings. Once we developed the ability to reflect on who we are and what we do, we realized that “we” were one day going to cease to exist. Arguably, the resulting existential anxiety has been a major force behind the development and success of worldwide religions, with their frequent promise of an afterlife.

But there have always been alternative, more secular, ways of dealing with death, developed since the time of the Graeco- Roman philosophers of antiquity. While Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus and Zeno (the founder of Stoicism) were not atheists, their philosophies had, and still have, much to offer in terms of non-religious approaches to dying. In this paper I explore how the major schools of Graeco-Roman philosophy took on the last stage of human life, and how a modern, scientifically informed secular person can profit from an update to that ancient wisdom.


Day 2 Closing Q&A


Closing Panel

Question & Answer Session


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