North American Science, Skepticism, and Secular Humanism 6 — A Labour of Struggle: You Have to Work
James A. Haught was born on Feb. 20, 1932, in a small West Virginia farm town that had no electricity or paved streets. During his six decades in newspaper life, he has been police reporter, religion columnist, feature writer and night city editor; then he was investigative reporter for 13 years, and his work led to several corruption convictions. He writes nearly 400 Gazette editorials a year, plus personal columns and news articles. Haught has won two dozen national newswriting awards, and is author of 11 books and 120 magazine essays. About 50 of his columns have been distributed by national syndicates. He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century. He has four children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He is a longtime member of Charleston’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Haught continues working full-time in his 80s.
Here we talk about working for a secular democratic state.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Another issue comes in the form of the struggle, not as an abstract. Literally, for any change, you need to labour. Often, this does not become a labour of love, but of necessity. You have to work. Question: Why?
Jim Haught: The struggle for secular democracy — free from supernatural mumbo-jumbo — is a gigantic worldwide effort. Great multitudes of skeptic freethinkers around the planet work to cleanse modern life of ancient myths about gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, prophecies, etc. The Internet is a major vehicle in this movement. Hundreds of skeptic websites are maintained by hundreds of secular groups everywhere. I think all these “secular warriors” are driven by a sense of honesty. They feel a need to counter the magical fairy tales and lies spewed by religion.
Jacobsen: Also, apart from the why of work, why work rather than just pretty, rhetoric? I am sure. We’ve both seen huge words said when the small risk is present, and the inverse in most of the other cases.
Haught: In our enlightened modern west, it’s now safe to express doubts without risk of death or punishment. But in the Muslim world, it can be fatal. Skeptic bloggers can be murdered in Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere. I’ve been a freethought writer for a half-century — but I doubt that I would be brave enough to endanger my family if I lived in an Islamic state.
Jacobsen: Spokespeople can be repetitive, by the nature of the speakers’ circuit. Also, the writings may become platitudinous. But! The people who make the real sacrifices and make the change. They’re, pretty much, ordinary people, but in large numbers. I mean serious sacrifices in work, in marriages, in friendships, and so on.
So, it’s also teamwork. What have been some of these big team secular work projects, where you’ve been really impressed watching it or taking part in it?
Haught: The Center For Inquiry, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the Humanist Association, American Atheists, the Congressional Freethought Caucus and many similar groups work hard to protect the right to doubt. In addition to endless writings, some file court cases to lock religious freedom into law. I’m now 88 and soon will be gone from the struggle (as many went before me), but I’m glad that you younger battlers will keep on battling.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Jim.
Haught: Keep the faith, baby.