May 17, 2013

Humanists find ways to say ‘I do’ without God

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Han Hills, a humanist celebrant in Wilmington, NC, performs a wedding at Wrightsville Beach. Photo courtesy of Leap of Humanity

Han Hills, a humanist celebrant in Wilmington, NC, performs a wedding at Wrightsville Beach. Photo courtesy of Leap of Humanity

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (RNS) With one in five Americans claiming no religious connection, national atheist and humanist agencies are developing ordaining programs to establish nontheist ministers in most states to perform weddings and funerals.

  • Jon

    A whole article on humanist weddings, and no mention of the hundreds of Unitarian Universalist ministers across the country who do Humanist weddings? Ouch. Here is a link to find a UU minister near you. They often do Pagan or Earth Centered weddings too. http://www.uua.org/directory/congregations/index.php

  • gilhcan

    That is just fine. For genuine democracy there must be responsible freedom, and that freedom absolutely must extend to religion. Because of the ancient, historical evil practiced between freedom and religion, between religion and government, the Framers very wisely amended our Constitution almost immediately to safeguard religion and churches and to safeguard politics and religion by maintaining separation between them. As with too many aspects of our amended constitutional life, that separation has been increasingly ignored, violated, and we are witnessing the sad and evil results of that in our public life today. A great many members of Congress should be applying for jobs as “pastors” of mean-spirited, evangelical churches.

  • Jon

    Oh, and I should add:
    Big Kudos to Amanda Greene and RNS for this important and timely article! I’ve seen many friends and relatives deal with this issue in many different ways – from coming up with their own solution, finding someone who can officiate, to the empty, faking it, Christian wedding (most common if the couple are both younger).

    Jon

  • ULC

    this is for the “Interfaith” ULC’s such as the Universal Life Church in Modesto, CA. or the ULC Monastery in Tucson, AZ. and others, that have NO real doctrine of faith, who ordain anyone or anything including dogs or cats. Please DO NOT confuse the Universal Life Church World Headquarters of Carrabelle, Florida with these so called churches. The Universal Life Church World Headquarters has a traditional doctrine of faith. Our ordinations are legal, valid and accepted throughout North Carolina, the USA and the world. For more information, go to: http://www.ulcnetwork.com

  • ULC

    PLEASE NOTE This article speaks on the non legal status for the “Interfaith” ULC’s such as the Universal Life Church in Modesto, CA. or the ULC Monastery in Tucson, AZ. and others, that have NO real doctrine of faith, who ordain anyone or anything including dogs or cats. Please DO NOT confuse the Universal Life Church World Headquarters of Carrabelle, Florida with these so called churches. The Universal Life Church World Headquarters has a traditional doctrine of faith. Our ordinations are legal, valid and accepted throughout North Carolina, the USA and the world. For more information, go to: http://www.ulcnetwork.com

  • David Thompson

    AMEN!

    All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher. – Lucretius

  • Doc Anthony

    Secular humanists claim that they are not a religion, but then they insist on having “humanist chaplains” and “nontheist ministers.” Yeah, right.

  • Greg

    So, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife, in the name of… me.

    Just doesn’t sound right.

  • Kevin R McCoy

    Mexico sorted this in the 1860’s. You marry at the civil registry, period. All the other stuff is of no legal value. Mexicans are very religious, most of them roman catholic and they do the church thing mainly as a cultural/social event and the state has no business in it. Also the church in Mexico has no say state affairs. Why in the US, doesn’t the state sanction marriage just like it does with births and deaths? Why do you have to go to some dubious organization to make your marriage legal is a mystery to me. We criticize Islamic countries because their laws are dictated by the Qumran but the US and many other so called developed countries let religion control the lives of its citizens.

  • Hey Doc – I don’t follow your logic. Why not have humanist chaplains and nontheist ministers if the engaged feel better about it? Why would you want to interfere with their desires and plans? How does it hurt you? Are there copyrights on the names? Is it illegal to use those names. Do definitions of words and titles ever change meaning over time?

  • Update on CFI’s marriage lawsuit against the State of Indiana law on who can solemnize marriages in the state. The case is on appeal to the 7th circuit court of appeals in Chicago. Oral arguments were heard on Friday, April 19. Don’t understand what the case is about? Read. Listen to audio of oral arguments.

    http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/external/rt.12-3751.12-3751_04_19_2013.mp3
    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/why_is_cfi_challenging_the_indiana_statute_which_specifies_who_can_solemniz/

  • Correct spelling of my name.

  • Secular Celebrant is the correct term.

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  • Lisa

    To minister is to give or perform a service. Because religion adopted the term, it doesn’t necessarily imply religion or faith.

  • Greg, it’s “By the authority vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” The State authorizes who can marry couples.

    I’ve performed over 2,000 in 40 years of marrying couples, 95% of those were Secular ceremonies, no religious language, a deeply meaningful ceremony for the couple and their guests. I’ve been a Celebrant endorsed by the Humanist Society for 3 years and value my association.

  • There are also dozens of Humanistic rabbis and Leaders/Madrikhim-ot/Vegvayzers ordained and certified by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism over the past 25 years who have done hundreds of secular and culturally Jewish ceremonies. For more information or a list of celebrants, visit http://iishj.org/about-alumni.html.

  • Doc Anthony

    Hey, I have no objection to members of the Humanist religion, like all religions, having their own chaplains and ministers. Oh no no. But since that is the case, it’s time for Humanists to eschew dishonesty and publicly acknowledge that they are indeed a religion just like all the rest. Fair enough?

  • Ann Marie Coleman

    Interesting article. I am an Ordained Minister who has been doing non-theistic weddings for more than forty years. I encourage folks to write as much of their own ceremony as they are able.

    It’s a great adventure meeting with people and finding out
    what is important to them about being married. I have done more that 2,000 weddings in all kinds of settings. People have so many reasons for choosing to be married these days, one of my favorites being “it’s just time”!

  • Mudflappus

    By that logic, you could call any organized school of thought or social movement “a religion” when it’s convenient for you to do so. One might consider this merely pigeonholing but the use the very term that many consider to be derogatory toward their goal of achieving secular awareness is nothing more than a light insult. They’re called chaplains because this is a position and title already well established throughout many organizations. It makes no sense to petition for a completely new and different position when the central support structure is already in place. While Secularism may be considered a religious position, it is most certainly NOT a religion in of itself,

  • Greg

    Imagine. A historically religious ceremony void of religion. Might as well just call it what it is: a civil union.

  • Unitarian Universalism spends quite a bit of effort on spiritualism and even faith. And while there is some overlap between atheism or at least those who describe themselves as agnostic and UU, there are differences. Most atheists or humanists want to avoid faith and spiritualism altogether … example http://www.uua.org/beliefs/welcome/atheism/index.shtml

  • Lisa you are exactly correct. Thank you for pointing this out! Celebrant is just one term of many that can be used. Minister of Ceremonies (aka MC) is also a time when Minister is used with a secular meaning.

  • Lemme try again … Master of Ceremonies … not Minister. Dammit … I wanna correct my own post.

  • Anita

    Greg, I simply have to comment= Marriage is NOT historically religious. Not even slightly. Google “history of marriage” or anything to that affect. (Sorry to correct you… I hope you did want to know!)

  • NVArden

    I think humanists are not dishonest by using their own practitioners as “chaplains” or “ministers.” To perform a marriage ceremony, people need some solemnity and some awe. This is normal human nature. However, the ritual must remain secular without any mention of any divinity or divination. So, IT’S NOT RELIGION because religion implies divination.
    It is, in fact, a simple theatrical contract, nothing more. Humanists are honestly anti-religionists.

  • NVArden

    Terry, hi!
    Who will perform my funeral in a secular format? I have no idea. I wil be cremated, but I would like some solemnity, not too much, but some nice words there.

  • PatC

    no humanists i’ve heard of use the term “minister”. yes, there are humanist chaplains, but not ministers. the people who perform weddings are called celebrants.

  • Susan

    Doc- I get the impression you do not understand what a true atheist is. We beleive in NO spirituallity in any form. No god, no devil, no miracles, no pagan beliefs, only science. Therefore there is no religion. So therefore I am confused where the chaplans and ministers come from that you are talking about. My atheist family would never consider the ULC for use for anything concerning ceremony. Ever that is too much religious. Not sure what you are talking about.

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  • Also Humanist Officiant

  • No. Not fair. And a totally inappropriate designation for humanism.

    Joel

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  • Please update records for the Universal Life Church World Headquarters Universal Life Church

  • Paul Denton

    Your definition is surprisingly dogmatic. Do I have to swear to follow your Creed to call myself an atheist? All science can say is that there is little verifiable evidence for the existence or non- existence of “spiritual entities”. Agnostic (just means not knowing) is currently the only scientifically valid stance toward religion or spirituality. To say you know or believe there is nothing there is as indefensible, objectively, as saying you know or believe there is a God, devil, Easter Bunny, whatever.