Home » Library » Modern Library » Edwin Wilson Manifesto Ch15

Edwin Wilson Manifesto Ch15



Responses from Individuals

Comments on the manifesto received from individuals after publication were important to us because part of the motivation behind publishing the manifesto was to catalyze discussion and promote the development of humanism.

Edgar S Brightman

One valued letter came from Edgar S. Brightman, who was then teaching in the philosophy department of the Graduate School of Boston University (he also taught at Boston University’s School of Theology). Brightman wrote:

The "Humanist Manifesto" is really worth while. Any clarification of the air is valuable. As a theist, I find myself in disagreement only with the fifth and sixth points (and the ninth and tenth, which follow from them). The others seem to me to be full of evidence for theism! I wonder whether the last sentence of the fifth point means a repudiation of philosophy in favor of science, in which case I wonder where loyalty to values comes in. From the eleventh on, I am heartily in agreement.

Although I never met Professor Brightman personally, we kept in touch; he sent critical comments, pro and con articles, and reviews which I published after 1941 as editor of The Humanist. A friendly liberal theist voice such as Brightman’s was invaluable and functioned within a framework of cooperative coexistence which today’s extreme fundamentalists probably would not understand; but it’s a good idea for humanists to work with liberal theists for shared goals. Dr. Brightman was primarily a teacher, encouraging critical thought on religion wherever he found it.

Edward S. Boyer

Comments on the manifesto by E. S. Boyer, professor of religion at James Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, were published in the July/August 1933 issue of The New Humanist (VI:4:47); "A Humanist Manifesto" had appeared in the previous issue. Boyer wrote:

I believe the "Humanist Manifesto" to be one of the most brave and courageous attempts at clearing away the debris in the religious field that has been made for a century. There is every evidence of the acme of religious goals being stated. Therein may lie its difficulty. Intellectualization is the basic work. The machinery is all there except important parts of the dynamo.

Social living down at its "grass roots" has powerful urges that drive the human life into fierce group action. The pilgrimage of life for any alert individual is full of such phases. Controls issuing from an intellectualized credo can only be partially successful in guiding toward commonly desired ethicised human conduct. Emotional tides whence come fervor, zeal, and, abandon of life for a cause, overflow reinforced dykes, still flow through society. That some such tides lay waste and do much destruction, none can deny. But that others function to cleanse and clarify must also be admitted. The fact that we must account for such each day in the realm of politics, economics and common social action is proof positive of its presence. The "battle and the march" seem to require it. How compose the difficulties that issue from the heat of such dynamic human action? The live currents and cross-currents arising from the intermingling of the passions of love, hate, loyalty and established prejudices must be guided to higher levels through emotional attachment to living reality as well as to living thought.

My sincere desire would be to say that the "Manifesto" is sufficient for these things. Truly speaking, I fear it will not be. It seems confined to a selected corner of life but aloof from the total field of humanity’s life and death struggle. There will be stiff criticism at this point. I hope and believe that such criticism will not vitiate the good work and noble spirit of the thirty-four men who signed this significant and history-making document. Nor will the rest of us who believe so largely with them, be deterred from stronger efforts at establishing rational and scientific norms for developing spiritual fruit borne of common intelligent action through personalizing qualities of the good life.

E. J. Unruh

E. J. Unruh, then minister of the Central Universalist Church in Indianapolis, wrote a letter on May 9, 1933, to Harold Buschman, editor of The New Humanist. Buschman scribbled a candid note to his staff: "This is just jibberish!-Poorly written, in any case. Too much near-rhetoric." Too long to print as a whole, two paragraphs from Unruh’s letter should suffice to reflect his point of view:

. . . The Manifesto fails to state why I want to be a humanist. What moves me to forsake the traditional affirmations, launch out into the dangers of uncertainties, and constrains me to desire to spend myself in the interest of man? There seems to be a sort of motivating influence that is within and of the self, yet it is above the self. It is not what the traditionalist calls God but it is what I should very much like to call God. . . .

A description of my religious self must include a joyful recognition of all integrating influences and the repulsiveness of disintegrating influences, an appreciation of the lifegiving and motivating forces and also a positive disapproval of the life-taking and negating forces. . . .

In spite of all this and above all this I am constrained to maintain that I am a humanist but not such a one as is described by the manifesto. . . .

I have greatly enjoyed the May-June issue of The New Humanist. Here is the subscription price.

George R. Dodson

Dr. George R. Dodson, a scholarly critic of the views espoused by Reese and Dietrich well before the publication of the manifesto, submitted an article, "What the Manifesto Lacks," which was published in the September/October 1933 issue of The New Humanist (VI:5:28-32):

Notwithstanding my great respect for the names signed to the Humanist Manifesto and my enthusiastic agreement with some of its affirmations-for example numbers 2, 8, 12, 13, and 15-I cannot escape the conviction that the declaration is, if not hasty, at least not sufficiently considered. It is defective and erroneous in several important respects of which I desire to indicate a few.

First, then, it ignores the fact that some of its affirmations, for example those I have mentioned, have been and are being enthusiastically made by theistic and modernistic churches for which the Manifesto declares there is no longer any place. What is announced as something new and revolutionary is familiar to many thinkers and practical workers in the religious field. It is a fact that a very large percentage of the movements for philanthropy, charity, social reform, education and enlightenment have been initiated and led by liberal church people, the immense majority of whom are theists. This is not the place to confirm this statement by giving a list of the many progressive movements started and developed by men and women who never dreamed that there was anything incompatible between their theism and humanism. Indeed, their theistic religion has tremendously reinforced their humanistic efforts, for they have deeply felt that in their humanitarian efforts they were working not against the main currents of life in the world, but that they were themselves organs of creative intelligence, of upward tendencies in the universe.

Second, the many men and women who have spent themselves and their resources in the endeavor to better existing conditions have meant by religion not what the Manifesto means by it, but what the great majority of religious men and women have always understood and still understand by the term. The Manifesto defines religion as the quest for the good life; but I do not think that philosophers of religion generally would define religion in this way-for this quest may be pursued with or without religion. The proponents of the Manifesto are defining religion in a way in which it has almost never been defined. Surely the consensus of enlightened opinion is that men pursue the quest for the good life religiously when they believe or trust or hope that the cosmos is favorable to their idealistic efforts, that we live in a world in which our ideals can be realized and that in our intellectual, ethical, and aesthetic enthusiasms we work with, and not against, the personality-producing forces of the universe. Notwithstanding the diversity of religious doctrines, on one essential point there is general agreement. It has been stated by Paulsen with great clearness as follows:

"For in truth the real essence of every religious belief is the assurance that the true nature of reality reveals itself in that which I love and reverence as the highest and the best; it is the certainty that the good and perfect, towards which the deepest yearning of my will is directed, forms the origin and the goal of all things." . . .

This characteristic of essential religion is ignored in the definition adopted by the Manifesto. It declares that theism is obsolete, that the time for it has passed, that henceforth we are definitely through with the idea of God. Humanism is thus either anti-theistic or it treats the great idea with studied indifference. . . . There are even people who think they are not religious but who teach their children that the way to the highest values is lighted by the ideals of truth, beauty, and goodness. But to say this is to say a great deal about the universe, for it is implicitly to affirm that the universe is of such a nature that the highest, the most satisfactory and blessed life will be enjoyed by those whose lives are consecrated to the realization of intellectual, aesthetic, and social ideals. But that is theism, and the Manifesto mentions it only to dismiss it summarily and unceremoniously. It would have been well for the Manifesto to be clear about the theism which it rejects-for there are three possibilities: (a) that reality is sub-human, (b) that it is precisely human (anthropomorphic), (c) that it is superpersonal and that we are justified in our use of personal symbols because, though inadequate, they are the highest that we have. They mean too little and not too much. . . .

Religion is, then, a triumphant attitude of the spirit of man. It can never be a matter of demonstration in the scientific sense and it does not have to ask of science permission to be. . . .

Roy Wood Sellars

Continuing its tradition of civilized dialogue-and having welcomed a competent critic in the spirit of Dr. Haydon’s oft-repeated dictum: "A movement should be judged by its best exemplars"-Professor Roy Wood Sellars was asked to respond to the published manifesto. In the November/December 1933 issue of The New Humanist (VI:6:6-12), his article, "In Defense of the Manifesto," referred to a previous controversy he had had with Dr. Dodson:

It was with considerable interest that I read Professor Dodson’s critique of the Humanist Manifesto. I could anticipate in some measure his general reaction to the perspective in religious matters represented by the Manifesto and his probable rejection of certain of the theses, and this because I knew his position in philosophy, having had, as a matter of fact, a slight controversy with him on the subject of naturalism a few years ago. it would, in fact, have surprised me if he had agreed with the obviously naturalistic point of view of the declaration of principles offered to the public as a basis for discussion.

And that is just what a manifesto is. It is a public declaration of principles giving reasons and grounds. It presents something to be debated, something which its proponents are ready to defend to the best of their ability because they have a sincere belief in what it stands for. There is no suggestion of the authoritarian about it. It follows that all who sign are ready to welcome vigorous criticism. There can be no hesitation about so classing Dr. Dodson’s article.

The Manifesto must, I think, be taken as a whole. It presents fifteen theses which together express a standpoint which is at one and the same time naturalistic and humanistic. Herein lies its novelty. . . . Man is a child of Nature, and yet with unique and distinctive abilities and needs. By his intelligence and wisdom he must, if possible, guide his life and use it creatively. It is my impression that Dr. Dodson does not fully realize the crucial importance for the whole Manifesto of this encompassing perspective. The various theses are but arguments of it or corollaries. Their unity comes from it. . . .

I would point out that we did not regard it as our job at the time to compare and contrast our position with other positions. We knew that would be done in the discussion

that followed. We were concerned primarily with the development of the assumptions, objectives, and motivations of a naturalistic humanism. It did not occur to us to deny that there had lived all sorts of noble men in the past or that humanitarianism was widespread among liberal people. . . . We conceived humanism as a perspective which would give vigor and rigor to ethical thinking and not as something which would miraculously introduce the milk of human kindness where it was lacking.

And this brings me to another point. Naturalistic humanism offers itself as an outlook expressive of the worldview and the philosophy of human life which is growing up all over the world among educated and reflective people. In this sense, it regards itself as a possible world-religion correspondent to the coming unification of world-culture. Just as the scientific interpretation of the world is being accepted today in Tokio [sic] and Calcutta and Peking [sic] as well as in London, Paris, Chicago and Moscow, so it may well be that, in the years to come, a somewhat analogous philosophy of human life will arise in connection with it.

I hope, then, that rationalists, Confucians, Marxists, Hindus, Unitarians, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc. will feel somewhat as Dr. Dodson does about the Manifesto, namely, that its ethical outlook is not altogether alien to theirs but that, taken as a whole, it represents a stimulating and really novel perspective. . . .

Although the final product of "A Humanist Manifesto" was the work of many contributors, Dr. Sellars’ influence ought not to be underrated. He was a philosopher of national prestige and, according to The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Sellars has maintained a substantial reputation . . . as a vigorously independent thinker. His thought is rigorous and critical, he has never yielded to the fashionable movements of the day but has steadfastly pursued his own original insights into basic . . . problems."

Archie J. Bahm

Yet another person who identified with organized humanism almost since its inception was Archie J. Bahm. Later a professor of philosophy at the University of New Mexico, at the time he wrote the following letter, he was a Teaching Fellow in philosophy at the University of Michigan, where he obtained his doctorate. Bahm wrote to Buschman at The New Humanist on May 17, 1933:

A copy of "The New Humanist," containing "A Humanist Manifesto," has just come to my hands. The manifesto reminds me of a "religious creed" which I wrote some time ago, and which won first place in contest conducted by the Liberal Students Union (Unitarian)-a contest in which all University of Michigan students were eligible to compete. I submit it to you, hoping that you may find it to be of some use.

The judges of the contest were Professor Roy Wood Sellars, of the Department of Philosophy, Professor John R Shepard, of the Department of Psychology, and Professor Robert C. Angell, of the Department of Sociology-all of the University of Michigan.

There followed Bahm’s "A Religious Affirmation which we published in the July/August issue of The New Humanist:

A Religious Affirmation

A man should-

  1. Be creedless; that is, be intelligent enough to make adaptations without dependence upon some formula.
  2. Be self-reliant; that is, be not dependent upon supernatural agency for intellectual support or moral guidance.
  3. Be critical; that is, question assumptions and seek certitude scientifically.
  4. Be tolerant; that is, be openminded and hold conclusions tentatively.
  5. Be active; that is, live today and grow by exercising his capacities.
  6. Be efficient; that is, accomplish the most with the least effort.
  7. Be versatile; that is, vary his interests to attain a variety of interesting thoughts.
  8. Be cooperative; that is, find some of his satisfactions in social activities.
  9. Be appreciative; that is, make the present enjoyable by his attitude.
  10. Be idealistic; that is, create and live by ideals which he finds inspiring.

I think this affirmation demonstrates something I have often noticed-that is, different schools of philosophy arrive religiously and ethically at humanism.

John H. Hershey

John H. Hershey, then minister of the Unitarian Church in Laconia, New Hampshire, wrote to The New Humanist largely in defense of the continued use of God-language, but in a cosmic sense, as shown by these quotes from his letter:

There can be no doubt that the "Manifesto" distinctly opposes the idea of a personal, supernatural being, judging from numerous passages. But it should be said emphatically that the idea of God thus opposed is not the only idea of God. There are other ideas of God which may be reasonable, even if the supernatural idea is not.

Another idea which has been held in the past and is held today is that of God as the eternal principle of order in the universe. God, so thought of, did not create the universe at one time, but is eternally transforming it. Man was not miraculously created, but naturally sprang from the earth. The cause and effect processes of nature are the workings of the eternal principle we call God. Indeed, the organic view of human nature, of man and nature, and of all nature makes rational the idea of one unifying principle of all things, and this principle is God. For it is difficult, logically, to have an organic view of man and nature without an immanent, unifying principle. Now, with this idea of God in mind, instead of a personal, supernatural deity, let us consider some of the statements of the "Manifesto."

It states, for example, that the universe is self-existing, that man is a part of nature and has emerged as the result of a continuous process, that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected for an organic view, and that culture and civilization are products of a gradual development. Furthermore, the possibility of realities not as yet discovered is not denied. These statements are opposed to the idea of a personal, supernatural deity. But are they opposed to the idea of God as eternal and immanent unity? No! In fact, they are necessary for a belief in divine immanence.

Albert Dieffenbach

I have previously pointed out that, at the time the manifesto was published, Albert Dieffenbach had become the religion editor for the Boston Evening Transcript. The following essay by Dieffenbach reads like an editorial, but when Raymond Bragg turned it over to me after finding it in his files, there was no indication that it had ever been published.

Here is a sincere effort to state what a body of earnest thinkers believe is the religion of the new era. Though the humanist manifesto takes the form of a precise definition of faith, it is much more an earnest expression of principles by which people live out their lives in a growing world. Every one of the signers is a religious person, bringing the intelligence directly to bear upon truth for life, and keeping all of the other factors which must be present in a complete religion. As Carlyle said of his father, these men are religious with the consent of all their faculties. I know there are tens of thousands of persons who are ready for the manifesto and will accept it with spiritual satisfactions. Today we are undergoing revolutionary changes in all of our ways of thinking, political, social, and economic, and it is a simple fact that people are not at all alarmed or disturbed by the casting off of the old order for the new and better time. Religion, which really embraces all of the elements of our life into one binding unity, is of course under obligation to restate its fundamentals. That is what make this body of universal essentials of paramount importance in our present evolution to a higher order of personal and corporate life throughout the world.

It will please the careful reader that the manifesto is affirmative and optimistic. While there is a becoming unwillingness to make dogmatic assertions about certain things which we do not know, there is also an inspiring and forward-marching faith in what is known and accepted by all good men. There is nothing lacking in the manifesto to make a religion of infinite power and glory for this present world. The most devoted follower of any one of the world’s great religions will find here the ultimate ideas and ideals which have moved the race onward. For it is simple truth that every religion is at last humanistic. That is, the great faiths have all had human leaders who were conceived as prophets or divinities. The power of these religions has come from the human attributes which have been sublimated and united in religion. When men say, for example, God is love, they form a concept of the holiest quality in the human heart. And so with every other element in religion of every variety, throughout the ages. All are ours. In men are the potential religious talents, and to perfect him in character and to supply him with a dynamic for service to humanity, is the whole duty of religion and the peculiar obligation for us of this age of liberation in the truth and of advancement of the rights, the goodness, and the happiness of mankind.

W. Frank Swift

W. Frank Swift was a classmate of Raymond Bragg’s at theological school and a leader for a brief time of the St. Louis Ethical Society. Swift was among the younger generation of signers of the manifesto:

It becomes apparent that institutionalized religion is losing its effectiveness as a social force in the modern world. This loss of effectiveness is largely due to the fact that the churches have become marooned on an island of theological ideas and practices. . . . It is in emphasizing the fact of human responsibility for achieving the goal of the quest for the good life that humanist religion finds its prophetic function in the modern world.

Swift died in an automobile accident in December 1933 at the age of thirty-two.

W. Hanson Pulsford

A letter came to Raymond Bragg from the Reverend W. Hanson Pulsford, which has particular poignancy because Pulsford, later having decided that life under certain conditions of illness had no further potential for him, took matters into his own hands and drowned himself. This was long before discussions of death with dignity and beneficent euthanasia had become common, and before the right to suicide was affirmed in Humanist Manifesto II in 1973.

Pulsford had been a minister of the First Unitarian Church of Chicago. As students, Buschman and I heard him preach vigorous and brilliant sermons. He wrote to Bragg on May 28, 1933:

The "Humanist Manifesto" interests me much. As you perhaps know I am in fundamental agreement with the position it sets forth. I should however like to modify the third affirmation so as to avoid the traditional dualism between man and "nature" or, were I to use the old phraseology, between man and God. That would be done were the second affirmation to read somewhat as follows:-

"Humanism believes that man has emerged as one of the phases of a continuous cosmic process."

Were the Manifesto stripped of its negations and brought into key with the above by slight verbal alterations it would adequately express my own position.

The above comment (you invite expressions of opinion) is set forth in the last sentence of my little "Religion and the Modern Outlook," in relation to the aims of Humanism, thus:-

"A well reasoned faith that the possibilities of human life are integral with the unfolding process of the earth is the firm foundation on which, in all such movements, a justifiable confidence must ultimately rest." It is the dualism spoken of above which to me invalidates Bertrand Russell’s "Free Man’s Worship." . . .

If my suggestion seems to you worthwhile, you are of course free to discuss it with your co-adjutors, to the number of whom I like to feel that I too belong.

Pulsford’s wisdom came too late to influence the editorial process, but in the perspective of years it is probable that he would have given wise guidance to the resolutions of the differences over the third and sixth theses.

Frank H. Hankins

Social scientist Frank H. Hankins was named a Humanist Pioneer by the American Humanist Association in 1960. His citation read that, "as author and teacher he set forth the tenets of evolutionary naturalism, identifying himself fully with the position of Roy Wood Sellars." The citation states that, because of his chapter on "Myth, Magic, Religion, and Science" in his Studies in the Social Sciences, the book became very controversial and led to one teacher losing his job because he used the book, another only kept her job on condition that she would drop it. Allegedly because of its radical naturalism, Macmillan would not publish a second edition.

On May 25, 1933, Hankins sent this letter from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts:

I have received several letters regarding the Manifesto, indicating that there is a genuine interest in its content. The Bristol (Rhode Island) paper sent me a marked copy containing an editorial denouncing the signers in vigorous terms. The gist of the editorial was what ought to be done to the signers was to give them a good stiff slug in the jaw. Naturally one cannot enter into controversy with such people.

I think there is no doubt that the 14th point to which you refer is more or less ambiguous. I am rather inclined to think that this ambiguity was a factor in securing signatures. This may not be pleasing to you, but I rather think it represents the situation. Personally, I would not wish to commit myself to a definite statement adopting anything like a Socialist creed. My sociological theory is that every society makes some sort of amalgam of individualism, state socialism, and communism. This amalgam, moreover, changes with every fundamental change in the material basis of culture. It is therefore unscientific as well as unwise to commit oneself to a prioristic or dogmatic statement of just what combination of these principles should be made at any time. Personally, I should hope that "a socialized and cooperative economic order" could be established without surrendering very important values in the principles of individual liberty, initiative and private property. If, however, it should be decided to attempt an enlargement of the 14th point, I should be glad to give the matter due consideration.

Charles Francis Potter

Charles Francis Potter, writing at length to Bragg on May 1, said:

Your letter and the three manifesto releases did not reach my office until today, as they were not mailed in Chicago until Saturday evening and there is no mail delivery on Sunday in New York, except special delivery. It is now too late to do anything with them, for if any one of the three services, AP, IP, and UP, is favored, the other two will cut the release dead unless it is big news. You could have given the release to the other news services at their Chicago offices at the same time as AP, and you would have secured nation-wide coverage.

I hope you sent advance copies to the columnists, such as Elsie Robinson, who does "Listen, World." She has the largest audience of any columnist, 15,000,000 readers daily, and is much interested in Humanism. She gave us a whole column when we started here, and another column when my book on Humanism came out.

If you wanted to tie up the story to The New Humanist, you could have done it beautifully by having it appear in your magazine’s next issue, and releasing a newspaper story to break before the day of issue, saying,-"The New Humanist will publish tomorrow an exclusive article announcing. . . ." Of course, you had a little tie-up by including Wilson’s name as editor of The New Humanist, but the AP story was cut in The NY Herald-Tribune, for instance, both in content and names, and Wilson’s name was one of those left out. My issue of the NY Times carried no story whatever. If you had wired me, as I suggested, I could have seen the editor, whom I know personally, yesterday and would have impressed him with the significance of the thing and he would have got Dewey, Barnes, or Randall on the wire for a local supplementary statement. I just talked on the wire with Stanley Walker, city editor of the Herald-Tribune, trying to get him to run a follow-up story tomorrow, but he thought the half-column he ran today was adequate. The Daily News ran a little story. The World-Telegram had nothing, but that was because UP didn’t have the release. . . .

Let me congratulate you and Wilson on the good work you put in on this manifesto. I know how hard it is to get liberals to agree on anything. The thing is historic, and its importance will gradually be recognized. I think the theists are more scared of us than they admit.

Bragg responded promptly on May 4:

You are aware of my lack of acquaintance with the methods of publicity. From this time I shall feel more adequate to the task of getting news before the American public. There were many slips and omissions incidental to the issuing of the Manifesto. There is little excuse for a great many of them. But the fact that my fiscal year was ending at the time work on the Manifesto became most trying explains part of the difficulty.

We had some good publicity here though the Tribune wrote it down as it would be expected. The Herald-Examiner gave a very decent presentation and a fairly complete one. The really interesting part of it will come later. I have indications that the Christian Century is going to blow things up pretty decidedly. Charles Lyttle phoned me this morning in something of a huff that he had not been drawn into the preparation of the statement. He told me of a meeting of the Christian Church History Society last night at which Garrison had said that the Century was going to do a job on it. Let it be so. Holmes was asked to sign and he replied in two letters portions of which will appear in The New Humanist. His mind is so firm that it is not easy to discuss these matters with him. He talks very vaguely about man leaping beyond himself. Now can’t you imagine John (Haynes) Holmes leaping beyond himself? It sounds rather ridiculous when it is brought down to specific incidents.

You will be interested to know that this morning I received a splendid letter from my old teacher Walter Goodnow Everett commending us all for issuing the statement. He declares that after a life time of reflection of matters pertaining to religion he comes to the conclusion that we are "everlastingly right."

The correspondence continued on May 13, with Dr. Potter’s remarks on John Haynes Holmes of special interest:

The May-June issue of The New Humanist is a fine piece of work. I hope there were plenty of extra copies printed, for there is sure to be a continuing demand for them. . . .

In reply to your letter of May 4, let me say that I wasn’t at all surprised that Holmes refused to sign the manifesto. He has reverted to theism since he was over and saw Gandhi, whose simple faith in God made a great impression on Holmes. The latter has a very theistic order of service. He is also very pessimistic about the future of liberal religion, but that is partly due to his physical condition and partly to his sad experience with his apartment-hotel proposition.

Nor was I surprised to hear that Morgan and Buschman wouldn’t sign. The former wouldn’t sign anything which anyone else wrote, and the latter has never been a real Humanist and never will be happy until he severs relations with the rest of us. As for Otto, I was much surprised. If the manifesto is an ineffectual gesture and a tactical error, what would he propose? Doing nothing at all for fear we should do something wrong?

There are plenty of men who are proud to be known as Humanists but who are unwilling to commit themselves to a cooperative program. The Unitarians have made the error of super-individualism, and I hope that Humanism will not stumble over the same stool.

I have read carefully the objections of these four men, all of whom I honor highly, but I think their points are weak.

The effect of the manifesto in New York has been distinctly beneficial, both outside our society and inside.

I am glad that Everett wrote you. If he is the Brown University Everett,1 he called at one of our meetings on his way South last year and was very enthusiastic for Humanism.

If you have any extra copies of the Chicago papers’ articles on the manifesto, please slip them in your next letter. I think I sent you a copy of the N. Y Herald-Tribune story, which was the best here.

Shortly after this, Dr. Potter again wrote to Bragg:

Let me know how much stuff your clippings-bureau collects. I’m always interested to see which papers pick up a liberal religious release. We are having trouble all the time with the Roman Catholics’ bringing all the possible pressure to bear to keep Humanism out of the news.

Humanism is getting quite a bit of good publicity through the Pearl Buck case because it is tied up with the laymen’s Foreign Mission Inquiry Report, "Rethinking Missions," which has been assailed here as "pure Humanism" because it calls for education in place of evangelism in the future mission work.


I just got in touch with the chief editor of United Press and tried to get him to take something of the manifesto on a rewrite or anything, but he is sore that the AP got a scoop on him, and he won’t print a thing. There is great rivalry, you know, which is why extreme care has to be used not to let one have it an hour before the other.

Yes, I knew that Walker was once speaker of the Mass. House and candidate for the governorship. He is a good man. So is Auer. Are you going to collect and publish a list of additional names? If you got each of these 34 to work on it, you could easily get at least a hundred good names. If only 20 out of the 34 got 5 names each, it would make the hundred.

It would be a good move to have all the Humanist preachers take the manifesto for a sermon-or a series of sermon-subjects. I am preaching on it next Sunday.

We are going to keep our headquarters open all summer, and our preaching services five weeks longer than usual.

In his reply, Bragg wrote:

We have no money for clipping service. The money that has gone into the preparation of the manifesto thus far has come from the pockets of Wilson, Reese, and myself. We cannot do more. We shall have to depend on various ministers sending in clippings. Already I have had word from Kansas City, Quincy, Ill., about stories appearing in papers in those cities. It is disappointing that nothing got into the Times, is it not? I assume a great deal of responsibility for most of the omissions.

It is obvious that neither Bragg nor I had the public-relations expertise at that time which could have enabled us to make this event front-page news. Dr. Potter, had he had the materials in hand on the right date, probably would have been able to do it. In spite of our ignorance of the inner workings of the media, "A Humanist Manifesto" got through to a number of newspapers and, particularly, to the religious press.


1. W. G. Everett was the Brown University philosophy professor whom Potter met.


Copyright © 1995 by Humanist Press, a division of the American Humanist Association, 7 Harwood Drive, P.O. Box 1188, Amherst, NY 14226-7188. (Phone 1-800-743-6646 or 1-716-839-5080.) All rights reserved. This book may be downloaded for personal use only. Otherwise, no part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the written permission of Humanist Press. The hard copy edition is available from the above address.