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Edwin Wilson Manifesto Ch3


The New Humanist – Sponsor of the Manifesto

The New Humanist was started in 1927, while I was studying in Europe as a Cruft Fellow, an award for graduating seniors. The first issue-volume one, number one-appeared in 1928. Examination of the brief record of this periodical preceding the publication of "A Humanist Manifesto" will explain much. Little magazines come and go, but this one was destined to last. Originally, there were three mimeographed volumes, followed by five printed volumes. After a brief lapse between 1936 and 1941, the magazine resumed publication with a new format in the spring of 1941. The new publication was called The Humanist and continues to this day. Publishing for over sixty years under its various titles, clearly this periodical has a message of substantial import.

I was editor of The Humanist for fifteen consecutive years, until the March/April 1956 issue. I briefly resumed editorial responsibility late in 1963 through the end of 1964. After I retired from this position, Priscilla Robertson, Gerald Wendt, Tolbert McCarroll, Paul Kurtz, Lloyd Morain, David Alexander, Rick Szykowny, and Don Page served successively through mid-1993. During Paul Kurtz’s tenure, The Humanist became the jointly sponsored publication of the American Humanist Association and the American Ethical Union. In 1978, the AEU withdrew as co-publisher, a new charter was drafted, and Lloyd Morain was elected editor.

Several of those who were active in the initial years of The New Humanist were students of Dr. A. Eustace Haydon, professor of comparative religions at the University of Chicago. Dr. Haydon had followed George Burman Foster in that chair, as he had also followed Foster in the pulpit of the Unitarian Church at Madison, Wisconsin, for weekend preaching. Moreover, Canadian-born Haydon (whose background was Baptist) had taught humanism in a men’s class at the Hyde Park Baptist Church in Chicago. In Canada, he had attended McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he knew industrialist Cyrus Eaton, who was also a student there. Eaton was an early supporter of humanism. He and Haydon were lifelong friends.

It would be difficult to measure the influence of Dr. Haydon on his students. Some years later, at one of my wife’s Oberlin class reunions, I met Professor Walter Horton and asked him how it was that he had so promptly and knowledgeably answered the humanist challenge. He replied that Union Theological School had sent him to Chicago to take Haydon’s classes and learn "what was going on out there." It turned out that what "was going on" was scholarly based inspiration. Students reacted strongly to Dr. Haydon, with both favor and disfavor.

At that time, there was a deluge of humanist scholarship. With Dr. Haydon’s encouragement, the students in Chicago from both Meadville and the University of Chicago, plus some adjacent schools, organized the Humanist Fellowship and The New Humanist was published, originally as a mimeographed bulletin. In more than one financial crisis, Dr. Haydon himself paid for the mimeographing.

When The New Humanist first appeared in April 1928 as "a Bulletin of the Humanist Fellowship," breadth rather than exclusive dogmatism was the mood. In the opening statement of the publication, H. C. Creel, president of the fellowship, wrote:

The membership of the Fellowship is not, at present, limited to persons of any single type of interest or any single walk of life. It is hoped that, as it grows, this will continue to be the case. Humanism, to be worthy of its ideals, neither can be a neo-ecclesiasticism nor a neo-scholasticism. We are interested, primarily, in building a society in which every human being shall have the greatest possible opportunity for the best possible life. Insofar as we are Humanists, every secondary interest must be judged by this prime criterion.

Creel stated editorially in the second issue of The New Humanist that the purposes of the Humanist Fellowship and its publication included an effort to bring "the Humanists of this country (and of the world, if possible) into relations of mutual awareness and cooperation." The magazine also sought to answer the need of humanist churches for service materials. To meet this need, a column, "The Humanist Pulpit," was introduced in the second issue of the publication and was edited for a brief time by Harold T. Lawrence and A. Wakefield Slaten until April 1929 when I took it over. This marked the beginning of my continuous involvement in humanist writing, editing, and publishing.

Harold Buschman, who had written for The New Humanist from its start, became its editor in December 1929. In addition to producing a scholarly journal, one of Buschman’s goals was to discover and publish young writers of promise. Names which later became well known in the academic world began to appear in the publication, including Edwin E. Aubrey, Theodore Brameld, Hadley S. Dimock, A. E. Haydon, Walter Horton, Frank H. Knight, Douglas Clyde MacIntosh, Wilhelm Pauk, Werner Petersman, Roy Wood Sellars, Matthew Spinka, and Henry Nelson Wieman.

There were theists among these writers, clearly indicating that the editors of The New Humanist were not drawing dogmatic doctrinal lines but, rather, exploring religious humanism in dialogue with its critics, as well as giving voice to its advocates. The Reverend Harvey Swanson, then a Unitarian theological student who later became one of the most outspoken opponents of humanism among the ministers, set forth his criticism of "humanism without God" in early issues of The New Humanist. Years later, at Swanson’s church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the laymen’s group invited me to speak to them on humanism, which I did while a mighty-voiced and indignant Swanson, speaking before another group on the other side of a folding door, all but drowned me out with his stentorian thunder.

In the April 1929 issue of The New Humanist, there were several articles in which I found evidence of applied humanism in a committee of the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia), which was seeking to bring together "purely scientific interests and the humanistic interests" in an effort to relate biology, psychology, psychiatry, medicine, law, and the social sciences with an understanding of human behavior.

Beginning in January 1930, I shifted from editing "The Humanist Pulpit" to a new column called "The Humanist Movement " which dealt with humanist trends found in secular culture beyond all churches. I discovered the diffused, then-unnamed secular humanism in modern society which would later arouse the likes of evangelists such as Jerry Falwell. Over the course of the following year, my column covered many dimensions of "Humanism-A New Synthesis": "Among the Intellectuals " which included the Institute of Human Relations at Yale University (January 1930); "The Development of Method in Cooperative Problem Solving " citing a program of the American Medical Association (February 1930); "The Organization of Knowledge" in libraries and encyclopedias (March 1930); and "Integrating Science to the Popular Mind which cites efforts and methods of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to popularize science (April 1930). I also pointed to adult education in England and the United States as evidence that what is now called secular humanism was beyond authoritarian church control (May and June 1930).

Also in 1930, Harold Buschman asked me to become managing editor of the publication, which really meant raising funds, putting together the material the editor had gathered, and getting it printed. Already a minister at the First Unitarian Church in Dayton, Ohio, I accepted the management on condition that, rather than mimeo, The New Humanist become a printed publication. Buschman agreed.

A thick file of ensuing correspondence between Buschman and me, now housed in the Humanist Archives at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale and at the national office of the American Humanist Association in Amherst, New York, indicates our conflicting and interacting goals and values. Some humanists felt that the very strength of humanism was in its diffusion in the world’s culture and that for it to manifest itself in a visible organization would lead to its suffocation by critical reaction. (This perception received partial justification by the politically oriented right-wing fundamentalists of the 1980s.) However, I believe that, if the Bill of Rights stands, the suffocation will not occur.

I wanted organization-not only to be able to pay the printer but to spread humanist ideas. Buschman wanted a good, academic journal. There is much to be said for his position. He was neither an organization man nor a fundraiser, but bills had to be paid. My aim was principally to get more readers for the men whose ideas I believed had time, science, and human need on their side-ideas that were opposed to the cultural lag, the entrenched financial position, and the vast numbers of adherents of the revealed religions. I had been inspired by James Harvey Robinson’s The Humanizing of Knowledge. The pamphleteering and book-selling of the Rationalist Press Association was also in my mind. As an organizer and promoter, I sought to be "Man Friday" to the idea-men who deserved a far greater hearing.

Buschman brought men to the staff who later went far in other pursuits-Alexander Cappon and Clarence R. Decker (who helped Buschman edit The New Humanist) and later joined him on the faculty of the University of Kansas City. There, under the editorship of Cappon, they produced the excellent academic journal that Buschman wanted, the University of Kansas City Review. Cappon became a professor of English; Buschman, a professor of philosophy; and Decker, an administrator who subsequently became president of Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

The high standards that Buschman and his colleagues set for The New Humanist account in no small part for its continuance and for the distinction of its contributors. Graduating from its mimeographed format, the first printed volume appeared in November 1930 (IV:1) and continued as a bimonthly. The publication began to spread to college and university libraries (bound copies are rare but can be found in the Humanist Archives). Although the Humanist Fellowship disappeared mysteriously from the scene, the magazine survived and flourished. The fellowship apparently folded so quickly and quietly that I was unable to trace it, even in the memories of some of its surviving founders.

From 1930 through 1934, Harold Buschman and I privately owned and published The New Humanist-an ownership necessary to obtain second-class mailing privileges. No formal or incorporated humanist organization then existed to take on the responsibility of publication. None of the several churches or churchmen who were trying to set up schismatic (Unitarian) humanist societies along church lines tried to establish a national organization. On paper, the New Humanist Associates was formed-persons privileged to help meet printers’ bills.

Buschman’s move to New York City to work with the Ethical Culture Society resulted in the associate editor, Raymond B. Bragg, and myself being chiefly responsible for getting the magazine out during 1933 and 1934. In 1935, Bragg, then secretary of the Western Unitarian Conference, officially succeeded Buschman as editor.

Such is the background of the journal that published "A Humanist Manifesto" in 1933. The publication office was then at the Western Unitarian Conference, 105 South Dearborn Street, Chicago. A subscription cost one dollar a year.

In 1935, ownership of the publication was assigned-along with the copyright of "A Humanist Manifesto"-to the newly organized Humanist Press Association, the successor to the Humanist Fellowship. The HPA became the first organized national association of humanism in the United States. Originally inspired by the Rationalist Press Association, the HPA, on the suggestion of Curtis W. Reese, reorganized later as the American Humanist Association. Incorporated in 1941, the AHA became the principal organization representing humanism in the United States. After some years in Yellow Springs, Ohio, its offices were moved to San Francisco, then in 1978 to Amherst, New York. Copyright of "A Humanist Manifesto" was transferred to (and permission to reprint must now be obtained from) the American Humanist Association (P.O. Box 1188, Amherst, NY 14226-7188).


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