Art Show – Donna Burch

February 9, 2019
This show is designed to create conversations about what it means to be an American and how others view you as an American (or not). Our forefathers said we were “One Nation …”. This show is not about religion. It is not about politics. It is not about the political party to which you belong. It is about how we view ourselves and others in relationship with our country. No matter how you view yourself or our country, we must deal with the brokenness, be it of our own making or others’. To that end, I asked each of my subjects to submit a poem about their relationship with this country. ​The only requirement for this study was that the subject had to be an American citizen. As I talked to all kinds of people, I came to believe that we all have a sense of the United States of America being broken, but not knowing how to fix ourselves. ​Depending on how each conversation went, I over-layed the American Flag on each image. If the conversation was hopeful, the flag was placed in the upright position. If the conversation was not hopeful the flag was placed upside-down. The flag is flown upside-down as a distress signal. ​There are times the flags are up and the poems are down. There are times the flags are down and the poems are up. What we all agree upon,there is a brokenness in our land. What I have found is that we all know something is broken in this country.  We all know that we are experiencing brokness.  The whole world knows that we are broken.  The question is how do we fix ourselves? Before we declare ourselves fixed, we need to declare ourselves broken.  I hope and pray that this is one of those steps toward reaching to the wellness of the USA, to reach toward our inner strength and inner greatness. My personal belief is that we have to learn how to care for one another again.  We have lost our sense of humor, we have lost our ability to empathize with another person, we have forgotten how to help someone (that does not involve money).  We have forgotten how to create and love community.  We have forgotten that community does not have to look like us.  We have forgotten how to love! There will be a reception for the artist Donna Burchon Sunday, March 17 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of Donna’s work from March 15 through April 21.

Youth Group Dinner Dance – Alice in Wonderland!

February 4, 2019

The Youth Group is planning a delightful evening of dinner and dancing for all on February 9! Come have fun while helping our Youth Group raise money to attend the annual Youth of Ethical Societies conference. Dinner dance tickets will be available before and after Platform on Sundays, or reserve a ticket via email

Silent Auction Items (pdf)

We hope to see everyone February 9, 6-10 pm, but if you’re unable to join us for the fun, we’d be most grateful for any support for the Youth Group you can offer in advance. The event includes a silent auction. If you are connected to a local business that would be willing to donate a gift card, for example, you could really help us get to our fundraising goal!

Not Simply ‘None’

February 1, 2019

Outreach director James Croft appeared in St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air” discussing Ethical Culture, humanism, and current trends in spiritual identity.

Read NPR’s article about the show (contains audio link) or listen to the show.

Archived copy if original links are broken.

We Should Teach The Bible in Schools – In a Secular Way

January 31, 2019
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Last week President Trump, in a tweet, hailed the fact that a number of states are introducing bills to legalize the study of the Bible in public schools. To an extent, I agree with him: there is nothing wrong with the desire to teach the Bible in public schools. This statement may come as a surprise, coming from a Humanist and an atheist, but it really isn’t that unusual. The Bible is one of the most influential and important cultural documents in history, and guides the daily lives of billions around the globe. It is cited and references endlessly in literature, films, music, philosophical writing, and other cultural products. Christian institutions play an enormously significant role in American public life. All of this is much harder to understand if you have no knowledge of the Bible, and if one of the roles of public education is to empower young people to be thoughtful, knowledgeable, and critical participants in world culture, then some knowledge of the Bible is essential.

I came to appreciate this more deeply when I worked for some time as a high school teacher of English. My passion was introducing young people to literature, particularly the greats like Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton. I discovered again and again that it was impossible for my students to mine the rich veins of literary allusion present in texts like these if they had no knowledge of the Bible. Nor was it possible for them to grasp the cultural context in which these authors wrote without some understanding of the religious beliefs many people held at the time. Learning about the Bible can be a profoundly empowering experience, and I wouldn’t want to prevent any young person from enjoying that.

However, the bills Trump hails in his tweet have little to do with empowering young people, and much more to do with promoting Christian dominance in the USA. It is in fact already legal to teach the Bible in the way I have described – as a cultural and historic document which adds to students’ general knowledge of world culture and which enriches their appreciation of the religious beliefs of many. Contrary to much conservative scaremongering, the Bible is not banned in public schools (nor is prayer – another favorite lie of would-be theocrats). As long as they ensure their teaching is objective and secular – not based on promoting one religion over others, or religion in general – schools can teach students about the Bible (and about other religious texts) perfectly happily, and no legislation is required to enable them to do so.

What public schools cannot do – and what they should never do – is try to indoctrinate young people into a particular religious faith, using the resources of the government to push sectarian religious views. This would be a monstrous example of government overreach, an imposition on the religious freedom of every school-going child in America. Such would be the behavior of a religious dictatorship like Iran, not that of a free nation.

The bills currently being considered by legislators across the USA (handily summarized by the American Humanist Association’s Emily Newman here), which seek to “make it legal” to teach the Bible in public schools, are therefore largely unnecessary: the sort of academic, elective, nonreligious courses on bible study most of them promote are allowed already. So why are they being promoted so vigorously? Because they aren’t really about promoting secular study of the Bible for general educational benefit: they are about making public schools into Christian spaces which guide children into Christianity.

We know this because the lobbies which are pushing these bills have tipped their hand in some of them: some seek to explicitly legalize the teaching of creationism, while others do not spell out that the courses must be objective, fact-based, and essentially secular. Furthermore, many of the bills use language crafted by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, an organization seeks to “Keep Faith in America.” Their chosen tactics are transparent: put “One Nation Under God” everywhere, including in public school classrooms, on courtrooms, and in other public institutions, and promote these “teach the Bible” bills in legislatures across the country – even though their own website recognizes that the right of public schools to teach the Bible in a secular was is already protected by law:

Schools may teach about religion, including the Bible or other scripture, the history of religion, the Bible-as-literature, and the role of religion in the United States and other countries. Schools are to be neutral with respect to religion. However, they may play an active role with respect to teaching civic values and virtue, and the moral code that holds us together as a community. – Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation

If the CPCF itself admits that these bills are unnecessary, why is it promoting them? Because they are one step in the organization’s plan to increasingly impose a conservative interpretation of Christianity on the nation (this is made utterly explicit in the document from which language for some of these bills was drawn, which can be read here).

Don’t fall for it. The United States should be proud of creating a nation which welcomes people of many different religious beliefs, and of achieving decent levels of tolerance for many religious groups. Our task now is to improve on our commitment to religious freedom, by ensuring that all people have the right to choose their own religious path – not to diminish our commitment to freedom by embracing Christian hegemony.

Opening Words from Sun. January 27 by Amanda Verbeck

January 28, 2019

Good morning and welcome to pledge season at the Society! As the President-Elect and this year’s pledge campaign chair, my first reaction to heading up the pledge effort was “Oh no…I have to talk about money.” Talking about money doesn’t come easy for me. Probably because I haven’t been in a position where I’ve had much of it. So, I decided to approach this from a different perspective and think about the bigger picture. What does the Society mean to me? What do I value most about this place? And why do I make it a priority to give money here?


Pledge luncheon

January 27, 2019

Please join us Sunday, February 3 for food, friends, and fun at this year’s pledge luncheon! Plan on bringing your pledge form, along with a salad, side dish, or dessert to share. Members with last names A-O are asked to bring a salad or side, and members with last names P-Z are asked to bring a dessert. The main dish will be provided, with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available. Free childcare will also be available. See you there!

Art Show – Dexter Silvers

January 20, 2019

Dexter Silvers, a well-established professional self-taught artist with an open studio in The Grove Neighborhood at 5205 Chouteau Avenue.  He was born in St Louis and inherited his talents from his mother and father. He has always had a passion for the arts.  Dexter is known for his unique depictions of photo realism. He paints St Louis scenes like the Arena, Goody Goody Diner, the St Louis Balloon Race, Art Hill, Bevo Mill, St Louis Churches, and a lot more. There is so much detail and precision in his work that you can enjoy spending time looking at the details which draw you into his work.

He has shown his work across the US and has been featured on several television news stations including Fox Channel 2, KSDK Channel 5, and PBS Channel 9. He has won awards for his work.

Dexter’s Art Studio is a family owned and operated business which offers original artwork, prints, custom designs, private lessons, and paint parties for all ages in a fun, eclectic, and comfortable environment.  For more information about the Artist and his work, please visit his studio or contact him at 314.824.4827 or His website is

The exhibit will open on January 27, 2019 and run through March 11, in the front lobby of the Ethical Society of St Louis. A reception will be held on Sunday, January 27, 2019 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Listing of all Art Shows.

We Must Defend Religious Freedom

January 16, 2019
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Today is Religious Freedom Day in the United States, a celebration of one of our most important values. The date marks the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which was enacted into law by the Virginia General Assembly 233 years ago today. The Statute makes a compelling case that freedom of religion must be a centerpiece of any democracy, arguing that attempts to impose religious views on a populace lead to ” habits of hypocrisy and meanness”, and restrict the natural rights of the person.

Humanists in particular find much to cheer in Jefferson’s Statute. Although he framed his argument in theistic terms, speaking of a creator God and mobilizing that concept to defend religious freedom, he nonetheless stressed that human beings are fallible, and that therefore no authority (civil or ecclesiastical) should impose their beliefs on others. Jefferson rails against forced contributions to religious groups and leaders, arguing that everyone should decide for themselves whether to support a religion or a pastor with their money. And he makes the forceful declaration that “our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry” – a position which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would defend the civil rights of those of all religions and none, Humanists included.

In the political sphere, Jefferson stressed that no citizen should be prevented from holding public office due to their religious beliefs: to do so would “[deprive them] injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with [their] fellow citizens, [they have] a natural right”. This is a vital principle at a time when there are exceedingly few openly Humanist public officials at any level of government: belief in God still seems to be a litmus test of political respectability in the minds of many.

Most important, though, is that Jefferson understood that just as religious freedom must mean the freedom of individuals to choose a religious path for themselves without fearing reprisal or discrimination, it must also mean that no one is offered special benefits because of their religious views. In the Statute he stresses that a person’s “opinions in matters of Religion…shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.” That “enlarge” is critical, because today our democracy faces many attempts to enlarge the civil capacities of some citizens because they hold particular religious beliefs.

Across the country so-called “Religious Freedom Bills” now make the argument that some citizens, because of their religious views, should have the right to discriminate against other citizens, or to make decisions regarding how their employees should use their healthcare benefits. This has nothing to do with those citizens’ right to their own religious beliefs: my religious freedom is not threatened when someone else chooses to live by a different set of beliefs. Rather, it is the attempt by some unscrupulous lawmakers to twist the definition of “religious freedom” so that it enlarges the civil capacities of their supporters to such an extent that they can burden others with the consequences of their own religious faith.

This trend must be resisted. If religious freedom is to remain a meaningful idea, we must return to a proper understanding of the term. We should all be free to choose our own religious path, without fear of sanction or pressure from the government. But we should all be bound be the same laws, without seeking to use our own religious views to win special privileges. We have the right to choose our own religion, but not the right to force others to live according to its dictates. The first is religious freedom – the second religious tyranny.

An Important Announcement from Kate & Krystal

December 19, 2018

A message from Kate Lovelady, Leader:

Greetings to all members of the Ethical Society of St. Louis,

This notice may seem early, but the Ethical Society has become so wonderfully planful that we are already looking ahead to setting goals for the 2019-20 season. And so it makes sense to share now that at the end of that season, in June 2020, I will be stepping down as Leader. 

I imagine this surprises a lot of you, and that it will bring up a variety of emotions in the community, which we will work through together in the coming months. And I know many of you will want to know what I’m going to be doing next. I don’t actually know. I intend to stay active with the American Ethical Union and the Ethical Humanist movement, of course, but I have no plans to take another Leadership position in the near future. It’s just time for me to make a change and downshift a bit and see what comes next. I feel that I’ve accomplished the things I planned to when I came here. The Society has become a very active but still warm and welcoming home for humanists of all ages, it is on solid financial footing, and it is poised to become a major voice in our region. I read somewhere that in a relay race it’s important for the runner to pass on the baton while they’re still running well, and that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s time for this Society to benefit from new energy and new perspectives.

In the coming months, the Board and James will be working with the membership to decide how to approach this leadership transition. The thoughts that members have been sharing with the Two-Leader-Model Evaluation Task Force as well as the Strategic Planning Task Force will be central in the decision-making process. I thank all of you who participated so far in giving feedback and encourage everyone to be active in discussions going forward.

A year and a half is a long time to say goodbye, so all I will add right now is that I am very proud of this community and the progress we’ve made together so far, and I look forward to seeing how the Society and its membership and leadership will continue to develop and become an even more effective and powerful voice for Ethical Humanism and ethical living. 

A message from Krystal White, President of the Board of Trustees:

Dear fellow Ethical Society members, 

When Kate announced that she will leave her role as Leader in June 2020, the Board of Trustees experienced a wide range of emotions. Shock, concern, confusion, and dismay were my immediate personal feelings. After a few days of grief, though, I shifted to incredible gratitude, excitement, and optimism. Fifteen years is a long tenure, especially for those in pastoral positions, and Kate has led the Ethical Society with passion, thoughtfulness, and empathy during that time. I am profoundly grateful for Kate’s leadership and service; I deeply appreciate the many ways in which she has made the Ethical Society a better and stronger community and a vibrant and joyous place. I personally feel so lucky to have worked closely with her over these past few years. As her friend, I am excited for her to step in a new direction and to grow in a new way of her choosing. 

Transitions are challenging but they always provide an opportunity for reflection, redirection, and renewed purpose. Please trust that the Board will work in partnership with you, the membership, and with James through this Leader transition.  We remain steadfast in striving to fulfill the Society’s mission and to achieve the vision the members have shared. 

I ask that you join me in enthusiastically supporting Kate in these remaining 18 months, and I thank you for your continued support of the Ethical Society as we begin this new chapter together. 

Opening Words from Sun. December 9 by Krystal White

December 18, 2018

Good morning. It’s lovely to be up here, seeing your smiling faces, and enjoying the rocking tunes of the Ethical band! I’d like to extend a special welcome to the Interfaith Partnership. Thank you for being here with us today! (more…)

Opening Words from Sun. December 2 by Walter Vesper

December 17, 2018

About 3 miles from here on the Bristol Elementary School playground, I learned a lot about social groups and values—mostly about how to think about Catholics and African Americans. In shop class in Junior High I learned about how men and women should relate. Almost all that I learned there was wrong.


Join Us for the 2019 International Relations Lecture Series

December 11, 2018

The Tuesday Women’s Association of Ethical Society and the American Association of University Women present the 2019 International Relations Lecture Series.

Each meeting will begin promptly at 10:45 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month, January to April, in the upper auditorium. The public is cordially invited. There is no fee, but all contributions are greatly appreciated.

The 45-50 minute lecture will be followed by a question and answer period. Attendees are invited to bring lunch and to stay and discuss the day’s topic. In case of inclement weather, you may call 314-991-0955, ext. 224.

Series Calendar

January 8, 2019 – A Specter Haunting Europe: Relative Deprivation and the Resurgence of Far-Right Extremism in Western Democracies, Speaker: Dr. Joyce Marie Mushaben

Joyce Marie Mushaben is a Curators’ Professor of Comparative Politics at UMSL. She is the author of many books and the recipient of many awards. Professor Mushaben will explore the causes of the resurgent ethno-nationalism across EU states, including the after-effects of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis and reactions to the 2015 refugee crisis. Dr. Mushaben will discuss forces driving “white nationalist” groups in the US, underscoring several curious gender twists. Focusing on Germany as a special case, she conclude with the ways right wing extremist currents have been shaped by eastern resentments dating back to misguided unification policies of the 1990s. Coordinator: Sharon Poe, Assistant Coordinator: Julie Triplett

February 12, 2019 – Fake News, Social Media and the Impact on Freedom of the Press, Speaker: Kevin Horrigan

Kevin Horrigan, a long time St. Louis journalist, recently retired as deputy editorial page editor and Sunday op ed columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he spent most of his 43-year professional career. In 1983 Mr. Horrigan joined the St. Louis Sun which failed after seven months. launching his 10-year career as a radio talk show host at KMOX and KTRS. He returned to the Post-Dispatch in 2000 as an editorial writer and columnist. Coordinator: Marcia Cline, Assistant Coordinator: Susan Teicher

March 12, 2019 – Dark Money and Plutocracy, Who’s Pulling the Strings? Speaker: Jeffrey A. Winters

Professor Winters is the Political Science department chair at Northwestern; and professor and Director, Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS) Program. He specializes on oligarchs and elites spanning a range of historical and contemporary cases. His book Oligarchy (Cambridge 2011), won APSA’s 2012 Gregory M. Luebbert Award for Best Book in Comparative Politics. His research, publications, and teaching focus on the areas of comparative and political economy. In addition to oligarchy, important themes in his work include state-capital relations, capital mobility and the structural power of investors, the World Bank, human rights, authoritarianism, and democratic transitions in post-colonial states. He has conducted extensive research in the region of Southeast Asia. Coordinator: Deana Stevenson, Assistant Coordinator: Patricia Scott

April 9, 2019 – The Intersection of Religion and Politics, Speaker: Dr. Harvey R. Fields Jr.

Dr. Fields is the Assistant Dean of Student Success at Washington University. Coordinator: Vett Goods, Assistant Coordinator: Nancy Hutchins

Feedback Needed on Two-Leader Model

December 4, 2018

The three year trial period for having two leaders at the Ethical Society of St. Louis is coming to an end in 2019, and we would like to know what you think. The two leader model evaluation task force held a forum on November 25 to discuss how the membership feels about having two leaders. At this meeting, we shared information regarding membership, visitor, financial, and outreach details to lead the discussion (see below handout). If you have thoughts you would like to share, please send them to Amanda Verbeck at

You’re Invited to a Free Screening of INTELLIGENT LIVES

November 28, 2018

The Ethical Society of St. Louis, Missouri TASH and the Special School District of St. Louis County will host a screening of the new documentary INTELLIGENT LIVES at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 9001 Clayton Rd.

The film will be followed by a discussion with Micah Fialka-Feldman, who is featured in the documentary. The screening is free and open to the public. All are welcome.

“This conversation is important to me,” said Ethical Education Director Rachel Valenti. “My family and I so often find ourselves among people who have not thought much about the quality of the lives people around us who live with cognitive disabilities can access. Our exclusion is more common than our inclusion in schools, workplaces, clubs and service groups, and communities of faith.”

INTELLIGENT LIVES stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college and the workforce.

“People so commonly misunderstand what we can contribute to the community,” Valenti said. “We all deserve loving and supportive communities. I know we can do so much better. I hope folks will show up to watch this film together and talk about how we’ll keep creating the communities all of us deserve.”

Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper contextualizes the lives of the film’s central characters through the emotional story of his son Jesse, as the film unpacks the shameful and ongoing track record of intelligence testing in the U.S.

“People with intellectual disabilities are the most segregated of all Americans,” said New Hampshire-based filmmaker Dan Habib, the producer, director and cinematographer of INTELLIGENT LIVES. “Only 17 percent of students with intellectual disabilities are included in regular education. Just 40 percent will graduate from high school. And of the 6.5 million Americans with intellectual disability, barely 15 percent are employed.”

INTELLIGENT LIVES is a catalyst to transform the label of intellectual disability from a life sentence of isolation into a life of possibility for the most systematically segregated people in America.

Those with questions about the screening can contact Valenti at

The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a Humanist congregation where people come together to explore the biggest questions of life without reference to scripture, religion or God. To learn more, visit

Missouri TASH advocates for human rights and inclusion for people with significant disabilities and support needs – those most vulnerable to segregation, abuse, neglect and institutionalization. To learn more, visit

The Special School District of St. Louis County provides special education services and technical education. To learn more visit,

Opening Words from Sun. November 25 by Arlene Nickels

November 25, 2018

Good morning. My name is Arlene Nickels. Some years ago I was working as a secretary at Monsanto in the Department of Medicine and Environmental Health. One day at lunch, one of the Toxicologists, an Englishman named Peter, and I were having a philosophical discussion. Peter told me, with the way you think, you ought to be at the Ethical Society. I had never heard of the Ethical Society, but the next Sunday I visited. I was hooked. But I didn’t join right away. I wasn’t sure if this place was a “fit” for me. I was a divorced middle-aged woman with a flock of kids; not college educated. Didn’t have much money. Who would want this person?????

James Croft – All hate crimes are political. Our response must be, too

November 24, 2018

James Croft published an article “All hate crimes are political. Our response must be, too” on the St. Louis Post Dispatch Faith Perspectives page.

“..,Hate crimes affect more than just the individuals targeted: Because the crimes victimize people because of their membership in a group, and not for their individual actions, the actions attempt to demean and diminish the entire group….”

Read it on the Post-Dispatch site or get an archived copy.

Art Show – Ethical Society Members

November 23, 2018

The Ethical Society will have an exhibit of the work of some of our talented members from December 16, 2018 through January 20, 2019. Members whose work is included in the show include Dreama Wolff, Judy Lazarus, Claireborne Handlemann, Toni and Ron Wirts, Brad Shutes, Steve Harris, Don Beere, Jim Rhodes, and Diana Bose, a member of our Arts Committee. The work includes photography, painting, and pottery.

There will be a reception for the artists on Sunday, December 16 at 3:00 pm in the Foyer. This is the same day as Good Cheer. So please come to talk to our artists and stay for Good Cheer!

Listing of all Art Shows.

Civil for the holidays – Aisha Sultan with James Croft

November 18, 2018

James Croft, Outreach Director of the Ethical Society was extensively quoted in Aisha Sultan’s Post Dispatch article on Sunday 18-Nov-2018.

“The holidays are a time when many feel obligated to get together with family members with whom they disagree, while trying to avoid confrontation at all costs.,,,It’s sharpened the tension between who we love and what they believe. So, how best to navigate this?”

Read the St Louis Post Dispatch article or get an archived PDF copy.

Listen to the Podcast of of the presentation.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with the Ethical Society

November 18, 2018

The Ethical Society of St. Louis will be hosting our annual Thanksgiving potluck on Thursday Nov. 22, from 1-3 p.m., at 9001 Clayton Road. All are welcome. Following a tradition began in the 1980s, each individual or family is asked to bring the one dish without which it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for them.

The potluck has generated a lot of press this week, with articles in the Riverfront Times, Patch St. Louis, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In the latter two articles you can read our Outreach Director James Croft’s thoughts on civility around the Thanksgiving table and the meaning of Thanksgiving!

Opening Words from Sun. October 21 by Krystle Disney

November 13, 2018

Good morning.

I thought about coming up here and saying “hello” just to see what you all would do, but when push came to shove, I just didn’t have the guts.

My name is Krystle Disney. You can call me “other Krystle,” or “newbie Krystle,” if you like. I do answer to both. I’m a newish member here at the Ethical Society, and here’s a brief introduction to me: I’m a liberal, agnostic, lifelong feminist. I support Black Lives Matter, science, vaccines, the fight against global warming, LGBTQIA rights, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy as well as the right to equal opportunities for advancement, globalism over patriotism, immigrant and refugee rights, the MeToo movement <me too>, removal of confederate monuments, the right to kneel during the anthem, and, in case it’s not apparent, equality and knowledge in general. The rampant socioeconomic, racial, and gender inequality in our society and in our country as a larger whole disturbs me every day. I’m also an introvert with massive amounts of unrelenting existential anxiety and am absolutely no fun at parties. It’s nice to meet you all.

I grew up in rural, deep woods Arkansas, where extreme bigotry in plain sight was not just a cultural norm but an expectation, and was also somehow always wrapped up in religion, patriotism, guns,and blond, blue-eyed Jesus. I grew up there, but my mind went firmly in the opposite direction. It felt wrong. They felt wrong.

I should mention that I am also a double black belt SJW, which, if that term is new to you, means Social Justice Warrior. It’s supposed to be disparaging, or a reference to someone who infringes on the rights of free speech typically in defense of the marginalized or underprivileged. We are also sometimes called the PC Police. A real keyboard warrior, if you will, which is relevant to our topic today: What is a social justice warrior, and should we be one?

I’d like to use the rest of my time to describe an ethical conundrum that I find myself mulling daily that is directly related to being a Social Justice Warrior.

As someone who is 100% committed to equality, I find myself angry about the way things are going and have gone in our country, and I unfailingly argue or debate these points directly and persistently with those who hold opposing views- that so-and-so should not be equal, that they are less than for whatever reason. And in the many cases where these bigoted viewpoints are used in the name of religion, there is never a time when I won’t speak up.

So, here is my conundrum: As a Humanist, I am obligated to see the good and the decency in every human being, and to treat every person with respect.

At the same time, as a Humanist and a person led by a specific set of ethical beliefs, I am obligated to defend the rights of the underserved and the marginalized – those whose voices have been silenced or shut down. And I have found, in my 38 short and long years of being alive, that being polite and asking nicely does not evoke change. I also feel that being kind to say, someone with bigoted views implicitly condones their bigotry, and I refuse to condone it, explicitly or implicitly. Being overly permissive feels wrong. Failing to speak up feels wrong.

I was relieved to find that there is actually a name for this little pickle – it’s called the Paradox of Tolerance, and was coined by philosopher Karl Popper in 1945. To vastly condense his thoughts on the matter, he came to the conclusion that “In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of tolerance.” Of course, his opinion is not the be-all and end-all on the matter. Others have critiqued his findings, and not everyone agrees – hence, the pickle!

So what plagues me, and what I think about as I’m driving my two children around, as I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep, and any time I see posts on my Facebook feed is, how can I change the bigoted viewpoints of others? Is it even possible? Do I not have an ethical duty to try? Isn’t silence complicity? I have been feeling the divisiveness in this country, and I admit that in my small corner of the world, I have contributed to it. I know, cognitively, that I must find a way to respect the worth of every human being, even those who would think, say, or do unspeakable things upon meeting my half-black teenage daughter. She will soon grow up, leaving the umbrella of my white privilege and enter society alone as a woman of color. I know what that means for her. I know what it means for her job applications. I know what it means for her pay rate. I know what it means for her opportunities for advancement. I know what it could mean should she ever have a run-in with law enforcement or the legal system. I know that I need to find that kindness for all, but lately I feel incapable of it. And I’ve been doing some hard self-examination to see – am I really incapable of it, or do I just not want to try because it is so hard? What does that mean, and how do I fix it?

And so I continue to wonder – what is the best method to openly disagree with bigoted views? I have personally lost most of my family tree to Trump and/or bigotry. I have about one good, solid branch remaining. When I leave this place, whatever this odd and sometimes wonderful existence is, I want everyone to know what I stood for and why. And if, in my angriest keyboard warrior social justice moments, if I made even one racist person double check his or her Fox News or Breitbart source to check its validity, then I suppose that’s one small step for man and womankind. And for me, I will keep this dilemma in the front of my mind, where it has stayed for quite some time, with a hopeful expectation that some day I will find an acceptable resolution. I believe I have much more evolving to do on this issue, but wanted to share where I am today. Thank you, and please vote on November 6th!

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.