American Humanist Association
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION (AHA)
In 1935, a newly organized Humanist Press Association (HPA) became the first organized national association of humanism in the United States. It was originally inspired by the Rationalist Press Association and, on the suggestion of Curtis W. Reese, reorganized later as the American Humanist Association (AHA).
In 1941, the AHA was incorporated and became the principal organization representing humanism in the United States. Under the leadership of Edwin H. Wilson, one of its founders, the AHA was headquartered in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the 1930s. It currently is at 1777 T Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-7125 Phone: (202) 238-9088
The AHA publishes The Humanist, a bi-monthly which since 1951 has presented a nontheistic, secular, and naturalistic approach to philosophy, science, and broad areas of personal and social concern. It focuses on humanistic ideas, developments, and revolutions. In pursuit of free and open dialogue, the magazine strives to air opinions that may not necessarily reflect those of the editors or the publisher
The AHA moved its offices to San Francisco after some years in Ohio, then in 1978 moved to Amherst, New York.
Critique By James F. Hornback
In 1986 James Hornback wrote the following memories of his sixty-seven years of acquaintances within the Unitarian, Ethical Culture, and humanist groups:
- Though the American Humanist Association, as such, was incorporated as late as 1943, it was preceded by the HUMANIST MANIFESTO I of 1933, the Humanist Press Association of 1927 with its New Humanist published by A. Eustace Haydon students Edwin H. Wilson, Harold Buschman, and Raymond Bragg, and the whole array of consciously (and unconsciously) Humanist sermons and books by Unitarian ministers of the Western (“Ethical Basis”) Conference from 1875 on, and by such philosophers as John Dewey, Roy Wood Sellars, and Max Otto. (See Corliss Lamont’s Humanism as a Philosophy, 1949, for the classic overview, and such books as Stow Persons’s Free Religion: An American Faith, 1947, and Charles Lyttle’s Freedom Moves West: A History of the Western Unitarian Conference, 1952, for early organizational details.
- John Dewey’s A Common Faith, 1934, although an otherwise admirable philosophic statement, to my mind gave Humanism a so-far-fatal setback by offering otherwise promising ministers and teachers a provisional definition of God as “the uniting of the ideal and the actual,” which kept thousands of them happy in the perpetuation of the traditional religions and the God-language.)
- Edwin Wilson performed much the same sacrificial role in the organization of the AHA that George O’Dell (1913—1947) and Burns Weston before him performed in the American Ethical Union. He carried the AHA at the expense of Unitarian pastorates in Schenectady and Salt Lake City, until the AHA set him up professionally in Yellow Springs.
- Wilson's successor as executive director, Tolbert H. McCarroll, at first promising, soon led the AHA down the primrose path of Humanistic Psychology (named “Humanistic” or “Third Force” only because of its opposition to Freudianism and Behaviorism). Toby, a speaker in St. Louis and a fellow traveler to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, was soon telling me of the advantages of appealing to priests, preachers, and rabbis. He is Brother Toby again, the head of a Catholic monastery.
- But many of the same erroneous ideas of pop psychology and mystic humanism (e.g., it’s all in your head, or your head is a model of the universe, so downplay reason and science) are now plentiful in the AHA as well as in the AEU. The AEU always left itself open to such varied beliefs, as did the Unitarians. But the AHA? I had hoped for better. As a veteran of many interrelations between Humanism and Ethical Culture, I have valued the difference: the AHA for rigorous scientific, naturalistic ethics, derived from an ideal projection of real, felt human values and its testing in experience; and the AEU for “the larger humanism” of being ethical in a congregational fellowship, for whatever philosophy you may care to espouse. Philosophically, the differences are important. Structurally, believe me, they are insurmountable.
In addition to Edwin Wilson, the editors of The Humanist have included Priscilla Robertson, Gerald Wendt, Paul Kurtz, Tolbert H. McCarroll, Lloyd Morain, Don Page, Rick Szykowny, Gerry O’Sullivan, and Frederick E. Edwords.
In 1958-1959, the officers of the AHA were as follows:
- President: Hermann Muller
- Vice Presidents: Robert J. Risk, Chauncey Leake, Harold Rafton
- Secretary: Vashti McCollum
- Board of Directors: Stanley A. Cain, Jerry Chambers, Peter Cromie, Stuart C. Dodd, Rudolf Dreikurs, Charles B. English, John R. Kirk, Leo F. Koch, Lloyd Morain, and Oswell Treadway.
- Editor, The Humanist: Priscilla Robertson
- Managing Editor, The Humanist: Elizabeth P. Huber
- Book Review Editor, The Humanist: Warren Allen Smith
As of 1995, the editorial board consisted of Andre Bacard, Joseph E. Barnhart, H. J. Blackham, Bette Chambers, Edd Doerr, Beverley Earles, Albert Ellis, Edward L. Ericson, James Farmer, Betty Friedan, Edna Ruth Johnson, Marty Klein, Marvin Kohl, Jean S. Kotkin, Gerald Larue, Lester Mondale, Lloyd Morain, Mary Morain, Maxine Negri, Suzanne Pau], Howard B. Radest, James Randi, and Ward Tabler.
Corliss Lamont was always a key figure in the movement of naturalistic humanism, and he was instrumental in contributing financially to the success of the AHA as well as encouraging The Humanist to emphasize a nontheistic metaphysic and to assist in the formation of humanist chapters around the country.
The American Humanist Association is a full member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.