Donald Szantho Harrington

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Harrington, Donald Szantho (11 July 1914 - 16 September 2005)

Harrington had been a Unitarian minister in Hobart, Indiana, Chicago, and Beverly Hills, California. He then became minister of Community (Unitarian) Church in New York City [[1]]. A conservative in religion, he headed New York’s Liberal Party beginning in 1966. He married Vilma Szantho, who had been a minister in Hungary and who once was told by Albert Schweitzer that he was a Unitarian.

A past president of United World Federalists, Harrington wrote Religion in an Age of Science (1965).

Asked by Warren Allen Smith about which of several connotations of humanism he preferred, Harrington “hit all bases," observed Smith, replying,

  • My humanism is both naturalistic and theistic. I think of myself as a humanist because I recognize the subjective limitations under which all men live. I cannot say, ‘In the beginning, God.’ I can only say, ‘In the beginning, a man thinking comes to believe that God was at the beginning.’ My thought concerning life’s origin, purpose, and meaning will always be colored by my human powers and limitations. I am a humanist because I rejoice in the power and the glory of human existence. I enjoy the human enterprise in all its mystery, its struggle with inner and outer darknesses, its emerging understanding of itself and its universe, its ongoing efforts for self and social improvement. I am a humanist because my patriotism reaches beyond my own home or country to embrace mankind. I am a naturalist because I believe the universe is one, not two. It is a uni-verse - one unified order of being, structured according to a harmony of laws and principles which the human mind, if dimly, can begin to perceive and describe. This is one, natural universe we inhabit, and we come to understanding of it through the natural powers we have evolved of observation, reasoning, and intuition. We men are an integral part of its ongoing, natural processes, not separate and apart. We are not strangers here, but at home, both in time and eternity. I am a theist because I believe that this natural, universal process, of which our human lives are an integral part, has some ultimate meaning and purpose. This I cannot now discern clearly, though I may find clues which seem to indicate a growing integration, an evolving cooperative relationship of all life processes, an increasing harmony of part with part. Yet, though I cannot prove that life has meaning, I believe it has. I have only two alternatives when I cannot prove a thing. I can say, Life has meaning. Or I can say, Life has no meaning. To say and believe that life has no meaning seems to be destructive of human and other values. To say and believe that life has meaning seems to enhance and encourage human and other values. Furthermore, such order as the universe displays, when seen in human experience, implies an integral intelligence. I choose to believe that there is intelligence, meaning, and purpose in this Larger Universal Life of which we are a part. Thus, I believe in God.

Harrington died in Romania.

Correspondence

While minister of The Community Church of New York, Harrington wrote to Warren Allen Smith.

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(See entry for John Dewey [[2]], at whose memorial service Harrington officiated.)

{WAS, 26 July 1956)