July 23, 2007
Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, the creator of Humanistic Judaism and the 2003 Humanist of the Year of the American Humanist Association, was killed Saturday, July 21, in a car crash while vacationing in Morocco. He was 79.
“Rabbi Wine was a visionary,” said Mel Lipman, president of the American Humanist Association. “He inspired generations with the idea that people can be good without belief in a god. And he saw Judaism as a shared culture rather than a religion, helping to build several nontheistic communities that directly guided and shaped thousands of lives.”
Wine was a graduate from the University of Michigan, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy. A long-time theological skeptic, his dissonance with traditional Judaism as a faith was reconciled with his discovery of humanism, a nontheistic moral philosophy. He went on to found several successful organizations that promoted this philosophy and culture, such as the Center for New Thinking in Birmingham, Michigan, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, and the Humanist Institute.
Wine publicly spoke often about humanism, delivering inspiring lectures and giving interviews through many venues as well as debating such religious fundamentalists as Jerry Falwell and Meir Kahane. In addition, he performed thousands of humanist weddings, memorials, bar and bat mitzvahs, and baby-naming ceremonies. And he coined the English word “ignostic,” designating a person who holds that the god concept is meaningless as opposed to being coherent enough to allow God’s existence to be judged true, false, or unknown.
“Rabbi Wine taught that values such as reason and compassion were humanity’s saving grace, not adherence to religious dogma,” added Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “He knew that we must live our one and only lives to the fullest, and do as much good as possible in the limited time we have on this earth. He not only promoted these ideals, through his oratory and his organizations, but more importantly served as a model by living them in his own life. His is an example that inspires us all and will live on in the lives he touched and in the lives his writings will continue to touch.”
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) is the oldest and largest Humanist organization in the nation. The AHA is dedicated to ensuring a voice for those with a positive outlook, based on reason and experience, which embraces all of humanity.