(Washington, D.C., April 20, 2009) Humanist leaders are pleased to announce that Gore Vidal–the preeminent novelist, essayist, and playwright who is frequently described as America’s best-known public intellectual–has accepted the honorary presidency of the American Humanist Association.
“We’re delighted and privileged to have Gore Vidal as our honorary president,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Vidal is a sharply intelligent advocate for individual liberty, separation of church and state, and reason and rationality. He has a reverence for earthly inquiry–as opposed to doctrine or dogma–that embodies the mission of the AHA. We’re very excited about working with him.”
Vidal has had a long literary and intellectual career that has inspired and never shied away from controversy. A lifelong advocate for progressive values, he has time and again challenged conventional wisdom. He is an outspoken critic of the radical religious right’s influence over public policy, and in recent years has spoken out against civil liberty abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration.
“With his great literary work and vocal positions on important issues, Vidal has in fact been advancing humanism for decades,” said AHA president David Niose. “Now, as the AHA’s honorary president, he will surely draw even more public attention to the humanist life stance.”
Vidal succeeds the late Kurt Vonnegut as AHA honorary president. Vonnegut held the post from 1992, when he took the reins from Isaac Asimov, until his death in 2007. Vonnegut wrote a chapter about humanism in his last book A Man Without a Country, where, in his characteristically sarcastic style, he showed how he didn’t take much stock in divinely revealed “truth.”
In a letter addressed to the AHA executive director, Vidal wrote:
Of course, I have been very much aware of the AHA for some years. I knew and admired Isaac Asimov and his work. As for Kurt, I would be most honored to succeed my old friend as honorary President of the Association: Although he himself is hardly easy to replace, I will do my best to fill the great gap. I think my “religion” is the same as his and yours and does not derive from cloudy divinity, but from a man in Athens called Socrates who once observed: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” So, I would like to help the AHA to encourage others to realize that life, no matter how shadowed by superstition, is worth living, and the AHA is always in a position to encourage much needed “examiners.”
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in
Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.