Jennifer Beahan’s presentation at the 2009 International Peace Day Service in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Good Afternoon. My name is Jennifer Beahan, and I represent those of the secular perspective. I work for the Center for Inquiry , a local and international non-profit that promotes and defends science, reason & secular values. We work to provide a forum in which individuals from a wide range of perspectives can engage in civil discourse about the many important issues facing our culture and community. I’d like to share the following thoughts with you:
A Secular Vision of Peace
Peace. It is such a powerful Idea: To live in harmony, to love and forgive your neighbor, your enemies, and if need be…your own family. Peace, an inspiring dream, yet so hard to achieve. Throughout history many have tried and failed to establish a lasting peace. Peace has been torn apart time after time by desire, greed and ego; and by those who have felt the need to forcibly impose their own political or religious beliefs on others. These conflicts, both historical and present day, are fueled by confrontations between cultures, religious and racial intolerance, political corruption and poverty.
Until the countries of the world begin to follow a peaceful path – through civilized means; following the rule of law rather than the rule of the brute, peace doesn’t have a chance. Fortunately, there already exists a body of international law and a plethora of international institutions, including the United Nations, that have proven a remarkable resource in stopping and preventing wars. Just as wars are best fought with alliances, so peace must be pursued in like manner. In this global society we now find ourselves a part of we must take advantage of these new resources to establish peace.
I stand here today as a representative of those who embrace a secular philosophy of life. We interpret the world through natural means, having examined the evidence and finding the belief in a supernatural deity to be unfounded. We develop an objective moral outlook based upon common human values derived from physical existence. Our values rely on science and reason, instead of religion, to improve the human condition.
Our vision is to build an open, tolerant society in which peace, freedom, and happiness are widely shared by humanity. Our goal is to create a society in which human rights, equality and economic stability are available to all. This can be accomplished by building a culture of cooperation, respect, and non-violent resolution of conflict among all peoples irrespective of race, religion or ideology. We hope these values can become a common ground to unite humanity and create a peaceful world community.
We cannot simply talk about wanting peace. Individuals from all cultures, nations and religions must work to build a culture of peace. We must work to build new environments and change the structures of our culture and society. To remove violence and warfare as acceptable means to resolving conflict. We must put aside our difference to come together in peace; to unite around common HUMAN values. Love, honesty, justice, equality, respect for all peoples and the environment. Values around which we all can unite regardless of our cultural traditions.
We must continue to engage in open and respectful dialogue. Working to resolve our differences using reason and compromise. Instead of bombs and costly wars. We must broaden our horizon and lift our eyes from our own narrow experience and give equal voice to ALL people, cultures and traditions. Recognizing and celebrating the beauty and diversity that is all around us.
Mahatma Gandhi once said "non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man." We must use this great force and become Peace builders. We can help to build understanding and tolerance between individuals, communities and societies and establishing new structures of cooperation between these groups.
"Peace is not something you wish for," as Robert Fulghum says, "Peace is something you make; something you do." We cannot sit and hope that peace will one day come to this earth. We must work, we must join together and change our societies and cultures to allow peace to flourish. In closing ask: What can we do? What will you do today and every day, as a peace builder, to work to establish a culture of peace in our community, our country and around the world?
Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this peace service.
Center for Inquiry | Michigan
jbeahan [AT] centerforinquiry.net
Office: (616) 698-2342
Cell: (616) 706-2029