Lobbying – Course Complete

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Campaigns & Voting – Course Complete

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Coming of Age

The Ceremony

650-quinceThe celebration itself changes from locality to locality, but certain features reoccur: music and poetry frame the ceremony and there are civic and cultural dignitaries taking part.  A standard part of the ceremonial program is the speech of the day: a speech addressing those to be confirmed in encouraging words, maybe telling them they are important, addressing them about making choices, getting more responsibility and about engaging in more than the little family circle.  Even on a day dominated by family gatherings this might be the focus of the speech.

Another standard part is the speech from one of the youths on behalf of them all, a speech often summing up what the course has been all about, what the time of coming together has been like, about the position of the young people today.  Often one sings the classical freethought song “Your thoughts are free”, sang in the Norwegian language, though, and the audience joins in the singing.  The Norwegian poet Nordahls Grieg’s poem “To Youth” is read or sung by an artist contributing to the ceremony from the stage.  In some ceremonies an artist sings “Imagine” by John Lennon, there is classical music, choirs and orchestras or readings by local poets, depending on the availability of art and artists.  When the youth being confirmed is presented with the diploma for having taken part and finished the course in lifestance and ethics, whe or she is probably on the tensest point in the ceremony.  Every youth to be confirmed is called forward to get this.  After all in the group have got their diplomas, and are lined up on stage, the audience warmly applauds them.  When the ceremony starts and ends, the youth come in and leave in a procession accompanied by suitable music.  Duration of the ceremony is about an hour.

Over the years many confirmed youth have made their mark on Norwegian society, ranging from the great jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek to former prime minster Gro Harlem Brundtland, leader of the first UN commission on Environment and Development and Secretary-General of World Health Organization.  But it is a rite of passage reaching outside the intellectual middle class, even outside those with an ethnic Norwegian background, with each year a leaven of immigrant youths, children of political refugees or from families of mixed cultural background taking part, finding in it an institution supportive of their sense of being and becoming.  80% of those taking part in Humanist confirmation do not have a family background with membership in the association.  This means it also serves as an annual outreach by our organization to the greater society, a way in which new people become aware of our existence and come in touch with out activities and ideas.  More than 200,000 are taking part (including guests) in humanist ceremonies in Norway every year, celebrating or marking the child with a naming ceremony, confirmation, marriage and same sex marriages.

In the international humanist movement, these celebrations are a feature not only of our organizations with an historical background as a religious organization, but also among German free-thinkers, the Danes and the Belgian laïque/vrijzinnig organizations.  Swedes, Danes, Finns and Icelanders have found inspiration in the Norwegian Humanist confirmation (former Civil confirmation) for their own coming-of-age ceremonies these last years.

To lead a group of teens: example sessions


Coming of Age

About Humanist Coming of Age in Norway

650-malaysia-muslimAs Norway is the country with the most popular Humanist Coming of Age, it may be good to know some background on how it developed.

For hundreds of years the Lutheran State Churches had a monopoly on confirmation ceremonies for 14-year-olds (the year they become 15).  As a result of religious liberty, modernism, and secularization, non-believers have felt a need for a different kind of celebration that is just as emotionally satisfying for the participants, but which is based on new knowledge of the world, new ideas of a good life and free from religious dogmas.  In 1951 the first civil (later humanist) confirmation in Norway took place in Oslo and the Norwegian Humanist Association took over this responsibility when it was founded in 1956.

The young participants attend a course where they discuss lifestances and world religions, ethics and human sexuality, human rights and civic duties.

In short, the main subject is how we should behave towards one another.  At the end of the course the participants receive a diploma at a ceremony including music, poetry and speeches.

Now, over 10,000 youths celebrate their Humanist “confirmation” in Norway every year.  That is approximately 15% of the cohort, so this activity has become widely popular, both in urban and rural parts of the country.

Normally the course starts in the beginning of February and the groups meet for two hours one evening every week for ten weeks.  The ceremony at the end is usually held on Saturday in May or early June, and fits well with the Norwegian spring.


Coming of Age

Weekly Course, Weekend Gatherings, or Summer Camp?

650-ethiopia-jump-cow

How much time for a course?

Subjects to cover

The idea of the course is not to duplicate the school curriculum, but offer something in addition.  The course is also a place for the participants to reflect on life, the world, identity, freedom and responsibility.  Humanists seldom have The One Right Answer.

Basics:

  • Humanism -a lifestance
  • Human Rights
  • Ethics and Moral Dilemmas
  • Critical Thinking
  • The Meaning(s) of Life
  • Identity

Other as needed or wanted:

  • Prejudice and Racism
  • Love and Sexuality
  • Environment
  • More on Religion and Belief
  • The World Around Us
  • Democracy, Courage and Involvement
  • Law
  • Peer Pressure and Revealing the Commercialism
  • Gender Roles and the Media Body Image

The list may be revised based on the course leader and the interests of the youth group.


Coming of Age

The Aim of a Humanist Coming of Age

650-rumspringaA Humanist Coming of Age is a good event to prepare a teenager for the adulthood to come.  The idea is not that the participants must be or become humanists to attend, but rather to prepare them to make use of their freedom and rights.

Growing up means making choices, and the aim of the Humanist confirmation should be to help and to strengthen awareness of ones situation and the choices one must make, not as a teaching of dogmas, but as an acknowledgement of rights and responsibilities in society.

This may be done by not only organizing a celebration or ceremony, but also having a course leading up to the ceremony.  The young persons attending may be presented with moral dilemmas, given an introduction to Humanist lifestance, values and ethics, and trained in human rights.  The aim could be to strengthen their ability for independent thinking and ethical actions.

As a humanist organization or member group, offering a coming of age may also have the positive side effect of strengthening humanist values in the society and local community.


Coming of Age

When is the Coming of Age?

coming-of-age-sunrise-ceremony-e1435729384210In Lutheran churches in northern Europe, the confirmation is a well established tradition the year someone turns 15.  Jewish tradition has its Bat and Bar Mitzvah at 12 and 13.  The Catholic Church confirmation age varies with country, early teens in the United Kingdom and mid-teens in the United States, and younger in some European countries.

The right time for a Humanist Coming of Age could be somewhere after what we would call the “age of reason,” at which children attain the use of reason and begin to have moral responsibility.  In Norway, where Humanist Coming of Age is most popular, they use the same year as the country’s Lutheran state church, 15.


Coming of Age

Why a Humanist Coming of Age Ceremony?

650-massaiWe humans have throughout our existence, in all cultures, at all times, celebrated the great turning points of life in our rites of passage.  The transformation from child to young adult has been celebrated in most cultures.  In earlier times, a boy took the responsibilities of a man immediately after such a ceremony.  In modern times though, it may seem like the teenage years expand long into the twenties.

In a modern society, the freedom and responsibility of children increase with age and matureness.  The formal rights are acquired at specific ages, that vary from country to country and state to state.  The age of sexual consent, age of legal majority, age of drivers license and legal drinking are some common examples.

Nevertheless, it may be good to mark one symbolic occasion with a celebration, either in the family, local community or within an organization.  Humans need not only intellectual clarity and truth, but also sharing the ideas one hold at the significant points in ones lifetime and celebrating them in forms fitting the occasion.

A Humanist Coming of Age may provide a such an occasion.


Memorials – Course Complete

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