Marvin MillerSubmitted by Marvin Miller

We can hardly see or hear a news report without encountering the word suspect, with the accent on the first syllable. My dictionary defines suspect as one who is suspected, especially of a crime. It doesn’t say suspected by whom. Usually, when the media use the term suspect, they don’t state who is doing the suspecting. They just call the person a suspect.

BEC Announces Grant Awards

The Grant Committee’s months-long process of soliciting and evaluating grant proposals drew to a climax in late September with the final  allocation of the grant budget. The Committee selected five applicants to receive grants in areas ranging from police-community relations to aiding homeless youth.

The five grantees for 2016 are:

clsacc-imageCommunity Legal Services and Counseling Center of Cambridge ($1979). CLSACC requested funds for its training classes for people applying to Section 8 (low-income) rental housing.

cmaa-imageCambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Lowell ($3000). CMAA requested funds for  voter engagement efforts and for citizenship training classes.

ecco-imageEssex County Community Organization of Lynn ($10,000). ECCO’s grant supports its innovative program to advance police-community relations in a racially-mixed community.


Youth Harbors (Justice Resource Institute, $7500). The Youth Harbors project of JRI serves a growing population of homeless high school students in the Boston area.


MassVOTE of Boston ($2500). MassVOTE is a nonpartisan voter engagement organization that does both grassroots activism as well as legislative lobbying work. They are sharing the grant with Nonprofit VOTE of Cambridge, which does data analysis and training for nonprofits around the country.

The Grant Committee members visited each of the grantees at their respective locations as part of the selection process. Without exception, the selected applicants were impressive for their operation, their vitality, and their dedication to their work.

Campaign 2016

election 2016Submitted by Andrea Perrault

The usual excitement of a presidential campaign has been eclipsed in 2016 by its seeming interminable length, its raucousness, and general meanness. Clearly, systemic change is needed in our political system: extremely long campaign cycles, primaries in states that are not reflective of the broader U.S. population, constant money raising, and arcane policies

In addition, the inability of the media to provide useful information or analysis on policy issues, preferring instead to report only on candidates’ diatribes toward one another, has made this political season seem unpleasant and ineffective in building a more educated electorate. The overriding emotion arising from this reality appears to be hatred. The verbal invective of some candidates has fed into corresponding distrust, distaste, and anger in the population. Collaboration, conciliation, and cooperation within the parties have vanished.

Life, Purpose, Good

marvin-headSubmitted by Marvin Miller

We distinguish living organisms from non-living entities by observing that living organisms act, via internal physical and chemical processes, in the interests of their continued existence and of the future of their species — in other words, with purpose. Purpose is different from intent — for purpose, consciousness isn’t necessary and usually isn’t present.

Since the lifespan of a living organism is limited, living organisms act to perpetuate their species by reproduction. Humans, however, are more complex than other kinds of life, and we can act to continue the existence of our species in ways other than reproduction. We are aware of the environment that sustains us and of the dangers that need to be avoided, such as nuclear war. Actions to avoid those dangers are consistent with our purpose as living organisms.


Marvin Miller

Submitted by Marvin Miller

The Boston Ethical community  has recently been giving its refreshment basket donations to Boston Health Care for the Homeless. We have given our Humanist of the Year award to people involved with providing services for homeless people, dating back to 1983. But why, in 2016, in the richest country in the world, are some people homeless?

Housing is one of the universal human rights in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The right of every family to a decent home is one of the rights that President Franklin Roosevelt said, in his 1944 State of the Union message, that the United States has accepted.

Professor Juliet Schor Accepts 2016 Humanist of the Year Award

Submitted by Fred Hewett

IMG_4350 2

On April 10, 2016, BEC honored Professor Juliet Schor of Boston College as the 2016 Humanist of the Year.

Professor Schor’s talk, entitled “New Perspectives on Climate Economy” gave an overview of the economic challenges that confront a world beset by climate change.

She called for dramatic changes in our energy usage. “In the global north we need to move quickly to very large emissions reductions, well outside of the range of historic experience”, she said.

The Issue of “Frankenfoods”

Submitted by Peter Denison

The science of genetics has been growing so rapidly that it must be hard for even a scientist in the field to keep up.  Both animal and plant breeders have been modifying various plants and animals for several millennia.  The standard way had been to grow a crop of, say, wheat, and then select the seeds of those which seemed the best in desired qualities.  Gradually the wheat crop would give better wheat, and after a sufficient length of time, the wheat crop would have little resemblance to the original wild wheat.  If there is such a thing as “intelligent design,” this is it.  The fresh fruit we eat often bears little or no resemblance to its wild ancestors.  Break open the pit of a peach and one will find a nut resembling an almond,  but not one which is edible.  All dogs have evolved from one breed of wild wolves, although many fashionable breeds nowadays hardly resemble a wolf.

Member Honored for Volunteer Service

Terry Goldzier, treasurer and longtime member of the Boston Ethical Community, was honored on April 17, 2016 by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Terry was given the Jane Falk Award for Volunteerism for 27 years of service.

Since 1989, Terry has been assisting a visually impaired person with her grocery shopping on alternate weeks.

Terry has been involved in many, many volunteer activities since high school and thinks it is an important thing to do —  “pay it forward”.

“It’s nothing extraordinary.”, Terry says. “People need to help each other if they can. In an ethical community, volunteering is part of one’s life”.

Double Standards

Submitted by Marvin Miller

Marvin MillerThe phrase “double standard” is used to describe having different ethical attitudes toward similar kinds of activity depending on who does the activity.

The phrase is often used with reference to extramarital sexual activity by men and by women. Our language has many words for women who do this, which carry connotations of condemnation and contempt. There are fewer such words for men, with connotations that are less harsh and may include a little envy and admiration. If Hillary Clinton had the same history of well-known extramarital affairs that her husband has, she couldn’t even consider running for president, while if Bill Clinton weren’t prevented by the Constitution from doing so, he could run and probably win.