Beth Lamont and husband Corliss Lamont
Beth Keehner Lamont (1929- )
In 1970, upon reading The Philosophy of Humanism by Corliss Lamont, San Francisco-born Beth Keehner realized she was a practicing Humanist, having disavowed traditional religion for more than thirty years. She wrote to Lamont, thanking him for giving her beliefs a name. They eventually met, and in 1986 Lamont married his third wife, Beth Keehner.
A feminist activist and mother of eleven children, Lamont is a devoted humanist who cared for him in his final years.
In the 1970s, she became a Board Member of the American Humanist Association (AHA) through its Chapter Assembly; she headed the Division of Humanist Extension, assuming this leadership role at the invitation of Edwin H. Wilson; she created the Humanist Advocate Program which encouraged individuals to promote Humanism; she created a television program called "Here & Now," which has shown on Manhattan Cable since 1984; she became a Humanist Chaplain and has performed over 500 Humanist weddings; presently, she represents the American Humanist Association in its Non-Governmental Organization capacity at the United Nations.
For The Humanist (November-December 1998), she wrote “Establishing an International Criminal Court,” in which she argued that the United States was negligent in being one of seven nations - including China, Iraq, and Libya - which did not sign a Rome agreement to establish such a court.
Another article, entitled "A New Mandate for United Nations Peacekeeping," appeared in the January-February 2001 issue of The Humanist, describing the Brahimi Report which explored the flaws in the peacekeeping mandate that allowed the tragedy of Rwanda. It advocated a stand-by, interception-force under the UN Secretariat for true peacekeeping that would, at last, carry out the original mandate of the UN "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." Beth urged the creation of a UN sponsored Universal Peace Corps for youth of all nations, as an alternative to military service, that would practice supportive conflict resolution techniques and engage in peace-building and humanitarian good works in needful communities.
Reviewing her husband's The Philosophy of Humanism paperback, Mrs. Lamont wrote to Amazon.com,
- This book is joyous reading! Enjoy!, November 15, 1999 - The Philosophy of Humanism is a scholarly work, tracing the influence of Humanism from the ancient Greek philosophers through the Enlightenment and the Bill of Rights to the twentieth century. It is very well documented with reference notes and bibliography for those who prefer sources, yet it is written in a most readable style. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who truly wishes to investigate and understand this often misinterpreted philosophy. They will learn that Humanism certainly does not promote witchcraft or the worship of human beings, nor does it advocate selfishness, as in the "me" generation, or for conscienceless materialism and ruthlessness, as is often falsely asserted by those who fear and misunderstand the principles of Humanism.
- Rather, as Dr. Lamont points out, it promotes ethical behavior and respect for others, yet with a freedom of conscience unfettered by traditional supernatural beliefs. Humanists oppose censorship and insist on full exercise of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech and access to information. Humanists are devoted to democratic principles, the employment of critical reasoning and scientific method, and the full recognition that we humans are products of continuing evolution.
- The Creationists' wish to hold the line against the teaching of evolution in the public schools is understandable. Open scientific inquiry does not promote acceptance on blind faith; the scientist searches for evidence. It's a worrisome matter of indoctrination versus education.
- Corliss Lamont was pleased to note, in the introduction to his sixth edition of this book, that so-called "moral majority" leader, Tim LaHaye, cited The Philosophy of Humanism 36 times in his own book The Battle for the Mind, which denounces Humanism as "amoral" and as "the most dangerous religion in the world." An alarming "moral majority" pamphlet for parents asks: "Is Humanism molesting your child?"
- Humanism is not taught in any public schools, contrary to the religious right's accusation, but is synonymous with a scientific method, that of a questioning, open, approach to learning, using critical reasoning. This method itself is seen as constituting the great danger: that of encouraging a child to examine and articulate values and concepts in an objective way, rather than accepting with blind obedience that which has been asserted by a power or authority.
- The Philosophy of Humanism is the definitive work on the subject of Humanism, used as a standard text, and even as a reference in the ongoing debate that swirls around the words "secular humanism." This name, incidentally, (which is redundant inasmuch as humanism is already secular, being not-religious), was coined in a Supreme Court footnote (Torcaso vs. Watkins) that declared humanism similar to religions, like Buddhism or Hinduism, that do not worship a supernatural god.
- However, Dr. Lamont insists that Humanism is not a religion, but a philosophy! Instead of a personal salvation in some afterlife, Humanism emphasizes the present, the here and now, living to the fullest the only life we know we have. The Humanist projection into the future is not a wish for immortality, according to Dr. Lamont, or survival of the personality in some mysterious spiritual realm, but instead focuses on a commitment to the long-range benefit of those around us and those who live after us. The survival of the best of our human endeavors, our species, our families, our genes is consistent with the Humanist outlook.
- Dr. Lamont traces the first written record of the philosophy of naturalistic Humanism to ancient Athens in the fifth century BCE in the words of Pericles, who gave a funeral oration championing the cause of democracy and saluting the bravery of those fallen in battle without reference to a deity or a promise of an afterlife reward for their sacrifice.
- This book explores the development of our very human need to explain the mysteries of the universe, beginning with some of the most ancient concepts and leading up to present day philosophies. We share our human curiosity with our primate ancestors. In the absence of science in the childhood of humankind, we did what all children do: we made up stories to explain the phenomena which we observed, and which were incomprehensible to us, and therefore seemed akin to magic. Without science how could it have been otherwise? Dr. Corliss Lamont describes Humanism as a philosophy of joyous service for the good of all humanity that advocates reason, science and democracy. This book is joyous reading! Enjoy!
Criticized for her inviting Siloists to speak at the New York Chapter of the American Humanist Association because of Siloism's allegedly being a cult that is anti-humanistic and not taking a specific stand against it, Lamont disagreed. In a 5 April 2006 e-mail, she responded,
- As a Humanist leader, I feel that I'm into building bridges not erecting fences! Having little nit-picking fences to protect the purity and the righteousness of your exclusive belief, and casting out the heretics, is not exacly conducive to progress OR the dissemination of the Humanist Philosophy! We've been tortured, maligned, and have suffered for centuries under that kind of haughly exclusivity from the gatekeepers, the chosen ones, and the radical religious nuts that have anointed themselves to sit in judgment of others. And punish those found to be infidels or witches or whatsoever. I keep telling my kids, If you've had a bellyfull of such bullying, and you know how hurtful it is, don't do it to others! This simply isn't ethical.
- The truth is that we are all in this mess together! We need all the help we can muster. Nonsense like your anti-Silo attitude is not conducive to ecumenical action; we need a great groundswell of human concern to turn things around and to help create a more equitable and Humanistic world. You can't get very far or make much progress when you keep running into divisive and restrictive fences. What we need instead are more all-embracing bridges. Exploring our areas of agreement and creating situations of "inclusivity" instead of exclusivity, is the only way that the fearful and the hate-filled people of this world can begin to respect the fact that differences are understandable and acceptable, not threatening. Only through this kind of effort will the diverse peoples on the face of this Earth, in time, begin to recognize that we are more alike than we are different and that we all belong to the same Human Family.
In 2009, she wrote an introduction to Lefties Are In Their Right Minds (Half-Moon Foundation, 2009), a re-introduction to her husband's 1939 book, You Might Like Socialism.
(See comment by Herbert A. Tonne.)