How To Think Critically

Critical thinking is a valuable skill that involves analyzing and evaluating information, arguments, and situations in a rational and logical manner.

The Buddha may have been the first critical thinker on record.  He lived about 480–400 BC and his teachings are summarized in the Noble Eightfold Path, a training of the mind that includes ethical training and meditative practices such as  kindness toward others, and mindfulness.

The teachings of Socrates (470–399 BC) are among the earliest records of critical thinking, and he is considered by some to be one of the early humanists. Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and has continued to do so in the modern era.

In 1644, Descartes wrote “ego cogito, ergo sum” translated as I think therefore I am, but much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. To become a critical thinker, you must develop habits of the mind that are self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective.

With all this history of thinking about thinking, you would think we would hone these skills and teach them to our children.  But many individuals, notable dictators, and groups, mostly religious, do not want you to think.  Critical thinking is a cornerstone of democracy and one of the American Humanist Association’s Ten Commitments

Here are some techniques to help improve your critical thinking skills:

  1. Question Assumptions: Challenge your own and others’ assumptions. Ask yourself why you believe something to be true and whether there’s evidence to support those beliefs.
  2. Seek Multiple Perspectives: Look at an issue from various viewpoints. Consider how different people might approach the same situation and what factors might influence their opinions.
  3. Evaluate Evidence: Assess the quality and relevance of evidence presented in support of an argument. Consider the source, credibility, and context of the information.
  4. Analyze Logic: Examine the logical structure of an argument. Check for any fallacies or errors in reasoning that might weaken the argument’s validity.
  5. Avoid Confirmation Bias: Be aware of your tendency to favor information that confirms your existing beliefs. Actively seek out and consider information that challenges your views.
  6. Develop Problem-Solving Skills: Break down complex problems into smaller parts. Analyze each part separately and then look for connections and patterns.
  7. Practice Active Listening: When engaging in discussions or reading, actively listen or read with the intent to understand rather than just respond. This helps you process information more effectively.
  8. Ask Thoughtful Questions: Instead of accepting surface-level information, dig deeper by asking questions that encourage more detailed explanations.
  9. Consider Consequences: Think about the potential outcomes and consequences of different decisions and actions. This can help you make more informed choices.
  10. Think Systematically: Consider how different elements of a situation or problem interact with one another. This helps you understand the bigger picture and how various factors contribute to an outcome.
  11. Develop Research Skills: Learn how to find reliable sources of information and how to evaluate the credibility and relevance of those sources.
  12. Practice Reflective Thinking: Regularly take time to reflect on your own thought processes, decisions, and beliefs. Consider what factors might have influenced your thinking and whether there are ways to improve your approach.
  13. Be Open to Change: Be willing to revise your opinions and beliefs in light of new evidence or better arguments. Flexibility is key to adapting your thinking.
  14. Apply Socratic Questioning: This method involves asking a series of probing questions to help explore the underlying assumptions, implications, and potential solutions to a problem.
  15. Develop Analytical Skills: Enhance your ability to analyze data, statistics, and trends. This can help you make more informed decisions based on evidence.
  16. Practice Mindfulness: Cultivate mindfulness to be fully present in the moment. This can help you observe your own thoughts and emotions more objectively, which is essential for critical thinking.

Remember that critical thinking is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Engaging in activities that challenge your thinking, such as reading diverse viewpoints, solving puzzles, and participating in debates, can all contribute to honing your critical thinking abilities.

Humanism: Service and Participation

In examining the 10 Commitments of Living Humanist Values, one of the commitments is Service and Participation.

Service and participation means putting values into action in ways that positively impact our communities and society as a whole. It fosters helping others, increasing social awareness, enhancing accountability, and many attributes of the other nine commitments. Engaging in service doesn’t just make the recipients better off, but those who serve can develop new skills, experiences, and personal satisfaction that all promote personal growth. We must all recognize that we are members of a group, and engaging in service to benefit the group and the other individuals in it makes us all better off.

The Secular Hub is an example of that commitment, being an all volunteer organization, providing space for events that bring people together and creating opportunities for helping our community and people outside our group.

This weekend (June 24-25, 2023), we are participating in two events: Denver PrideFest (Saturday & Sunday) and the Highlands Street Fair (Saturday) to bring our message to the wider Denver Metro community.  Come visit our booths at one or both of these events.

Also celebrate the summer solstice and enjoy the long days as they get shorter from today.

AHA’s 82nd Annual Conference in Denver: May 5–7, 2023

American Humanist Association’s 82nd Annual Conference

Denver, CO

May 5–7, 2023

AHA leaders, activists, and community members will convene and continue to build the future of humanism. Our conference will include opportunities to connect, learn, and plan. The programming will feature distinguished speakers and guests. We can’t wait to be together.

Join Us in Denver | In-Person or Online
Get details and register at

The Reason For The Season

Winter Solstice on earthAs our ancestors huddled around their fires on dark and cold winter nights, some of them noticed patterns in the sky that repeated as the seasons changed.  One of the patterns noticed was days grew shorter and nights longer as winter progressed and then reversed.  Over time they measured this phenomenon and created observatories to mark when this moment of reverse happened.  They held feasts and celebrations to mark the day the sun would return to melt the snow, grow their crops, and warm them.

The winter solstice event has be documented as early as 432 BC in ancient Greece and in China from about the 4th century BC.  Celebrations or festivals around the winter solstice include  Saturnalia (Rome, from 479 BC), Yule (ancient Germanic tribes), Yalda Night (502 BC, Iran), and Dongzhi Festival (China, about 500 BC).

The knowledge the winter solstice is probably even older than the written record shows.  Newgrange is a huge tomb located in County Meath in northeastern Ireland with a history of more than 5,000 years, which is even older than Stonehenge. Only the first sunshine of the Winter Solstice can shine into the inner chamber of the tomb. The most popular way to celebrate Winter Solstice here is the annual lottery draw, and the only 60 lucky fellows can enter the Newgrange tomb at sunrise to welcome the only sunshine of the year.

Newgrange tomb

It was not until 354 AD that a Festival of the Nativity was documented which eventually became Christmas.  So Christmas is a relative recent holiday this time of year.

So no matter what your beliefs or traditions, the winter solstice is an indication of the coming of spring and that is a reason to celebrate!

Living Humanist Values: The Ten Commitments

Reprinted from the by Kristin Wintermute • 27 August 2019

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF HUMANISM? How does one live as a humanist?

Like many of you, I have read a plethora of articles and longer works defining humanism. Each proclaims a different emphasis highlighting various aspects of what is valued by humanists. Some declare humanism to be a religion, a life stance, or a worldview, while others profess it to be a progressive philosophy, an ethical perspective, or a belief system. Usually, an array of principles is provided as a list of what’s key to humanists—affirming human worth and dignity, reason, compassion, morality, ethics, democracy, scientific inquiry, naturalism, and critical thinking with no adherence or affirmation of a divine creator or other supernatural force. None of the definitions are entirely conclusive, and all are correct in outlining the fundamentals of humanism.

However, this brings little clarity to what humanism is or how one lives as a humanist. Without a definitive set of beliefs, dogma, or scripture, humanism appears nebulous, which is the main reason we at the American Humanist Association Center for Education have developed the Ten Commitments.

Whereas the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Bible are a set of strict rules dictated by God, the Ten Commitments stand on their own as humanist values to maintain and strive to practice daily. They propose we put our values into action to work towards positively impacting our communities and society. In their simplicity, the Ten Commitments ultimately define what we are about and what we stand for. I also see the Ten Commitments as an avenue for collaboration—a gathering point for all humanists to work together.

Now, having grown up humanist and having worked in a variety of professional capacities in the movement, I’m very aware that within humanist circles, independence of mind is a significant priority—a venerated value for those who feel they narrowly escaped the confines of a religion that was “commanding” and, in some cases, repressive. And so many may initially feel the Ten Commitments smack of a directive authority and should be rejected.

However, I think the Ten Commitments are less about absolutes and serve more as a guide to putting our beliefs into action. They hold us accountable to our values. They ask humanists to be proactive versus reactive. They demonstrate that being humanist involves doing what is inherently right to ensure the well being of everyone and everything in this world. They inspire me to be better as a person and do better as a humanist.

It is my hope that readers find similar value in them. (A simpler version has also been developed for use in educational settings with younger humanists and in various other promotional ways). The AHA Center for Education plans to build a curriculum around the Ten Commitments that would also appeal to others in a variety of secular settings, such that the Ten Commitments become not only widely accepted character education, but a guide within professional settings promoting health and wellness.

Kristin Wintermute is the Education Director of the Center for Education at the American Humanist Association.

Welcome to Fall

Welcome to the beginning of fall, defined by the autumnal equinox (in the northern hemisphere) or the southward equinox (hemisphere-neutral).


On the day of the equinox, the Sun appears to rise “due east” and set “due west”.  In Denver, the equinox this year occurs at 7:03:34 pm MDT on September 22, 2022.

Vernal equinox and autumnal equinox: these classical names are direct derivatives of Latin (ver = spring, and autumnus = autumn). These are the historically universal and still most widely used terms for the equinoxes, but are potentially confusing because in the southern hemisphere the vernal equinox does not occur in spring and the autumnal equinox does not occur in autumn. The equivalent common language English terms spring equinox and autumn (or fall) equinox are even more ambiguous. It has become increasingly common for people to refer to the September equinox in the southern hemisphere as the Vernal equinox.  Confusing!

To avoid confusion use northward equinox and southward equinox, names referring to the apparent direction of motion of the Sun. The northward equinox occurs in March when the Sun crosses the equator from south to north, and the southward equinox occurs in September when the Sun crosses the equator from north to south.

Welcome to Fall in Denver!  Just remember, winter is coming, otherwise known at the December solstice, also known as the southern solstice on December 21 (in Denver).

The Real Origins of the Religious Right, and Why It Matters

The Religious Right is flexing its powerful muscles these days; in the last month alone they have gained the right to prayers at school, forced public funding for religious institutions, and repealed a half-century-old right to choice for women. The tradition of separation of church and state espoused by our founding fathers seems to be in deep jeopardy. How have we arrived at this juncture?

One of the enduring myths in recent history is the fiction that the Religious Right galvanized as a political movement in response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Evangelicals, however, considered abortion a Catholic issue throughout the 1970s. Most evangelicals were silent when the Roe decision was handed down, and those who did comment actually applauded the ruling. The real origins of the Religious Right may surprise you.

Randall Balmer holds the John Phillips Chair in Religion at Dartmouth College, the oldest endowed professorship there. He has followed an interesting trajectory in life. He is an Episcopal priest who was born into a Evangelical Christian family and raised in that subculture, which was constructed defensively to avoid interaction with people outside of the subculture. His education exposed him to wider worldviews. He grew away from that subculture and became a recognized expert on American religious communities.

Two days ago, he gave a talk to the Columbia University community titled The Real Origins of the Religious Right, and Why It Matters.

Click here to view a YouTube recording of his talk.

National Day of Reason

Expressing support for the designation of May 4, 2022, as a “National Day of Reason” and recognizing the central importance of reason in the betterment of humanity.

Another resolution was introduced to the United States House of Representatives by Jamie Raskin and others on April 29, 2022 to designate May 4, 2022 as the National Day of Reason.

The resolution states:

Expressing support for the designation of May 4, 2022, as a “National Day of Reason” and recognizing the central importance of reason in the betterment of humanity.

Whereas the application of reason has been the essential precondition for humanity’s extraordinary scientific, medical, technological, and social progress since before the founding of our country;

Whereas reason provides vital hope today for confronting the environmental crises of our day, including the civilizational emergency of climate change, and for cultivating the rule of law, democratic institutions, justice, and peace among nations;

Whereas irrationality, magical and conspiratorial thinking, and disbelief in science have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, contributing to the deaths of nearly 1,000,000 people in the United States;

Whereas America’s Founders insisted upon the primacy of reason and knowledge in public life, and drafted the Constitution to prevent official establishment of religion and to protect freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in civil society;

Whereas James Madison, author of the First Amendment and fourth President of the United States, stated that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty”, and “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives”; and

Whereas May 4, 2022, would be an appropriate date to designate as a “National Day of Reason”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) supports the designation of a “National Day of Reason”; and

(2) encourages all citizens, residents, and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing on the central importance of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolving social problems and promoting the welfare of humankind.

This resolution was immediately referred to United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform and will probably die there.

Meanwhile, last year the Governor of Utah is praying for rain.  Gov. Spencer J. Cox stated  “I’ve already asked all Utahns to conserve water by avoiding long showers, fixing leaky faucets, and planting water-wise landscapes. But I fear those efforts alone won’t be enough to protect us,” Gov. Cox said. “We need more rain and we need it now. We need some divine intervention. That’s why I’m asking Utahns of all faiths to join me in a weekend of prayer June 4 through the 6th.”  They did not get rain until June 25, 2021.

We need less prayer and more reason to resolve the mountain of issues facing the world today.

Butterfly McQueen – Free from the Slavery of Religion

Butterfly McQueen pictureThelma “Butterfly” McQueen, known for her role in the as Prissy, Scarlett O’Hara’s maid, in the film Gone With The Wind, was a outspoken atheist most of her life. She was featured in a bus ad campaign by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) in 2009.

In 1989, the FFRF honored her with its Freethought Heroine Award.  She told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion. I’m an atheist, and Christianity appears to me to be the most absurd imposture of all the religions, and I’m puzzled that so many people can’t see through a religion that encourages irresponsibility and bigotry.”

She railed against being typecast as a maid and roles that were demeaning to African-American actors.  Even though she could not attend the premiere of Gone With The Wind in 1939, held at a whites-only theater, she was a guest of honor at the 1989 50th anniversary event of the film.

Butterfly McQueen never married and split her time between New York City and Augusta, Georgia.  At aged 64, McQueen received a bachelor’s degree in political science from City College of New York, in 1975.  In an tragic accident with a kerosene heater, Ms. McQueen was burned and died December 22, 1995, at age 84.

A Youtube video recorded in 1989, shows a profile of McQueen.  In Celebrities In Hell (Warren Allen Smith, sequel to Who’s Who In Hell) she is quoted “They say the streets are going to be beautiful in Heaven. Well, I’m trying to make the streets beautiful here … When it’s clean and beautiful, I think America is heaven. And some people are hell.”

Religious Freedom Day

January 16th is the 236th anniversary of the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. That statute became the basis for the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and led to freedom of religion for all Americans.

The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom reads in part:

… that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical;

II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. …

For the full text, see the Founders Online page.