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Humane Religion, Human Spirituality

February 24–25, 2017
Santa Cruz, California

These days, humanism and traditional Christianity commonly stand as opposites: the former about science, the latter about faith. But this was not always the case. Before the 19th century, Christianity fostered humanism by supporting education and even promoting science. Even earlier, some ancient texts defined Christianity not as a faith but a wisdom path. Galston and Saxon will draw from these rich resources to ask what wisdom-centered, inclusive spiritualities might look like today.

Photo of David Galston

David Galston (Ph.D., McGill University) is a University Chaplain, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Executive Director of the Westar Institute. He is the author of Embracing the Human Jesus (2013) and God’s Human Future (2016).

Deb Saxon

Deborah Niederer Saxon (Ph.D., Iliff School of Theology-University of Denver) is an Adjunct Professor of Religion at Franklin College near Indianapolis and serves on Westar’s Board of Directors. Her work focuses on newly-discovered early Christian texts, women’s roles in religion, and ecumenical/interfaith collaboration.

Thanks to the generosity of the Progressive Christian Forum of Santa Cruz, registration for this event is only $25.
Register online or download a mail-in registration form

Program Details

Please note that session times for Santa Cruz differ from the standard schedule.

Love on the Rocks

Modern humanism, which expresses in secular forms the Christian gospel of compassion for others and concern for equality, emerged from Christianity. But modern Christianity is often wary of humanism, sometimes even depicting it as an expression of human pride. Both belong to one another and yet fight with each another. How did such troubling love emerge? Is a new relationship possible? Galston surveys this story of love on the rocks.
David Galston’s remarks will be followed by facilitated small-group discussions among attendees.
Friday evening, 7–9 pm

Becoming Fully Human

The Gospel of Mary doesn’t present Jesus’s death as a sacrificial atonement in which one must believe. Rather, Mary’s Jesus speaks of the interdependence of all, actually declares that there is no sin, and tells his followers to seek the Child of Humanity within themselves. Saxon asks how the teachings of Mary, the disciple who really “gets” Jesus, can help us become more fully liberated.
Remarks by Deborah Niederer Saxon will be followed by a brief Q&A.
Saturday, 9–10:30 am

The Suffering Self, Interrupted

The theme of suffering and martyrdom has permeated Christian theology for centuries. In this session, Saxon contrasts early Christian texts that extol this theme with others that subvert it, many of which were discovered only in the 19th and 20th centuries. She explores ways in which these texts can support inclusive forms of contemporary Christianity.
Remarks by Deborah Niederer Saxon will be followed by a brief Q&A.
Saturday, 10:30–11:30 am

Saturday Luncheon

Saturday, Noon – 1 pm (donations invited)

Re-Humanizing Christianity

Since the 19th century, many have attempted to develop human spirituality without demanding supernatural beliefs about a God or other traditional dogmas. Galston will look at some of the more recent ways philosophers and theologians are thinking about and valuing Christianity outside the realm of doctrinal confessions.
David Galston’s remarks will be followed by facilitated small-group discussions among attendees.
Saturday, 1–2 pm

Back to the Future: Questions about Religion and Humanism

Closing comments and discussion by David Galston and Deborah Niederer Saxon.
Saturday, 2:30–3 pm


Progressive Christian Forum of Santa Cruz

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

Peace United Church of Christ
900 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

For local information, contact:

Jim Weller


All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $25

Refunds are available until two weeks before the event if requested in writing, minus a $10 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.