Three of the volunteers of the Pathfinders Project will be discussing the project, themselves, why they are involved, and why humanist service is so important.

11:10 AM 

Little bit of a late start! Conor kicks us off with a description of the Pathfinders Project, a yearlong international service and research trip sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief. He says hopefully he doesn’t need to spend much time outlining why humanist volunteer work is important.

Conor says his religion is “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad.” I’d like to point out that some people can feel good while doing very bad things, so that’s a careful distinction to make.

11:20 AM 

Conor explains that one of the reasons he joined Pathfinders is because the world needs improvement, and humanists are in a positive position to effect change – this also ties in nicely to the Improving the Image of Atheists panel that just ended!

Pathfinders will be travelling to places like Cambodia, and visiting a humanist school there called Bridge of Life School! They’ll also be visiting Mustard Seed School, Isaac Newton High School, Kasese Humanist Primary School, three humanist schools in Uganda. They’ll be partnering with the James Randi foundation and teaching critical thinking skills. From there, they’ll be visiting Ghana and working with two more groups:  Leo Igwe Research Project and the Alliance for African Women’s Initiative

After Africa they’ll be going to Haiti, working with Children of the Border, a group that helps children by helping their mothers.

They’ll also be heading to Ecuador and working with a clean water project, and Guatemala to work with families who live in the slums and dumps.

Conor is careful to note that this is not a conversion mission – it’s the “anti-mission trip” – though they do hope to expose people to humanism in a positive way.

A noticeably sweatervest-less Ben Blanchard is now talking about how he loves the atheist movement but was looking for something more – he’s been wanting to do a service trip since he was very young. He’s excited to get a hands-on experience that will make a difference in people’s lives.


Wendy is a Yale graduate who is excited to make some on-the-ground action. While she was at Yale, she helped found an Atheist, Agnostic, Multifaith organization on campus for non-Christian members of the Divinity program. She feels her mission is to help facilitate “inter-belief.”

Ben was asked, “Do you think the Pathfinders, or those they’re working with will be most affected?” The panelists agreed that the Pathfinders themselves will probably be most affected. They want to bring as much change as possible, but Ben says “I think the inner change within us will be the biggest change.”

Conor notes that Pathfinders is the first step, but this is not a “one and done” type project. Ben says “Are you saying, ‘There are more steps, on the *path* we’re *finding*?'” Ba-dum-tssssssssssss!


Ben was asked another question: “Why humanism?” Conor quotes James Croft in saying “Humanism is the only philosophy that boils our ethics down to reason and compassion. And if you look at every advancement we’ve made as humans, they’ve either been inspired by an advancement in reason or compassion.”

Ben says that he’s been non-religious for a very long time, and gone through many labels, but thinks “Secular Humanist” has worked best for him. As to why they’ve organized a service project under the banner of humanism, he thinks it’s easier to organize under a label, rather than none and humanism made the most sense. Conor notes that you don’t have to specifically identify as a humanist to help with Pathfinders.

Another question! “How can I help?” The Pathfinders are looking to raise awareness to the service projects that need to be done. Helping is as easy as spreading the word through the Pathfinders Facebook page, their Twitter, and their blogs (once they’re up!). You can also support financially, through a tax-deductible donation.

Wendy has a project called Grounds for Humanity, and if you’re interested in supporting you can contact her directly on Facebook or email her at [email protected] When the coffee is ready in a couple of weeks she’ll contact you on how to make a purchase.


Someone in the chat room asked, “What differentiates you from other non-religious groups like the Peace Corps?” Conor says that those groups have great models, but the difference is in the community that is drawn into service. The Peace Corps goal is to expose Americans to non-Americans and vice-versa.

Another question from the chat room: “What are/were your apprehensions about the trip?” Wendy says she was worried she wouldn’t get along with other Pathfinders, and is concerned about the emotional aspects of seeing such poverty, etc.

Again, if you’d like to support the Pathfinders you can visit the Pathfinders Facebook page, their Twitter, and their blogs (once they’re up!). You can also support financially, through a tax-deductible donation.