Joss Whedon: Cultural Humanist
""The enemy of Humanism is not faith; the enemy of Humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every Humanist and every person in the world."—Joss Whedon (upon receiving 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award in Humanism).
On April 10, 2009, a community of atheists, Humanists, and "Whedonites" assembled on Good Friday at Harvard's Memorial Church to honor writer and director Joss Whedon. The ceremony, dubbed "Atheistmas" by noted Humanist Salman Rushdie, featured Whedon receiving the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. This award, whose previous winners include Rushdie and punk icon Greg Graffin, is given annually to public figures who have promoted the ideals of Humanism.
"One of the reasons I love Joss Whedon's worlds is because his characters really care about each other and about making the world a better place," said Greta Friar, a member of the student committee who selected Whedon for the award. "When I first saw Buffy it seemed kind of silly, but then I realized that behind the silly there was this amazing story of a girl who stood up for what she believed in."
No stranger to awards, Whedon has been nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy, and he has been recognized by countless other groups for his work on groundbreaking TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse and Internet sensation Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. This time, though, he was commemorated for more than just his writing.
"What stands out about Joss is his explicit integration of his value system into both his work and his activism," said Andrew Maher, vice president of the Harvard Secular Society, the undergraduate organization that co-sponsors the award along with the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. As Whedon explained when asked in 2005 about his atheism, "I believe the only reality is how we treat each other. The morality comes from the absence of any grander scheme, not from the presence of any grander scheme."
In addition to his work in the arts, Whedon has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights organization Equality Now. His dedication to women's empowerment is reflected in his shows, which are known for featuring strong female characters—most notably, cult icon Buffy.
The New Humanism is proud to present, in collaboration with the Cambridge Forum and New England public television powerhouse WGBH, this exclusive complete video of the event, including a clip show from Whedon's oeuvre edited by Harvard student David Robinson '10.
The 90-minute video is above. Below is a short preview: