The Story of a Humanist Church

The Blue Book or The Story of a Humanist Church

A Short History of The Fellowship of Humanity With Contributions by Members 1971

Edited by

J. Arthur Ragsdale


▬  J. Arthur Ragsdale

History is the story of man, told by man himself. Man makes his own history. But he does not make it from the "whole cloth," to quote the phrase of a famous writer. He makes it from the materials at hand. Is history an exact science? The answer must be no because of so many subjective factors which enter into its making. But it is possible to study history by use of the scientific method, by which means a certain law or tendency may be observed, which explains, on a long timescale, the development of the course of history.

Corliss Lamont in his recent book entitled Freedom of Choice Affirmed, asserts that man is free to make a choice in any given situation. However, Lamont qualifies this statement by saying that the choice is free within certain limits. What are these limits? These limits are made up of the entire social and natural environment in which any given individual had his origins, plus his inherited physical and mental capabilities. His choices are made, and his will is exercised and directed because of and by means of these background factors. Since each individual has had a different life experience, his will is formed accordingly. However, it may be observed that large numbers of individuals who find themselves in the same social environment are constrained thereby to form judgments and make choices according to their needs, and thus at certain periods of history, the collective will of a certain social class may be opposed to that of another class.

To sum up, history is the resultant of the clash of innumerable wills, both of individuals and of social classes. The Fellowship of Humanity is an example of how history is determined by this process. The following pages will illustrate how this came about.


A Short History of The

Fellowship of Humanity

▬ J. Arthur Ragsdale

If one should take a stroll along the south side of 28th Street, between Telegraph Avenue and Webster Street, in the City of Oakland, one will notice a large garden, with trees of several varieties, most prominent of which are a number of live oaks, natives of the soil of Oakland, California. Toward the rear of this garden is seen a small building, over the entrance of which are inscribed the words, “Fellowship Center.” This has been the home of an organization, unique in the annals of American Humanism, since August 4, 1941. Its name is The Fellowship of Humanity.

The origins of The Fellowship of Humanity can hardly be explained without some description of the social environment that gave birth to it. It was the year 1934. Franklin Roosevelt had been elected President two years previously. Many millions of people were out of work; some of them since 1929, the year of the stock market crash, which was followed by the Great Depression. Thousands of people roamed around the country, going from state to state, looking for work. But there were no jobs to be had. Banks failed, and industry came to a standstill. A large savings and loan company in San Francisco was forced into bankruptcy because some of its biggest borrowers, large hotels and restaurants, up and down the state, could make no payments on their loans. The loan company foreclosed the mortgages and tried to operate these “frozen assets” directly, but this also proved to be a failure as there was insufficient public patronage to sustain the offered services.

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  • A.D. Faupell 1935-1944
  • E.O. Corson 1944-1948
  • A.R. Mueller 1948-1950
  • Walter F. Kennon 1950-1966
  • J. Arthur Ragsdale 1966-1970
  • William Creque 1970-1972
  • Jake Price 1972
  • Oiva Nurmela 1980
  • Rey King 1990
  • Walter Springer 1992-1994
  • LeRue Grim 1994-1997
  • Walter Springer 1997-2001
  • Rowland Hill 2001-2003
  • Charley Gary 2003-2004
  • Florence Windall 2004-2010
  • David A. Oertel 2010-2020
  • Carlos A. Lomeli 2021-present