Portland Humanist Film Festival celebrates its second year of making people think
More than 500 people attended last year’s Portland Humanist Film Festival, numbers which are expected to double (possibly even triple) at this year’s event at Cinema 21 from Nov. 11–13.
That sounds like a reasonable amount of people to cram into a movie theater for three days. But for an event promoting free thought as opposed to religion in a city whose goal is to stay weird, this actually seems like a low attendance.
A 2008 Gallup poll ranked Portland as one of the ten least religious cities in the nation, with 47 percent of respondents claiming religion was not an important part of their daily lives. Another poll put Oregon at number one for the percentage of non-religious residents—24.6 percent.
The increasing polarization between secularism and religion is mounting nationwide. Overall, 65 percent of Americans deem themselves religious, and with the presidential election coming up, messages of faith are being amped up to appeal to the majority, while politics take a backseat.
Sherry Hansen, the originator of PHFF, is doing what she can to even the playing field. “I do think that when you amplify the methodology of faith onto the scale of national and international politics, that the more facts and the less faith in the decision making, the better the outcome,” Hansen said. “And that is what motivates me to help create the film festival…we would like to engage more people into considering that you can live a rich and full and ethical life without religion.”
The event is being hosted by the Center for Inquiry Portland and is sponsored by Humanists of Greater Portland. Both groups provide ample opportunities to meet with like-minded secular humanists. In a city with such an artistic presence, film seems like the perfect medium to entice viewers into discussions of this nature.
Marsha Abelman is in charge of coordination between PHFF and HGP.
“Films are a powerful medium through which to deliver the messages of humanism and freethinking,” Abelman said. “Movies not only can expose the harm that religion does to the human spirit but also can show the joys of living rationally, free from ‘loyalty to petrified opinion.’”
And they’re fun, too. A full schedule for the weekend can be viewed online at humanistfest.com, where you can buy a weekend pass for the very reasonable price of $20. A whole host of splendors awaits visitors.
PSU’s very own Joshua Fost, assistant professor in the philosophy department, will be receiving an award for his short, Science is a Vaccine. According to Fost, the strength of this event lies not only in increasing rational thinking, but in fostering community amongst secular humanists.
This is the most important benefit of PHFF. As a commuter college, PSU can be a difficult place to meet people, let alone delve into a person’s most intimate beliefs right off the bat. Secular humanists: here is your chance to meet like-minded individuals.
Because of the nature of the festival, I feel confident that believers will be few and far between, but it’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to see Monty Python’s Life of Brian on the big screen, so prepare for some hearty discussions. Keep it light, though—take this opportunity to don your best Brian costume and remember to “always look on the bright side of life.”