Monday February 15th was a memorable day in the history of Humanism in Iceland. On this day in 1990, Siðmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association was founded. The organization was formed after the first civil confirmation took place a year earlier and the main purpose was to continue providing these ceremonies.
The association has developed significantly over the past 5 years in its role as a life stance organization with ethical Humanism as its guiding principle. Siðmennt has become a prominent human rights advocacy group within Icelandic society. We support and work for gay rights, separation of church and state, and the protection of the secularity of public nursery and primary schools, among other things.
In 2008 the association launched its ceremony services, offering secular and Humanist baby namings, weddings, and funerals. Siðmennt celebrants conduct dignified and personal ceremonies for people who want to celebrate or mark life transitions without any religious content. More than 1200 teenagers have participated in our civil confirmation program since 1989 and there are 166 in our classes this year which is a spectacular increase (almost 40%) just in the last year! Siðmennt has brought well-known foreign experts to Iceland to give lectures on many important ethical and human rights matters. Siðmennt is regularly consulted by Parliament regarding bills about a wide range of human rights issues.
In 2005 Siðmennt initiated an annual Humanist Award to individuals or organizations which have made significant human rights contributions to society. In 2008 we added a second annual award for education and science, given to people who contribute to educating the public about critical thinking and skepticism.
Siðmennt has proved to be a positive force in Icelandic society by creating secular alternative ceremonies which did not exist before and championing human rights causes. We celebrate our 2 decades of work with an optimistic view of the future. We kicked off our anniversary year with a party on February 15th for members and supporters and are planning a variety of events throughout the year including a conference in the spring about what a secular society is. The Siðmennt board, celebrants, and teachers thank the many individuals who have supported our idealistic efforts during the past 20 years and look forward to exciting projects in the future working with everyone who seeks our services.