The combination of humanism, science, and futurism represents the holy grail of twenty-first-century rational thinkers. We who seek objective truths in all fields-including ethics, religion, social behavior, long-range planning, and research-need to work together on the key issues that will confront our planet during the next fifty years. We face challenges that could spell our destruction as a species . . . or our emergence into a glorious world of undreamed-of greatness and prosperity. I submit that there is a very fine line between these two outcomes. Small choices made today may have enormous impact a half-century from today.

A list of the key issues for tomorrow follows. These are critical concerns that we must tackle aggressively and very soon, using a long-range planning process rooted in humanist values.

Population

The population explosion will continue, fueled by advances in technology, medicine, biology, and productivity-and, perhaps disastrously, by prolife attitudes championed by religious conservatives. Overcrowding will lead to increased poverty, civil strife, and war in underdeveloped regions. The risks include not only severe, negative environmental impacts but the potential ruin of our planet as a haven for life. This concern must be taken very seriously.

Science and Ethics vs. Religion

Obsolete, literally medieval religious mythology continues to delay progress in ethics, culture, and the sciences. It must be replaced wherever possible by the humanist outlook.

Religious institutions should be viewed as historical and ceremonial artifacts only-as ancient legacies on a par with European royalty and breathtaking old cathedrals: charming, perhaps, but ultimately without purpose except as tourist attractions. Already, very few citizens of developed countries take their religion seriously-with the glaring exception of the United States. An argument can therefore be made that the United States represents a backward intellectual culture.

Religious institutions should be accountable for their finances like other philanthropic entities. In return for tax-exempt status, they should be required to report annually on their tangible (i.e. this-worldly) charitable activities. Moreover, they should take the lead in trying to alleviate social problems such as poverty, homelessness, hunger, drug addiction, and ignorance without additional government financing. Their own charitable traditions should be incentive enough.

As the human race evolves, individuals must develop a heightened ethical consciousness based not on the Ten Commandments or other supposed commands of God but on the consequences of human actions in this world.