Humanism is a philosophy which in most cases embraces Agnosticism
or Atheistic belief about the non-existence of a
deity. But it goes further to create ethical systems based upon reason and
logic. It regards humanity as the measure of all things. Humanists emphasize a
belief in the importance of doing good in society.
The terms Humanism and Humanist are
essentially meaningless when used by themselves; their meanings only become
clear when preceded by an adjective, as in:
Christian Humanism: a
philosophy based on Christian beliefs about the nature of God, and which
advocate people's fulfillment by personal effort.
Cultural Humanism: A concept
that knowledge can be obtained through rational thought and experimentation.
It has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome. It developed into the
scientific method and is the major underpinning of all sciences today.
Literary Humanism: pursuit of
the humanities (languages, literature, philosophy, history, etc.)
Modern Humanism: a generic
term encompassing both Religious and Secular Humanism.
Philosophical Humanism: is a
philosophy centered upon the needs and interests of people.
Renaissance Humanism: A
movement starting at the end of the Middle Ages which renewed an interest in
classical studies and promoted the concept that truth could be discovered by
Religious Humanism: is
similar to secular humanism, except that it is practiced in a religious
setting with fellowship and rituals.
Secular Humanism: a
non-religiously based philosophy promoting man as the measure of all things.
It had its roots in the rationalism of the 18th Century and the free thought
movement of the 19th Century.
This page will deal primarily with
Is humanism a religion? The most widely
used meaning of the word religion is probably the belief that a God
exists who created the world, who is to be worshipped, and who is responsible for
creating ethical and behavioral codes. In that context, Humanism is definitely
not a religion, and would not be perceived as one by many of its followers.
Humanists do not generally believe in a supreme deity, demons,
angels, in a supernatural world, in heaven and hell, or in a divinely
ordained ethical code for humans to follow. Most would regard God as a creation
of mankind rather than the reverse.
Religious Humanism has been loosely
defined as religion with matters of deity worship and traditional theological
belief deleted. Replacing these factors is a belief in humanity as the highest
known form of intelligent life, and a belief in the scientific method as the
best way to determine truth.
Many Secular Humanists feel that the
role of religion throughout history has been so profoundly negative, that the
word "religion" should not be connected to their philosophy.
Many people feel that ethical and moral
behavior must be based on the absolute teachings found with the Bible.
Without a belief in God, the hope of Heaven and the threat of
Hell, they believe that an individual will not be motivated to behave decently.
They are energetic misguided supporters of
the "separation of church and state" issue. (Bill of Rights: Amendment 1:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances.)
They tend to have very liberal
beliefs about controversial ethical topics, like abortion, corporal
punishment of children, death penalty, prayer in schools,
homosexuality, physician assisted suicide, etc.
they have successfully developed
moral and ethical systems which are independent of divine revelation from a
deity. They are based upon such beliefs as:
Systems of morality and ethics can
be developed through mutual agreement much like we develop laws and social
They can be based upon common needs
that humans have for survival, security, personal growth and love
Humans are social animals who can
make the greatest achievements through mutual cooperation
People will willingly follow
humanistic codes because they are effective; reasonable; lead to self
esteem; are consistent with one's natural feelings of caring, compassion and
sympathy; are accepted by others, and do not lead to condemnation or
rejection. No system of rewards and punishment are needed to enforce them.
A Humanist Manifesto was prepared in 1933, endorsed
by 34 leading Humanists, and published in the May/June 1933 issue of The New
Humanist. It was updated as the Humanist Manifesto II in 1973. Some of
the themes of the latter document are:
They trace their roots to the
rational philosophy first created in the West in ancient Greece. Many regard
Socrates as the first and greatest of the Humanists.
They value knowledge based on reason
and hard evidence rather than on faith.
Being secular Humanists, they reject
the concept of a personal God, and regard humans as supreme. From this
belief naturally follows:
"the preciousness and
dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value."
a rejection of a created
universe in favor of the theory of evolution and a universe that obeys
a rejection of divinely inspired
ethical and moral codes in favor of codes derived by reason from the
the belief that full
responsibility for the future of the world, its political systems, its
ecology, etc. rests with humans. There is no God in heaven to intervene
and save us from a disaster
Many Humanists believe that much
historical progress has arisen from the conflict between organized religion
and secular society in which the former beliefs and practices have been
replaced with secular beliefs.
They feel that religious groups'
"promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are
both illusory and harmful."
They believe in democracy and reject
both theocracy and secular dictatorships as political systems that are
dangerous to individual freedoms.
They value freedom of inquiry,
expression and action; as long as it doesn't oppose or threaten what they are
trying to accomplish.
They believe that "moral
values derive their source from human experience." Since most
believe that an afterlife is nonexistent, they regard life here on earth to
be particularly precious. They are highly motivated to alleviating pain and
misery around the world. Many are active in refugee, human rights,
anti-death penalty, environmental groups, etc.
Generally speaking, they do not
a personal God, a Goddess or a
combination of Goddesses and Gods.
supernatural beings such as
angels, demons, Satan, Holy Spirit, etc.
heaven or hell or life after
the separation of a person into
body, soul and spirit.
survival of an individual in any
form after death.