What is Humanism? As Explained by Several Famous Humanists

The British Humanist Association just released this Introduction to Humanism featuring Richard Dawkins, A.C. Grayling, Tim Minchin, Zoe Margolis, Polly Toynbee, Phillip Pullman, and many others:

(Thanks to Steve for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    100% pure win. I loved every second of it.

  • Octoberfurst

    That was beautiful. Thanks!

  • Pseudonym

    Point of order. This is technically what is known (for lack of a better term) as movement humanism.

    Actual Humanism can be understood, in a nutshell, as the position that humanity has claimed all responsibilities that were previously ascribed to deities.  This is the position of Humanism Manifesto I. What may surprise many atheists today is precisely what Humanism originally sought to achieve, namely, a better religion:

    There is great danger of a final, and we believe fatal,
    identification of the word religion with doctrines and methods which
    have lost their significance and which are powerless to solve the
    problem of human living in the Twentieth Century. Religions have always
    been means for realizing the highest values of life. Their end has been
    accomplished through the interpretation of the total environing
    situation (theology or world view), the sense of values resulting
    therefrom (goal or ideal), and the technique (cult), established for
    realizing the satisfactory life. A change in any of these factors
    results in alteration of the outward forms of religion. This fact
    explains the changefulness of religions through the centuries. But
    through all changes religion itself remains constant in its quest for
    abiding values, an inseparable feature of human life.

    Today man’s
    larger understanding of the universe, his scientific achievements, and
    deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a situation which
    requires a new statement of the means and purposes of religion. Such a
    vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of furnishing adequate
    social goals and personal satisfactions may appear to many people as a
    complete break with the past. While this age does owe a vast debt to the
    traditional religions, it is none the less obvious that any religion
    that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be
    shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a
    major necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon
    this generation.

    It should come as no surprise that most of the signatories were Unitarians and other adherents to liberal religion.

    The Second Humanism Manifesto opened up Humanism to the non-religious:

    Many kinds of humanism exist in the contemporary world. The varieties
    and emphases of naturalistic humanism include “scientific,” “ethical,”
    “democratic,” “religious,” and “Marxist” humanism. Free thought,
    atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, deism, rationalism, ethical culture,
    and liberal religion all claim to be heir to the humanist tradition. Humanism traces its roots from ancient China, classical Greece and
    Rome, through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, to the scientific
    revolution of the modern world. But views that merely reject theism are
    not equivalent to humanism. They lack commitment to the positive belief
    in the possibilities of human progress and to the values central to it.
    Many within religious groups, believing in the future of humanism, now
    claim humanist credentials. Humanism is an ethical process through which
    we all can move, above and beyond the divisive particulars, heroic
    personalities, dogmatic creeds, and ritual customs of past religions or
    their mere negation.

    Now that’s something we can all get behind.


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