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Humanism
Founder: Unknown

Overview:
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 human effort.

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 Secular Humanism. 

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.

Humanists think 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 customs

  • 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.

Cult Beliefs:

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 natural laws

    • a rejection of divinely inspired ethical and moral codes in favor of codes derived by reason from the human condition

    • 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 believe in

    • 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 death.

    • the separation of a person into body, soul and spirit.

    • survival of an individual in any form after death.

 

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