What is Humanism?
Definitions abound. Kurt Vonnegut, who served for many years as the AHA’s honorary president, said it quite succinctly when he observed that “…being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”
Humanism is a worldview which says that reason and science are the best ways to understand the world around us, and that dignity and compassion should be the basis for how we act toward each other.
Humanism is nontheistic. By this, we don’t mean to say that there is no god. Instead, we say that there is no proof for the existence of god, any gods, the supernatural or an afterlife. Therefore, we take very seriously the idea that “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” We are living the only life we’ll have, in the only world we know about. The responsibility for the choices we make are ours and ours alone.
Humanism is a philosophy focused upon human means for comprehending reality. Humanists make no claims to possess or have access to supposed transcendent knowledge.
Humanists take responsibility for their own morals and their own lives, and for the lives of their communities and the world in which we live. Humanists emphasize reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation. Humanists reject supernatural, authoritarian, and anti-democratic beliefs and doctrines.
Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values—be they religious, ethical, social, or political—have their source in human experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny.
Humanism is a philosophy of reason and science in the pursuit of knowledge. Therefore, when it comes to the question of the most valid means for acquiring knowledge of the world, Humanists reject arbitrary faith, authority, revelation, and altered states of consciousness.
Humanism is a philosophy of compassion. Humanist ethics is solely concerned with meeting human needs and answering human problems-for both the individual and society-and devotes no attention to the satisfaction of the desires of supposed theological entities.
Humanists regard human values as making sense only in the context of human life rather than in the promise of a supposed life after death.
Humanists are committed to civil liberties, human rights, church-state separation, the extension of participatory democracy not only in government but in the workplace and education, an expansion of global consciousness and exchange of products and ideas internationally, and an open-ended approach to solving social problems, an approach that allows for the testing of new alternatives.
From The Humanist Society:
Those who are attracted to a positive, progressive philosophy, unencumbered by the rigidity of traditional religions, embrace the vibrant lifestance of humanism, the radical idea that you can be good without a god. The Humanist Society bolsters humanism’s rational philosophy by focusing on community and daily living.
Recognizing the important role life occasions play in individual and community life, the Humanist Society prepares Humanist Celebrants to lead ceremonial observances across the nation and worldwide. Celebrants provide millions of Americans an alternative to traditional religious weddings, memorial services, and other life-cycle events. Celebration of life is central to a meaningful humanist philosophy, and Humanist Celebrants officiate significant celebrations vital to humanist life.
Humanists recognize that it is only when people feel free to think for themselves, using reason as their guide, that they are best capable of developing values that succeed in satisfying human needs and serving human interests.
• ISAAC ASIMOV – scientist, author, and past president of the American Humanist Association