Saturday, May 26, 2007

Overlap between Humanism and Religion

What about the overlap between Atheism and Humanism? Or are all Humanists Atheists?

I think "Venn Diagram" when i hear "overlap" and so I Googled: "venn diagram" religion humanism ...

What is the CONTINUUM between Religion and Atheism?

Varieties of humanism

Most humanist organizations, including the Institute for Humanist Studies, describe themselves as "non-religious," or may refer to their brand of humanism as "secular" or prefer to leave out descriptive adjectives altogether. But there are some important humanist groups that describe themselves as "religious." These humanist organizations embrace the same philosophical principles as non-religious humanists, affirming humanism as a godless philosophy based on reason and compassion. "Religious humanists" do not believe in the supernatural; they simply believe that the term "religious" can be understood to include non-supernatural lifestances such as humanism. Other humanists disagree.

We can start by looking at what we call ourselves and what branch of humanism we advocate, (there appear to be many). The word ‘humanism’ is a generic, abstract noun, like ‘love’ or ‘freedom’, and many describe it straight off by what it’s not – ‘its non-religious’, a description that immediately activates the religious frame. And some humanists are at pains to call themselves ‘secular humanists’.

If we subscribe to the ideas and ideals within the humanist tradition as they are commonly understood in documents like the Amsterdam Declaration (2002) and the various Humanist Manifestos derived from writers like Paul Kurtz, and we go one step further and join a humanist society – then we move from being generic humanists – to Humanists. The capital letter gives our commitment verification, it tells the world not only that we belong to a constituency of Humanists worldwide, but that we are a member of the Humanist Society of Scotland, or the North East Humanists, or the British Humanist Association, etc, and it activates one frame. Associated with this reference frame is a secular outlook on life, so there’s no need to add the word ‘secular’ - it’s already implied, the addition is tautological, it repeats the same idea.

To differentiate from those who want to call themselves humanists, but are not prepared to give up the God idea, all we need to use is that capital H. It tells the world that we are secular, that we are humanitarian, that we subscribe to reason, to compassion, to responsible conduct and so on. If an idea falls outside of humanism like ‘bigoted humanist’ or ‘religious humanist’, it doesn’t fit the Humanist frame. If it falls inside, like ‘compassionate humanist’, the qualifier is unnecessary, it’s already there embedded in the humanist reference frame.

Secular humanism

Secular humanism is the branch of humanism that rejects theistic religious belief, and the existence of a supernatural. It is often associated with scientists and academics, though it is not at all limited to these groups. Secular humanists generally believe that following humanist principles leads to secularism, on the basis that supernatural beliefs cannot be supported rationally and therefore all traditionally religiously associated activity must be rejected.

When people speak of humanism in general, they are usually referring to secular humanism, as a default meaning. Some of the secular humanists take this even further by denying that religious humanists qualify as genuine humanists. Others feel that the ethical side of humanism transcends the issue of religion, because being a good person is more important than supernatural beliefs.

Some secular humanists prefer the term Humanist (capital 'H', and no adjective), as unanimously endorsed by General Assembly of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) following universal endorsement of the Amsterdam Declaration 2002.

Religious humanism

Religious humanism is the branch of humanism that considers itself religious (based on a functional definition of religion), or embraces some form of theism, deism, or supernaturalism, without necessarily being allied with organized religion; if allied, in the US it is often with Unitarian Universalism, frequently associated with artists, liberal Christians, and scholars in the liberal arts. Also subscribers to a religion who do not hold such a necessary source for their moral values, may be considered religious humanists. The central position of human beings in humanist philosophy goes with a humane morality; the latter alone does not constitute humanism. A humanitarian who derives morality from religious grounds does not make a religious humanist.

A number of religious humanists feel that secular humanism is too coldly logical and rejects the full emotional experience that makes humans human. From this comes the notion that secular humanism is inadequate in meeting the human need for a socially fulfilling philosophy of life. Disagreements over things of this nature have resulted in friction between secular and religious humanists, despite their similarities.


Religious Humanism
Religious humanism is an integration of religious rituals and/or beliefs with humanistic philosophy that centers on human needs, interests, and abilities.

Origin: Humanism as it was conceived in the early 20th century rejected revealed knowledge, theism-based morality and the supernatural. Yet most of the founders of the humanist philosophical movement envisioned it as a religion, with the functions, ceremonies, and moral guidance that revealed religions traditionally provided. In the late 20th century the humanist movement came into conflict with conservative Christian groups in the United States and "Secular Humanism" became the most visible element of organized humanism.

Religious humanism is distinguished from Jewish humanism, Christian humanism, Muslim humanism, existentialist humanism, and secular humanism.

In the past, humanist versions of major religions, such as Christian humanism and Humanistic Judaism have arisen. In addition, many Dharmic religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and other Asian religions and belief systems like Confucianism, that focus on human nature and action more than theology, were always primarily humanistic.

Currently, however, humanism is dominated almost exclusively by secular humanism. This has given rise to a newer version of humanist religions which are similar in philosophy to secular humanism. Secular humanists and revealed religious humanists primarily differ in their definition of religion and their positions on supernatural beliefs. They can also diverge in practice since religious humanists endorse religious ceremonies, rituals, and rites.

Secular Humanism

Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects the supernatural and the spiritual as warrants of moral reflection and decision-making. Like other types of humanism, secular humanism is a life stance or a praxis focusing on the way human beings can lead good and happy lives (eupraxsophy). The term was coined in the 20th century to make a clear distinction from "religious humanism".

A related concept is scientific humanism, which the biologist Edward O. Wilson claimed to be "the only worldview compatible with science's growing knowledge of the real world and the laws of nature".[1]

Relationship to other concepts

When humanists use the phrase secular humanism it is typically to emphasize differences relative to religion or religious humanism.

There are a number of ways in which secular and religious humanism can differ:[3]

  • Religious humanists may value rituals and ceremonies as means of affirming their life stance. Secular humanists are typically not interested in using rituals and ceremonies.[4]
  • Some religious humanists may seek profound "religious" experiences, such as those that others would associate with the presence of God, despite interpreting these experiences differently. Secular humanists would generally not pursue such experiences.
  • Some varieties of nontheistic religious humanism may conceive of the word divine as more than metaphoric even in the absence of a belief in a traditional God; they may believe in ideals that transcend physical reality; or they may conceive of some experiences as "numinous" or uniquely religious. Secular humanism regards all such terms as, at best, metaphors for truths rooted in the material world.
  • Some varieties of religious humanism, such as Christian humanism include belief in God, traditionally defined. Secular humanism is skeptical about God and the supernatural and believes that these are not useful concepts for addressing human problems.

While some humanists embrace calling themselves secular humanists, others prefer the term Humanist, capitalized and without any qualifying adjective. The terms secular humanism and Humanism overlap, but have different connotations. The term secular humanism emphasizes a non-religious focus, whereas the term Humanism deemphasizes this and may even encompass some nontheistic varieties of religious humanism. The term Humanism also emphasizes considering one's humanism to be a life stance.

Is secular humanism a religion?

Because it adopts positions about the place of God and religion in well-ordered society, some Christians maintain that secular humanism is itself a religion. Humanists say that secular humanism is not a religion, while acknowledging that some varieties of humanism may be religious in some senses of the word. Disputes around this subject are largely semantic.

There is a continuum of humanist philosophies which may be divided into several categories:

Adherents of the first category of humanism, A, emphatically do not regard their variety of humanism as a religion. Adherents of the last two categories of humanism, B and C, regard their variety of humanism as a religion.

Confusion arises because proponents and opponents of humanism tend to define the term secular humanism differently.

  • Among proponents of humanism, secular humanism refers to category A. The current article relates primarily to secular humanism as defined in this fashion.
  • Among Christians who oppose humanism, secular humanism is used to refer to categories A and B, or even A, B and C.

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