Friday, July 06, 2007

What is Humanism and a Humanist? Definitions, Manifestos, Declarations & Polls

Some Definitions of Humanism
The most succinct definitions of Humanism are generally stated earliest.
Humanism is a godless philosophy based on reason and compassion (COHE, Continuum of Humanist Education) (10 words)

Humanism is a positive alternative to religious belief, emphasising reason and shared values (12 words)

Humanism is a positive alternative to religious belief based on reason, evidence and shared values
(15 words)

Humanists hold a non-religious outlook - seeking to achieve a more open, just and caring society. (SHH) (16 words)
Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good. (BHA est.1963) (61 words)
Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality. (Minimum Statement on Humanism (1996), IHEU est. 1952) (71 words)

What humanists believe
Humanism is an approach to life based on humanity and reason - humanists recognise that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone. Our decisions are based on the available evidence and our assessment of the outcomes of our actions, not on any dogma or sacred text.

Humanism encompasses atheism and agnosticism - but is an active and ethical philosophy far greater than these negative responses to religion.

Humanists believe in individual rights and freedoms - but believe that individual responsibility, social cooperation and mutual respect are just as important.

Humanists believe that people can and will continue to find solutions to the world's problems - so that quality of life can be improved for everyone.

Humanists are positive - gaining inspiration from our lives, art and culture, and a rich natural world.

Humanists believe that we have only one life - it is our responsibility to make it a good life, and to live it to the full. (BHA) (162 words)

Humanist Association of Canada
Declaration of Humanist Principles
  1. Humanism aims at the full development of every human being.
  2. Humanists uphold the broadest application of democratic principles in all human relationships.
  3. Humanists advocate the use of the scientific method, both as a guide to distinguish fact from fiction and to help develop beneficial and creative uses of science and technology.
  4. Humanists affirm the dignity of every person and the right of the individual to maximum possible freedom compatible with the rights of others.
  5. Humanists acknowledge human interdependence, the need for mutual respect and the kinship of all humanity.
  6. Humanists call for the continued improvement of society so that no one may be deprived of the basic necessities of life, and for institutions and conditions to provide every person with opportunities for developing their full potential.
  7. Humanists support the development and extension of fundamental human freedoms, as expressed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and supplemented by UN International Covenants comprising the United Nations Bill of Human Rights.
  8. Humanists advocate peaceful resolution of conflicts between individuals, groups, and nations.
  9. The humanist ethic encourages development of the positive potentialities in human nature, and approves conduct based on a sense of responsibility to oneself and to all other persons.
  10. A fundamental principle of humanism is the rejection of beliefs held in absence of verifiable evidence, such as beliefs based solely on dogma, revelation, mysticism or appeals to the supernatural.
  11. Humanists affirm that individual and social problems can only be resolved by means of human reason, intelligent effort, critical thinking joined with compassion and a spirit of empathy for all living beings.
  12. Humanists affirm that human beings are completely a part of nature, and that our survival is dependent upon a healthy planet which provides us and all other forms of life with a life-supporting environment.
(312 words) Humanist Assoc of Canada

The Affirmations of Humanists Principles
  1. We are committed to the application of reason and science to understanding the universe and to the solving of human problems.
  2. We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
  3. We believe in a open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  4. We are committed to the separation of church and state.
  5. We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
  6. We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and people with disabilities so that they will be able to maximize their independence, and their opportunities to participate in, and contribute to, community life.
  7. We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
  8. We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
  9. We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
  10. We respect the right of privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
  11. We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics are amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
  12. We are concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
  13. We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
  14. We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
  15. We believe in the full development of every human being.
Humanist Assoc of Canada (380 words)

The Amsterdam Declaration 2002

updated the original 1952 Amsterdam Declaration
Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world's great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself. The fundamentals of modern Humanism are as follows:
1. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.
2. Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world's problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.
3. Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.
4. Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognises our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.
5. Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. The world's major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process. of observation, evaluation and revision.
6. Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination and recognises the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.
7. Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment through the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.
Our primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilising free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, we have confidence that we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We call upon all who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this endeavour. (506 words) (IHEU 2002)

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association (est. 1941) has three Humanist Manifestos which have evolved over 70 years: I in 1933 (1,114 words), II in 1973 (3,237 words)

Humanist Manifesto III in 2003 (633 words) which follows:-

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism-guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience-encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience-each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life's fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature's resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature's integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone. (Humanist Manifesto III, 2003) (633 words)
Secular Humanist Declaration (1980)

Key points:-
Free Inquiry, Separation Of Church And State, The Ideal Of Freedom, Ethics Based On Critical Intelligence, Moral Education, Religious Skepticism, Reason, Science And Technology, Evolution, Education
(Paul Kurtz et al, Council for Secular Humanism, 1980) (3560 words)

Declaration of interdependence: a new global ethics (1988) by Paul Kurtz / IHEU

Key points:-
The Need for a Global Moral Consensus
Human Rights
Human Responsibilities
Ethics of the World Community
IHEU (2976 words)
Humanist Manifesto 2000 - A Call for a New Planetary Humanism
(by Paul Kurtz)

key points:-

Prospects for a Better Future, Scientific Naturalism, The Benefits of Technology, Ethics and Reason, A Universal Commitment to Humanity as a Whole, A Planetary Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, A New Global Agenda, The Need for New Planetary Institutions, Optimism about the Human Prospect (Council for Secular Humanism) (813 words)

Brussels Declaration (2007)

the latest definition of Humanism by The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), European Humanist Federation (EHF est.1991) and Catholics For Free Choice (CFFC):-
We, the people of Europe, hereby affirm our common values. They are based not on a single culture or tradition but are founded in all of the cultures that make up modern Europe.

We affirm the worth, dignity and autonomy of every individual, and the right of everyone to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others.

We support democracy and human rights and aim at the fullest possible development of every human being.

We recognise our duty of care to all of humanity including future generations, and our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world.

We affirm the equality of men and women. All persons regardless of race, origin, religion or belief, language, gender, sexual orientation or ability must have equal treatment before the law.

We affirm the right of everyone to adopt and follow a religion or belief of their choosing. But the beliefs of any group may not be used to limit the rights of others.
We hold that the state must remain neutral in matters of religion and belief, favouring none and discriminating against none.

We hold that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. We seek to create a fair society based on reason and compassion, in which every citizen is enabled to play their full part.

We uphold both tolerance and freedom of expression

We affirm the right of everyone to open and comprehensive education.

We reject intimidation, violence and incitement to violence in the furtherance of disputes, and hold that conflicts must be resolved through negotiation and by legal means.

We uphold freedom of inquiry in every sphere of human life, and the application of science in the service of human welfare. We seek to use science creatively, not destructively.

We uphold artistic freedom, value creativity and imagination, and recognise the transforming power of art. We affirm the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment. Brussels Declaration (2007) (335 words)

Humanism is a godless philosophy based on reason and compassion (COHE, Continuum of Humanist Education) (10 words) ... is a ten-word, static definition of humanism. The Continuum of Humanist Education (COHE) is a million-word, dynamic, ongoing exploration of humanism. (1,000,000 words!!)

In November 2006 a MORI poll sponsored by BHA found that their are 17 million or 36% of UK adults who have a humanist outlook on life.

Dorset Humanists are affiliated to the British Humanist Assocation (BHA) and BHA is a full member of IHEU which is the world-wide umbrella organization for those adhering to the Humanist life stance.

David Warden wrote a summary "What is Humanism?"

More about Humanism in Wikipedia.

Modern Humanism, also called Naturalistic Humanism, Scientific Humanism, Ethical Humanism and Democratic Humanism is defined by one of its leading proponents, Corliss Lamont, as "a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion." Modern Humanism has a dual origin, both secular and religious, and these constitute its sub-categories:-
Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of 18th century enlightenment rationalism and 19th century freethought.
Religious Humanism emerged out of Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and Universalism. Today, many Unitarian- Universalist congregations and all Ethical Culture societies describe themselves as humanist in the modern sense. source

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