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Secular humanism

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Title: Secular humanism  
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Secular humanism

The philosophy or life stance of secular humanism (alternatively known by some adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.[1][2][3]

It posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy. Many Humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianism, ethical naturalism, or evolutionary ethics, and some, such as Sam Harris, advocate a science of morality.

The Happy Human" is the official symbol of the IHEU as well as being regarded as a universally recognised symbol for those who call themselves Humanists. Secular humanist organizations are found in all parts of the world. Those who call themselves humanists are estimated to number between four and five million people worldwide.


  • Terminology 1
  • History 2
    • Secularism 2.1
    • Positivism & the Church of Humanity 2.2
    • Ethical movement 2.3
    • Secular humanism 2.4
  • Manifestos and declarations 3
    • International Humanist and Ethical Union 3.1
    • Council for Secular Humanism 3.2
    • American Humanist Association 3.3
  • Ethics and relationship to religious belief 4
  • Modern context 5
  • Humanist celebrations 6
  • Legal mentions in the United States 7
    • Hatch amendment 7.1
    • Case law 7.2
      • Torcaso v. Watkins 7.2.1
      • Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda 7.2.2
      • Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia 7.2.3
      • Peloza v. Capistrano School District 7.2.4
    • Controversy 7.3
  • Notable humanists 8
  • Manifestos 9
  • Related organizations 10
  • See also 11
    • Related philosophies 11.1
    • Wikibooks 11.2
  • Notes 12
  • Further reading 13
    • Primary sources 13.1


The meaning of the phrase secular humanism has evolved over time. The phrase has been used since at least the 1930s,[4] and in 1943, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, was reported as warning that the "Christian tradition... was in danger of being undermined by a 'Secular Humanism' which hoped to retain Christian values without Christian faith."[5] During the 1960s and 1970s the term was embraced by some humanists who considered themselves anti-religious,[6] as well as those who, although not critical of religion in its various guises, preferred a non-religious approach.[7] The release in 1980 of A Secular Humanist Declaration by the newly formed Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH, now the Council for Secular Humanism) gave secular humanism an organisational identity within the United States.

However, many adherents of the approach reject the use of the word secular as obfuscating and confusing, and consider that the term secular humanism has been "demonized by the religious right... All too often secular humanism is reduced to a sterile outlook consisting of little more than secularism slightly broadened by academic ethics. This kind of 'hyphenated humanism' easily becomes more about the adjective than its referent".[8] Adherents of this view, including the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the American Humanist Association, consider that the unmodified but capitalised word Humanism should be used. The endorsement by the IHEU of the capitalization of the word Humanism, and the dropping of any adjective such as secular, is quite recent. The American Humanist Association began to adopt this view in 1973, and the IHEU formally endorsed the position in 1989. In 2002 the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration, which represents the official defining statement of World Humanism for Humanists. This declaration makes exclusive use of capitalized Humanist and Humanism, which is consistent with IHEU's general practice and recommendations for promoting a unified Humanist identity. To further promote Humanist identity, these words are also free of any adjectives, as recommended by prominent members of IHEU. Such usage is not universal among IHEU member organizations, though most of them do observe these conventions.


Historical use of the term humanism (reflected in some current academic usage), is related to the writings of pre-Socratic philosophers. These writings were lost to European societies until Renaissance scholars rediscovered them through Muslim sources and translated them from Arabic into European languages.[9] Thus the term humanist can mean a humanities scholar, as well as refer to The Enlightenment/ Renaissance intellectuals, and those who have agreement with the pre-Socratics, as distinct from secular humanists.


Ethical Culture. Though Ethical Culture is based on a humanist philosophy, it is regarded by some as a type of religious humanism. Hence, it would seem most accurate to say that this case affirmed that a religion need not be theistic to qualify as a religion under the law, rather than asserting that it established generic secular humanism as a religion.

In the cases of both the Fellowship of Humanity and the Washington Ethical Society, the court decisions turned not so much on the particular beliefs of practitioners as on the function and form of the practice being similar to the function and form of the practices in other religious institutions.

Peloza v. Capistrano School District

The implication in Justice Black's footnote that secular humanism is a religion has been seized upon by religious opponents of the teaching of evolution, who have made the argument that teaching evolution amounts to teaching a religious idea. The claim that secular humanism could be considered a religion for legal purposes was examined by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Peloza v. Capistrano School District, 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1173 (1995). In this case, a science teacher argued that, by requiring him to teach evolution, his school district was forcing him to teach the "religion" of secular humanism. The Court responded, "We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or Secular Humanism are 'religions' for Establishment Clause purposes." The Supreme Court refused to review the case.

The decision in a subsequent case, Kalka v. Hawk et al., offered this commentary:[59]

The Court's statement in Torcaso does not stand for the proposition that humanism, no matter in what form and no matter how practiced, amounts to a religion under the First Amendment. The Court offered no test for determining what system of beliefs qualified as a "religion" under the First Amendment. The most one may read into the Torcaso footnote is the idea that a particular non-theistic group calling itself the "Fellowship of Humanity" qualified as a religious organization under California law.


Decisions about tax status have been based on whether an organization functions like a church. On the other hand, Marci Hamilton has pointed out: "Moreover, the debate is not between secularists and the religious. The debate is believers and non-believers on the one side debating believers and non-believers on the other side. You've got citizens who are [...] of faith who believe in the separation of church and state and you have a set of believers who do not believe in the separation of church and state."[60]

In the 1987 case of Smith v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County a group of plaintiffs brought a case alleging that the school system was teaching the tenets of an anti-religious religion called "secular humanism" in violation of the Establishment Clause. The complainants asked that 44 different elementary through high school level textbooks (including books on home economics, social science and literature) be removed from the curriculum. Federal judge William Brevard Hand ruled for the plaintiffs agreeing that the books promoted secular humanism, which he ruled to be a religion. The Eleventh Circuit Court unanimously reversed him, with Judge Frank stating that Hand held a "misconception of the relationship between church and state mandated by the establishment clause," commenting also that the textbooks did not show "an attitude antagonistic to theistic belief. The message conveyed by these textbooks is one of neutrality: the textbooks neither endorse theistic religion as a system of belief, nor discredit it."[61]

Notable humanists


There are numerous Humanist Manifestos and Declarations, including the following:

  • Humanist Manifesto I (1933)
  • Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
  • A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980)
  • A Declaration of Interdependence (1988)
  • IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism (1996)
  • HUMANISM: Why, What, and What For, In 882 Words (1996)
  • Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call For A New Planetary Humanism (2000)
  • The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles
  • Amsterdam Declaration (2002)
  • Humanism and Its Aspirations
  • Humanist Manifesto III (Humanism And Its Aspirations) (2003)

Related organizations

See also

Related philosophies



  1. ^ a b Edwords, Fred (1989). "What Is Humanism?". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 19 August 2009. Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of eighteenth century enlightenment rationalism and nineteenth century freethought... Secular and Religious Humanists both share the same worldview and the same basic principles... From the standpoint of philosophy alone, there is no difference between the two. It is only in the definition of religion and in the practice of the philosophy that Religious and Secular Humanists effectively disagree.  A decidedly anti-theistic version of secular humanism, however, is developed by Adolf Grünbaum, 'In Defense of Secular Humanism' (1995), in his Collected Works (edited by Thomas Kupka), vol. I, New York: Oxford University Press 2013, ch. 6 (pp. 115-148)
  2. ^ a b Compact Oxford English dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2007. humanism n. 1 a rationalistic system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. 
  3. ^ a b "Definitions of humanism (subsection)". Institute for Humanist Studies. Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  4. ^ See "Unemployed at service: church and the world", The Guardian, 25 May 1935, p.18: citing the comments of Rev. W.G. Peck, rector of St. John the Baptist, Hulme Manchester, concerning "The modern age of secular humanism". Guardian and Observer Digital Archive
  5. ^ "Free Church ministers in Anglican pulpits. Dr Temple's call: the South India Scheme." The Guardian, 26 May 1943, p.6 Guardian and Observer Digital Archive
  6. ^ See Mouat, Kit (1972) An Introduction to Secular Humanism. Haywards Heath: Charles Clarke Ltd. Also, The Freethinker began to use the phrase "secular humanist monthly" on its front page masthead.
  7. ^ a b "What Is Secular Humanism?". Council for Secular Humanism. 
  8. ^ Humanism Unmodified By Edd Doerr. Published in the Humanist (November/December 2002)
  9. ^ "Islamic political philosophy: Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Holyoake, G. J. (1896). The Origin and Nature of Secularism. London: Watts & Co., p.50.
  11. ^ "Secularism 101: Defining Secularism: Origins with George Jacob Holyoake". 2 September 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  12. ^ For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed ... By Allen C. Guelzo: Chapter 2 "The Church of Humanity
  13. ^ New York Times: January 16, 1881
  14. ^ "The Church of Humanity": New York's Worshipping Positivists American Society of Church History.
  15. ^ [4], City of London page on Finsbury Circus Conservation Area Character Summary.
  16. ^ "The Sexual Contract, by Carole Patema. P160
  17. ^ "Women's Politics in Britain 1780-1870: Claiming Citizenship" by Jane Rendall, esp. "72. The religious backgrounds of feminist activists"
  18. ^ "Ethical Society history page". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  19. ^ Howard B. Radest. 1969. Toward Common Ground: The Story of the Ethical Societies in the United States. New York: Fredrick Unger Publishing Co.
  20. ^ a b c Colin Campbell. 1971. Towards a Sociology of Irreligion. London: McMillan Press.
  21. ^ Walter, Nicolas (1997). Humanism: what's in the word? London: RPA/BHA/Secular Society Ltd, p.43.
  22. ^ "Text of Humanist Manifesto I". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "British Humanist Association: History". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  24. ^ "Amsterdam Declaration 2002". International Humanist and Ethical Union. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  25. ^ "IHEU's Bylaws". International Humanist and Ethical Union. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  26. ^ "The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles". The Council for Secular Humanism. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  27. ^ the Council for Secular Humanism (1980). "A Secular Humanist Declaration". the Council for Secular Humanism. Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  28. ^ "– HUMANISM AND ITS ASPIRATIONS- Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933*". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  29. ^ Wilson, Edwin H. (1995). The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto. Amherst, NY: Humanist Press.  This book quotes the constitution of the Humanistic Religious Association of London, founded in 1853, as saying, "In forming ourselves into a progressive religious body, we have adopted the name 'Humanistic Religious Association' to convey the idea that Religion is a principle inherent in man and is a means of developing his being towards greater perfection. We have emancipated ourselves from the ancient compulsory dogmas, myths and ceremonies borrowed of old from Asia and still pervading the ruling churches of our age".
  30. ^ Kurtz, Paul (1995). Living Without Religion: Eupraxophy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. p. 8. 
  31. ^ "The same principle applies to philosophical materialism, the view at the foundation of our Humanism; we may derive this view from science, but an ideology drawn from science is not the same as science itself... I have argued that a clear distinction must be drawn between science as a way of knowing about the natural world and science as a foundation for philosophical views. One should be taught to our children in school, and the other can optionally be taught to our children at home.Eugenie C. Scott, National Centre for Science and Education, "Science and Religion, Methodology and Humanism". Example quote: "
  32. ^ a b "A Secular Humanist Declaration". 29 July 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  33. ^ "Morality Requires God ... or Does It? by Theodore Schick, Jr". 29 July 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  34. ^  
  35. ^ Winston, Robert (Ed.) (2004). Human. New York: DK Publishing, Inc. p. 299.  
  36. ^ Paul Kurtz, Vern L. Bullough, Tim Madigan (19 October 2009). Toward a New Enlightenment: the Philosophy of Paul Kurtz. Transaction Books.  
  37. ^ Paul Kurtz, Vern L. Bullough, Tim Madigan (19 October 2009). Toward a New Enlightenment: the Philosophy of Paul Kurtz. Transaction Books.  
  38. ^ The New Atheism and Secular Humanism. Center for Inquiry. 19 October 2009. Paul Kurtz, considered by many the father of the secular humanist movement, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. 
  39. ^ a b Paul Kurtz, Vern L. Bullough, Tim Madigan (19 October 2009). Toward a New Enlightenment: the Philosophy of Paul Kurtz. Transaction Books.  
  40. ^ Esptein, Greg M. (2010). Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. New York: HarperCollins.  
  41. ^ Secular humanists John Shook and Sam Harris advocate, for example
  42. ^ "American humanist association – Publications – Chapter eight: The Development of Organization". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  43. ^ "India humanist". 25 June 1997. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  44. ^ "Census 2001 – Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales". 27 March 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  45. ^ RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION Australian Bureau of Statistics
  46. ^ RELP Religious Affiliation – 1st Release Australian Bureau of Statistics
  47. ^ "Top Twenty Religions in the United States, 2001 (self-identification, ARIS)". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  48. ^ "Statistics Canada – Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census)". 25 January 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  49. ^ "General Register Office for Scotland – Analysis of Religion in the 2001 Census". 28 February 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  50. ^ Human-Etisk Forbund – The Norwegian Humanist Association
  51. ^ Norway – Members of philosophical2 communities outside the Church of Norway. 1990–2013.
  52. ^ American humanist association
  53. ^ International Humanist and Ethical Union. 'IHEU and EHF agree revised protocol'', 24 February 2009"'". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  54. ^ Randall Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism 2002 p. 516
  55. ^ Christopher P. Toumey, "Evolution and secular humanism," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Summer 1993, Vol. 61 Issue 2, pp 275–301
  56. ^ "IslamWay Radio". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  57. ^ "A humanist discussion of… RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND CEREMONIES"
  58. ^ Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda, 153 Cal.App.2d 673, 315 P.2d 394 (1957).
  59. ^ a b Ben Kalka v Kathleen Hawk, et al. (US D.C. Appeals No. 98-5485, 2000)
  60. ^ Point of Inquiry podcast (17:44), 3 February 2006.
  61. ^ Ivers, Greg (1992). Redefining the First Freedom: The Supreme Court and the Consolidation of State Power, 1980-1990. Transaction Books. pp. 47–8.  

Further reading

  • Bullock, Alan. The Humanist Tradition in the West (1985), by a leading historian.
  • Friess, Horace L. Felix Adler and Ethical Culture (1981).
  • Pfeffer, Leo. "The 'Religion' of Secular Humanism," Journal of Church and State, Summer 1987, Vol. 29 Issue 3, pp 495–507
  • Radest, Howard B. The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment (1990) online edition a favorable account
  • Toumey, Christopher P. "Evolution and secular humanism," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Summer 1993, Vol. 61 Issue 2, pp 275–301, focused on fundamentalist attacks

Primary sources

  • Adler, Felix. An Ethical Philosophy of Life (1918).
  • Ericson, Edward L. The Humanist Way: An introduction to ethical humanist religion (1988).
  • Frankel, Charles. The Case for Modern Man (1956).
  • Hook, Sidney. Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th century (1987).
  • Huxley, Julian. Essay of a Humanist (1964).
  • Russell, Bertrand. Why I Am Not a Christian (1957).

, 249 F.2d 127 (D.C. Cir. 1957). The Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia footnote, and said by some to have established secular humanism as a religion under the law, is the 1957 tax case of Torcaso v. Watkins Another case alluded to in the

Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia

. Christian humanism and distinguish their brand of humanism from that associated with, for example, Fellowship of Humanity to emphasize the non-theistic nature of the secular. Nonetheless, this case was cited by Justice Black to justify the inclusion of secular humanism in the list of religions in his note. Presumably Justice Black added the word secular humanism but did not mention the term Humanism case itself referred to Fellowship of Humanity churches and thus entitled to an exemption. The theistic, which included weekly Sunday meetings, were analogous to the activities of Fellowship of Humanity beliefs, the court determined that the activities of the non-theistic sought a tax exemption on the ground that they used their property "solely and exclusively for religious worship." Despite the group's [59] referenced Torcaso v. Watkins The footnote in

Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda

The phrase "secular humanism" became prominent after it was used in the United States Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins. In the 1961 decision, Justice Hugo Black commented in a footnote, "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others."

Torcaso v. Watkins

Case law

The Education for Economic Security Act of 1984 included a section, Section 20 U.S.C.A. 4059, which initially read: "Grants under this subchapter ['Magnet School Assistance'] may not be used for consultants, for transportation or for any activity which does not augment academic improvement." With no public notice, Senator Orrin Hatch tacked onto the proposed exclusionary subsection the words "or for any course of instruction the substance of which is Secular Humanism". Implementation of this provision ran into practical problems because neither the Senator's staff, nor the Senate's Committee on Labor and Human Resources, nor the Department of Justice could propose a definition of what would constitute a "course of instruction the substance of which is Secular Humanism". So, this determination was left up to local school boards. The provision provoked a storm of controversy which within a year led Senator Hatch to propose, and Congress to pass, an amendment to delete from the statute all reference to secular humanism. While this episode did not dissuade fundamentalists from continuing to object to what they regarded as the "teaching of Secular Humanism", it did point out the vagueness of the claim.

Hatch amendment

The issue of whether and in what sense secular humanism might be considered a religion, and what the implications of this would be has become the subject of legal maneuvering and political debate in the United States. The first reference to "secular humanism" in a US legal context was in 1961, although church-state separation lawyer Leo Pfeffer had referred to it in his 1958 book, Creeds in Competition.

Legal mentions in the United States

In many countries, Humanist officiants (or celebrants) perform celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals.

The IHEU endorses World Humanist Day (21 June), Darwin Day (12 February), Human Rights Day (10 December) and HumanLight (23 December) as official days of Humanist celebration, though none are yet a public holiday.

Some Humanists celebrate official religion-based public holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, but as secular holidays rather than religious ones.[57] Many Humanists also celebrate the winter and summer solstice, the former of which (in the northern hemisphere) coincides closely with the religiously-oriented celebration of Christmas, and the equinoxes, of which the vernal equinox is associated with Christianity's Easter and indeed with all other springtime festivals of renewal, and the autumnal equinox which is related to such celebrations such as Halloween and All Souls' Day. The Society for Humanistic Judaism celebrates most Jewish holidays in a secular manner.

Humanist celebrations

Starting in the mid-20th century, religious fundamentalists and the religious right began using the term "secular humanism" in hostile fashion. Francis A. Schaeffer, an American theologian based in Switzerland, seizing upon the exclusion of the divine from most humanist writings, argued that rampant secular humanism would lead to moral relativism and ethical bankruptcy in his book How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (1976). Schaeffer portrayed secular humanism as pernicious and diabolical, and warned it would undermine the moral and spiritual tablet of America. His themes have been very widely repeated in Fundamentalist preaching in North America.[54] Toumey (1993) found that secular humanism is typically portrayed as a vast evil conspiracy, deceitful and immoral, responsible for feminism, pornography, abortion, homosexuality, and New Age spirituality.[55] In certain areas of the world, Humanism finds itself in conflict with religious fundamentalism, especially over the issue of the separation of church and state. Many Humanists see religions as superstitious, repressive and closed-minded, while religious fundamentalists may see Humanists as a threat to the values set out in their sacred texts.[56]

[53] Originally based in the [52] The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the worldwide umbrella organization for those adhering to the Humanist life stance. It represents the views of over three million Humanists organized in over 100 national organizations in 30 countries.

Levi Fragell, former Secretary General of the Norwegian Humanist Association and former president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, at the World Humanist Congress 2011 in Oslo

Secular humanist organizations are found in all parts of the world. Those who call themselves humanists are estimated to number between four[42] and five[43] million people worldwide in 31 countries, but there is uncertainty because of the lack of universal definition throughout censuses. Humanism is a non-theistic belief system and, as such, it could be a sub-category of "Religion" only if that term is defined to mean "Religion and (any) Norway's Human-Etisk Forbund,[50] which had over 86,000 members out of a population of around 4.6 million in 2013 .[51]

David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association, speaks at a 2012 conference.

Modern context

Many Humanists address ethics from the point of view of ethical naturalism, and some support an actual science of morality.[41] Some philosophers like Peter Singer see Humanism as speciesist and lend themselves to more of a Personism.

Humanism is compatible with [40]

Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. But they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards. Philosophers as diverse as John Rawls have demonstrated that it is possible to have a universal morality without God. Contrary to what the fundamentalists would have us believe, then, what our society really needs is not more religion but a richer notion of the nature of morality.[33]

Many Humanists adopt principles of the Golden Rule. Some believe that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. However, they believe such necessary universality can and should be achieved by developing a richer notion of morality through reason, experience and scientific inquiry rather than through faith in a supernatural realm or source.

We are opposed to absolutist morality, yet we maintain that objective standards emerge, and ethical values and principles may be discovered, in the course of ethical deliberation.[32]

Secular humanism affirms that with the present state of scientific knowledge, dogmatic belief in an absolutist moral/ethical system (e.g. Kantian, Islamic, Christian) is unreasonable. However, it affirms that individuals engaging in rational moral/ethical deliberations can discover some universal "objective standards".

It should be noted that Secular Humanism is not so much a specific morality as it is a method for the explanation and discovery of rational moral principles.[32]

Secular humanism does not prescribe a specific theory of morality or code of ethics. As stated by the Council for Secular Humanism,

[3][2][1]).naturalistic ethics The result is an approach to issues in a secular way. Humanism addresses ethics without reference to the supernatural as well, attesting that ethics is a human enterprise (see [31].metaphysical naturalism of science, but also going further and supporting the philosophical stance of methodological naturalism's manifestos) reject deference to supernatural beliefs; promoting the practical, American Humanist Association"; proponents of this view making up the third faction. All three types of Humanism (and all three of the life stance In order to sidestep disagreements between these two factions, recent Humanist proclamations define Humanism as a "[30] Secular humanism considers all forms of religion, including religious Humanism, to be superseded.[29] In the 20th and 21st centuries, members of Humanist organizations have disagreed as to whether Humanism is a religion. They categorize themselves in one of three ways.

Ethics and relationship to religious belief

General doctrines of Humanism are also set out in the Humanist Manifesto prepared by the American Humanist Association.[28]

American Humanist Association

A Secular Humanist Declaration was issued in 1980 by the Council for Secular Humanism's predecessor, CODESH. It lays out ten ideals: Free inquiry as opposed to censorship and imposition of belief; separation of church and state; the ideal of freedom from religious control and from jingoistic government control; ethics based on critical intelligence rather than that deduced from religious belief; moral education; religious skepticism; reason; a belief in science and technology as the best way of understanding the world; evolution; and education as the essential method of building humane, free, and democratic societies.[27]

  • Need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted by faith.
  • Reason, evidence, scientific method – A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific method of inquiry in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
  • Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
  • Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
  • This life – A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
  • Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
  • Justice and fairness – an interest in securing justice and fairness in society and in eliminating discrimination and intolerance.[26]
  • Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.

According to the Council for Secular Humanism, within the United States, the term "secular humanism" describes a world view with the following elements and principles:[7]

Council for Secular Humanism

  • All Humanists, nationally and internationally, should always use the one word Humanism as the name of Humanism: no added adjective, and the initial letter capital (by life stance orthography);
  • All Humanists, nationally and internationally, should use a clear, recognizable and uniform symbol on their publications and elsewhere: our Humanist symbol the "Happy Human";
  • All Humanists, nationally and internationally, should seek to establish recognition of the fact that Humanism is a life stance.

To promote and unify "Humanist" identity, prominent members of the IHEU have endorsed the following statements on Humanist identity:

: Minimum Statement on Humanism to accept the [25] are required by bylaw 5.1International Humanist and Ethical UnionAll member organisations of the

In 2002, the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration 2002 which represents the official defining statement of World Humanism.[24]

International Humanist and Ethical Union

The original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933, declared themselves to be religious humanists. Because, in their view, traditional religions were failing to meet the needs of their day, the signers of 1933 declared it a necessity to establish a religion that was a dynamic force to meet the needs of the day. However, this "religion" did not profess a belief in any god. Since then two additional Manifestos were written to replace the first. In the Preface of Humanist Manifesto II, in 1973, the authors Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson assert that faith and knowledge are required for a hopeful vision for the future. Manifesto II references a section on Religion and states traditional religion renders a disservice to humanity. Manifesto II recognizes the following groups to be part of their naturalistic philosophy: "scientific", "ethical", "democratic", "religious", and "Marxist" humanism.

Humanists have put together various Humanist Manifestos, in attempts to unify the Humanist identity.

Organizations like the International Humanist and Ethical Union use the "Happy Human" symbol, based on a 1965 design by Denis Barrington

Manifestos and declarations

As an organized movement, Humanism itself is quite recent – born at the Sir Julian Huxley. The British Humanist Association took that name in 1967, but had developed from the Union of Ethical Societies which had been founded by Stanton Coit in 1896.[23]

In the 1930s, "humanism" was generally used in a religious sense by the Ethical movement in the United States, and not much favoured among the non-religious in Britain. Yet "it was from the Ethical movement that the non-religious philosophical sense of Humanism gradually emerged in Britain, and it was from the convergence of the Ethical and Rationalist movements that this sense of Humanism eventually prevailed throughout the Freethought movement".[21]

Secular humanism

The first ethical society along these lines in Britain was founded in 1886. By 1896 the four London societies formed the Union of Ethical Societies, and between 1905 and 1910 there were over fifty societies in Great Britain, seventeen of which were affiliated with the Union.

In effect, the movement responded to the religious crisis of the time by replacing theology with unadulterated morality. It aimed to "disentangle moral ideas from religious doctrines, metaphysical systems, and ethical theories, and to make them an independent force in personal life and social relations."[20] Adler was also particularly critical of the religious emphasis on creed, believing it to be the source of sectarian bigotry. He therefore attempted to provide a universal fellowship devoid of ritual and ceremony, for those who would otherwise be divided by creeds. For the same reasons the movement also adopted a neutral position on religious beliefs, advocating neither atheism nor theism, agnosticism nor deism.[20]

  • The belief that morality is independent of theology;
  • The affirmation that new moral problems have arisen in modern industrial society which have not been adequately dealt with by the world's religions;
  • The duty to engage in philanthropy in the advancement of morality;
  • The belief that self-reform should go in lock step with social reform;
  • The establishment of republican rather than monarchical governance of Ethical societies
  • The agreement that educating the young is the most important aim.

These societies all adopted the same statement of principles:

In America, the ethical movement was propounded by Felix Adler, who established the New York Society for Ethical Culture in 1877.[19] By 1886, similar societies had sprouted up in Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis.[20]

Another important precursor was the ethical movement of the 19th century. The South Place Ethical Society was founded in 1793 as the South Place Chapel on Finsbury Square, on the edge of the City of London,[15] and in the early nineteenth century was known as "a radical gathering-place.[16] At that point it was a Unitarian chapel, and that movement, like Quakers, supported female equality.[17] Under the leadership of Reverend William Johnson Fox,[18] it lent its pulpit to activists such as Anna Wheeler, one of the first women to campaign for feminism at public meetings in England, who spoke in 1829 on "Rights of Women." In later decades, the chapel changed its name to the South Place Ethical Society, now the Conway Hall Ethical Society.

Felix Adler, founder of the ethical movement.

Ethical movement

The New York City version of the church was established by English immigrant Henry Edger. The American version of the "Church of Humanity." was largely modeled on the English church. Like the English version it wasn't atheistic and had sermons and sacramental rites.[12] At times the services included readings from conventional religious works like the Book of Isaiah.[13] It was not as significant as the church in England, but did include several educated people.[14]

In 1878, the Society established the Church of Humanity under Congreve's direction. There they introduced sacraments of the Religion of Humanity and published a co-operative translation of Comte's Positive Polity. When Congreve repudiated their Paris co-religionists in 1878, Beesly, Harrison, Bridges, and others formed their own positivist society, with Beesly as president, and opened a rival centre, Newton Hall, in a courtyard off Fleet Street.

Although Comte's religious movement was unsuccessful in France, the positivist philosophy of science itself played a major role in the proliferation of secular organizations in the 19th century in England. Richard Congreve visited Paris shortly after the French Revolution of 1848 where he met Auguste Comte and was heavily influenced by his positivist system. He founded the London Positivist Society in 1867, which attracted Frederic Harrison, Edward Spencer Beesly, Vernon Lushington, and James Cotter Morison amongs others.

Holyoake's secularism was strongly influenced by Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism and of modern sociology. Comte believed human history would progress in a "law of three stages" from a theological phase, to the "metaphysical", toward a fully rational "positivist" society. In later life, Comte had attempted to introduce a "religion of humanity" in light of growing anti-religious sentiment and social malaise in revolutionary France. This religion would necessarily fulfil the functional, cohesive role that supernatural religion once served.

Positivism & the Church of Humanity

The modern secular movement coalesced around Holyoake, Charles Bradlaugh and their intellectual circle. The first secular society was Leicester Secular Society, established in 1851. Similar regional societies came together to form the National Secular Society in 1866.

[11] by [10]

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