Humanism is a non-religious ethical philosophy, a way of life and a way of thinking, that involves adherence to strong ethics, an emphasis on human rights, and respect for the Earth and its creatures. A humanist works toward creating a more humane and responsible world, with a commitment to reason and compassion. ~ Ontario Humanist Society
“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 ethics 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.”
– The Minimum International definition of Humanism, from the International Humanist and Ethical Association
December, 2010: We are pleased to announce that the Ontario Humanist Society has been granted Associate Status with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
According to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy — Humanism is An appeal to reason in contrast to revelation or religious authority as a means of finding out about the natural world and destiny of man, and also giving a grounding for morality. Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God.
Humanism is thus a naturalistic, scientific, secular philosophy of life that precludes any belief or reliance upon supposedly supernatural powers.
Humanists embrace core human values of respect, responsibility, and compassion for all. We look to nature and on-going inquiry for the explanation of life, rather than a divine or supernatural power. We live our lives in the belief that this is our only life and that therefore we have a great responsibility to ourselves, and to the others with whom we share this planet, to make it the best life possible for all.
Humanism is an ethics-based way of life founded on human experience and imbued with compassion for other human beings, that calls for a commitment to the betterment of humanity through the methods of science, democracy, and reason, without any limitations by political, ecclesiastical, or other dictates.
Humanism supports the separation of religion, as a private matter, from the democratic institutions of state and governance.
TEN GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF HUMANISM
(you may download and print this list if you wish to pass it along)
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 scientific methods, 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 personal freedom compatible with the rights of others.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Humanists advocate peaceful resolution of conflicts between individuals, groups, and nations.
8. 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.
9. Humanists affirm that individual and social problems can be resolved by means of human reason, intelligent effort, critical thinking joined with compassion and a spirit of empathy for all living beings.
10. Humanists affirm that human beings are completely a part of nature, and that our survival is dependent upon a healthy planet that provides us and all other forms of life with a sustainable environment.
from the Dean Emeritus of the Humanist Institute:, Robert Tapp:
“A consistent theme is the centrality of ethics, for both individuals and for societies. Humans are responsible for their destinies in an evolutionary universe. Our ethical choices stem from our genetic structures as well as from the cultures that we have created.
Reason and critical intelligence are the best guides in these choices, and the sciences are our best source of knowledge. Artistic and emotional experiences are important in expanding our visions and our joys, and in suggesting new possibilities for human flourishing; and in expanding the common good. Humanists make their ethical choices by weighing the consequences. From earliest statements, humanists have included caring, social well-being, empathy and compassion among their ethical values.”
Definitions of Humanism from the Humanist Institute:
“Life in this world is the central and defining focus of humanism. We envision a world in which every individual’s worth is respected, and human freedom and behaving responsibly are natural aspirations”.
(Religious humanists, secular humanists and atheists) can all agree that this life in this world is our central and defining focus. Each one of us is responsible for human affairs, other beings, and the resources of our shared planet. Our vision for a democratic world is one in which every individual’s worth and dignity is respected, nurtured and supported, and where human freedom and behaving responsibly are natural aspirations for ourselves and expectations of one another.
As humanists of diverse types, we are all deeply concerned by these matters, and the onus for the challenges we face cannot be passed on to “higher powers”. Deities, good and bad, are human creations; ideas that may have helped their believers to feel secure in this ambiguous world, but that have often been the source of tribal, national and global conflicts and violence. We are the heirs of the historic Enlightenment, who continue to cherish values of freedom, reason and tolerance, and it is our responsibility to develop this heritage for ensuing generations.”
BOOKS, ESSAYS and RESOURCES
The Philosophy of Humanism, by Corliss Lamont (free download)
Good without God, what a billion non-religious people do believe, by Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard University.
Can We Be Good Without God, by Dr.Robert Buckman, University of Toronto
What is Humanism? – Fred Edwords, an essay on the history of Humanism.
Definitions of Atheism, Humanism, Secularism from GALHA.org
The Really Simple Guide to Humanism from the British Humanist Association
Also, check out these great videos from the BHA:
Are you a Humanist… perhaps without knowing it?
If your response to most of these points is “yes” then you won’t be far off the mark if you say, “Yes – I’m a Humanist too!”
- The universe is natural, neither for us nor against us
- Natural events have natural causes
- We human beings are part of nature and have kinship with all life
- Morality is a challenge to be figured out by human beings from experience and our interactions with others
- Compassion, empathy and reason are a natural guide to deciding right from wrong: we are responsible to ourselves and to each other to do what’s right
- Human beings are communal animals: People need each other and learn from each other
- Reason is a useful and powerful tool for solving problems, and the methods of science help us understand ourselves and the universe we live in
- Humans are presented with possibilities and opportunities, living together on a crowded planet; we should work on our problems, learning from others, and not ask or expect supernatural intervention to solve them
- What happens to us often results from choice and by chance, through the actions of the natural world and how we interact with others; it is not determined by stars and planets, or by gods or other supernatural forces
- There are no promises of special privilege to anyone, neither is anyone doomed or afflicted
- We all have ideas. It’s right to be open to learn from others and hear their views
- Individual freedom of choice and freedom of expression is part of being human and worth defending
Another definition, from the Humanist Association of Ireland:
Humanism is a view of life that combines reason with compassion. It is for those people who base their interpretation of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in a supernatural power. In this, Humanism continues a tradition which has existed for over 2,500 years and which still flourishes today.
A Humanist believes that the happiness of individuals and of humankind depends on people, rather than on religion and dogma. We encourage open-minded enquiry into matters relevant to human co-existence and well-being and 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. As Humanists we are committed to the application of reason and science, to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
Both in personal and social terms we believe in common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness and responsibility. Moreover, our ethics are amenable to critical, rational guidance. It follows from such commitments and beliefs that we are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with the elimination of discrimination and intolerance. We support the axiom that a separation of Church and State will facilitate the achieving of a society that is open, tolerant and pluralist.