DEFINITIONS OF HUMANISM
Humanism With A Capital H by Harvey Lebrun
What Is Humanism? by Frederick Edwords
Definitions of Humanism
Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity.• American Humanist Association
Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. 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. • The Humanist Magazine
Humanism is a democratic and ethical lifestance 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 a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality. • The International Humanist and Ethical Union
Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone. • The Bristol Humanist Group
Humanism is: A joyous alternative to religions that believe in a supernatural god and life in a hereafter. Humanists believe that this is the only life of which we have certain knowledge and that we owe it to ourselves and others to make it the best life possible for ourselves and all with whom we share this fragile planet. A belief that when people are free to think for themselves, using reason and knowledge as their tools, they are best able to solve this world’s problems. An appreciation of the art, literature, music and crafts that are our heritage from the past and of the creativity that, if nourished, can continuously enrich our lives. Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy of those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails. • The Humanist Society of Western New York
Humanism is the light of my life and the fire in my soul. It is the deep felt conviction, in every fiber of my being that human love is a power far transcending the relentless, onward rush of our largely deterministic cosmos. All human life must seek a reason for existence within the bounds of an uncaring physical world, and it is love coupled with empathy, democracy, and a commitment to selfless service which undergirds the faith of a humanist. • Bette Chambers, former president of the AHA
Humanism is a philosophy, world view, or lifestance based on naturalism—the conviction that the universe or nature is all that exists or is real. Humanism serves, for many humanists, some of the psychological and social functions of a religion, but without belief in deities, transcendental entities, miracles, life after death, and the supernatural. Humanists seek to understand the universe by using science and its methods of critical inquiry—logical reasoning, empirical evidence, and skeptical evaluation of conjectures and conclusions—to obtain reliable knowledge. Humanists affirm that humans have the freedom to give meaning, value, and purpose to their lives by their own independent thought, free inquiry, and responsible, creative activity. Humanists stand for the building of a more humane, just, compassionate, and democratic society using a pragmatic ethics based on human reason, experience, and reliable knowledge—an ethics that judges the consequences of human actions by the well-being of all life on Earth. • Steven Schafersman
Humanism is a philosophy of life that considers the welfare of humankind – rather than the welfare of a supposed God or gods – to be of paramount importance. Humanism maintains there is no evidence a supernatural power ever needed or wanted anything from people, ever communicated to them, or ever interfered with the laws of nature to assist or harm anyone.
Humanism’s focus, then, is on using human efforts to meet human needs and wants in this world. History shows that those efforts are most effective when they involve both compassion and the scientific method – which includes reliance on reason, evidence, and free inquiry.
Humanism says people can find purpose in life and maximize their long-term happiness by developing their talents and using those talents for the service of humanity. Humanists believe that this approach to life is more productive and leads to a deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction than a hedonistic pursuit of material or sensual pleasures that soon fade.
While service to others is a major focus of Humanism, recreation and relaxation are not ignored, for these too are necessary for long-term health and happiness. The key is moderation in all things.
Humanism considers the universe to be the result of an extremely long and complex evolution under immutable laws of nature. Humanists view this natural world as wondrous and precious, and as offering limitless opportunities for exploration, fascination, creativity, companionship, and joy.
Because science cannot now and probably never will be able to explain the ultimate origin or destiny of the universe, I think Humanism can include more than atheists and agnostics. The lack of definite answers to these ultimate questions leaves room for reasonable people to hypothesize about the origin of the natural universe, and even to hope for some form of life beyond this one.
In fact, two of Humanism’s greatest luminaries, Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, maintained a hope for an afterlife. On the issue of whether God exists, Ingersoll was agnostic, and Paine believed in a deistic God who established the laws of nature but then stepped away and never intervenes in the world. Those beliefs did not interfere with their ability to lead outstanding humanistic lives.
Thus, in my opinion, people holding such views can be Humanists if they believe that humanity is on its own in this world, and the lack of any evidence for an afterlife means this life should be lived as though it’s the only one we have. • Joseph C. Sommer
Note: These definitions of Humanism are provided for the education and interest of readers. The AHA does not necessarily agree with or advocate any one except the definition (printed first above) officially approved by the AHA Board of Directors.