What is Humanism?

A simple definition of Humanism comes from the title of Greg Epstein's excellent book (shown at left): Humanism is "being good without God." This definition highlights two important elements of the Humanist approach to life:

1.  Being good - Humanists are concerned about the "good life" - a life of integrity, meaning, ethics, and compassion. They seek personal happiness and fulfillment, the welfare of humankind, and protection of the natural environment and other species.

2.  Without God - Humanists typically describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or skeptics. To find answers to problems, they look to science, reason, and human experience rather than religious creeds and sacred texts.

For a personal view of reasons for Humanism and what it has to offer, watch this video of a presentation by our president Dr. Rod Martin at the Wolf Performance Hall in June, 2011. Also, click here for an article by Rod Martin on the Humanist response to suffering.

Humanist Canada Definition:

"Humanism is a philosophy or life-stance based upon a profound respect for human dignity and the conviction that human beings are ultimately accountable to themselves and to society for their actions. It is a deity-free worldview that affirms our ability to lead ethical and meaningful lives without reliance upon a belief in the supernatural. Humanists are guided by reason and scientific inquiry, inspired by music and art, and motivated by ethics, compassion and fairness."  

Principles of Humanism

(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.

Humanist Manifesto I (1933)      Humanist Manifesto II (1973)      Humanist Manifesto III (2003)


Humanist Quotations

"Humanism involves far more than the negation of supernaturalism. It requires an affirmative philosophy . . . translated into a life devoted to one's own improvement and the service of all mankind."   ~ Corliss Lamont

"Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error."    ~ Thomas Jefferson

"Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast."   ~ Isaac Asimov

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.   ~ Marcus Aurelius

"The beginning of wisdom is the awareness that there is insufficient evidence that a god or gods have created us and the recognition that we are responsible in part for our own destiny. Human beings can achieve this good life, but it is by the cultivation of the virtues of intelligence and courage, not faith and obedience, that we will most likely be able to do so."   ~ Paul Kurtz

"When I became convinced that the universe is natural – that all ghosts and gods are myths - there entered into my brain ... the joy of freedom. ... I was free – free to think, to express my thoughts, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the ‘inspired’ books that savages have produced, free from popes and priests, free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies, free from the fear of eternal pain, free from devils, ghosts and gods. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought, no following another’s steps, no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words." ~ Robert Ingersoll