Humanism - What's in a name?

February 28, 2021

Categories: Life , Tags: Religion, Humanism

Occasionally I'm asked a simple question that is not easy to answer, and given that I'm the Vice President of the Humanist Society one of those tough questions is "What is Humanism?".

I'm a humanist and a skeptic. Skepticism is pretty easy to explain, but for some reason Humanism is a little tougher. Every time I answer the question, my answer is a little different to the last time.

# What Humanism isn't

There's some confusion about what humanism is all about, some of it accidental and some a little more deliberate.

# Humanism isn't a religion

# Humanism is not human exceptionalism

# Then why is "human" in the name?

Well, we don't have to go far to find the core beliefs of humanism. The first paragraph of the Wikipedia page does a good job of summarising the movement:

Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively... humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. It views humanity as responsible for the promotion and development of individuals, espouses the equal and inherent dignity of all human beings, and emphasizes a concern for humans in relation to the world.

Nowhere in this description does it talk about

Although early humanists were religious (which is not surprising given that for most of the last 2,000 years pretty much everyone was religious), modern humanism is Secular, meaning that it is not aligned to any religious belief. Again from Wikipedia:

Secular humanism is a comprehensive life stance or world view that embraces human reason, metaphysical naturalism, altruistic morality and distributive justice, and consciously rejects supernatural claims, theistic faith and religiosity, pseudoscience, and superstition.

As a skeptic, it's hard not to get behind these claims.

# What prompted this post

Here's a video that YouTube promoted to me today and promted this rant: