Reflections on Humanism

What is Humanism? Humanism is a philosophy of life which affirms that the only solutions to human problems are to be found in humans themselves. In particular, Humanists value:

  • naturalism
  • rationality
  • science
  • democracy
  • human rights
  • secular ethics based on human compassion
  • meaning found in human relationships
Naturalism here denotes metaphysical naturalism, which is the disbelief in everything supernatural such as gods, angels, devils, ghosts, spirits, souls, blessings, curses, prayer, magic, sin and grace. Although humanism (small h) does not strictly require naturalism, Humanism (capital h) does.

Humanism shares several important features with religion, but it is not a religion because it has no belief in the supernatural. Additionally, there are no holy books, no temples, no priests, no rituals and no dogma. I tend to think of it as a philosophy of life, but others prefer to call it a life stance, an umbrella term intended to include both religions and philosophies.

It is my opinion that Humanism serves primarily as a label, though a very useful label with an important purpose. One doesn't accept Humanist principles after encountering Humanism; rather one realizes that one already holds these principles and decides to identify as a Humanist. Identifying as a Humanist doesn't affect one's daily life; the principles themselves could affect it, but even then there are no special Humanist practices resembling religious practices to give life meaning. Nevertheless, Humanism provides many atheists and agnostics with a positive label which describes what they do believe instead of what they don't believe, distinguishes atheists who hold these principles from those who do not, and allows them to organize based on these shared principles.

I am proud to say that I am a Humanist.


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