About Humanism

Humanism is a secular worldview based on the conviction that humans are responsible for their own behaviour and can lead fulfilling lives in which decision making is guided by reason, knowledge, honesty, fairness, and love.

Humanism is based on a number of principles, summarized here:

  • Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.
  • Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.
  • Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.
  • Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.
  • Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
  • Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.

Adapted from Humanist Manifesto III, American Humanist Association © 2003

Prominent British humanists explain what humanism means to them in this short video from the British Humanist Association

Humanism has acquired a strong identity in the last few decades, with Secular Humanism as a concept being formalized in the 1933 Humanist Manifesto. The fundamental principles have been expressed continuously for centuries.

Humanists are not a ‘fringe’ group. Many well-know people have featured prominently in humanism. Linus Pauling (1961), R. Buckminster Fuller (1969), Andrei Sakharov (1980), Margaret Atwood (1987), Richard Dawkins (1996), Joyce Carol Oates (2007), and Gloria Steinem (2012) are a few of those named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Society.

Fred Edwords is past executive director of the American Humanist Association. From his essay What is Humanism:

So, with modern humanism one finds a lifestance or worldview that is in tune with modern knowledge; is inspiring, socially conscious, and personally meaningful. It is not only the thinking person’s outlook but that of the feeling person as well, for it has inspired the arts as much as it has the sciences; philanthropy as much as critique. And even in critique it is tolerant, defending the rights of all people to choose other ways, to speak and to write freely, to live their lives according to their own lights.

So the choice is yours. Are you a humanist?

You needn’t answer “yes” or “no.” For it isn’t an either-or proposition. Humanism is yours—to adopt or to simply draw from. You may take a little or a lot, sip from the cup or drink it to the dregs.