Statement of Policy Principles

Humanist Society of Victoria Inc. is affiliated with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, London, UK, and the Council of Australian Humanist Societies

Adopted by 37th Annual General Meeting, November 1998

1. General Principles
2. Ethics
3. Liberty
4. Tolerance
5. Education
6. Biodiversity
7. Environment
8. Bio-ethics

1. General Principles

1.1 Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance 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 ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry. Humanists reject theistic and supernatural views of reality.

1.2 Humanism affirms that our present life is the only life of which we have knowledge, and that our efforts should be directed towards its improvement.

1.3 Humanism aims at promoting the happiness and well-being of people. Humanists endorse the rights of all people to freedom, dignity and the opportunity to develop their potential, through equitable access to human generated knowledge and resources.

1.4 Humanists acknowledge and celebrate the great human achievements in the realms of science, technology, mathematics, humanities, music, and the arts.

1.5 Humanism fosters a scientific approach to solving problems and understanding the nature of the universe.

2. Ethics

2.1 Humanist ethics are based on the concept of a civil society aimed at integrating the welfare of community interests with the reciprocal obligations of individuals. Humanist ethics are not fixed and are reassessed as knowledge and community values change.

2.2 Personal morality should be shaped by concern for social well-being, and the avoidance of harm to others. The well-spring of Humanist ethical and moral behaviour is directed towards the building of a truly civil society. Neither fear of punishment nor hope of reward guides Humanist ethics.

2.3 Humanists believe we are individually and collectively responsible for contributing to actions which alleviate the problems of humankind, especially intolerance, poverty, disease, wars, overpopulation and environmental destruction.

2.4 The identification of indigenous people with the land and water should be respected, and these pre-existing rights should be accommodated.

2.5 People unable to care adequately for themself, whether because of illness, psychological or physical disability, or because of economic deprivation or disadvantage, should be supported by the community.

2.6 Children should be protected from all forms of exploitation and abuse. Neglected, abused or homeless children are a social responsibility and should be cared for through community programs.

3. Liberty

3.1 Individual freedom carries the reciprocal obligation of social responsibility and involvement. It is not a right independent of community commitments.

3.2 There should be no discrimination against any person on the grounds of gender, race, colour, age and nationality.

3.3 The dignity and privacy of all persons should be respected. Irreversible body alteration like circumcision and female genital mutilation should only be available after informed adult consent.

3.4 People should be free to express opinions and associate with others of like-mind, providing no offences are committed in so doing.

3.5 Sexual activities between consenting adults should not be subject to legal restrictions.

3.6 Victimless activities by consenting adults such as prostitution, drug use and gambling should not be penalised, neither should they be commercially encouraged.

4. Tolerance

4.1 While Humanists reject dogmas, ideologies and belief in the supernatural, they maintain that people have the right to hold and express their personal beliefs. Humanists therefore tolerate adherents of peaceful, tolerant religions and ideologies.

4.2 Humanists do not seek to impose their beliefs on others and oppose such practices by other groups in the community.

4.3 Humanists consider that the law of blasphemy should be abolished, as it inequitably protects only the Christian god from criticism.

5. Education

5.1 Each human is endowed with certain human qualities such as commonsense, creativity, ethics, intuition, memory and the ability to reason. Through a life long process of education, these are developed and augmented by exposure to the vast store of human knowledge and experience.

5.2 Formal, secular education of a high quality should be available to all. Basic skills such as numeracy, literacy and critical thinking should be core studies.

5.3 Social education should cover knowledge of rights and obligations within the full range of human interactions; as children, siblings, team members, friends, partners, parents and members of society. Sex education and parenting skills should be part of the secondary school curriculum.

5.4 When funded by the State, religious education should be available only in the form of comparative studies – an outline of the basic tenets of various life beliefs, to promote tolerance rather than divisiveness.

6. Biodiversity

6.1 Humans have evolved over many years in biological interdependence with the other organisms which occupy planet Earth. These biological relationships are essential for human well-being and survival as a species. Human knowledge does not allow us to fully comprehend the range and level of these various relationships, therefore maintenance of bio-diversity requires leaving sufficient regions of the globe, excluded from exploitation by advanced technologies.

7. Environment

7.1 Humanism affirms that we must live in harmony with other species and protect our environment from damage.

7.2 Over-population of humans presents one of the greatest threats to our planet and measures of control are urgently needed.

7.3 The development of non-exhaustible energy sources should be a high priority. Problems of pollution and toxic waste disposal need to be solved before irreversible damage occurs.

7.4 The quality of life of present and future generations depends on the careful and sustainable management of our environment.

8. Bio-ethics

8.1 Every person has the right to an easy and dignified death. Through refusal of treatment and the signing of an ‘advanced directive’ the pain and distress of the terminally ill should be minimised. The autonomy of terminally ill persons wishing to take their own life should be respected and access to the means for this purpose should not be denied.

8.2 Grossly deformed newborn and severely brain-damaged people who have no possibility of living a reasonably happy life should be allowed to die naturally.

8.3 Humans should control their reproduction to ensure that every child is wanted. Thus safe means of contraception should be freely available; every woman should have the right to abortion carried out safely and least invasively and financed the same way as other health costs.

8.4 Infertile couples should have access to IVF procedures after full consultation about the risks and difficulties involved. Altruistic surrogacy should be legal.

8.5 Research on embryos should be permitted given its great potential to provide data about the prevention of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities and about early human development and effective contraception.

8.6 Carefully regulated and controlled genetic engineering and gene therapy should be encouraged. In therapy or research participation, a fully informed consent should be obtained from patients.

8.7 Community education about sexually transmissible diseases should be a high priority.