People of different colour holding hands around globe

The Humanist Philosophy

Humanism is a way of life that values human flourishing, freedom and the pursuit of knowledge. Humanists accept that we are responsible for our own futures and that this life is the only life we have. It is up to all of us to make the most of it and to help others do the same. Humanists inspire us to use our power of reason and our natural feeling of compassion to help create a better world in which each of us can reach our full potential.

This feeling of empathy extends not only to those alive today and to members of our own species and communities. Humanists implore us to show universal regard for all species that can suffer and for all people who will live after us.

Origins of Humanism

Humanist thought extends way back to the ancient Greeks who
explored the nature of the good life and the value of free enquiry based
on reason and evidence. The Renaissance period in Europe saw a resurgence of
humanist values in its downplaying of esoteric discussions about the
supernatural in favour of paying more attention to literature and the
exploration of the human condition. The emergence of science and the European Enlightenment contributed momentum to a new secular philosophy of life.

Modern humanism arose as a reaction to the unspeakable horrors of the Second World War. As a result, in 1952, freethinkers in a number of countries formed the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), now known as Humanists International.

The Humanist Approach

Humanists believe that through free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for furthering peace and compassion, we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We Humanists call upon all who share this conviction to join with us in this noble endeavour.

For Humanists, there is no holy book or canon that prescribes what a humanist must believe and value. None the less, our beliefs and values coalesce around a common core that unify the movement and propel action around common causes.

Here is what the organized and political members of Humanists International have established as the fundamental principles of humanism in 2022:

Humanist beliefs and values are as old as civilization and have a history in most societies around the world. Modern humanism is the culmination of these long traditions of reasoning about meaning and ethics, the source of inspiration for many of the world’s great thinkers, artists, and humanitarians, and is interwoven with the rise of modern science. As a global humanist movement, we seek to make all people aware of these essentials of the humanist worldview:

1. Humanists strive to be ethical

  • We accept that morality is inherent to the human condition, grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish, motivated by the benefits of helping and not harming, enabled by reason and compassion, and needing no source outside of humanity.
  • We affirm the worth and dignity of the individual and the right of every human to the greatest possible freedom and fullest possible development compatible with the rights of others. To these ends we support peace, democracy, the rule of law, and universal legal human rights.
  • We reject all forms of racism and prejudice and the injustices that arise from them. We seek instead to promote the flourishing and fellowship of humanity in all its diversity and individuality.
  • We hold that personal liberty must be combined with a responsibility to society. A free person has duties to others, and we feel a duty of care to all of humanity, including future generations, and beyond this to all sentient beings.
  • We recognise that we are part of nature and accept our responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world.

2. Humanists strive to be rational

  • We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason, and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.

3. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives

  • We value all sources of individual joy and fulfillment that harm no other, and we believe that personal development through the cultivation of creative and ethical living is a lifelong undertaking.
  • We therefore treasure artistic creativity and imagination and recognise the transforming power of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. We cherish the beauty of the natural world and its potential to bring wonder, awe, and tranquility. We appreciate individual and communal exertion in physical activity, and the scope it offers for comradeship and achievement. We esteem the quest for knowledge, and the humility, wisdom, and insight it bestows.

4. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism

  • Though we believe that a commitment to human well-being is ageless, our particular opinions are not based on revelations fixed for all time. Humanists recognise that no one is infallible or omniscient, and that knowledge of the world and of humankind can be won only through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking.
  • For these reasons, we seek neither to avoid scrutiny nor to impose our view on all humanity. On the contrary, we are committed to the unfettered expression and exchange of ideas, and seek to cooperate with people of different beliefs who share our values, all in the cause of building a better world.
  • We are confident that humanity has the potential to solve the problems that confront us, through free inquiry, science, sympathy, and imagination in the furtherance of peace and human flourishing.
  • We call upon all who share these convictions to join us in this inspiring endeavor.

For more details, try Humanism – What’s It All About?