Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world’s great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.
Humanism affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction. These affirmations and beliefs make it axiomatic that Humanism means the taking of an ethical stance on all issues with which humanity has to cope in life.
Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world’s problems lie solely in human thought and action. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.
Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.
Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognizes our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.
While Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to religion and religious belief, Humanists unconditionally take the view, based on their support for democracy and human rights, that belief is a matter for individuals to decide for themselves. On the same basis it opposes those who hold beliefs, religious or otherwise, who seek to impose their world views on all of humanity.
Humanism recognizes that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process of observation, evaluation and revision. Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination and recognizes the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.
Humanism is a life stance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment through the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.
Humanists consider that their primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilizing free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, they have confidence that the means is available to humanity to solve the problems that confront it. Humanists call upon all who share this conviction to associate together in this endeavour.
The above is an edited version of the Amsterdam Declaration of 2000.
Humanism is a positive code of ethics for people who do not believe in a god. Its fundamental principle is that we should base our behaviour on what is best for the people concerned, and for the environment whilst endeavour to avoid harm to others. Humanism springs from the Greek philosophers and reflects Enlightenment thinking. Humanists acknowledge the existence of other ethical codes and prefer co-operation where possible emphasising shared values rather than differences.
Humanists are atheists or agnostics and nearly all live happy and fulfilling lives without reference to the supernatural. But people are not Humanists just because they reject supernatural beliefs; it is a positive step expressing concern for humanity. Humanists derive their morals from human nature and experience, and accept responsibility for their own actions. Human welfare and progress should be guided by this reasoning and motivated only by a concern for humanity.
Humanists welcome a society in which every viewpoint is allowed free expression and development, limited only by the reasonable rights of others. They are opposed to dogmatic teaching and fundamentalist attitues of any kind seeing this as detrimental to human development. Humanists are encouraged to find solutions to life's problems for themselves without recourse to a set of rules in a sacred book or to revered teachers.
Humanists endeavour to approach problems in a rational way, cultivating an attitude of mind founded on enquiry rather than superstition or fear. They draw conclusions from available evidence, but are ready to adjust to new findings even if these point in an unwelcome direction. To a Humanist it is a betrayal of reason to make an article of faith out of something for which there is no observable or logical foundation.
Humanism supports the right of individuals to choose what they want to do with their lives so long as it is not detrimental to others. For this reason most Humanists support the following views:
Freedom of choice for the individual should apply in the teaching of children. Pupils should be taught the many different views and beliefs held by people worldwide, and allowed to make their own decisions. Schools should not adopt specific religious or political positions, but should encourage pupils to examine them all in an unprejudiced way. We oppose state-funded “faith” schools, which we consider culturally divisive.
We support the right of terminally ill people who are suffering unbearably to have the option of a safe, legal, medically-assisted death. Assisted death should be brought about only at the request of the terminally ill person, who must be mentally competent to make the decision. There should be effective safeguards against the decision being influenced by external pressure.
We support the Advanced Decision (formerly Living Will) advocated by Dignity in Dying. This informs medical staff about how you wish to be treated should you no longer be able to communicate your wishes (e.g. if you are in a coma or have dementia).
People's sexual preferences are their own business and there should be no discrimination in law or in public attitudes. Protection of the young and vulnerable can be provided by non-discriminatory legislation. There is a Gay and Lesbian Association. Click here for their website.