Humanism Essay, Research Paper
The word ?humanism? has a number of meanings, and because there are so many
different meanings it can be quite confusing if you don?t know what kind of humanism
someone is talking about.
Literary Humanism is a devotion to the humanities or literary culture.
Renaissance Humanism is the spirit of learning that developed at the end of the middle
ages with the revival of classical letters and a renewed confidence in the ability of human
beings to determine for themselves truth and falsehood.
Cultural Humanism is the rational and empirical tradition that originated largely in
ancient Greece and Rome, evolved through out European history, and now constitutes a
basic part of the Western approach to science, political theory, ethics, and law.
Philosophical Humanism is any outlook or way of life centered on human need and
interest. Sub categories of this type include the two following.
Christian Humanism is defined by Webster?s Third New International Dictionary
as ?a philosophy advocating the self fulfillment of man within the framework of
Christian principles.? This more human oriented faith is largely a product of the
Renaissance and is a part of what made up Renaissance humanism.
Modern Humanism, also called Naturalistic Humanism, Scien- tific Humanism,
Ethical Humanism and Democratic Humanism is defined by one of its leading
proponents, Corollas Lamont, as ?a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all
supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and
human compassion.? Modern Humanism has a dual origin, both secular and
religious, and these constitute its sub categories.
Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of 18th century enlightenment
rationalism and 19th century freethought. Many secular groups, such as
the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism and the American
Rationalist Federation, and many otherwise unaffiliated academic
philosophers and scientists advocate this philosophy.
Religious Humanism emerged out of Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and
Universalism. Today, many Unitarian- Universalist congregations and all
Ethical Culture societies describe themselves as humanist in the modern
The most critical irony in dealing with Modern Humanism is the inability of its
supporters to agree on whether or not this world veiw is religious. The Secular Humanists
believe it is a philosophy, where the Religious Humanists obviously believe it is a religion.
This has been going on since the early years of the century where the Secular and
Religious traditions combined and made Modern Humanism.
Secular and Religious Humanists both share the same world views as shown by the
signing of the Humanist Manifestos I and II. The signers of the Manifestos were both
Secular and Religious Humanists.
To serve personal needs, Religious Humanism offers a basis for moral values, an
inspiring set of ideals , methods for dealing with life?s harsher realities, a rational for living
life joyously, and an overall sense of purpose.
To serve social needs, Humanist religious communities offer a sense of belonging, an
institutional setting for the moral education of children, special holidays shared with like
minded people, a unique ceremonial life, the performance of ideologically consistent rites
of passage (weddings, child welcomings, coming of age celebrations, funerals, etc.), an
opportunity for affirmation of one?s philosophy of life, and a historical context for one?s
Religious Humanists maintain that most human beings have personal a social needs that
can only be met by humanism. They do not feel that one should have to make a choice
between meeting these needs in a traditional faith context versus not meeting them at all.
Individuals who cannot feel at home in traditional religion should be able to find a home in
non traditional religion.
A popular example of Secular Humanists views of the world was said by author Salman
Rushdie on ABC?s ?Nightline? on February 13, 1989.
[My book says] that there is an old, old conflict between the secular view
of the world and the religious view of the world, and particularly between
texts which claim to be divinely inspired and texts which are imaginatively
inspired…..I distrust people who claim to know the whole truth and who
seek to orchestrate the world in line with that one truth. I think that?s a
very dangerous position in the world. It needs to be challenged. It needs
to be challenged constantly in all sorts of ways, and that?s what I tried to
The Secular Humanist have been known for defiance, a defiance that dates back to
ancient Greece. Humanist themes that are shown in Greek mythology are rarely ever
shown in the mythologies of other cultures. And they are certainly not shown in modern
religion. The best example from Greek mythology is the character of Prometheus.
Prometheus stands out because he was idolized by ancient Greeks as the one who defied
Zeus. He stole the fire of the gods and brought it down to earth. He was punished and
still he continued his defiance despite the torture.
The next time we see a Promethean character in mythology it is Lucifer in John Milton?s
Paradise Lost. But now he is the devil. Whoever defies god must be evil. That seems to
be a given of traditional religion. But the Greeks didn?t agree. To them, Zeus, for all his
power, could still be mistaken.
This exemplifies Secular Humanists tradition of skepticism. Just like every religion has
it?s sage, so does Secular Humanism. All other sages created rules or laws save the
Secular Humanists sage, Socrates. Socrates gave us a method of questioning the rules of
In general both philosophies agree that reason is taken over religion. In finding what all
humanists believe you have to look towards the Humanist Manifesto. There are two
versions of the Manifesto. The first one was written and signed in 1933 and since then
there has been a Humanist Manifesto II, written and signed in 1973. I will concentrate on
the second manifesto because it includes everything involved and more than the first.
There are generally seventeen common principals to the manifesto not including the
preface, introduction and conclusion. Those seventeen are divided into five topics
including: Religion 1-2, Ethics 3-4, the Individual 5-6, Democratic Society 7-11, and
World Community 12-17. Those seventeen I will focus on the seventeen common
principals as they are the basis of Humanism.
In the first principle is states
In the best sense, religion may inspire dedication to the highest ethical ideals. The
cultivation of moral devotion and creative imagination is an expression of genuine
?spiritual? experience and aspiration.
But then goes on to say
We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place
revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the
human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our
judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so.
The manifesto goes on saying that while they admit that traditional religion and Humanism
have ethical teachings and morals in common, ?they inhibit humans from helping
themselves or experiencing their full potentialities……….Too often traditional faiths
encourage dependence rather than independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear
rather than courage.? The conclusion for the principle was that no deity will save us from
our wrong doings, ?humans are responsible for what we are or will become.?
The second Principle states
Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful.
They distract humans for present concerns, from self actualization, and from rectifying
The next set of two principle?s are based on Ethics. The first states that moral values
?derive their source from human experience.?, and not needing any theological or
ideological sanctions. Life is lived for the here not the hereafter. ?Happiness and the
creative realization of human needs and desires, individually and in shared enjoyment, are
continuous themes of humanism.?
The second principle in the Ethics section talks of reason being ?the most effective
instruments that humankind possesses.? But also warns that ?reason must be tempered by
humility, since no group has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue.?
The fifth and sixth principles are based on the Individual. The fifth principle talks about
the importance of the individual. ?The preciousness and dignity of the individual person is
a central humanist value.? It rejects the religious, ideological, or moral codes that
denigrate the individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, or dehumanize personality. They
do believe in maximizing ?individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility.?
The sixth principle talks of sexual freedom. The freedom or right to birth control,
abortion, and divorce. They believe that intolerant attitudes from orthodox or puritan
groups ?unduly repress sexual conduct.? They believe that short of harming other people
individuals should be able to pursue their sexual lifestyles as they please. Educationally
they believe ?Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing
awareness and sexual maturity.?
The seventh through the eleventh principles have to do with the democratic society. The
seventh principle backs up and extends the ?principals of human freedom evolved from
the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights, the Rights of Man, and the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights?. This includes the freedom of press and speech, the legal right of
opposition to governmental policies, religious liberty, etc.
The eighth principle is that of an open and democratic society. A true democratic
society where ?All persons should have a voice in developing the values and goals that
determine their lives.?
The ninth principle is that of the separation of church and state. The state should not
favor any one particular belief, but should encourage ?maximum freedom for different
moral, political, religious, and social values in society.?
The tenth principle democratizes the economy and judges it by it?s responsiveness to
human need, testing results in terms of the common good.
The eleventh principle is the principle of moral equality. There must be the ?elimination
of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin.? It also talks
of universal education. It deplores ?racial, religious, ethnic, or class