WHAT IS HUMANISM?

Humanism is a view of life and a way of life. It is for those people who base their interpretation of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in a supernatural power. Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values.We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning for ourselves.We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good.

1. Humanism is a philosophy of life based on reason, love,  compassion, tolerance and our common humanity.

2. Humanism believes that we should reject authoritative opinion and instead think, feel and act for ourselves.

3. Humanism rejects belief in gods and an afterlife and affirms that human beings are as much a natural phenomenon as an animal or a plant.

4. Humanism views scientific knowledge not as certain but provisional, theories not as final answers but working tools, and values not as god-given but springing from human nature and human needs.

5. Humanism asserts that we can live decent, honest and upright lives, with full respect and consideration for others, without belief in the supernatural, religion, dogma, superstition or ‘faith’.

6. Humanism affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every person to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others.

7. Humanism believes that we should try to live full and happy lives ourselves and help others to do the same.

8. Humanism thinks that the meaning of our lives is not part of a supernatural ‘plan’ but rather lies in our enrichment of the lives of others.

9. Humanism embraces diversity while asserting the primacy of fundamental human values and rights.

10. Humanism campaigns for a secular state in which religion no longer occupies a privileged position or influences government policy.

 

Atheism, Agnosticism and Humanism

In his Autobiography, written in 1876, Darwin wrote: “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic”. This term had been coined in  an 1869 lecture by Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ for his advocacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The term comes from the Greek words ‘agnostos’ which means ‘ignorant’, and ‘gnosis’ which means ‘knowledge’. Huxley explained it as follows: “Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle... Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable”.

Agnosticism is thus the view that the truth of certain opinions is unknown or unknowable. In the religious context, it is often suggested that an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God. But agnostics, while not knowing if a god exists or not, have tended to be highly sceptical of the idea. This scepticism has a long history, going back at least to ancient Greece and philosophers like Protagoras, though open expression of it was often dangerous and therefore rare even into the 18th century, with the notable exception of David Hume. After Darwin, agnosticism developed rapidly and even became almost respectable, with agnostics being regarded as reasonable people, in contrast to atheists, who were often regarded as closed-minded and dogmatic.

It is thus frequently argued that atheism springs from the same deluded and potentially dangerous quest for certainty as the dogmatic tendencies in the religion it opposes. But this is only one interpretation of atheism, which is simply an absence of belief in the existence of gods. The certainty or lack of it varies from one atheist to another. Not believing that something is true is not equivalent to believing that it is false: we may simply have no idea whether it is true or not. This is basically the same as agnosticism. Some people make the distinction that agnosticism is not about belief in a god but about knowledge though, logically, agnosticism is compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists – the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist  – the result is agnostic atheism. Indeed it is quite common to be an agnostic atheist, which merely goes to prove that the words are ultimately just convenient labels, and it is what we mean by them that is important. Since a Humanist goes further than mere agnosticism or atheism in believing in a positive god-free philosophy, it is entirely possible to be an agnostic atheist Humanist.

Dictionary definition

Humanism, n: devotion to human interests; system of thought concerned with human not religious matters; doctrine emphasising common human needs and seeking rational ways of solving human problems.

Aims of Irish Freeethinkers and Humanists
Irish Freethinkers and Humanists is an organisation that promotes freethought secular Humanism and represents the interests of those who adopt this enlightened philosophy. We promote freethought, tolerance, compromise and community in a society dominated for so long by sectarian religious and nationalist ideologies. We provide a forum for debate, discussion and education on the important issues of the day through activities such as our monthly meetings, our website, our Facebook page and our bi-monthly magazine Irish Freethinker and Humanist.

Fundamental principles of Humanism
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has drawn up a useful statement of the fundamental principles of modern Humanism called the Amsterdam Declaration. Read more>>>

Secularism in Northern Ireland
A 2004 survey showed that 10% of the Northern Ireland population had no religious affiliation. According to the 2011 census, this is now 17%. Read more>>>

Humanist Handbook
Brian McClinton, the editor of the bi-monthly magazine Irish Freethinker and Humanist, has written the following HUMANIST HANDBOOK>>>

 

BOOKS RELATED TO HUMANISM

Humanism as the Next Step Lloyd and Mary Morain (complete text)

The Origin of Species     Charles Darwin (complete text)

The Philosophy of Humanism     Corliss Lamont (complete text)