The need for critical thinking skills and a humanistic outlook in our world is great. This is no less true in the Black community than in others. Many others, however, have escaped the oppression of such delusions, and live happy and upstanding lives free of superstition. In an irrational world, those who stand for reason must stand together. Many of the participants were not aware that so many other African Americans shared their views about science, religion and critical thinking.
All member organisations of the International Humanist and Ethical Union are required by bylaw 5. 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 an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities.
It is not theistic , and it does not accept supernatural views of reality. To promote and unify "Humanist" identity, prominent members of the IHEU have endorsed the following statements on Humanist identity: . According to the Council for Secular Humanism, within the United States, the term "secular humanism" describes a world view with the following elements and principles: .
It lays out ten ideals: Free inquiry as opposed to censorship and imposition of belief; separation of church and state; the ideal of freedom from religious control and from jingoistic government control; ethics based on critical intelligence rather than that deduced from religious belief; moral education; religious skepticism; reason; a belief in science and technology as the best way of understanding the world; evolution; and education as the essential method of building humane, free, and democratic societies.
A general outline of Humanism is also set out in the Humanist Manifesto prepared by the American Humanist Association. In the 20th and 21st centuries, members of Humanist organizations have disagreed as to whether Humanism is a religion. They categorize themselves in one of three ways. Religious humanism , in the tradition of the earliest Humanist organizations in the UK and US, attempts to fulfill the traditional social role of religion.
All three types of Humanism and all three of the American Humanist Association 's manifestos reject deference to supernatural beliefs; promoting the practical, methodological naturalism of science, but also going further and supporting the philosophical stance of metaphysical naturalism.
Humanism addresses ethics without reference to the supernatural as well, attesting that ethics is a human enterprise see naturalistic ethics. Secular humanism does not prescribe a specific theory of morality or code of ethics. As stated by the Council for Secular Humanism,. Secular Humanism is not so much a specific morality as it is a method for the explanation and discovery of rational moral principles. Kantian, Islamic, Christian is unreasonable. We are opposed to absolutist morality, yet we maintain that objective standards emerge, and ethical values and principles may be discovered, in the course of ethical deliberation.
Many Humanists adopt principles of the Golden Rule. Some believe that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. However, they believe such necessary universality can and should be achieved by developing a richer notion of morality through reason, experience and scientific inquiry rather than through faith in a supernatural realm or source. Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society.
But they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards. Contrary to what the fundamentalists would have us believe, then, what our society really needs is not more religion but a richer notion of the nature of morality. Humanism is compatible with atheism  and agnosticism,  but being atheist or agnostic does not automatically make one a humanist. Nevertheless, humanism is diametrically opposed to state atheism. Epstein states that, "modern, organized Humanism began, in the minds of its founders, as nothing more nor less than a religion without a God".
Many Humanists address ethics from the point of view of ethical naturalism , and some support an actual science of morality. Secular humanist organizations are found in all parts of the world.
Those who call themselves humanists are estimated to number between four  and five  million people worldwide in 31 countries, but there is uncertainty because of the lack of universal definition throughout censuses. Humanism is a non-theistic belief system and, as such, it could be a sub-category of "Religion" only if that term is defined to mean "Religion and any belief system ".
This is the case in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion and beliefs. Many national censuses contentiously define Humanism as a further sub-category of the sub-category "No Religion", which typically includes atheist, rationalist and agnostic thought.
It represents the views of over three million Humanists organized in over national organizations in 30 countries. Some regional groups that adhere to variants of the Humanist life stance, such as the humanist subgroup of the Unitarian Universalist Association , do not belong to the IHEU. Although the European Humanist Federation is also separate from the IHEU, the two organisations work together and share an agreed protocol. Starting in the midth century, religious fundamentalists and the religious right began using the term "secular humanism" in hostile fashion.
Francis A. Schaeffer , an American theologian based in Switzerland, seizing upon the exclusion of the divine from most humanist writings, argued that rampant secular humanism would lead to moral relativism and ethical bankruptcy in his book How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture Schaeffer portrayed secular humanism as pernicious and diabolical, and warned it would undermine the moral and spiritual tablet of America.
His themes have been very widely repeated in Fundamentalist preaching in North America.
History of Humanism With Ancient Greek Philosophers
Many Humanists see religions as superstitious, repressive and closed-minded, while religious fundamentalists may see Humanists as a threat to the values set out in their sacred texts. In recent years, humanists such as Dwight Gilbert Jones and R. Joseph Hoffmann have decried the over-association of Humanism with affirmations of non-belief and atheism. Jones cites a lack of new ideas being presented or debated outside of secularism,  while Hoffmann is unequivocal: "I regard the use of the term 'humanism' to mean secular humanism or atheism to be one of the greatest tragedies of twentieth century movementology, perpetrated by second-class minds and perpetuated by third-class polemicists and village atheists.
The attempt to sever humanism from the religious and the spiritual was a flatfooted, largely American way of taking on the religious right. It lacked finesse, subtlety, and the European sense of history. Some Humanists celebrate official religion-based public holidays, such as Christmas or Easter , but as secular holidays rather than religious ones. The Society for Humanistic Judaism celebrates most Jewish holidays in a secular manner. In many countries, humanist celebrants officiants perform celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings , coming of age ceremonies , and other rituals.
The issue of whether and in what sense secular humanism might be considered a religion, and what the implications of this would be has become the subject of legal maneuvering and political debate in the United States. The first reference to "secular humanism" in a US legal context was in , although church-state separation lawyer Leo Pfeffer had referred to it in his book, Creeds in Competition. Implementation of this provision ran into practical problems because neither the Senator's staff, nor the Senate's Committee on Labor and Human Resources, nor the Department of Justice could propose a definition of what would constitute a "course of instruction the substance of which is Secular Humanism".
So, this determination was left up to local school boards.
The provision provoked a storm of controversy which within a year led Senator Hatch to propose, and Congress to pass, an amendment to delete from the statute all reference to secular humanism. While this episode did not dissuade fundamentalists from continuing to object to what they regarded as the "teaching of Secular Humanism", it did point out the vagueness of the claim. The phrase "secular humanism" became prominent after it was used in the United States Supreme Court case Torcaso v. In the decision, Justice Hugo Black commented in a footnote, "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism , Taoism , Ethical Culture , Secular Humanism, and others.
The footnote in Torcaso v. Watkins referenced Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda ,  a case in which an organization of humanists  sought a tax exemption on the ground that they used their property "solely and exclusively for religious worship. The Fellowship of Humanity case itself referred to Humanism but did not mention the term secular humanism. Nonetheless, this case was cited by Justice Black to justify the inclusion of secular humanism in the list of religions in his note.
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Presumably Justice Black added the word secular to emphasize the non-theistic nature of the Fellowship of Humanity and distinguish their brand of humanism from that associated with, for example, Christian humanism. Another case alluded to in the Torcaso v. Watkins footnote, and said by some to have established secular humanism as a religion under the law, is the tax case of Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia , F. The Washington Ethical Society functions much like a church, but regards itself as a non-theistic religious institution, honoring the importance of ethical living without mandating a belief in a supernatural origin for ethics.
The case involved denial of the Society's application for tax exemption as a religious organization. The U. Court of Appeals reversed the Tax Court's ruling, defined the Society as a religious organization, and granted its tax exemption. The Society terms its practice Ethical Culture. Though Ethical Culture is based on a humanist philosophy, it is regarded by some as a type of religious humanism. Hence, it would seem most accurate to say that this case affirmed that a religion need not be theistic to qualify as a religion under the law, rather than asserting that it established generic secular humanism as a religion.
In the cases of both the Fellowship of Humanity and the Washington Ethical Society, the court decisions turned not so much on the particular beliefs of practitioners as on the function and form of the practice being similar to the function and form of the practices in other religious institutions. The implication in Justice Black's footnote that secular humanism is a religion has been seized upon by religious opponents of the teaching of evolution , who have made the argument that teaching evolution amounts to teaching a religious idea.
The claim that secular humanism could be considered a religion for legal purposes was examined by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Peloza v. Capistrano School District , 37 F. In this case, a science teacher argued that, by requiring him to teach evolution, his school district was forcing him to teach the "religion" of secular humanism. The Court responded, "We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or Secular Humanism are 'religions' for Establishment Clause purposes.
The decision in a subsequent case, Kalka v. Hawk et al.
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Decisions about tax status have been based on whether an organization functions like a church. On the other hand, Establishment Clause cases turn on whether the ideas or symbols involved are inherently religious. An organization can function like a church while advocating beliefs that are not necessarily inherently religious.
Author Marci Hamilton has pointed out: "Moreover, the debate is not between secularists and the religious. The debate is believers and non-believers on the one side debating believers and non-believers on the other side. You've got citizens who are [ In the case of Smith v.
- Definition of Humanism.
- A Perfect Spy;
- The Black Abolitionist Papers: Vol. II: Canada, 1830-1865.
- Visionary Creativity: How New Worlds Are Born.
- ISBN 13: 9780415305235.
- On Humanism (Thinking in Action).
Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County a group of plaintiffs brought a case alleging that the school system was teaching the tenets of an anti-religious religion called "secular humanism" in violation of the Establishment Clause. The complainants asked that 44 different elementary through high school level textbooks including books on home economics, social science and literature be removed from the curriculum.
The Morality of Positive Humanism
The potential to engage in constructive public debate is ill-served by commentators who fail to acknowledge the complexity of religion as a social phenomenon, and who do not appreciate the heterogeneous nature of religious belief. He responds to those philosophers who claim that modern religions exist primarily as social institutions, rather than as metaphysical explanations of the existence of the universe. Norman argues that religions necessarily make putatively factual statements about why the world is as it is.
This, he argues, shows that religious belief is a legitimate subject for rational debate, in a way that it would not be if religions were understood solely as social institutions. In Ethics, Killing and War , Norman critically discusses traditional approaches to just war theory. Just war theory was heavily influenced by early Christian thinkers such as Augustine, and Norman argues that this influence is still present in modern, secular attempts to legitimise war.
Norman argues that there are serious philosophical deficiencies in traditional approaches to just war theory, and argues for the conclusion that, in more instances than are generally acknowledged, the decision to go to war is not morally justifiable. This position reflects the humanist values which are the subject of Norman's later research, and the book as a whole exemplifies the way in which humanists can engage in constructive moral debate with religious traditions.
Norman, Richard Ethics, Killing and War. Cambridge University Press. ISBN John Cornwell and Michael McGhee. Anthony O'Hear. Norman's work has substantially improved public understanding of humanist thought, both in the UK and abroad. The impact generated by Norman's research began with articles introducing humanist perspectives on religious debate to a wide audience.
It questioned claims that religions should be identified solely as social institutions.