Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Secular Humanism

Secular humanism is a form of religion, or doctrine, that emphasizes a person's capacity for self-realization through reason, ethics, justice, and a rejection of the supernatural and spiritual as a basis for moral reflection and decisions.

Humanists believe that science and reason should be applied to all areas of life, and that all beliefs should be subjected to rational scrutiny. Largely atheistic, humanists are skeptical about claims for the existence of a god or gods. They are also skeptical about the existence of angels, demons, and other supernatural beings.

Humanists also reject the idea of an afterlife, believing that this life is the only one that we have. We are not reincarnated, and there is no heaven or hell for us to go to after death.

Secular humanists believe that their beliefs are factual rather than dogmatic, while all of the other religions in the world have been subjected to rational scrutiny and found wanting.

While secular humanists are atheists, not all atheists are secular humanists. Secular humanists are committed to the importance of moral value, and reject the idea that there cannot be moral values without God, or that human beings cannot be good without religion to guide them.

Humanists emphasize personal autonomy in moral issues, as opposed to basing ethical decisions on external authorities, such as a Bible, or a religious tradition or leader. Rather, secular humanists favor the development of systems of ethical education that will equip people with the skills they need in order to discharge it properly.

Humanists believe that a belief in God is not necessary for their lives to have meaning and purpose.

Humanists are secularists, in that they favor an open, democratic society, one in which the government takes a neutral stance with respect to religion.

Secular humanists are not necessarily utopian in their worldview, although some do believe that the application of science and reason, in lieu of religious dogma and divisiveness, will usher in a New World of peace and contentment.

Humanists do not generally believe that the wants and needs of people are all that matters. Most believe that the welfare of other species are also important.

While many humanists embrace utilitarianism, and most hold that happiness and suffering ate morally important, they do not necessarily believe that maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering are all that matters in life.

Most secular humanists are naturalists, who believe that the natural, physical universe is the only reality there is, but some of them would identify as agnostic rather than atheist.

Humanists do not necessarily embrace the idea that every genuine question can be answered by science. Most humanists emphasize the importance of science in determining moral decisions, but they do not necessarily believe that science and reason alone are capable of determining the difference between right and wrong.

Secular humanists are free to question many things, but they are skeptical about one particular answer - that the universe is the creation of one or more gods.

Humanism is for freedom of thought and expression, and an open society. Humanists support moral education that stresses moral autonomy and the importance of critical thinking.

Most humanists consider theistic religion to be not merely false, but dangerous.

Many people believe the identification of secular humanism as a religion began when a US Supreme Court named Secular Humanism as a religion in 1961, but the relationship began much earlier than that.

George Holyoake coined the term secularism to describe "a form of opinion which concerns itself only with questions, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life." The modern secular humanist movement grew around the teachings of Holyoake. However, Holyoake's secularism was greatly influenced by Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism and sociology. Later in his life, Comte introduced a religion of humanity to fulfill the cohesive and functional roles that theistic churches once served in France, in the midst of growing anti-religious sentiment during the French Revolution.

Although his movement was not successful in France, his philosophy has led to the formation of several humanist churches throughout the world, which meet the needs of their membership for fellowship, instruction in ethics, and ritual, but without the intrusion of a god or gods.

Topics related to humanism or secular humanism are the focus of topics in this category or its subcategories. Secular church associations or other organizations intended to promote secular humanism and humanist issues are appropriate for this category, whether or not they specifically identify as a religion.

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