Explaining Humanism

Explaining Humanism to a Catholic Seminary Student

I was asked by a seminary student to answer some questions about Humanism for a report he was doing.  I am sharing them here because I figure others may have similar questions and because it was interesting to me to see what sorts of questions were asked, because, honestly – I had to translate some of them to answer them because the worldviews and assumptions about how things work is so different.  Anyway – here are the questions and my answers.

Humanism - doing good because its the right thing to do

1)      How do you see yourself in a leadership position?

I am a Humanist educator. I teach people about the philosophy. Leadership is not how I would describe myself. I used to be the executive director for a Humanist non-profit, so I supposed I was a leader then, but mostly – I was someone who spoke on behalf of other humanists at their request. Again, more spokesperson than leader.

2)      Who is the leader of this religion?

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Questions for God

Questions for God

I was asked the question and I thought it was a good one – so I am asking it and answering it here.



Assuming that God exists and you were to meet Him face to face, what one question would you ask Him?

My Answer:

I am a Humanist – been an atheist since I was 17. Was agnostic before that. Raised as a freethinker (3rd generation)

In order to answer the question of what question I would ask, I first have to ask a question. And that question is “which specific god you have in mind?”

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Humanist Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage – Humanist Style

Who doesn’t like a good pilgrimage, but if you are a Humanist, where should you go?

Enjoy the Journey

There are a few Humanist Halls – here and there, like the Conway Hall in England or the Humanist Hall in San Francisco. But when you think of buildings and things that Humanists like or consider making a pilgrimage to, you are going to be thinking primarily about libraries. These are places where human knowledge is stored and we find them irresistible. Architecture is married to knowledge.  I don’t think there are many Humanists who would not consider a pilgrimage to the Library at Alexandria to be anything less that – a form of Humanist pilgrimage. That being the library of libraries. 
We are also hugely fond of museums for the same reason.  So – the British Museum is high on the list of places that as a Humanist – I consider rather “holy” because it houses the Rosetta Stone.  My son is only 9 and his two favorite places to go, since he was about 2 – are the local museum and the libraries. He’s kind of really obsessed with both – they are places where you learn things – and that’s really cool to him.
However, back to the subject of monuments & buildings, there are other buildings and places we think are important and that tie more directly into our values and philosophy.

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Humanist Texts

Do Humanists have a “text?”

(This question was asked of me by a couple of seminary students doing a report on Humanism and by someone over at Quora). Here are my combined responses.

Humanism and happiness

There are no "key" texts or authors.  Humanism arises in every culture and in every time. 

A great site to get started on the international and historical nature of Humanist thought is Humanistic Texts 

The reason this site is called Humanistic texts is that the term Humanism wasn’t coined to describe this philosophy that’s always been around until the early 1900s.  So, we can look back at different philosophies and say – they were Humanistic, but because the term was not applied to those philosophies at the time (because the term didn’t exist), it would be intellectually dishonest to say they were Humanist in the modern sense, even if it is clear, they were pretty darned humanistic.  

That gives you the historical texts; now let’s look to the modern texts.

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Main Elements of Humanism

What are the main elements of humanism?

Since I get asked this a lot – I thought I would share what I wrote on Quora

What is Humanism?  Humanism is ...

See: http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-main-elements-of-humanism

According to the definition of Humanism by the American Humanist Association – there are 7 elements of Humanism – see: Humanist Manifesto III

Humanism is:

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Atheism isn’t enough

Why Atheism isn’t Enough

Humanism rejects all forms of supernaturalism.  Here’s Why

.The price of rejecting reality is high

With all due respect to Stephen Law, who in a recent article argued that naturalism should not be a pre-requisite for Humanism and that atheism was sufficient. http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2014/09/secular-humanism-dont-define-it-as.html  I disagree. Law made this argument apparently because there are lots of people who don’t reject supernaturalism but who are atheists and these people should feel welcome under the Humanist tent.  I disagree.

And it’s not because I’m a strident atheist.  It’s just that rejection of theism isn’t enough.  There is a reason why most Humanists reject all forms of supernaturalism.

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Freethought Day

Freethought and the practice of Humanism

Why Humanists celebrate Freethought Day

Freethought is Fun

Humanists have our own holiday calendar. One of the holidays unique to Humanists is Freethought Day, which is the day we celebrate the end of the Salem Witch Trials, which is Oct 12th, in case you were wondering.

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Humanism vs. Supernaturalism

Humanism vs. Supernaturalism

Humanism is not a theological rejection of religion.  It’s a pragmatic rejection of all supernaturalism The difference matters – here’s why

Critical Thinking - it's not just for debunking religion

First, Humanism is a philosophy. What is a philosophy? According to the Atlas Society – which is an objectivist group but whose definition of philosophy I totally agree with, Philosophy is: “a comprehensive system of ideas about human nature and the nature of the reality we live in. It is a guide for living, because the issues it addresses are basic and pervasive, determining the course we take in life and how we treat other people.”

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Yes All Women!

Yes All Women

What can you do to help make the world a better place for everyone.

Treat Women as Fully Human

Yes all women. And yes all blacks. And yes all choose your minority. And yes all marginalized people.  Yes. We all live with harassment and discrimination not because of something we’ve done, but just because we exist.  Some of us experience it more than others.
The Yes all women meme started after the Isla Vista shooting. It’s been a long time coming. And this is because every time women try to talk about this – we are told by well-meaning men – who think what we are experiencing is other well-meaning men being inept at hitting on us, that our experiences aren’t what we thought they were and that we should be nicer to guys who are, well, inept.

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What aren’t you scared?

Why aren’t you scared? (My advice)

Humanism is joyous service to mankind


God definitely exists and I know I’m going to heaven. But for atheists aren’t they scared? My priest told me that If I’m a good person I will go to heaven. And when I get to heaven I will get everything I want. So now that I know my God loves me then why don’t more people want to go to heaven…


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