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The History & Philosophy of Humanism & Its Role in Unitarian Universalism

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greyl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-26-06 03:02 PM
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The History & Philosophy of Humanism & Its Role in Unitarian Universalism

by Steven D. Schafersman
Oxford, Ohio
September 24, 1995
(Updated in December, 1998)

I will define Humanism, although I hesitate to do so, because--as I like to tell audiences--there are thousands of definitions of Humanism, one for every Humanist. Yes, Humanists are individualists; more so than even Unitarian Universalists, they reject dogma, creed, conformity, and authoritarianism. But obviously we have to have definitions. I have heard Humanism explicitly equated by naturalistic Humanists with humanitarianism, environmentalism, secularism, naturalism, and so forth. All good beliefs, of course, but not specifically Humanism. A good and widely acceptable definition of Humanism is this:

Humanism is the naturalistic philosophy or way of life centered on human concerns and values that asserts the dignity and worth of humans and their capacity for self-actualization through the use of reason and scientific inquiry.

(My preferred definition today is this: Humanism is a philosophy, world view, or life stance based on naturalism--the conviction that the universe or nature is all that exists or is real. Humanism serves, for many humanists, some of the psychological and social functions of a religion, but without belief in deities, transcendental entities, miracles, life after death, and the supernatural. Humanists seek to understand the universe by using science and its methods of critical inquiry--logical reasoning, empirical evidence, and skeptical evaluation of conjectures and conclusions--to obtain reliable knowledge. Humanists affirm that humans have the freedom and obligation to give meaning, value, and purpose to their lives by their own independent thought, free inquiry, and responsible, creative activity. Humanists stand for the building of a more humane, just, compassionate, and democratic society using a realistic ethics based on human reason, experience, and reliable knowledge--an ethics that judges the consequences of human actions by the well-being of all life on Earth.)

Humanism is therefore concerned largely with two issues: first, a rejection of all forms of theism, supernaturalism, and their associated miracles, superstitions, dogmas, authoritarian beliefs, and wishful and hopeful thinking, and second, the resulting necessity of creating or finding values, meanings, and ethical beliefs in a completely naturalistic universe by the sole use of human reason and individual inquiry. In today's society, these are both tough rows to hoe, but let's discuss them both and then turn to Humanism's relation to Unitarian-Universalism.
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ixion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-28-06 09:28 PM
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1. of all the 'isms' Humanism is one of the most productive, IMO
productive, constructive and downright good for humans. :-)
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leftyladyfrommo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-01-06 09:51 AM
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2. There certainly are a lot of very knowledgeable people who
call themselves Humanists.

I think we can all learn from these beliefs - respect for all life. And building a way of life that is respectful in and of its ownsake - is that a phrase that I can use?

I have always thought that the Humanists were probably on the right track.

I love to study ancient religion and read the old documents but I really would be hesitant to say whether God actually exists - except in our own minds. Although, if God exists in our minds then I guess one could argue that it exits. I only makes sense to live your life the best you can. To be as honest and truthful and kind as you can. To be respectful of all life on this planet (I feel very strongly that all life is wondrous - however it got here).
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greyl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-25-06 02:51 AM
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3. "all life is wondrous" Yes. :)
I wonder why some people resist identifying with the community of life while they soldier on for one way of judging what deserves to live?
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