The American Humanist Association (AHA) is a non-profit organization in the United States that advances secular humanism, a philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms the ability and responsibility of human beings to lead personal lives of ethical fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
The American Humanist Association was founded in 1941 and currently provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of secular and religious minorities, actively lobbies Congress on church-state separation and other issues, and maintains a grassroots network of 150 local affiliates and chapters that engage in social activism, philosophical discussion and community-building events. The AHA has several publications, including the bi-monthly magazine The Humanist, a quarterly newsletter Free Mind, a peer-reviewed semi-annual scholastic journal Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, and a daily online news site TheHumanist.com.
|American Humanist Association|
|Purpose||Advocate for progressive values and equality for humanists, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers.|
(Immediate Past President)
In 1927 an organization called the "Humanist Fellowship" began at a gathering in Chicago. In 1928 the Fellowship started publishing the New Humanist magazine. H.G. Creel was the first editor. The New Humanist was published from 1928 to 1936. By 1935 the Humanist Fellowship had become the "Humanist Press Association", the first national association of humanism in the United States.
The first Humanist Manifesto was issued by a conference held at the University of Chicago in 1933. Signatories included the philosopher John Dewey, but the majority were ministers (chiefly Unitarian) and theologians. They identified humanism as an ideology that espouses reason, ethics, and social and economic justice.
In July 1939 a group of Quakers, inspired by the 1933 Humanist Manifesto, incorporated under the state laws of California the Humanist Society of Friends as a religious, educational, charitable nonprofit organization authorized to issue charters anywhere in the world and to train and ordain its own ministry. Upon ordination these ministers were then accorded the same rights and privileges granted by law to priests, ministers, and rabbis of traditional theistic religions.
Curtis Reese was a leader in the 1941 reorganization and incorporation of the "Humanist Press Association" as the American Humanist Association. Along with its reorganization, the AHA began printing The Humanist magazine. The AHA was originally headquartered in Yellow Springs, Ohio, then San Francisco, California, and in 1978 Amherst, New York. Subsequently, the AHA moved to Washington, D.C..
In 1952 the AHA became a founding member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in Amsterdam, Netherlands. As an international coalition of Humanist organizations, the IHEU stands today as the only international umbrella group for Humanism.
The AHA was the first national membership organization to support abortion rights. Around the same time, the AHA joined hands with the American Ethical Union (AEU) to help establish the rights of nontheistic conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War. This time also saw Humanists involved in the creation of the first nationwide memorial societies, giving people broader access to cheaper alternatives than the traditional burial. In the late 1960s the AHA also secured a religious tax exemption in support of its celebrant program, allowing Humanist celebrants to legally officiate at weddings, perform chaplaincy functions, and in other ways enjoy the same rights as traditional clergy.
In 1991 the AHA took control of the Humanist Society, a religious Humanist organization that now runs the celebrant program. Since 1991 the organization has worked as an adjunct to the American Humanist Association to certify qualified members to serve in this special capacity as ministers. The Humanist Society's ministry prepares Humanist Celebrants to lead ceremonial observances across the nation and worldwide. Celebrants provide millions of Americans an alternative to traditional religious weddings, memorial services, and other life cycle events. After this transfer, the AHA commenced the process of jettisoning its religious tax exemption and resumed its exclusively educational status. Today the AHA is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, tax exempt, 501(c)(3), publicly supported educational organization.
The AHA is also the supervising organization for various Humanist affiliates and adjunct organizations.
The Black Humanist Alliance of the American Humanist Association was founded in 2016 as a pillar of its new "Initiatives for Social Justice." Like the Feminist Humanist Alliance and the LGBT Humanist Alliance, the Black Humanist Alliance uses an intersectional approach to addressing issues facing the Black community. As its mission states, the BHA "concern ourselves with confronting expressions of religious hegemony in public policy," but is "also devoted to confronting social, economic, and political deprivations that disproportionately impact Black America due to centuries of culturally ingrained prejudices."
The Feminist Humanist Alliance (formerly the Feminist Caucus) of the American Humanist Association was established in 1977 as a coalition of both women and men within the AHA to work toward the advancement of women's rights and equality between the sexes in all aspects of society. Originally called the Women's Caucus, the new name was adopted in 1985 as more representative of all the members of the caucus and of the caucus' goals. Over the years, members of the Caucus have advocated for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and participated in various public demonstrations, including marches for women's and civil rights. In 1982, the Caucus established its annual Humanist Heroine Award, with the initial award being presented to Sonia Johnson. Other Humanist Heroines include Tish Sommers, Christine Craft, and Fran Hosken. In 2012 the Feminist Caucus declared it would be organizing around two principal efforts: "Refocusing on passing the ERA" and "Promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
In 2016, the Feminist Caucus, mirroring the Black Humanist Alliance and the LGBT Humanist Alliance, reorganized as the Feminist Humanist Alliance as a component of their larger "Initiatives for Social Justice." As stated on its website, the "refinement in vision" emphasized "FHA's more active partnership with outreach programs and social justice campaigns with distinctly inclusive feminist objectives." Its current goal is to provide a "movement powered by and for women, transpeople, and genderqueer people to fight for social justice. We are united to create inclusive and diverse spaces for activists and allies on the local and national level."
The LGBTQ Humanist Alliance (formerly LGBT Humanist Council) of the American Humanist Association is committed to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families. The alliance "seeks to cultivate safe and affirming communities, promote humanist values, and achieve full equality and social liberation of LGBTQ persons."
Paralleling the Black Humanist Alliance and the Feminist Humanist Alliance, the Council reformed in 2016 as the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance as a larger part of the AHA's "Initiatives for Social Justice."
In 2014, the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) merged their respective charitable programs Humanist Charities (established in 2005) and Humanist Crisis Response (established in 2011). AHA's Executive Director Roy Speckhardt commented that, “This merger is a positive move that will grow the relief efforts of the humanist community. The end result will be more money directed to charitable activities, dispelling the false claim that nonbelievers don’t give to charity.”
Now Foundation Beyond Belief's Disaster Recovery program, this effort serves as a focal point for the humanist response to major natural disasters and complex humanitarian crises all over the world. The program coordinates financial support as well as trained humanist volunteers to help impacted communities. The Disaster Recovery program is sustained through the ongoing partnership between FBB and AHA, and ensures that our community's efforts are centralized and efficient.
Between 2014–2018, Humanist Disaster Recovery has raised over $250,000 for victims of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Refugee Children of the U.S. Border, Tropical Cyclone Sam, and the Nepal and Ecuadoran Earthquakes, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, and Hurricanes Irma and Maria. In addition to grants for recovery efforts, volunteers have also helped to rebuild homes and schools in the following locations: Columbia, South Carolina after the effects of Hurricane Joaquin, in Denham Springs, Louisiana; and in Houston, Texas after the flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
The American Humanist Association launched the Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) in 2006 to ensure that humanists' constitutional rights are represented in court. Through amicus activity, litigation, and legal advocacy, a team of cooperating lawyers, including Jim McCollum, Wendy Kaminer, and Michael Newdow, provide legal assistance by challenging perceived violations of the Establishment Clause.
The American Humanist Association has received media attention for its various advertising campaigns; in 2010, the AHA's campaign was said to be the more expensive than similar ad campaigns from the American Atheists and Freedom From Religion Foundation.
In 2008 the AHA ran ads on buses in Washington, D.C. that proclaimed "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake", and since 2009 the organization has paid for billboard advertisements nationwide. One such billboard, which stated "No God...No Problem" was repeatedly vandalized.
In 2010 the AHA launched another ad campaign promoting Humanism, which The New York Times said was the "first (atheist campaign) to include spots on television and cable" and was described by CNN as the "largest, most extensive advertising campaign ever by a godless organization". The campaign featured violent or sexist quotes from holy books, contrasted with quotes from humanist thinkers, including physicist Albert Einstein, biologist Richard Dawkins,, and was largely underwritten by Todd Stiefel, a retired pharmaceutical company executive.
In late 2011 the AHA launched a holiday billboard campaign, placing advertisements in 7 different cities: Kearny, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Cranston, Rhode Island; Bastrop, Louisiana; Oregon City, Oregon; College Station, Texas and Rochester Hills, Michigan", cities where AHA states "atheists have experienced discrimination due to their lack of belief in a traditional god". The organization spent more than $200,000 on their campaign which included a billboard reading "Yes, Virginia, there is no god."
In November 2012, the AHA launched a national ad campaign to promote a new website, KidsWithoutGod.com, with ads using the slogans "I'm getting a bit old for imaginary friends" and "You're Not The Only One." The campaign included bus advertising in Washington, DC, a billboard in Moscow, Idaho, and online ads on the family of websites run by Cheezburger and Pandora Radio, as well as Facebook, Reddit, Google, and YouTube. Ads were turned down for content by Disney, Time for Kids and National Geographic Kids.
The National Day of Reason was created by the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists in 2003. In addition to serving as a holiday for secularists, the National Day of Reason was created in response to the perceived unconstitutionality of the National Day of Prayer. According to the organizers of the National Day of Reason, the National Day of Prayer "violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution because it asks federal, state, and local government entities to set aside tax dollar supported time and space to engage in religious ceremonies".
Several organizations associated with the National Day of Reason have organized food drives and blood donations, while other groups have called for an end to prayer invocations at city meetings. Other organizations, such as the Oklahoma Atheists and the Minnesota Atheists, have organized local secular celebrations as alternatives to the National Day of Prayer. Additionally, many individuals affiliated with these atheistic groups choose to protest the official National Day of Prayer.
In 2012, the American Humanist Association co-sponsored the Reason Rally, a national gathering of "humanists, atheists, freethinkers and nonbelievers from across the United States and abroad" in Washington, D.C. The rally, held on the National Mall, had speakers such as Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Adam Savage, and student activist Jessica Ahlqvist. AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt also spoke. According to the Huffington Post, the event's attendance was between 8,000–10,000 while the Atlantic reported a crowd of nearly 20,000.
The American Humanist Association has named a "Humanist of the Year" annually since 1953. It has also granted other honors to numerous leading figures, including Salman Rushdie (Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism 2007), Oliver Stone (Humanist Arts Award, 1996), Katharine Hepburn (Humanist Arts Award 1985), John Dewey (Humanist Pioneer Award, 1954), Jack Kevorkian (Humanist Hero Award, 1996) and Vashti McCollum (Distinguished Service Award, 1991).
The AHA website presents the list of the following Humanists of the Year:
The Amsterdam Declaration 2002 is a statement of the fundamental principles of modern Humanism passed unanimously by the General Assembly of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) at the 50th anniversary World Humanist Congress in 2002. According to the IHEU, the declaration "is the official statement of World Humanism."
It is officially supported by all member organisations of the IHEU including:
Humanistic Association Netherlands (Humanistisch Verbond)
American Humanist Association
British Humanist Association
Human-Etisk Forbund, the Norwegian Humanist Association
Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands, the Humanist Association of Germany
Council of Australian Humanist Societies
Council for Secular Humanism
Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association
Humanist Association of Ireland
Indian Humanist Union
Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS)A complete list of signatories can be found on the IHEU page (see references).
This declaration makes exclusive use of capitalized Humanist and Humanism, which is consistent with IHEU's general practice and recommendations for promoting a unified Humanist identity.  To further promote Humanist identity, these words are also free of any adjectives, as recommended by prominent members of IHEU.  Such usage is not universal among IHEU member organizations, though most of them do observe these conventions.Anne Nicol Gaylor
Anne Nicol Gaylor (November 25, 1926 – June 14, 2015) was an American atheist and reproductive rights advocate. She co-founded the Freedom from Religion Foundation and an abortion fund for Wisconsin women. She wrote the book Abortion Is a Blessing and edited The World Famous Atheist Cookbook. In 1985 Gaylor received the Humanist Heroine Award from the American Humanist Association, and in 2007 she was given the Tiller Award by NARAL Pro-Choice America.David Niose
David Niose (born August 20, 1962) is an attorney, author, and activist who has served as president of two Washington-based national organizations, the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America. In these positions he has initiated and pursued various advocacy efforts—legal, political, and public communications—on behalf of secularism. The American Humanist Association promotes humanism and defends the rights of humanists and other non-theistic Americans, and the Secular Coalition for America is a lobbying and advocacy group for non-theistic Americans.Edwin H. Wilson
Edwin Henry Wilson (August 23, 1898 – March 26, 1993) was an American Unitarian leader and humanist who helped draft the Humanist Manifesto.
Wilson was born on August 23, 1898, in Woodhaven, New York. He was raised in Concord, Massachusetts and graduated from the Meadville Theological School in 1926. In 1928 he was ordained and became a practicing Unitarian minister in Dayton, Ohio. One of the activities during his four-year tenure at the First Unitarian Church of Dayton was to publish the national Unitarian newsletter "Dawn." At his next church, the Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, he continued to publish this newsletter until 1941. He later served churches in Schenectady, New York; Yellow Springs, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Cocoa Beach, Florida. During the 1980s he returned to Dayton to serve as the First Unitarian Church’s Minister Emeritus until 1988.By 1930 Wilson was the managing editor of The New Humanist, which published the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933. In 1941 he became the first editor of the Humanist magazine and one of the founders of the American Humanist Association.Wilson was one of the primary authors of both the Humanist Manifesto I of 1933 and Humanist Manifesto II of 1973. In 1952, he participated in the foundation of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
He was named the 1979 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.
His book, The Genesis of the Humanist Manifesto, was published after his death, edited by Teresa Maciocha.Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism
Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism is a peer-reviewed academic journal and the official journal of the American Humanist Association. It is published twice annually and edited by Marian Hillar. It covers the philosophy of humanism.Fred Edwords
Fred Edwords, born July 19, 1948, in San Diego, California, is a longtime agnostic or ignostic humanist leader in Washington DC.He served as director of planned giving for the Humanist Foundation, the endowment fund of the American Humanist Association, from August 2014 to June 2018, the latter an organization he earlier served as editor of its national magazine, the Humanist, from 1995 to 2006, as executive director from 1984 to 1999, and as national administrator from 1980 to 1984. He was also editor of the association's membership newsletter Free Mind from 2002 to 2006 and editor of the Creation/Evolution journal from 1980 to 1991.
Edwords was national director of the United Coalition of Reason from 2009 to 2015, president of Camp Quest, Inc., from 2002 to 2005, and on the staff of the Ohio camp from 1998 to 2008. He was also vice president of the North American Committee for Humanism from 1990 to 1992 and president of the Humanist Association of San Diego in 1978. He has served on the boards of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (1986–1999), the New York Council for Evolution Education (1982–1994), and the National Center for Science Education (1982–1992). He was chair of the American Humanist Association's Humanist Manifesto III Drafting Committee from 2002 to 2003. On August 7, 1985, he became a co-plaintiff in the successful U.S. District Court lawsuit, Asimov v. United States, against the U.S. Department of Education, brought by the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee re: magnet schools in the Math/Science bill. He is currently one of the plaintiffs in a case that started in 2014 as American Humanist Association et al v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a federal lawsuit on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that is aimed at removing a 40 foot tall Latin cross on public property in Bladensburg, Maryland.Edwords was named Rationalist of the Year by the American Rationalist Federation in 1984, received the Humanist Pioneer Award of the American Humanist Association in 1986, was named a HumCon Pioneer by the Alliance of Humanist, Atheist, and Ethical Culture Organizations of Los Angeles County in 1992., and received the Humanist Heritage Award of the Humanist Foundation in 2014.Edwords has also served on the adjunct faculty of the Humanist Institute, is a Humanist Celebrant Emeritus with the Humanist Society, and served from 2010 through 2018 on the Human Origins Initiative's Broader Social Impacts Committee at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He is widely published, has been quoted frequently in news stories, and has lectured throughout the United States and Canada as well as in India, Mexico, and Russia.
He has been married to Mary Carroll Murchison-Edwords since June 1980. The couple have two children, both now adults.Happy Human
The Happy Human is an icon that has been adopted as an international symbol of secular humanism.
Created by Dennis Barrington, the figure was the winning design in a competition arranged by Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) in 1965. Various forms of it are now used across the world by humanist organisations of all sizes including Humanists UK, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and The American Humanist Association (AHA).The trademark is still held by Humanists UK, which freely licenses use of the symbol by bona fide Humanist organisations worldwide.HumanLight
HumanLight is a Humanist holiday celebrated annually on December 23. HumanLight was first celebrated in 2001, and was created to provide a specifically Humanist celebration during the western world's holiday season. The New Jersey Humanist Network founded the holiday in 2001 to aid secular people in commemorating the December holiday season without encroaching on other adjacent holidays—both religious ones such as Christmas and secular ones such as Solstice. The inaugural event involved only the founding organization, but is now celebrated by many secular organizations and individuals across the United States and other countries. Various organizations have recognized the holiday, including the American Humanist Association in 2004. The HumanLight Committee maintains the official HumanLight webpage and engages with humanist organizations and the media about the holiday.
HumanLight is a secular holiday that focuses on the "positive, secular human values of reason, compassion, humanity and hope". While there are no universally accepted ways to commemorate the holiday, modern celebrations typically involve a communal meal among a family or group. The use of candles to symbolize reason, hope, compassion, and humanity has become widespread among those celebrating. Groups today also observe the holiday using charity work, gift exchanges, and other ideas associated with holidays and celebrations.Humanism and Its Aspirations
Humanism and Its Aspirations (subtitled Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933) is the most recent of the Humanist Manifestos, published in 2003 by the American Humanist Association (AHA). The newest one is much shorter, listing six primary beliefs, which echo themes from its predecessors:
Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. (See empiricism.)
Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.
Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. (See ethical naturalism.)
Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.
Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.Institute for Humanist Studies
The Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS) is a think tank based in Washington, DC, USA, that says it is "committed to information and practices meant to address the sociopolitical, economic and cultural challenges facing communities within the United States and within a global context." IHS, consistent with the American Humanist Association and the International Humanist and Ethical Union, says that it understands humanism to be “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”
The IHS was established in 2009 as the successor of the Institute for Humanist Studies, Inc., in Albany, New York. The official symbol of the IHS is the “Happy Human” supporting the world.Jennifer Ouellette
Jennifer Ouellette (born May 17, 1964) is a science writer based in Los Angeles, California. Her writings are aimed at mainstream audiences unfamiliar with complex scientific issues.List of secular humanists
This is a partial list of notable secular humanists.Lloyd Morain
Lloyd L. Morain (2 April 1917 – 13 July 2010) was an American businessman, philanthropist, writer, environmentalist, art collector and film producer, who uniquely served two terms as President of the American Humanist Association (AHA).Roy Speckhardt
Roy Speckhardt (born January 24, 1973 in Carmel, New York) is the executive director of the American Humanist Association, a non-profit civil liberties organization in Washington DC. In July 2015, he authored Creating Change Through Humanism via Humanist Press.Secular humanism
Secular humanism, or simply humanism, is a philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.Secular humanism posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently good or evil, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy. Many secular humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianism, ethical naturalism, or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.
Humanists International is the world union of more than one hundred humanist, rationalist, irreligious, atheist, Bright, secular, Ethical Culture, and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries. The "Happy Human" is recognised as the official symbol of humanism internationally, used by secular humanist organizations in every part of the world. Those who call themselves humanists are estimated to number between four and five million people worldwide.Secular movement
The secular movement refers to a social and political trend in the United States, beginning in the early years of the 20th century, with the founding of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism in 1925 and the American Humanist Association in 1941, in which atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, freethinkers, and other nonreligious and nontheistic Americans have grown in both numbers and visibility. There has been a sharp increase in the number of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated, from under 10 percent in the 1990s to 20 percent in 2013. The trend is especially pronounced among young people, with about one in three Americans younger than 30 identifying as religiously unaffiliated, a figure that has nearly tripled since the 1990s.The secular movement in the United States has caused friction in the culture war and in other areas of American society. It is generally opposed to the Christian right and promotes liberal positions on social issues such as gay rights, reproductive rights, and separation of church and state. This doesn't mean that all "secularists" believe these things, just the movement as a whole has moved in a more "liberal" or "civil libertarian" direction.Skepticon
Skepticon is one of the largest skeptic and secular conventions held in the United States. It was co-founded by Missouri State University students Lauren Lane and JT Eberhard. Guest speakers are invited to discuss skepticism, science, education, activism, and other related topics. This free event is sponsored by American Atheists and the American Humanist Association, among other organizations.The American Legion v. American Humanist Association
The American Legion v. American Humanist Association is a current case before the United States Supreme Court dealing with the separation of church and state related to maintaining the Peace Cross, a World War I memorial shaped after a Latin cross, on government-owned land, though initially built in 1925 with private funds on private lands. The case is a consolidation of two petitions to the court, that of The American Legion who built the cross (Docket 17-1717), and of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission who own the land and maintain the memorial (Docket 18-18). Both petitions challenge the Fourth Circuit's ruling that, regardless of the secular purpose the cross was built for in honoring the deceased soldiers, the cross emboldened a religious symbol and had ordered it altered or razed.The Humanist
The Humanist is an American bi-monthly magazine published in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1941 by American Humanist Association. It covers topics in science, religion, media, technology, politics and popular culture and provides ethical critique and commentary on them. The magazine was originally published under the name of The New Humanist from 1928 to 1940 by a fellowship of American humanists based at the University of Chicago. The magazine has a small circulation, read principally by the three thousand members of the American Humanist Association.