Religious humanism

Religious humanism is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with congregational but non-theistic rituals and community activity which center on human needs, interests, and abilities. Self-described religious humanists differ from secular humanists mainly in that they regard the humanist life stance as their religion and organise using a congregational model. Religious humanism is a classic example of a nontheistic religion.

Religious humanists typically organise in the 21st century under the umbrella of Ethical Culture or Ethical Humanism. It remains largely a United States phenomenon; a British ethical culture movement was briefly highly active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but by the 1960s had largely abandoned its "religious" trappings, and asserted humanism less as a religious identity and more as a useful label to describe rational and non-religious attitudes to morality and ethics. Ethical Culture and religious humanism groups first formed in the United States from former Unitarian ministers who, not believing in god, sought to build a secular religion influenced on the thinking of French philosopher Auguste Comte.


In the late 20th century the Humanist movement came into conflict with conservative Christian groups in the United States. "Secular humanism" has become the most popular form of organized Humanism.

French Revolution

The Cult of Reason (French: Culte de la Raison) was an atheist religion devised during the French Revolution by Jacques Hébert, Pierre Gaspard Chaumette and their supporters.[1]

In 1793 during the French Revolution, the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris was turned into a Temple to Reason and for a time Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars.[2]


In the 1850s, Auguste Comte, the Father of Sociology, founded Positivism, a "religion of humanity".[3] Auguste Comte was a student and secretary for Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon, the Father of French Socialism. Auguste Comte coined the term "altruism".

Humanistic Religious Association

One of the earliest forerunners of contemporary chartered humanist organizations was the Humanistic Religious Association formed in 1853 in London.[3] This early group was democratically organized, with male and female members participating in the election of the leadership and promoted knowledge of the sciences, philosophy, and the arts.

Ethical Culture

The Ethical Culture movement was founded in 1876. The movement's founder, Felix Adler, a former member of the Free Religious Association, conceived of Ethical Culture as a new religion that would strip away the accumulated unscientific dogmas of traditional religions while retaining and elevating the ethical message at the heart of all religions. Adler believed that traditional religions would ultimately prove to be incompatible with a scientific worldview. He felt that the vital aspects of religion should not be allowed to fall by the wayside. Religions provided vital functions in encouraging good works. And religions taught important truths about the world, albeit these truths were expressed through metaphors that were not always suited to modern understandings of the world. For example, monotheistic religions were based on a metaphor of an authoritarian monarchy, whereas democratic relationships were now understood to be the ideal.

Initially, Ethical Culture involved little in the way of ceremony and ritual. Rather, Ethical Culture was religious in the sense of playing a defining role in people's lives and addressing issues of ultimate concern. Some Ethical Societies have subsequently added a degree of ritual as a means of marking special times or providing a tangible reminder of humanistic ideals.

United States

Before the term "humanism" was ever coined or even thought of being integrated into religion it had existed in America in at least an ideological sense for a very long time. Groups like the Free Religious Association (FRA) which was formed in 1867 and other less radical groups mainly consisting of extreme forms of early American Protestants such as the Unitarians and Quakers had existed from the very first landings of the Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. In 1915, a Positivist defined the term "humanism" in a magazine for the British Ethical Societies. Another Unitarian Minister John H. Dietrich read the magazine and adopted the term to describe his own religion.[3] Dietrich is considered by some to be the "Father of Religious Humanism" (Olds 1996) particularly for his sermons while serving the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.

In 1929 Charles Francis Potter founded the First Humanist Society of New York whose advisory board included Julian Huxley, John Dewey, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. Potter was a minister from the Unitarian tradition and in 1930 he and his wife, Clara Cook Potter, published Humanism: A New Religion. Throughout the 1930s Potter was a well known advocate of women’s rights, access to birth control, "civil divorce laws", and an end to capital punishment.

A Humanist Manifesto, also known as Humanist Manifesto I to distinguish it from later Humanist Manifestos, was written in 1933 primarily by Raymond Bragg and was published with thirty-four signatories. Unlike the later ones, the first manifesto talked of a new "religion", and referred to humanism as a religious movement meant to transcend and replace previous, deity-based religions. However, it is careful not to outline a creed or dogma. The document outlines a fifteen-point belief system, which, in addition to a secular outlook, opposes "acquisitive and profit-motivated society" and outlines a worldwide egalitarian society based on voluntary mutual cooperation. Bragg and eleven signatories were Unitarian ministers.

The Fellowship of Humanity was founded in 1935 by Reverend A. D. Faupel as one of a handful of "humanist churches" seeded in the early 20th century as part of the American Religious Humanism movement. It was the only such organization to survive into the 21st century and is the first and oldest affiliate of the American Humanist Association.[4]

In 1961, Webster's Third New International Unabridged Dictionary defined religious humanism as "A modern American movement composed chiefly of non-theistic humanists and humanist churches and dedicated to achieving the ethical goals of religion without beliefs and rites resting upon superstition."

American Religious Humanist organizations that have survived into the 21st century include the HUUmanists, formerly the Friends of Religious Humanism, and the Humanist Society, formerly the Humanist Society of Friends.

A large percentage of members (as many as half or more) of Unitarian Universalist congregations have identified themselves as humanists when surveys have been conducted.[5] The UU Humanist Association [6] is the main representation of religious humanism within the Unitarian Universalist Association.[7]

United Kingdom

Religious humanist associations have not been as successful in the United Kingdom as in the United States. The humanist movement in the UK began as a religious "ethical movement" in the 19th century, with the South Place Religious Society in London being the largest "ethical church". The remaining UK ethical societies merged in the 1890s to become the Union of Ethical Societies, which was founded and presided over by Stanton Coit. Following Coit's tenure, both organisations consciously moved away from the congregational model, becoming Conway Hall Ethical Society and the British Humanist Association respectively.

In 2013, the Sunday Assembly movement was founded in London as a "godless congregation" which was described in some places as "church for atheists", filling the niche vacated by other humanist groups.


In the Scandinavian countries, the popular Danish philosopher Harald Høffding's positivist work Etik influenced the development of humanist societies, which in Sweden and Norway styled themselves as "human-ethical associations", alike the Ethical Humanists in America and formerly in Britain. In modern times, the religious humanist/secular humanist distinction has fallen away; Norway, Human-Etisk Forbund is the name of Norway's humanist association, but it is fully a part of the broader international humanist community, and uses both "humanettik" and "humanisme" in describing its philosophy. In Sweden, the Human-Ethical Association rebranded as Humanisterna in 1999, dropping the congregational model as the British had done in the 1960s.


Belgium is broadly divided between its Flemish Community (Flanders) and French-speaking community (Wallonia). In French Belgium, as in France, the secular movement is more concerned with national political organising and manifests nationally as the Centre d’Action Laïque. In Flemish Belgium, the group (Humanity Now) brings together local humanist associations who engage in a broader range of activities, including community-based work. As with Humanists UK in the UK, grew from the union of local liberal or freethought associations.

Discussion of terminology

People writing about religious humanism are careful to distinguish religious humanism from Jewish humanism (secular Jews who are humanists), Christian humanism (religious Christians asserting the humanitarian aspects of their religion), and secular humanism (often simply "humanism", a non-religious approach to life), but confusion inevitably arises.[8] Another such term is Humanistic Buddhism, which refers to an atheistic practice of Buddhist rituals.

Some experts on humanism, including Andrew Copson, argue that there have been deliberate attempts to "muddy the conceptual water... of a complicatedly imprecise philosophical term" by adding the slew of qualifying adjectives to humanism. He points out that the term "Christian humanism" was first used in 1944, and argues that it has largely been used by Christians "as a way of co‐opting the (to them) amenable aspects of humanism for their religion[9]

See also


  1. ^ "War, Terror, and Resistance". Retrieved October 31, 2006.
  2. ^ Herrick, James A. (2004-12-02). The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition. InterVarsity Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 9780830832798.
  3. ^ a b c "Humanism as the Next Step". Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  4. ^ "Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto". Retrieved May 14, 2006.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Murry, William (2007). "Why I Am a Religious Humanist". Reason and Reverence: Religious Humanism for the 21st Century. Boston: Skinner House Books. p. 1. ISBN 1-55896-518-1.
  9. ^ "What is Humanism?" in Copson, Andrew and Grayling, Anthony (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism (2015).


  • El-Bedawi, Emran, "Humanism, Islamic", in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014, Vol. I, pp. 269–272. ISBN 1-61069-177-6
  • Olds, Mason (1996). "Chapter 4: John H. Dietrich: The Father of Religious Humanism". American Religious Humanism (Revised ed.). Fellowship of Religious Humanists. p. 53.

External links

1973 in philosophy

1973 in philosophy

A Year of Grace

A Year of Grace is a 1950 anthology compiled by Victor Gollancz, consisting of passages (and some pieces of music) concerning religious and spiritual life, taken from a variety of different sources.

The sources include the writings of a number of rabbis, European and American philosophers, psychologists, poets and theologians, as well as some Biblical scripture. Islam and Hinduism are represented by Rumi and Hafiz, Ramakrishna and Kabir, the Baghavad Gita and the Upanishads.

Christian humanism

Christian humanism regards humanist principles like universal human dignity and individual freedom and the primacy of human happiness as essential and principal components of the teachings of Jesus, and explicitly emerged during the Renaissance with strong roots in the patristic period. Historically, major forces shaping the development of Christian humanism was the Christian doctrine that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became human in order to redeem humanity, and the further injunction for the participating human collective (the church) to act out the life of Christ. Many of these ideas had emerged among the patristics, and would develop into Christian humanism in the late 15th century, through which the ideals of "common humanity, universal reason, freedom, personhood, human rights, human emancipation and progress, and indeed the very notion of secularity (describing the present saeculum preserved by God until Christ’s return) are literally unthinkable without their Christian humanistic roots." Though there is a common association of humanism with agnosticism and atheism in popular culture, this association developed in the 20th century and non-humanistic forms of agnosticism and atheism have long existed.


Clericalism is the application of the formal, church-based, leadership or opinion of ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import.

Fellowship of Humanity

The Fellowship of Humanity is a humanist church in Oakland, California, founded in 1935 by Reverend A. D. Faupell as part of the American Religious Humanism movement. It was an offshoot of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, where A. D. Faupell had been teaching Sunday school, and was inspired in part by Upton Sinclair’s campaign for governor of California under the banner of EPIC, End Poverty in California. It was one of several "Churches of Humanity" established in the 1930s but is the only one that has survived into the 21st century. It is the first and oldest affiliate of the American Humanist Association. It is currently described as a "Deep Green Humanist Church vital to progressive infrastructure, inspired by humanitarian ideals, and committed to action for social justice and ecological sanity."

First Unitarian Society

First Unitarian Society usually designates a humanist Unitarian/Unitarian Universalist congregation, and may refer to:

First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis, established 1881, birthplace of religious humanism

First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts (1906)

First Unitarian Society Meetinghouse, Shorewood Hills, Madison, Wisconsin (1951), a National Historic Landmark and NRHP-listed

General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches

The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (GAUFCC or colloquially British Unitarians) is the umbrella organisation for Unitarian, Free Christians and other liberal religious congregations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was formed in 1928, with denominational roots going back to the Great Ejection of 1662. Its headquarters building is Essex Hall in central London, on the site of the first avowedly Unitarian chapel in England, set up in 1774.

The GAUFCC brought together various strands and traditions besides Unitarianism. These included English Presbyterianism, General Baptist, Methodism, Liberal Christianity, Christian Universalism, Religious Humanism and Unitarian Universalism. Unitarians are now an open faith community celebrating diverse beliefs; some of its members would describe themselves as Buddhist, Pagan, or Jewish, while many others are humanist, agnostic, or atheist.


Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. The term was coined by theologian Friedrich Niethammer at the beginning of the 19th century to refer to a system of education based on the study of classical literature ("classical humanism"). Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. It views humans as solely responsible for the promotion and development of individuals and emphasizes a concern for man in relation to the world.In modern times, humanist movements are typically non-religious movements aligned with secularism, and today humanism typically refers to a nontheistic life stance centred on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world.

Humanism (disambiguation)

Humanism may refer to ethical philosophies such as

Religious humanism, an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs

Christian humanism, a philosophy that combines Christian ethics and humanist principles

Humanistic Judaism, a movement in Judaism that offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life

Secular humanism, embraces humanism while rejecting religious aspectsHumanism may also refer to:

Renaissance humanism, an intellectual movement based on reviving Greek and Roman knowledge

Classical humanism, the cultivation of Greco-Roman legacies (not limited to Renaissance times)

Civic Humanism, a form of republicanism inspired by the writings of classical antiquity

Humanism (philosophy of education), a theory based on generation of knowledge, meaning and expertise

Humanities, a group of academic disciplines and the educational philosophy associated with them

Pragmatism in the terminology of F.S.C. Schiller

Marxist Humanism, a more liberal form of Marxism

Neohumanism, a holistic philosophical theory elaborated by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar

New Humanism, a literary criticism term associated with Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More

Humanist Manifesto

Humanist Manifesto is the title of three manifestos laying out a Humanist worldview. They are the original Humanist Manifesto (1933, often referred to as Humanist Manifesto I), the Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and Humanism and Its Aspirations (2003, a.k.a. Humanist Manifesto III). The Manifesto originally arose from religious Humanism, though secular Humanists also signed.

The central theme of all three manifestos is the elaboration of a philosophy and value system which does not necessarily include belief in any personal deity or "higher power", although the three differ considerably in their tone, form, and ambition. Each has been signed at its launch by various prominent members of academia and others who are in general agreement with its principles.

In addition, there is a similar document entitled A Secular Humanist Declaration published in 1980 by the Council for Secular Humanism.

Islamic monarchy

Islamic monarchies are a type of Islamic state which are monarchies. Historically known by various names, such as Mamlakah ("Kingdom"), Caliphate, Sultanate, or Emirate, current Islamic monarchies include:

Kingdom of Morocco

Kingdom of Bahrain

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Sultanate of Oman

Monarchies of Malaysia

Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace

State of Kuwait

State of Qatar

United Arab Emirates

John H. Dietrich

John Hassler Dietrich (1878–1957) was a Unitarian minister, born at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is called the "Father of Religious Humanism". He was educated at Franklin and Marshall College and at the Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, ordained in the ministry of the Reformed Church in 1905, and defrocked in 1911 for failing to affirm primary Christian beliefs. His religious development evolved to Humanism and Unitarianism, in which he served various pastorates, including First Unitarian Society of Spokane (1911-1916), and then First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis (1916-1938). He retired to Berkeley, California, where he died. He is buried in the crypt of First Unitarian Church of Chicago. He was the author of:

The Gain for Religion in Modern Thought (1908)

The Religion of a Sceptic (1911)

Substitutes for the Old Beliefs (1914)

From Stardust to Soul (1916)

The Religion of Evolution (1917)

The Religion of Humanity (1919)

The Fathers of Evolution (1927)

Lidia Zamenhof

Lidia Zamenhof (Esperanto: Lidja; 29 January 1904–1942) was a Polish writer, publisher, translator and the youngest daughter of L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto. She was born on 29 January 1904 in Warsaw, then in partitioned Poland. She was an active promoter of Esperanto as well as of Homaranismo, a form of religious humanism first defined by her father.

Around 1925 she became a member of the Bahá'í Faith. In late 1937 she went to the United States to teach that religion as well as Esperanto. In December 1938 she returned to Poland, where she continued to teach and translated many Bahá'í writings. The date on which she was murdered is unclear. In The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, three conflicting testimonies are given for her date of her death: July 5, October, and September 5 in 1942. Hence, her murder date was in the latter part of 1942. She was murdered at the Treblinka extermination camp during the Holocaust in Poland.

Outline of humanism

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to humanism:

Humanism – group of philosophies and ethical perspectives which emphasize the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism), over established doctrine or faith (fideism). Two common forms of humanism are religious humanism and secular humanism.

Humanism, term freely applied to a variety of beliefs, methods, and philosophies that place central emphasis on the human realm. Most frequently, however, the term is used with reference to a system of education and mode of inquiry that developed in northern Italy during the 13th and 14th centuries and later spread through continental Europe and England. Alternately known as Renaissance humanism, this program was so broadly and profoundly influential that it is one of the chief reasons why the Renaissance is viewed as a distinct historical period. Indeed, though the word Renaissance is of more recent coinage, the fundamental idea of that period as one of renewal and reawakening is humanistic in origin. But humanism sought its own philosophical bases in far earlier times and, moreover, continued to exert some of its power long after the end of the Renaissance.

Religious police

Religious police is the police force responsible for the enforcement of religious norms and associated religious laws.

While most police enforcing religious norms in the modern world are Islamic and found in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iran, some are not (for example in Vietnam, the religious security police monitor “extremist” religious groups, detaining and interrogating suspected Dega Protestants or Ha Mon Catholics).

Religious socialism

Religious socialism is any form of socialism based on religious values. Members of several major religions have found that their beliefs about human society fit with socialist principles and ideas. As a result, religious socialist movements have developed within these religions. Such movements include:

Buddhist socialism

Christian socialism

Hindu socialism

Islamic socialism

Jewish socialism

Roy Wood Sellars

Roy Wood Sellars (1880, Seaforth, Ontario – September 5, 1973, Ann Arbor) was a Canadian philosopher of critical realism and religious humanism, and a proponent of evolutionary naturalism. His son was the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars. Sellars received his B.A. from the University of Michigan. For much of his career he taught at Michigan.

In his 1967 book, Reflections on American Philosophy From Within he described his views on materialism as evolutionary materialism, an extension to his 1922 groundbreaking book Evolutionary Naturalism.

He helped draft the Humanist Manifesto in 1933 and also signed the Humanist Manifesto II in 1973.

Sri Shirdi Saibaba Mahathyam

Sri Shirdi Saibaba Mahathyam (Telugu: శ్రీ షిర్డీ సాయిబాబా మహత్యం) is a 1986 Telugu musical hagiographical film written and directed by K. Vasu, based on the life of Shirdi Sai Baba, who has preached and practiced Religious humanism. Vijayachander portrayed the role of Baba. The film was a blockbuster and remained a cult classic. The film ran for 175 days in 12 centers, was screened at the International Film Festival of India and the Moscow Film Festival. The soundtrack was composed by Maestro Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics written by Acharya Aatreya, and received wide appreciation. The film was dubbed into Hindi as Shirdi Sai Baba Ki Kahani and into Tamil as Sri Shirdi Saibaba.

Vrijzinnige Geloofsgemeenschap NPB

The Vrijzinnige Geloofsgemeenschap NPB (English: Liberal Community of Faith NBP) is a Christian denomination in the Netherlands, a member of the Dutch Raad van Kerken (English: Council of Churches) and the International Association for Religious Freedom. NPB stands for Nederlandse Protestanten Bond (English: Netherlands Protestant Association).

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