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.[1][2][3][4]

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.


The meaning of the phrase secular humanism has evolved over time. The phrase has been used since at least the 1930s by Anglican priests,[5] and in 1943, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, was reported as warning that the "Christian tradition... was in danger of being undermined by a 'Secular Humanism' which hoped to retain Christian values without Christian faith."[6] During the 1960s and 1970s the term was embraced by some humanists who considered themselves anti-religious,[7] as well as those who, although not critical of religion in its various guises, preferred a non-religious approach.[8] The release in 1980 of A Secular Humanist Declaration by the newly formed Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH, now the Council for Secular Humanism) gave secular humanism an organisational identity within the United States.

However, many adherents of the approach reject the use of the word secular as obfuscating and confusing, and consider that the term secular humanism has been "demonized by the religious right... All too often secular humanism is reduced to a sterile outlook consisting of little more than secularism slightly broadened by academic ethics. This kind of 'hyphenated humanism' easily becomes more about the adjective than its referent".[9] Adherents of this view, including the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the American Humanist Association, consider that the unmodified but capitalised word Humanism should be used. The endorsement by the IHEU of the capitalization of the word Humanism, and the dropping of any adjective such as secular, is quite recent. The American Humanist Association began to adopt this view in 1973, and the IHEU formally endorsed the position in 1989. In 2002 the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration, which represents the official defining statement of World Humanism for Humanists. 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.[2] To further promote Humanist identity, these words are also free of any adjectives, as recommended by prominent members of IHEU.[3] Such usage is not universal among IHEU member organizations, though most of them do observe these conventions.


Historical use of the term humanism (reflected in some current academic usage), is related to the writings of pre-Socratic philosophers. These writings were lost to European societies until Renaissance scholars rediscovered them through Muslim sources and translated them from Arabic into European languages.[10] Thus the term humanist can mean a humanities scholar, as well as refer to The Enlightenment/ Renaissance intellectuals, and those who have agreement with the pre-Socratics, as distinct from secular humanists.


George Holyoake coined the term "secularism" and led the secular movement in Britain from the mid-19th century.

In 1851 George Holyoake coined the term "secularism"[11] 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".[12]

The modern secular movement coalesced around Holyoake, Charles Bradlaugh and their intellectual circle. The first secular society, the Leicester Secular Society, dates from 1851. Similar regional societies came together to form the National Secular Society in 1866.

Positivism and the Church of Humanity

Holyoake's secularism was strongly influenced by Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism and of modern sociology. Comte believed human history would progress in a "law of three stages" from a theological phase, to the "metaphysical", toward a fully rational "positivist" society. In later life, Comte had attempted to introduce a "religion of humanity" in light of growing anti-religious sentiment and social malaise in revolutionary France. This religion would necessarily fulfil the functional, cohesive role that supernatural religion once served.

Although Comte's religious movement was unsuccessful in France, the positivist philosophy of science itself played a major role in the proliferation of secular organizations in the 19th century in England. Richard Congreve visited Paris shortly after the French Revolution of 1848 where he met Auguste Comte and was heavily influenced by his positivist system. He founded the London Positivist Society in 1867, which attracted Frederic Harrison, Edward Spencer Beesly, Vernon Lushington, and James Cotter Morison amongst others.

In 1878, the Society established the Church of Humanity under Congreve's direction. There they introduced sacraments of the Religion of Humanity and published a co-operative translation of Comte's Positive Polity. When Congreve repudiated their Paris co-religionists in 1878, Beesly, Harrison, Bridges, and others formed their own positivist society, with Beesly as president, and opened a rival centre, Newton Hall, in a courtyard off Fleet Street.

The New York City version of the church was established by English immigrant Henry Edger. The American version of the "Church of Humanity". was largely modeled on the English church. Like the English version it wasn't atheistic and had sermons and sacramental rites.[13] At times the services included readings from conventional religious works like the Book of Isaiah.[14] It was not as significant as the church in England, but did include several educated people.[15]

Ethical movement

Another important precursor was the ethical movement of the 19th century. The South Place Ethical Society was founded in 1793 as the South Place Chapel on Finsbury Square, on the edge of the City of London,[16] and in the early nineteenth century was known as "a radical gathering-place".[17] At that point it was a Unitarian chapel, and that movement, like Quakers, supported female equality.[18] Under the leadership of Reverend William Johnson Fox,[19] it lent its pulpit to activists such as Anna Wheeler, one of the first women to campaign for feminism at public meetings in England, who spoke in 1829 on "rights of women". In later decades, the chapel changed its name to the South Place Ethical Society, now the Conway Hall Ethical Society. Today Conway Hall explicitly identifies itself as a humanist organisation, albeit one primarily focused on concerts, events, and the maintenance of its humanist library and archives. It bills itself as "The landmark of London’s independent intellectual, political and cultural life."

In America, the ethical movement was propounded by Felix Adler, who established the New York Society for Ethical Culture in 1877.[20] By 1886, similar societies had sprouted up in Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis.[21]

These societies all adopted the same statement of principles:

  • The belief that morality is independent of theology;
  • The affirmation that new moral problems have arisen in modern industrial society which have not been adequately dealt with by the world's religions;
  • The duty to engage in philanthropy in the advancement of morality;
  • The belief that self-reform should go in lock step with social reform;
  • The establishment of republican rather than monarchical governance of Ethical societies
  • The agreement that educating the young is the most important aim.

In effect, the movement responded to the religious crisis of the time by replacing theology with unadulterated morality. It aimed to "disentangle moral ideas from religious doctrines, metaphysical systems, and ethical theories, and to make them an independent force in personal life and social relations."[21] Adler was also particularly critical of the religious emphasis on creed, believing it to be the source of sectarian bigotry. He therefore attempted to provide a universal fellowship devoid of ritual and ceremony, for those who would otherwise be divided by creeds. For the same reasons the movement at that time adopted a neutral position on religious beliefs, advocating neither atheism nor theism, agnosticism nor deism.[21]

The first ethical society along these lines in Britain was founded in 1886. By 1896 the four London societies formed the Union of Ethical Societies, and between 1905 and 1910 there were over fifty societies in Great Britain, seventeen of which were affiliated with the Union. The Union of Ethical Societies would later incorporate as the Ethical Union, a registered charity, in 1928. Under the leadership of Harold Blackham, it renamed itself the British Humanist Association in 1967. It became Humanists UK in 2017.

Secular humanism

In the 1930s, "humanism" was generally used in a religious sense by the Ethical movement in the United States, and not much favoured among the non-religious in Britain. Yet "it was from the Ethical movement that the non-religious philosophical sense of Humanism gradually emerged in Britain, and it was from the convergence of the Ethical and Rationalist movements that this sense of Humanism eventually prevailed throughout the Freethought movement".[22]

As an organized movement, Humanism itself is quite recent – born at the University of Chicago in the 1920s, and made public in 1933 with the publication of the first Humanist Manifesto.[23] The American Humanist Association was incorporated as an Illinois non-profit organization in 1943. The International Humanist and Ethical Union was founded in 1952, when a gathering of world Humanists met under the leadership of Sir Julian Huxley. The British Humanist Association took that name in 1967, but had developed from the Union of Ethical Societies which had been founded by Stanton Coit in 1896.[24]

Manifestos and declarations

Happy Human black
Organizations like the International Humanist and Ethical Union use the "Happy Human" symbol, based on a 1965 design by Denis Barrington

Humanists have put together various Humanist Manifestos, in attempts to unify the Humanist identity.

The original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933, declared themselves to be religious humanists. Because, in their view, traditional religions were failing to meet the needs of their day, the signers of 1933 declared it a necessity to establish a religion that was a dynamic force to meet the needs of the day. However, this "religion" did not profess a belief in any god. Since then two additional Manifestos were written to replace the first. In the Preface of Humanist Manifesto II, in 1973, the authors Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson assert that faith and knowledge are required for a hopeful vision for the future. Manifesto II references a section on Religion and states traditional religion renders a disservice to humanity. Manifesto II recognizes the following groups to be part of their naturalistic philosophy: "scientific", "ethical", "democratic", "religious", and "Marxist" humanism.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

In 2002, the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration 2002 which represents the official defining statement of World Humanism.[25]

All member organisations of the International Humanist and Ethical Union are required by bylaw 5.1[26] to accept the Minimum Statement on Humanism:

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

To promote and unify "Humanist" identity, prominent members of the IHEU have endorsed the following statements on Humanist identity:[4]

  • All Humanists, nationally and internationally, should always use the one word Humanism as the name of Humanism: no added adjective, and the initial letter capital (by life stance orthography);
  • All Humanists, nationally and internationally, should use a clear, recognizable and uniform symbol on their publications and elsewhere: our Humanist symbol the "Happy Human";
  • All Humanists, nationally and internationally, should seek to establish recognition of the fact that Humanism is a life stance.

Council for Secular Humanism

According to the Council for Secular Humanism, within the United States, the term "secular humanism" describes a world view with the following elements and principles:[8]

  • Need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted by faith.
  • Reason, evidence, scientific method – A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific method of inquiry in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
  • Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
  • Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
  • This life – A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
  • Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
  • Justice and fairness – an interest in securing justice and fairness in society and in eliminating discrimination and intolerance.[27]
  • Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.

A Secular Humanist Declaration was issued in 1980 by the Council for Secular Humanism's predecessor, CODESH. It lays out ten ideals: Free inquiry as opposed to censorship and imposition of belief; separation of church and state; the ideal of freedom from religious control and from jingoistic government control; ethics based on critical intelligence rather than that deduced from religious belief; moral education; religious skepticism; reason; a belief in science and technology as the best way of understanding the world; evolution; and education as the essential method of building humane, free, and democratic societies.[28]

American Humanist Association

A general outline of Humanism is also set out in the Humanist Manifesto prepared by the American Humanist Association.[29]

Ethics and relationship to religious belief

In the 20th and 21st centuries, members of Humanist organizations have disagreed as to whether Humanism is a religion. They categorize themselves in one of three ways. Religious Humanism, in the tradition of the earliest Humanist organizations in the UK and US, attempts to fulfill the traditional social role of religion.[30] Secular humanism considers all forms of religion, including religious Humanism, to be superseded.[31] In order to sidestep disagreements between these two factions, recent Humanist proclamations define Humanism as a "life stance"; proponents of this view making up the third faction. All three types of Humanism (and all three of the American Humanist Association's manifestos) reject deference to supernatural beliefs; promoting the practical, methodological naturalism of science, but also going further and supporting the philosophical stance of metaphysical naturalism.[32] The result is an approach to issues in a secular way. Humanism addresses ethics without reference to the supernatural as well, attesting that ethics is a human enterprise (see naturalistic ethics).[2][3][4]

Secular humanism does not prescribe a specific theory of morality or code of ethics. As stated by the Council for Secular Humanism,

It should be noted that Secular Humanism is not so much a specific morality as it is a method for the explanation and discovery of rational moral principles.[33]

Secular humanism affirms that with the present state of scientific knowledge, dogmatic belief in an absolutist moral/ethical system (e.g. Kantian, Islamic, Christian) is unreasonable. However, it affirms that individuals engaging in rational moral/ethical deliberations can discover some universal "objective standards".

We are opposed to absolutist morality, yet we maintain that objective standards emerge, and ethical values and principles may be discovered, in the course of ethical deliberation.[33]

Many Humanists adopt principles of the Golden Rule. Some believe that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. However, they believe such necessary universality can and should be achieved by developing a richer notion of morality through reason, experience and scientific inquiry rather than through faith in a supernatural realm or source.[34]

Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. But they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards. Philosophers as diverse as Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, George Edward Moore, and John Rawls have demonstrated that it is possible to have a universal morality without God. Contrary to what the fundamentalists would have us believe, then, what our society really needs is not more religion but a richer notion of the nature of morality.[35]

Humanism is compatible with atheism[36] and agnosticism,[37] but being atheist or agnostic does not automatically make one a humanist. Nevertheless, humanism is diametrically opposed to state atheism.[38][39] According to Paul Kurtz, considered by some to be the founder of the American secular humanist movement,[40] one of the differences between Marxist–Leninist atheists and humanists is the latter's commitment to "human freedom and democracy" while stating that the militant atheism of the Soviet Union consistently violated basic human rights.[41] Kurtz also stated that the "defense of religious liberty is as precious to the humanist as are the rights of the believers".[41] Greg M. Epstein states that, "modern, organized Humanism began, in the minds of its founders, as nothing more nor less than a religion without a God".[42]

Many Humanists address ethics from the point of view of ethical naturalism, and some support an actual science of morality.[43]

Modern context

American Humanist Association President David Niose
David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association, speaks at a 2012 conference.

Secular humanist organizations are found in all parts of the world. Those who call themselves humanists are estimated to number between four[44] and five[45] million people worldwide in 31 countries, but there is uncertainty because of the lack of universal definition throughout censuses. Humanism is a non-theistic belief system and, as such, it could be a sub-category of "Religion" only if that term is defined to mean "Religion and (any) belief system". This is the case in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion and beliefs. Many national censuses contentiously define Humanism as a further sub-category of the sub-category "No Religion", which typically includes atheist, rationalist and agnostic thought. In England, Wales[46] 25% of people specify that they have 'No religion' up from 15% in 2001 and in Australia,[47] around 30% of the population specifies "No Religion" in the national census. In the USA, the decennial census does not inquire about religious affiliation or its lack; surveys report the figure at roughly 13%.[48] In the 2001 Canadian census, 16.5% of the populace reported having no religious affiliation.[49] In the 2011 Scottish census, 37% stated they had no religion up from 28% in 2001.[50] One of the largest Humanist organizations in the world (relative to population) is Norway's Human-Etisk Forbund,[51] which had over 86,000 members out of a population of around 4.6 million in 2013 – approximately 2% of the population.[52]

Levi Fragell, print
Levi Fragell, former Secretary General of the Norwegian Humanist Association and former president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, at the World Humanist Congress 2011 in Oslo

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the worldwide umbrella organization for those adhering to the Humanist life stance. It represents the views of over three million Humanists organized in over 100 national organizations in 30 countries.[53] Originally based in the Netherlands, the IHEU now operates from London. Some regional groups that adhere to variants of the Humanist life stance, such as the humanist subgroup of the Unitarian Universalist Association, do not belong to the IHEU. Although the European Humanist Federation is also separate from the IHEU, the two organisations work together and share an agreed protocol.[54]

Starting in the mid-20th century, religious fundamentalists and the religious right began using the term "secular humanism" in hostile fashion. Francis A. Schaeffer, an American theologian based in Switzerland, seizing upon the exclusion of the divine from most humanist writings, argued that rampant secular humanism would lead to moral relativism and ethical bankruptcy in his book How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (1976). Schaeffer portrayed secular humanism as pernicious and diabolical, and warned it would undermine the moral and spiritual tablet of America. His themes have been very widely repeated in Fundamentalist preaching in North America.[55] Toumey (1993) found that secular humanism is typically portrayed as a vast evil conspiracy, deceitful and immoral, responsible for feminism, pornography, abortion, homosexuality, and New Age spirituality.[56] In certain areas of the world, Humanism finds itself in conflict with religious fundamentalism, especially over the issue of the separation of church and state. Many Humanists see religions as superstitious, repressive and closed-minded, while religious fundamentalists may see Humanists as a threat to the values set out in their sacred texts.[57]

In recent years, humanists such as Dwight Gilbert Jones and R. Joseph Hoffmann have decried the over-association of Humanism with affirmations of non-belief and atheism. Jones cites a lack of new ideas being presented or debated outside of secularism,[58] while Hoffmann is unequivocal: "I regard the use of the term 'humanism' to mean secular humanism or atheism to be one of the greatest tragedies of twentieth century movementology, perpetrated by second-class minds and perpetuated by third-class polemicists and village atheists. The attempt to sever humanism from the religious and the spiritual was a flatfooted, largely American way of taking on the religious right. It lacked finesse, subtlety, and the European sense of history."[59]

Humanist celebrations

Some Humanists celebrate official religion-based public holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, but as secular holidays rather than religious ones.[60] Many Humanists also celebrate the winter and summer solstice, the former of which (in the northern hemisphere) coincides closely with the religiously-oriented celebration of Christmas, and the equinoxes, of which the vernal equinox is associated with Christianity's Easter and indeed with all other springtime festivals of renewal, and the autumnal equinox which is related to such celebrations such as Halloween and All Souls' Day. The Society for Humanistic Judaism celebrates most Jewish holidays in a secular manner.

The IHEU endorses World Humanist Day (21 June), Darwin Day (12 February), Human Rights Day (10 December) and HumanLight (23 December) as official days of Humanist celebration, though none are yet a public holiday.

In many countries, Humanist officiants (or celebrants) perform celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals.

Legal mentions in the United States

The issue of whether and in what sense secular humanism might be considered a religion, and what the implications of this would be has become the subject of legal maneuvering and political debate in the United States. The first reference to "secular humanism" in a US legal context was in 1961, although church-state separation lawyer Leo Pfeffer had referred to it in his 1958 book, Creeds in Competition.

Hatch amendment

The Education for Economic Security Act of 1984 included a section, Section 20 U.S.C.A. 4059, which initially read: "Grants under this subchapter ['Magnet School Assistance'] may not be used for consultants, for transportation or for any activity which does not augment academic improvement." With no public notice, Senator Orrin Hatch tacked onto the proposed exclusionary subsection the words "or for any course of instruction the substance of which is Secular Humanism". Implementation of this provision ran into practical problems because neither the Senator's staff, nor the Senate's Committee on Labor and Human Resources, nor the Department of Justice could propose a definition of what would constitute a "course of instruction the substance of which is Secular Humanism". So, this determination was left up to local school boards. The provision provoked a storm of controversy which within a year led Senator Hatch to propose, and Congress to pass, an amendment to delete from the statute all reference to secular humanism. While this episode did not dissuade fundamentalists from continuing to object to what they regarded as the "teaching of Secular Humanism", it did point out the vagueness of the claim.

Case law

Torcaso v. Watkins

The phrase "secular humanism" became prominent after it was used in the United States Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins. In the 1961 decision, Justice Hugo Black commented in a footnote, "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others."

Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda

The footnote in Torcaso v. Watkins referenced Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda,[61] a 1957 case in which an organization of humanists[62] sought a tax exemption on the ground that they used their property "solely and exclusively for religious worship." Despite the group's non-theistic beliefs, the court determined that the activities of the Fellowship of Humanity, which included weekly Sunday meetings, were analogous to the activities of theistic churches and thus entitled to an exemption. The Fellowship of Humanity case itself referred to Humanism but did not mention the term secular humanism. Nonetheless, this case was cited by Justice Black to justify the inclusion of secular humanism in the list of religions in his note. Presumably Justice Black added the word secular to emphasize the non-theistic nature of the Fellowship of Humanity and distinguish their brand of humanism from that associated with, for example, Christian humanism.

Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia

Another case alluded to in the Torcaso v. Watkins footnote, and said by some to have established secular humanism as a religion under the law, is the 1957 tax case of Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia, 249 F.2d 127 (D.C. Cir. 1957). The Washington Ethical Society functions much like a church, but regards itself as a non-theistic religious institution, honoring the importance of ethical living without mandating a belief in a supernatural origin for ethics. The case involved denial of the Society's application for tax exemption as a religious organization. The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the Tax Court's ruling, defined the Society as a religious organization, and granted its tax exemption. The Society terms its practice Ethical Culture. Though Ethical Culture is based on a humanist philosophy, it is regarded by some as a type of religious humanism. Hence, it would seem most accurate to say that this case affirmed that a religion need not be theistic to qualify as a religion under the law, rather than asserting that it established generic secular humanism as a religion.

In the cases of both the Fellowship of Humanity and the Washington Ethical Society, the court decisions turned not so much on the particular beliefs of practitioners as on the function and form of the practice being similar to the function and form of the practices in other religious institutions.

Peloza v. Capistrano School District

The implication in Justice Black's footnote that secular humanism is a religion has been seized upon by religious opponents of the teaching of evolution, who have made the argument that teaching evolution amounts to teaching a religious idea. The claim that secular humanism could be considered a religion for legal purposes was examined by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Peloza v. Capistrano School District, 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1173 (1995). In this case, a science teacher argued that, by requiring him to teach evolution, his school district was forcing him to teach the "religion" of secular humanism. The Court responded, "We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or Secular Humanism are 'religions' for Establishment Clause purposes." The Supreme Court refused to review the case.

The decision in a subsequent case, Kalka v. Hawk et al., offered this commentary:[62]

The Court's statement in Torcaso does not stand for the proposition that humanism, no matter in what form and no matter how practiced, amounts to a religion under the First Amendment. The Court offered no test for determining what system of beliefs qualified as a "religion" under the First Amendment. The most one may read into the Torcaso footnote is the idea that a particular non-theistic group calling itself the "Fellowship of Humanity" qualified as a religious organization under California law.


Decisions about tax status have been based on whether an organization functions like a church. On the other hand, Establishment Clause cases turn on whether the ideas or symbols involved are inherently religious. An organization can function like a church while advocating beliefs that are not necessarily inherently religious. Author Marci Hamilton has pointed out: "Moreover, the debate is not between secularists and the religious. The debate is believers and non-believers on the one side debating believers and non-believers on the other side. You've got citizens who are [...] of faith who believe in the separation of church and state and you have a set of believers who do not believe in the separation of church and state."[63]

In the 1987 case of Smith v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County a group of plaintiffs brought a case alleging that the school system was teaching the tenets of an anti-religious religion called "secular humanism" in violation of the Establishment Clause. The complainants asked that 44 different elementary through high school level textbooks (including books on home economics, social science and literature) be removed from the curriculum. Federal judge William Brevard Hand ruled for the plaintiffs agreeing that the books promoted secular humanism, which he ruled to be a religion. The Eleventh Circuit Court unanimously reversed him, with Judge Frank stating that Hand held a "misconception of the relationship between church and state mandated by the establishment clause," commenting also that the textbooks did not show "an attitude antagonistic to theistic belief. The message conveyed by these textbooks is one of neutrality: the textbooks neither endorse theistic religion as a system of belief, nor discredit it".[64]


There are numerous Humanist Manifestos and Declarations, including the following:

  • Humanist Manifesto I (1933)
  • Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
  • A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980)
  • A Declaration of Interdependence (1988)
  • IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism (1996)
  • HUMANISM: Why, What, and What For, In 882 Words (1996)
  • Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call For A New Planetary Humanism (2000)
  • The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles
  • Amsterdam Declaration (2002)
  • Humanism and Its Aspirations
  • Humanist Manifesto III (Humanism And Its Aspirations) (2003)
  • Alternatives to the Ten Commandments

Related organizations

See also

Related philosophies


Notes and references

  1. ^ Council for Secular Humanism. "10 Myths About Secular Humanism". Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b Edwords, Fred (1989). "What Is Humanism?". American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on 30 January 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2009. Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of eighteenth century enlightenment rationalism and nineteenth century freethought... A decidedly anti-theistic version of secular humanism, however, is developed by Adolf Grünbaum, 'In Defense of Secular Humanism' (1995), in his Collected Works (edited by Thomas Kupka), vol. I, New York: Oxford University Press 2013, ch. 6 (pp. 115–48)
  3. ^ a b Compact Oxford English dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2007. humanism n. 1 a rationalistic system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.
  4. ^ a b "Definitions of humanism (subsection)". Institute for Humanist Studies. Archived from the original on 18 January 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2007.
  5. ^ See "Unemployed at service: church and the world", The Guardian, 25 May 1935, p. 18: citing the comments of Rev. W.G. Peck, rector of St. John the Baptist, Hulme Manchester, concerning "The modern age of secular humanism". Guardian and Observer Digital Archive
  6. ^ "Free Church ministers in Anglican pulpits. Dr Temple's call: the South India Scheme." The Guardian, 26 May 1943, p. 6 Guardian and Observer Digital Archive
  7. ^ See Mouat, Kit (1972) An Introduction to Secular Humanism. Haywards Heath: Charles Clarke Ltd. Also, The Freethinker began to use the phrase "secular humanist monthly" on its front page masthead.
  8. ^ a b "What Is Secular Humanism?". Council for Secular Humanism.
  9. ^ Humanism Unmodified Archived 5 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine By Edd Doerr. Published in the Humanist (November/December 2002)
  10. ^ "Islamic political philosophy: Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  11. ^ Holyoake, G. J. (1896). The Origin and Nature of Secularism. London: Watts & Co., p. 50.
  12. ^ "Secularism 101: Defining Secularism: Origins with George Jacob Holyoake". 2 September 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  13. ^ Harp, Gillis J. (2010-11-01). Positivist Republic. ISBN 978-0271039909. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  14. ^ "A Positivist Festival". The New York Times. 1881-01-16.
  15. ^ Harp, Gillis J. (1991). ""The Church of Humanity": New York's Worshipping Positivists". Church History. 60 (4): 508–523. JSTOR 3169031.
  16. ^ [1], City of London page on Finsbury Circus Conservation Area Character Summary.
  17. ^ The Sexual Contract, by Carole Patema. p. 160
  18. ^ "Women's Politics in Britain 1780–1870: Claiming Citizenship" by Jane Rendall, esp. "72. The religious backgrounds of feminist activists"
  19. ^ "Ethical Society history page". Archived from the original on 18 January 2000. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  20. ^ Howard B. Radest. 1969. Toward Common Ground: The Story of the Ethical Societies in the United States. New York: Fredrick Unger Publishing Co.
  21. ^ a b c Colin Campbell. 1971. Towards a Sociology of Irreligion. London: McMillan Press.
  22. ^ Walter, Nicolas (1997). Humanism: what's in the word? London: RPA/BHA/Secular Society Ltd, p. 43.
  23. ^ "Text of Humanist Manifesto I". Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  24. ^ "British Humanist Association: History". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  25. ^ "Amsterdam Declaration 2002". International Humanist and Ethical Union. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  26. ^ "IHEU's Bylaws". International Humanist and Ethical Union. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  27. ^ "The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles". The Council for Secular Humanism. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  28. ^ the Council for Secular Humanism (1980). "A Secular Humanist Declaration". the Council for Secular Humanism. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  29. ^ "Humanism and Its Aspirations – Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933". Archived from the original on 9 August 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  30. ^ Wilson, Edwin H. (1995). The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto. Amherst, NY: Humanist Press. This book quotes the constitution of the Humanistic Religious Association of London, founded in 1853, as saying, "In forming ourselves into a progressive religious body, we have adopted the name 'Humanistic Religious Association' to convey the idea that Religion is a principle inherent in man and is a means of developing his being towards greater perfection. We have emancipated ourselves from the ancient compulsory dogmas, myths and ceremonies borrowed of old from Asia and still pervading the ruling churches of our age".
  31. ^ Kurtz, Paul (1995). Living Without Religion: Eupraxophy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. p. 8.
  32. ^ Eugenie C. Scott, National Centre for Science and Education, "Science and Religion, Methodology and Humanism". Example quote: "The same principle applies to philosophical materialism, the view at the foundation of our Humanism; we may derive this view from science, but an ideology drawn from science is not the same as science itself... I have argued that a clear distinction must be drawn between science as a way of knowing about the natural world and science as a foundation for philosophical views. One should be taught to our children in school, and the other can optionally be taught to our children at home."
  33. ^ a b "A Secular Humanist Declaration". 29 July 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  34. ^ Norman, Richard (2004). On Humanism. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415305228.
  35. ^ Theodore Schick, Jr (29 July 2005). "Morality Requires God ... or Does It?". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  36. ^ Baggini, Julian (2003). Atheism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0-19-280424-3. The atheist's rejection of belief in God is usually accompanied by a broader rejection of any supernaturalor transcendental reality. For example, an atheist does not usually believe in the existence of immortal souls, life after death, ghosts, or supernatural powers. Although strictly speaking an atheist could believe in any of these things and still remain an atheist... the arguments and ideas that sustain atheism tend naturally to rule out other beliefs in the supernatural or transcendental.
  37. ^ Winston, Robert (Ed.) (2004). Human. New York: DK Publishing, Inc. p. 299. ISBN 0-7566-1901-7. Neither atheism nor agnosticism is a full belief system, because they have no fundamental philosophy or lifestyle requirements. These forms of thought are simply the absence of belief in, or denial of, the existence of deities.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  38. ^ Paul Kurtz; Vern L. Bullough; Tim Madigan (19 October 2009). Toward a New Enlightenment: the Philosophy of Paul Kurtz. Transaction Books. ISBN 978-1-56000-118-8. In the past, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union waged unremitting warfare against religion. It persecuted religious believers, confiscated church properties, executed or exiled tens of thousands of clerics, and prohibited believers to engage in religious instruction or publish religious materials. It has also carried on militant pro-atheist propaganda campaigns as part of the official ideology of the state, in an effort to establish a "new Soviet man" committed to the ideals of Communist society. Mikhail Gorbachev is dismantling such policies by permitting greater freedom of religious conscience. If his reforms proceed unabated, they could have dramatic implications for the entire Communist world, for the Russians may be moving from militant atheism to tolerant humanism.
  39. ^ Paul Kurtz; Vern L. Bullough; Tim Madigan (19 October 2009). Toward a New Enlightenment: the Philosophy of Paul Kurtz. Transaction Books. ISBN 978-1-56000-118-8. Ranged against the true believer are the militant atheists, who adamantly reject the faith as false stupid, and reactionary. They consider all religious believers to be gullible fools and claim that they are given to accepting gross exaggerations and untenable premises. Historic religious claims, they think, are totally implausible, unbelievable, disreputable, and controvertible, for they go beyond the bounds of reason. Militant atheists can find no value at all to any religious beliefs or institutions. They resist any effort to engage in inquiry or debate. Madalyn Murray O'Hair is as arrogant in her rejection of religion as is the true believer in his or her profession of faith. This form of atheism thus becomes mere dogma.
  40. ^ The New Atheism and Secular Humanism. Center for Inquiry. 19 October 2009. Paul Kurtz, considered by many the father of the secular humanist movement, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
  41. ^ a b Paul Kurtz; Vern L. Bullough; Tim Madigan (19 October 2009). Toward a New Enlightenment: the Philosophy of Paul Kurtz. Transaction Books. ISBN 978-1-56000-118-8. There have been fundamental and irreconcilable differences between humanists and atheists, particularly Marxist-Leninists. The defining characteristic of humanism is its commitment to human freedom and democracy; the kind of atheism practiced in the Soviet Union has consistently violated basic human rights. Humanists believe first and foremost in the freedom of conscience, the free mind, and the right of dissent. The defense of religious liberty is as precious to the humanist as are the rights of the believers.
  42. ^ Esptein, Greg M. (2010). Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-167011-4.
  43. ^ "The Science of Morality". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  44. ^ "American humanist association – Publications – Chapter eight: The Development of Organization". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  45. ^ "India humanist". 25 June 1997. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  46. ^ "Census 2011 – Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales". 27 March 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  47. ^ "RELIGION IN AUSTRALIA". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 26 September 2017. Archived from the original on 20 September 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  48. ^ "Top Twenty Religions in the United States, 2001 (self-identification, ARIS)". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  49. ^ "Statistics Canada – Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census)". 25 January 2005. Archived from the original on 9 February 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  50. ^ "Scotland's Census - Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion". 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  51. ^ "Human-Etisk Forbund". Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  52. ^ Norway – Members of philosophical2 communities outside the Church of Norway. 1990–2013.
  53. ^ "International Humanist and Ethical Union - Our members". Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  54. ^ International Humanist and Ethical Union. "''IHEU and EHF agree revised protocol'', 24 February 2009". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  55. ^ Randall Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism 2002 p. 516
  56. ^ Christopher P. Toumey, "Evolution and secular humanism," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Summer 1993, Vol. 61 Issue 2, pp. 275–301
  57. ^ "IslamWay Radio". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  58. ^ Jones, Dwight (2009). Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism. 17 (1).
  59. ^ R. Joseph Hoffmann, Humanism – What it isn't, posted 7 July 2012 on "@Humanism" blog
  60. ^ "A humanist discussion of… Religious Festivals and Ceremonies"
  61. ^ Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda, 153 Cal.App.2d 673, 315 P.2d 394 (1957).
  62. ^ a b Ben Kalka v Kathleen Hawk, et al. (US D.C. Appeals No. 98-5485, 2000)
  63. ^ Point of Inquiry podcast (17:44), 3 February 2006.
  64. ^ Ivers, Greg (1992). Redefining the First Freedom: The Supreme Court and the Consolidation of State Power, 1980–1990. Transaction Books. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-1560000549.

Further reading

  • Bullock, Alan. The Humanist Tradition in the West (1985), by a leading historian.
  • Coleman, T. J. III, (interviewer), Tom Flynn (interviewee) (2014, January), “Tom Flynn on ‘Secular Humanism,’” The Religious Studies Project Podcast Series,
  • Friess, Horace L., Felix Adler and Ethical Culture (1981).
  • Pfeffer, Leo. "The 'Religion' of Secular Humanism," Journal of Church and State, Summer 1987, Vol. 29 Issue 3, pp. 495–507
  • Radest, Howard B. The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment (1990) online edition a favorable account
  • Toumey, Christopher P. "Evolution and secular humanism," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Summer 1993, Vol. 61 Issue 2, pp. 275–301, focused on fundamentalist attacks

Primary sources

  • Adler, Felix. An Ethical Philosophy of Life (1918).
  • Ericson, Edward L. The Humanist Way: An introduction to ethical humanist religion (1988).
  • Frankel, Charles. The Case for Modern Man (1956).
  • Hook, Sidney. Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th century (1987).
  • Huxley, Julian. Essay of a Humanist (1964).
  • Russell, Bertrand. Why I Am Not a Christian (1957).
A Secular Humanist Declaration

A Secular Humanist Declaration was an argument for and statement of support for democratic secular humanism. The document was issued in 1980 by the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH), now the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH). Compiled by Paul Kurtz, it is largely a restatement of the content of the American Humanist Association's 1973 Humanist Manifesto II, of which he was co-author with Edwin H. Wilson. Both Wilson and Kurtz had served as editors of The Humanist, from which Kurtz departed in 1979 and thereafter set about establishing his own movement and his own periodical. His Secular Humanist Declaration was the starting point for these enterprises.

Center for Inquiry

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational organization. Its primary mission is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI has headquarters in the United States and a number of international branches.

Center for Inquiry focuses on two primary subject areas:

Investigation of Paranormal and Fringe Science Claims through the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Religion, Ethics, and Society through the Council for Secular HumanismCFI is also active in promoting a scientific approach to medicine and health. The organization has been described as a think tank and as a non-governmental organization.In January 2016, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science announced that it was merging with the Center for Inquiry, with Robyn Blumner as the CEO of the combined organizations.

Free Inquiry

Free Inquiry is a bi-monthly journal of secular humanist opinion and commentary published by the Council for Secular Humanism, which is a program of the Center for Inquiry. Philosopher Paul Kurtz was the editor-in-chief until he stepped down in 2010, [1] and Tom Flynn (author) is the current editor. Feature articles cover a wide range of topics from a freethinking perspective. Common themes are separation of church and state, science and religion, dissemination of freethought, and applied philosophy. Regular contributors include well-known scholars in the fields of science and philosophy.

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.

Humanist Association of Ireland

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a Republic of Ireland secular humanist organisation that was founded in 1993 to promote Humanism, which they describe as:

an ethical philosophy of life, based on a concern for humanity in general, and for human individuals in particular. This view of life combines reason with compassion. It is for those people who base their interpretation of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in a supernatural power.

It hosts an annual Darwin Day lecture in Trinity College Dublin and holds regular public meetings.

The HAI is also active in providing Humanist alternatives to traditional wedding, baptism and funeral ceremonies.The HAI is a member organisation of the European Humanist Federation and is affiliated to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). The official symbol of the HAI is the Happy Human.

Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, son of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington helped to set up the organisation.In April 2009 the Association started an advertising campaign on the DART against religious oaths of office for Irish judges and presidents.Dick Spicer, the then chairman, has criticised the educational system, claiming that it discriminates against non-believers. He resigned as chairman of the board of HAI in July 2010.In November 2010 the Association objected to a pilot programme called "Goodness me, Goodness you" on the grounds that it separated children into believers and non-believers at an early age. They said that faith classes should take place outside school hours.

Humanist Canada

Humanist Canada (also known as the Humanist Association of Canada, or HAC) is a national not-for-profit charitable organization promoting the separation of religion from public policy and fostering the development of reason, compassion and critical thinking for all Canadians through secular education and community support. Founded in 1968 as a small lobby group, Humanist Canada is an associate member organization of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The official symbol of the organization is a modified Happy Human; a white Happy Human against a red maple leaf.

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.

Humanistic Judaism

Humanistic Judaism (Hebrew: יהדות הומניסטית Yahadut Humanistit) is a Jewish movement that offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. It defines Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people and encourages humanistic and secular Jews to celebrate their Jewish identity by participating in Jewish holidays and lifecycle events (such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs) with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon but go beyond traditional literature. Its philosophical foundation includes the following ideas:

A Jew is someone who identifies with the history, culture, and future of the Jewish people;

Judaism is the historic culture of the Jewish people, and religion is only one part of that culture;

Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment;

People possess the power and responsibility to shape their own lives independent of supernatural authority;

Ethics and morality should serve human needs, and choices should be based upon consideration of the consequences of actions rather than pre-ordained rules or commandments;

Jewish history, like all history, is a human saga, a testament to the significance of human power and human responsibility. Biblical and other traditional texts are the products of human activity and are best understood through archaeology and other scientific analysis.

The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.

Irreligion in Africa

Irreligion in Africa, encompassing also atheism in Africa, as well as agnosticism, secular humanism, and general secularism, has been estimated at over tens of millions in various polls. While the predominant religions in Africa are Islam and Christianity, many groups and individuals still practice their traditional beliefs. Despite this, the irreligious population is notable, especially in South Africa where 15.1% of the population describe themselves as irreligious and in Botswana, where 20% of the population describes themselves as non-religious.

Irreligion in Sri Lanka

Irreligion in Sri Lanka may refer to atheism, agnosticism, deism, religious skepticism, secular humanism or general secularist attitudes in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan national census does not provide an option for no religion.

This is supported by a 2008 Gallup poll which found 99% of Sri Lankans considered religion an important aspect of their daily lives. Only Niger, Bangladesh and Indonesia scored higher than this.

National Secular Society

The National Secular Society (NSS) is a British campaigning organisation that promotes secularism and the separation of church and state. It holds that no one should gain advantage or disadvantage because of their religion or lack of it. It was founded by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866 and is now a member organisation of Humanists International (formerly the International Humanist and Ethical Union), endorsing the Amsterdam Declaration 2002.

Paul Kurtz

Paul Kurtz (December 21, 1925 – October 20, 2012) was a prominent American scientific skeptic and secular humanist. He has been called "the father of secular humanism". He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research.

Kurtz founded the publishing house Prometheus Books in 1969. He was also the founder and past chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI, formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Center for Inquiry. He was editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism.

He was co-chair of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) from 1986 to 1994. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Humanist Laureate, president of the International Academy of Humanism and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International. As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto II. He was an editor of The Humanist, 1967–78.

Kurtz published over 800 articles or reviews and authored and edited over 50 books. Many of his books have been translated into over 60 languages.


Personism is an ethical philosophy of personhood as typified by the thought of the utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer. It amounts to a branch of secular humanism with an emphasis on certain rights-criteria. Personists believe that rights are conferred to the extent that a creature is a person. Michael Tooley provides the relevant definition of a person, saying it is a creature that is "capable of desiring to continue as a subject of experience and other mental states". A worldview like secular humanism is personism when the empathy and values are extended to the extent that the creature is a person (apes get very similar rights, insects get vastly fewer rights, etc.).

Consequently, a member of the human species may not necessarily fit the definition of “person” and thereby not receive all the rights bestowed to a person. Hence, such philosophers have engaged in arguing that certain disabled individuals (such as those with a mental capacity that is similar to or is perceived as being similar to an infant) are not persons. This philosophy is also supposedly open to the idea that such non-human persons as machines, animals, and extraterrestrial intelligences may be entitled to certain rights currently granted only to humans. Personism may have views in common with transhumanism.

Romanian Secular-Humanist Association

The Romanian Secular-Humanist Association (Romanian: Asociația Secular-Umanistă din România, abbreviated as ASUR) is a non-governmental organization established in March 2010 to promote secular humanist values in Romania. The organization's activities include fighting religious indoctrination in schools and the state financing of churches.Since 2012, ASUR also organizes the annual Conferința Raționalilor (Rational's Conference) and it was one of the partner organizations responsible for the Bucharest Science Festival in 2013 and 2014 and the Humanist Eastern European Conference in 2015. The organization is a member of the European Humanist Federation and as of October 2011 of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Secular Buddhism

Secular Buddhism—sometimes also referred to as agnostic Buddhism, Buddhist agnosticism, ignostic Buddhism, atheistic Buddhism, pragmatic Buddhism, Buddhist atheism, or Buddhist secularism—is a broad term for an emerging form of Buddhism and secular spirituality that is based on humanist, skeptical, and/or agnostic values, as well as pragmatism and (often) naturalism, rather than religious (or more specifically supernatural or paranormal) beliefs.

Secular Buddhists interpret the teachings of the Buddha and the Buddhist texts in a rationalist and often evidentialist manner, considering the historical and cultural contexts of the times in which the Buddha lived and the various suttas, sutras and tantras were written.

Within the framework of secular Buddhism, Buddhist doctrine may be stripped of any unspecified combination of various traditional beliefs that could be considered superstitious, or that cannot be tested through empirical research, namely: supernatural beings (such as devas, bodhisattvas, nāgas, pretas, Buddhas, etc.), merit and its transference, rebirth, Buddhist cosmology (including the existence of pure lands and hells), etc.

Traditional Buddhist ethics, such as conservative views regarding abortion, and human sexuality, may or may not be called into question as well. Some schools, especially Western Buddhist ones, take more progressive stances regarding social issues.

Secular Party of Australia

The Secular Party of Australia is a minor Australian political party, founded in January 2006 and registered as a federal political party in 2010. It aims to promote secular humanist ethical principles and the separation of church and state in Australia.

Smith v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County

Smith v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County, 827 F.2d 684 (11th Cir. 1987), was a lawsuit in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the Mobile County Public School System could use textbooks which purportedly promoted "secular humanism", characterized by the complainants as a religion.

Parents and other citizens brought a lawsuit against the school board, alleging that the school system was teaching the tenets of secular humanism, an anti-theistic religion. The complainants asked that forty-four different elementary through high school level textbooks be removed from the curriculum. After an initial ruling in a federal district court in favor of the plaintiffs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that as long as the school was motivated by a secular purpose, it didn't matter whether the curriculum and texts shared ideas held by one or more religious groups. The Court found that the texts in question promoted important secular values (tolerance, self-respect, logical decision making) and thus the use of the textbooks neither unconstitutionally advanced a nontheistic religion nor inhibited theistic religions.

This case is occasionally and incorrectly cited as proving that 'secular humanism' is a religion. The text below shows the Circuit Court, in overturning the District Court decision, made no such finding. They both set aside the question as moot and offered that even if it were (and they weren't saying it is), the teaching of science is not invalidated purely because of its association with secular humanism. Excerpt below from the Circuit Court decision (cited earlier):

The Supreme Court has never established a comprehensive test for determining the "delicate question" of what constitutes a religious belief for purposes of the first amendment, and we need not attempt to do so in this case, for we find that, even assuming that secular humanism is a religion for purposes of the establishment clause, Appellees have failed to prove a violation of the establishment clause through the use in the Alabama public schools of the textbooks at issue in this case.

Tom Flynn (author)

Thomas W. "Tom" Flynn (born August 18, 1955) is an American author, journalist, novelist, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, and editor of its journal Free Inquiry. He is also director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum and the Freethought Trail.Much of Flynn's work addresses church-state issues, including his 1993 book The Trouble with Christmas, in connection with which he has made hundreds of radio and TV appearances in his role as the curmudgeonly "anti-Claus", calling attention to what he views as unfair treatment of the nonreligious during the year-end holiday season. He edited The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, a comprehensive reference work on the history, beliefs, and thinking of men and women who live without religion. He contributed a new Introduction to A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White and blogged on The Washington Post's On Faith site during 2010 and 2011. He blogs regularly on the Center for Inquiry's blog Free Thinking. He is also the author of several anti-religious, black comedy, science fiction novels.

Torcaso v. Watkins

Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court reaffirmed that the United States Constitution prohibits States and the Federal Government from requiring any kind of religious test for public office, in the specific case, as a notary public.

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