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Peter Bjork

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Peter Bjork


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philosphy
religion
secularism
spirituality
way of life
Mon, Oct 06, 2014 - 03:50 PM

So really, is humanism a religion or not?



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Peter Bjork

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Print Mon, Oct 06, 2014 - 03:50 PM
It’s not worth fighting over definitions. While the American Humanist Association does not refer to humanism as a religion, we take a generous spirit of cooperation for the greater good, and will agree to disagree with those who see it differently. Depending on one’s perspective humanism can be construed as:

A secular way of life that celebrates humanity

A naturalist alternative to traditional Western religion

A humane spirituality that challenges conventional faith

A religion for those who aren’t very religious…or not religious at all


Every humanist should be able to identify with at least one of these descriptions, and some may even find themselves comfortable with all four.

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Mark Brewster

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Mark Brewster


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Print Sun, Apr 05, 2015 - 07:03 PM
A "religion", IMO, is a gathered set of doctrines and beliefs that center around the following of an unprovable deity. So the first disproof of humanism as a religion would involve pointing out something unprovable about the humanist philosophy. (Another would be showing the absence of one humanist pointing to another and saying, "THEY'RE not REAL humanists".....LOL.)

Since there is a secular bent to the whole humanist outlook, it takes it completely OUT of the realm of religion...since "secular religion" is an oxymoron.

Now, if someone wants to PRACTICE humanism as a religion, they can assemble their own list of doctrines to follow. Just don't expect me to go along with it, I'm kinda independent that way.

BUT, it could grow quickly into a whole spectral debate, as in, "Well, what about pacifism, is that a religion? Isolationism? Hero worship?"

I have yet to see a downside to humanism, so these types of debates would only be useful to kill time around a campfire or something.

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KO
KO

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KO

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Print Mon, Apr 06, 2015 - 09:04 AM
I think the reason that this keeps coming up is not that humanists are trying to dodge being called a religion. The reason is that the word "religion" is notoriously difficult to define. No single criteria seems to apply to all the things that we want to call "religion". Existence of God? Well, Zen Buddhists and Humanistic Judaism may confound that requirement. Is it sacred texts? OK, but what about Native Americans (pre-invasion, esp.) or for that matter any culture that believes in a God or gods and has ritualistic practice but no writing. Is it just ritualistic practice? Assertion of faith as a genuine mode of knowledge? A framework for answering moral questions? Group identification and a sense of community? Gaaahh! You get the picture.

Humanism has some of the hallmarks of religion, but not others. What to do? I think the best answer is to treat it as a religion in certain contexts. Foe example, public schools should only teach about Humanism the way they might teach about other belief systems, including religious ones (e.g., Jews believe X, Christians Y, Humanists Z, etc...). Humanists accept scientific explanations over religious ones for everything from human behavior to the origin of the universe. Humanists usually (no formal poll on this!) accept evolution as the most likely truth and God-centered creation as the least likely. But science is a method of inquiry into the natural world; Humanism encompasses much more than that. Thus, Humanism ≠ the scientific method; as such it should not be taught in Science classes.

But, if people are looking for a moral framework, community, a way to collectively do good without God, and a general human-centered (not divine centered) moral framework, Humanism is an option for them. So, in the context of morality and a worldview without God, Humanism is not a religion. But in the context of public schools, it should probably be treated as one.

Sorry. We crave an absolute "yes" or "no" to your question, but IMHO, we can't get that answer on this issue because of the vagueness of the word "religion".


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Bill Haines
Garden State Attitude in the Old Dominion

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Bill Haines

Garden State Attitude in the Old Dominion

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About Bill Haines

"Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous: at least, sincerely try."
-- A. C. Grayling
Print Fri, Jul 10, 2015 - 11:10 AM
From the Oxford Dictionary:
- belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods
No, Humanism is not this, actually is opposed to this.
- pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance
Humanism can be this, yes.

And depending on the country, Humanism may be considered a religion or the equivalent of a religion by law, as the US District Court for Oregon ruled on 30 October 2014 in the case of American Humanist Association vs. United States.

So really, is Humanism a religion? In the traditional sense, the common understanding of religion, no. But in a technical sense, and legal standing religion can have, yes.


Registered User Comments

Pamela Kabanda
Monday, March 09, 2015 - 01:56:07 AM
Sometimes religion turns out to be a mental illness and people look for an alternative which will make them live a serene life. And humanism tends to help.

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