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Jason Lenthe

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Jason Lenthe


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Sun, Feb 22, 2015 - 10:27 AM

Did Carl Sagan consider himself to be a humanist?

Did Carl Sagan actually consider himself a humanist or did he merely embody the philosophy of humanism in his life and work to win the humanist year award in 1981? And a related question is, can someone be considered a humanist by their actions alone if that person doesn't consider themselves a humanist and identify with the movement?



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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Bo Bennett, PhD

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Print Sun, Feb 22, 2015 - 11:26 AM
Hi Jason. I am unaware of any direct quotes from Sagan referring to himself as a humanist, or any uses of the title "humanist" by Sagan (I did an extensive search). However, this certainly does not mean he did not consider himself a humanist. His acceptance of the 1981 Humanist of the year award is a pretty good sign that he did consider himself a humanist, however. In addition, his work certainly does embody what it means to be a secular humanist.

As for your larger question, I do believe that people are humanists by their actions and beliefs, not just by identifying with the label. For example, since I found humanism, I identify as a humanist rather than an atheist—although I am still an atheist. The title humanist says more than what I don't believe, but what I do believe. Humanism has a long way to go before it is as recognizable as "Christian" or "Jew." Until then, there will be many people who are humanists as defined by their humanistic values, but are simply unaware of the label. As for Sagan apparently not explicitly identifying as a humanist*, I can only assume that he felt it unnecessary since he was, and remains, one of the best-known and admired people in the movement.

* Again, I come to this conclusion from not being able to find such a self-reference by Sagan. Perhaps someone else can find something.
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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 - 12:23 PM
Sagan didn't refer to himself as a Humanist nor formally join any organized Humanist group that I know of, but I don't know that any reasonable person could listen to his speech here and not consider him one of us: https://soundcloud.com/americanhumanist/carl-sagan-1981-humanist-of.


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