Humanism is a philosophy or a way of thinking about the world.
Humanism is a set of ethics or ideas about how people should live and act. People who hold this set of ethics are called Humanists.
The most important Humanist ethic is that humans deserve respect. Every human should be treated with respect and allowed to have dignity. If all people act with respect for others, then people will live in peace and trust.
Another important Humanist ethic is that people should all be able to decide how they want to live their lives.
The Humanist belief is that if people think hard about what is right and what is wrong, they will know the difference and make right decisions.
Thinking about problems is called reasoning.
Humanists believe that people should choose what to believe by using reason. The Humanist ethic is that people should not follow any particular religion or philosophy or political belief without first testing it with their own reasoning.
Humanists want to see all humans be as good as they can be. They also want people to be able to achieve the things that they want to do.
Humanists decide what choices are good by whether those choices will help make human life better. Whenever there is a problem with our world or our society, humanists think that it is important to use reason to help fix that problem.
History of Humanism
Humanist ideas were first discussed in Ancient Greece. Among the important Humanist philosophers were Plato and Aristotle.
The writings of the ancient Greeks were studied in the 1400s during the Renaissance. There were many Humanist thinkers at this time. There was an important Humanist academy set up in Florence by Lorenzo Medici. Some of the philosophers, writers and poets who were at the academy were Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cristoforo Landino and Angolo Poliziano.
Humanist ethics affected people's thinking in many ways. Many philosophers began to discuss the church, government, education and human rights in different ways. Because of this, the period of European history from 1600 until 1800 is called The Age of Reason.
Some of the important philosophers were Desiderius Erasmus, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei and John Milton.
Extra information about Humanism and being a Humanist ( source: IHEU website)
What is Humanism:
“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance that affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. Humanism stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. Humanism is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”
The IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism
A humanist is someone who recognises that we, human beings, are the most curious and capable curators of knowledge in the known universe.
To gain knowledge, we must use our reason and experience to understand the world. And we may create or partake of the great artistic fruits of humankind to enhance our emotional palettes, deepen our empathy and enrich our understanding. But we reject any reliance on blindly received authority, or on dogma, or what others may claim is divine revelation (because we don’t believe we get tip-offs about truth from a supreme being beyond time and space. That would be cheating!)
A humanist is someone who recognises that we, human beings, are by far the most sophisticated moral actors on the Earth. We can grasp ethics. We may not be the only moral subjects (for example other animals deserve moral consideration, too!) But we have a unique capacity for moral choice: to act in the interests of welfare, advancement and fulfillment, or against it!
To act well, we must take responsibility for ourselves and others, not for the sake of preferential treatment in any afterlife (even if we believed in it, that motivation wouldn’t make our actions good!), but because the best we can do is to live this life as brilliantly as we can. That means helping others in community, advancing society, and flourishing at whatever we do best.
And a humanist is someone who finds value in themselves and each other, respecting the personhood and dignity of fellow human beings, not because we are made in the image of something else (we are a product of evolution, not the product of a divine plan), but because of what we are: a sentient, feeling species, with value and dignity inherent in each individual.
There is no reason to believe that “meaning” has to come from a supreme being. If you can write a sentence on paper which isn’t nonsense, then you can create meaning! There is no divine plan or purpose, the humanist recognises, but we make our own purposes, tell our own stories, set our own goals. This gives life meaning.