What is Humanism?

Humanism aims to restore the faith in humankind which religion threw away

January 22, 2021

The conversation on Humanism is only just beginning. You will likely come across it in many discussions in the future about improving human societies.

Humanism is a simple and super easy philosophy and, you will love what it has to offer. Its core values are based on the idea that all people should be free to decide how to find fulfilment in their lives.

Obviously, you have heard this before. Most philosophies and religions claim to do the same thing but Humanism does it differently, and actually delivers on its promise to humanity.

Unlike old belief systems, it updates itself and is open to criticism based on verified improvements in science and other concrete self-correcting human knowledge systems.

I will show you how in a bit, but first, we need to cover the basics on the origins of Humanist thinking.

Origins of Humanism

The coolest thing about Humanist thinking is that it’s universal. It is possibly as old as our species' consciousness and capacity for empathy.

Think of Humanism as a natural attempt to stabilise social life around the basic shared needs of every person. To achieve this stability, Humanism recommends setting values and methods about respectful cooperation among people. You may know these as human rights or broadly as 'ethical' conduct.

All societies, in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe have had some belief about the freedom of men, their universal respect and dignity which society must readily give. In ancient African societies the idea of Humanism was embodied in what we know as Hunhu, Ubuntu, Sintu, Uthu. We say "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - The idea that we attain our value based on the respect we give and get from others.

But, to believe that men are equal, and to know where that equality comes from are two different things. This distinction has been made by a great deal of European philosophers like Immanuel Kant. The likes of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow are credited as the founding fathers of Humanistic Psychology. They inspired a new age of Humanism anchored in more concrete and consistent systems; science, logic, rationality and shared human needs derived from lived experiences.

This is where Humanism differs from other religions.

Humanism vs Religion

Secular Humanists and non-theists in general argue that God's laws and religious authority have no place in a human society. They add that all religious considerations in ethical conduct are surbodinate to the laws that we create based on our understanding of human needs in this current life.

Humanists argue that because religious belief systems are unverified they are unfit to serve humankind. They believe that only accurate and verified claims of "what is" must guide us on "what should be." They also present a challenge to all religions and philosophies to provide scientific evidence for their claims about humankind before they can be accepted as part of the laws for governing society.

Humanists criticize religions for their generalist restrictions on people's lives if they are to be fit in. To them religion makes people unable to care or empathise with the real feelings that shape them. -usually due to fear of divine punishment. These feelings and restrictions range from basic natural feelings of sex, free thought, love, questioning reality and other interests in creativity. Christianity and Islam for example limit social involvement of women, people of different sexual orientation and beliefs. Ironically, the same religions claim to serve all of humankind.

In contrast, Humanism goes beyond identities.

It sees people first, not their religion, gender, or anything else. To Humanists, nobody should be denied of their claims to, life, food, shelter, education, and freedom of choice based on their identity. The claims are summarized as primary needs, adopted from Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs - fundamental human rights. All legitimate governments today subscribe to these fundamental principles and are tasked to make an effort to respect them.

So, there you have it, proof that Humanism is universal and has been quietly representing the lives of all people on earth, unlike religions which give people unfounded divine authority to oppress others.

Respect and other core Humanist values

In Humanism, to respect another person is to see them as a person before looking at any other feature. In practice, this means to put their primary needs first regardless of their secondary qualities like identity, sexuality, beliefs, or political affiliation.

At the center of Humanist activism and action is the principle that all individuals must be respected. That is, they must not be denied food, shelter, right to education, freedom of choice, movement and to free contribution on the basis of their secondary affiliations or identities.

At a personal level, self respect would mean identifying yourself first as a human before limiting yourself to the rules of your secondary affiliations. Before you see a woman, gay man, white/black, Muslim, or anything else, you must first see a human being who is the same as you in their dreams, insecurities and need for love.

For example, you are not a Christian but you are a human who identifies with Christian beliefs. It may seem a bit redundant, but it brings, human urgency into perspective. "Think Human - Be Human."

Most people get it wrong here and live a caged life, possibly making others miserable too because of their beliefs.

How can Humanism improve your life?

Humanist teachings encourage people to find peace and fulfilment in each moment in their lives. One of my favourite Humanist teachings is: "People should be responsible and free to choose their own limitations." At a personal level, you could say Humanism is more or less like a self-improvement philosophy.

Among the most common Humanist ideas you can adopt in your life:

  • Improve what you can
  • Learn to accept yourself and others
  • Focus on experiences, that’s where you will find joy and development
  • Keep learning new things
  • Pursue things that you are passionate about
  • Test your beliefs and values. Are they really yours? Do you fully understand what they mean?

As you can see, Humanist teachings point towards independence of being. You are free to be. Free to shape yourself as you wish and you must give others the same courtesy.

There is no guilt tripping in Humanism. No sinners, infidels or unworthy people. There is value in every individual experience and even more value in sharing it.

When you look at the internet and tech world now, there has never been a better time for you to embrace Humanist principles.

The best performing brands, Linux, GitHub, Quora, the podcast industry, Facebook, YouTube, Medium, and, Spotify attract people because their brand philosophy is rooted deep in Humanist values of respectful cooperation, sharing experiences and allowing people to develop and find meaning in the things that excite them.

In summary, Humanist philosophies are adjusted to provide the most fertile ground for improvement for all human endeavours in society.

Will Humanism solve all the world’s problems?

No. Humanism is a realistic philosophy which doesn’t sell static utopias.

The world will always need improvement and people solve its problems as they come. That's why Humanism emphasizes the creation of the best conditions for us to live and aid the betterment of society and fulfilment of our lives.

Just imagine the insane levels of productivity we would have if all people were free to contribute to solving the world’s problems and assisted regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or age. In such a world, although differences will exist, they won't be an obstacle. We would be too focused on the bigger goals to let them interfere. Even better, we will have diverse inputs on appropriate ways of resolving our problems.

Notice how different this is from the religious idea that the world will only be peaceful after an apocalypse and some people are sent to hell. Or how religion claims individual personal preferences mean people can't coexist.

Humanism unlike dognmatic religion reminds us that our identities are just a fraction of what makes us human. And, that valuing the individual as a whole is best for us to be creative, innovative, loving, and empathetic beings who can create a naturally improving society. You could say Humanism aims to restore the faith in humankind which religion threw away.

Who can be a Humanist?

Although Humanism is predominantly non-religious, it isnt restricted to any specific group of people.

In Humanism, what matters is the actions and attitudes people direct towards each other. Being a Humanist is as simple as believing in humanity and value people’s potential to improve (especially yourself).

As you will find out, Humanism is very diverse. There are alot of different groups of people who are considered Humanists because of the simple belief that in all situations being human should be the highest consideration of all.

Where can you find other Humanists online?

The online Humanist community is very diverse. You can find them on any platform. However for the best and most reliable content and information check out Humanists International, Young Humanists etc

If you are interested specifically on the Secular and Atheist side of Humanist, start with Atheist Republic or search for Atheist communities on Facebook.

For questions check out Quora on the Humanist topic.

Where it all comes together

What makes Humanism the ideal philosophical candidate of our time is that it doesnt sell lies or delusions of utopia. It seeks to improve the conditions necessary for human progress. It is aware of our limitations and adopts a system to work towards overcoming them. In our greatest weaknesses in the fear of death, the need for love and every other confusing thing in between, Humanism gives us a chance to build a world which can acccomodate and use those qualities to add meaning to our lives and strengthen society.

In our own way, we are searching for a way to combine efforts to create a wholesome and efficient society - a place for all to add value and be fulfilled before death.

What could be better than that?

This is my first work on Humanism, and there will be more to come. The philosophy is too broad and covers many areas on Secular Humanism, Humanist Ceremories and Ethics.

If you liked this article please sare with your friends and lets work to create a world for Happy Humans.