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See also philosophical humanism
For the Renaissance liberal arts movement, see Renaissance humanism

Humanism is a comprehensive life stance that upholds human reason, ethics, and justice, and rejects supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition. This article uses the words Humanism and Humanist (with a capital 'H' and no adjective such as "secular") to refer to the life stance and its adherents, and humanism (with a small 'h') to refer to other related movements or philosophies. While this convention is not universal among all Humanists, it is used by a significant number of them, and for purposes of this article, helps distinguish between Humanism as a life stance and other forms of humanism.

Humanism has appeal to agnostic, atheist, deists, empiricist, freethinker, naturalists, rationalist, scientific skeptics and secularists.

Those who call themselves Humanists are a relative minority—numbering between four and five million people worldwide in 31 countries.

Points of consensus

There is no universal tenet for all Humanists. Still, declarations and statements have been issued to attempt to unify the Humanist identity.

IHEU's Minimum Statement on Humanism

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

Amsterdam Declaration 2002

In 2002 the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration 2002 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. To further promote Humanist identity, these words are also free of any adjectives, as recommended by prominent members of IHEU. Such usage is not universal among IHEU member organizations, though most of them do observe these conventions.

Apart from the need to ensure that member organisations are bona fide Humanist (or like-minded) organisations, Humanism rejects dogma, and imposes no creed upon its adherents except the IHEU's Minimum Statement on Humanism.

Humanist identity

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

  • 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.

Capitalization of Humanist is the normal usage within IHEU, and is recommended usage for member organizations, though some member organizations do not follow the IHEU recommendation. For example, the Council for Secular Humanism continues to use a lowercase h, and the adjective secular.

Other widely recognised documents

Two other widely accepted general doctrines of Humanism are set forth in the Humanist Manifesto and A Secular Humanist Declaration .

Official days of celebration

Some Humanists celebrate officially religious-based public holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, but as secular holidays rather than religious ones.

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

Many Humanists also celebrate the winter and summer solstice, the former of which (in the northern hemisphere) is the root of the 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.

Humanism history

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 this view in 1989. As an organized movement, Humanism itself is quite recent - born at the University of Chicago in the 1920s, made public in 1933 with the publication of the first Manifesto, and becoming 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 International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world-wide 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. Originally based in the Netherlandsmarker, the IHEU now operates from Londonmarker.


While Humanist organizations are found in all parts of the world, one of the largest Humanist organisation in the world (relative to population) is Norway'smarker Human-Etisk Forbund , which had over 69,000 members out of a population of around 4.6 million in 2004 (1.5% of the population). This popularity is partly attributable to a unique set of Church-State relations.

Some national Humanist organisations, especially in northern Europe, organise secular coming of age ceremonies as an alternative to religious initiations, like Confirmation.

Non-IHEU organisations

There are also some more regional groups not belonging to the IHEU, such as the European Humanist Federation and the humanist subgroup of the Unitarian Universalist Association which adhere to variants of the Humanist life stance.

Conflicting beliefs

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 Humanism as a threat to the values set out in their religious texts, such as the Bible and the Qur'an, which they hold to be authoritative and of divine authorship.

Associated beliefs

Atheists, agnostics, deists, and rationalists are those thought to be supporters of Humanism, although may not always be. However, these beliefs are occupied with metaphysical issues, addressing questions of existence, while Humanism ignores such metaphysical matters and has its focus on ethics.


There is uncertainty about the prevalence of Humanists in the world, because of the lack of universal definition throughout censuses. Nevertheless, regarding the category of religion, 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. This is the case in the article world religion. However, this is not always the case; in its 2006 census Australia used Humanism as an example for the "other religions" line.

In England, Wales and Australia, around 15% of the population specifies "No Religion" in the national census. In the USAmarker, the decennial census does not inquire about religious affiliation or its lack; surveys report the figure at roughly 13%. In the 2001 Canadianmarker census, 16.5% of the populace reported having no religious affiliation. In Scotlandmarker, the figure is 28%.

However, many Humanists may state "no religion" with no further definition, or simply not respond to the census question at all.

Strictly speaking, Humanism is a non-theistic belief. As such, it could be sub-categories of religion only if the main category of "Religion" means "Religion and (any) belief system". This is the case in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion and beliefs.

Notable Humanists

See also

Humanist and related organizations

Related philosophies





External links

Humanist manifestos and declarations




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