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Switch to Forum Live View What is the difference between Secular Humanism, Secularism and Humanism?
6 years ago  ::  Jul 10, 2008 - 2:23PM #1
Agnosticspirit
Posts: 9,244
OK, based upon another thread from someone who would like to explore philosophies beyond atheism and agnosticism, what are the differences between Secular Humanism, Secularism and Humanism?

What are the similarities between the three? 

What do these positions share with atheism and/or agnosticism? How do they differ?
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 10, 2008 - 6:29PM #2
Jcarlinbn
Posts: 7,029

agnosticspirit wrote:

...what are the differences between Secular Humanism, Secularism and Humanism?

First of all we can dispense with Secualr Humanism.  It is a bogeyman for fundamentalists to rant about.  Secular Humanism is everything and anything that the bigot hates. 

Secularism is working out the issues of societies without appeal to religious justification.  Jefferson managed to get secularism embedded in the foundation of the US government.  Secularism is justified by the working of the society.   The point of view is the society rather than any member of it. 

Humanism is an interesting reaction to theism in that the individual is ultimately the reason for and the meaning of everything.  The world exists for the realization of the individual's human potential.  I find the Humanist  Manifesto to be almost as bad as the Apostles Creed.




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6 years ago  ::  Jul 10, 2008 - 6:59PM #3
mountain_man
Posts: 38,790

agnosticspirit wrote:

OK, based upon another thread from someone who would like to explore philosophies beyond atheism and agnosticism, what are the differences between Secular Humanism, Secularism and Humanism?

What are the similarities between the three? 

What do these positions share with atheism and/or agnosticism? How do they differ?


Secular Humanism is alive and well. The two main groups have a considerable amount of members and each publish widely read periodicals. Humanism, secular or not, is not a reaction to anything. That's like saying that the Mona Lisa is a reaction to graffiti.

Humanism is simply the philosophy of putting humans ahead of gods. They worry about people first, gods later. You can have a Christian Humanist, or a Islamic Humanist.

Secularism is a philosophy that is "secular" or without gods. A Secular Humanist would be one that puts humans first (along with all the other critters in our biosphere) and does so without any god beliefs - an Atheist.

In this case the term "Atheist" is defined as "one that lacks a belief in gods." Since most so called agnostics do not believe a god exists, or don't have knowledge of one, then they would be included under Atheist.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 10, 2008 - 11:02PM #4
Sailorlal79
Posts: 1,365
I was taught that humanism means that you believe that human beings have dignity, and that dignity should be respected. I'm down with that.
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 10, 2008 - 11:42PM #5
mountain_man
Posts: 38,790

Sailorlal79 wrote:

I was taught that humanism means that you believe that human beings have dignity, and that dignity should be respected. I'm down with that.


That's a fair description that would fit what most Humanists think.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 11, 2008 - 3:36AM #6
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
[QUOTE=jcarlinbn;616614]First of all we can dispense with Secualr Humanism.  It is a bogeyman for fundamentalists to rant about.  Secular Humanism is everything and anything that the bigot hates. 

Secularism is working out the issues of societies without appeal to religious justification.  Jefferson managed to get secularism embedded in the foundation of the US government.  Secularism is justified by the working of the society.   The point of view is the society rather than any member of it. 

Humanism is an interesting reaction to theism in that the individual is ultimately the reason for and the meaning of everything.  The world exists for the realization of the individual's human potential.  I find the Humanist  Manifesto to be almost as bad as the Apostles Creed.
[/QUOTE]

I'm glad you said that because I find Humanism grating.  I've read all three of those manifestos and I think they read about as well as puke smells.
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 11, 2008 - 4:09AM #7
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
I like the concept of humanism, which says if we're going to worry about anything, let's worry about each other.  You can attach humanism to a number of life stances to qualify them.  A Christian humanist, or a Muslim humanist, or a Jewish humanist, is someone who qualifies their religion, holding up humanist standards - like reason and tolerance - as guides and restraints on that tradition.  A Christian humanist is very different from a Christian Fundamentalist in that the latter is more interested in satisfying some ideal of orthodoxy, even if it means believing nonsense and eating dirt.  I've yet to find a Christian who has plucked out his offending eye and caught off his offending hand, but I've found plenty who like quote nonsense directly out of the Bible, and who take actual pride in choosing Biblically-mandated insanity ahead of using common sense or reason. 

Christianity's Fundamentalists are mostly dime-store cowboys.  They're like Cadillacs with little rectangular humps where the fins used to be.  They yearn for a golden age when a man could pump gas and raise a small family.  They blame all their problems on modernity, which they equate with moral decadence, the neglect of "the old time religion."  But today's Christian Fundamentalists are toothless bozos.  They can't burn any witches or stone any adulterers.  They can erect curfews, push strip clubs into somebody else's back yard, launch offenses against local school boards, try to push their silly science into the classroom and other favorite hits.  Muslim Fundamentalists are scarier, because they come from parts of the world where law and order are about as present as trees.  Islam is the new Communism, offering a liberation ideology to the poorest people in the world.  In the West, we cringe at the idea of a religion that tells a man to "submit" to the will of Allah, but "submission" is actually a middle finger in disguise.  Mansa Musa, while trekking across Africa to complete his personal hajj to Mecca, was asked to bow before some authority and said, instead, "I bow before no man."  He did, however, bow - but when he did, it was to God.

I take it that Jewish Fundamentalism is a luxury.  Why do the Hasidim exist?  Because they can.

The best religion is humanistic.  It flips the order of importance from God to man.  Instead of man being created in God's image, God is created in man's.  Religion becomes a fashion accessory, a useful tradition for expressing family values.  What if you could go to mass and not feel any special need to buy the mumbo jumbo?  What if you could just enjoy it as a theatrical performance reflecting traditions, ideologies and cultural heritage passed down from generation to generation, with generation adding something while attempting to retain the core of the faith?

I've contended for some time now that religion is best enjoyed as a circus, as an opera, as a rodeo, as a live performance that's encoded with lots of wit and wisdom (as well as ample amounts of pure nonsense).  I suspect that the most powerful and influential families the world over see religion as part of the dog and pony show they go through to maintain appearances and get what they want.  Only the rankest of peasants actually believes these fairy tales.  Somewhere between Fundamentalism and atheism itself, there are religious humanists who have essentially gutted their faith of anything dangerous.  They've neutered the dog, so to speak.

And then there are humanists, or secular humanists, who let go of religion and simply put people first, without the need to bring god or some religious tradition into it.  I have respect for this stance because it's a positive form of atheism.  Atheism has no ethos, though many find common cause with rationalism, naturalism and humanism.  These coalesce fairly easily, even though one may be an atheist and have no special beliefs or values associated with the importance of humanity.  I've met atheists who laugh at the idea that humanity should be preeminent.  That, after all, is just a "special" narcisissism, one that puts our species at the head of the line.  Why, after all, should a human being rate more than dogs, dolphins, pigs and piranha?  Is it because human beings are more intelligent - because if it is, maybe geniuses deserve to live more than the mentally retarded.

But Humanism grates me, and I mean Humanism with the capital "H."  It's this clubby, whiney, political movement with newsletters and subscription requirements.  Humanists have meetings and hammer out important manifestos and then expect the world to care.  If I want religion, I know where I can go on Sunday.  I don't need to join a bunch of outted Episcopalians and Presbyterians who are out to bask in their newfound religion of civic morality.  Blechh.  I gave at the office.
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 11, 2008 - 1:25PM #8
Agnosticspirit
Posts: 9,244

mountain_man wrote:


Secularism is a philosophy that is "secular" or without gods. A Secular Humanist would be one that puts humans first (along with all the other critters in our biosphere) and does so without any god beliefs - an Atheist.

In this case the term "Atheist" is defined as "one that lacks a belief in gods." Since most so called agnostics do not believe a god exists, or don't have knowledge of one, then they would be included under Atheist.



Perhaps it's a result of the way people either use or misuse these terms, but I've always thought Secular Humanism and Atheism are basically the same thing.   Yet the way I hear them applied at times has prompted me to ponder whether there IS a difference. :confused: And as an agnostic atheist, I identify with Atheism because I don't believe a god exists but since I don't know that for sure, I temper Atheism with Agnosticism.

Is it more accurate, then, to consider that Secular Humanism is the political organization, or better yet, the lack of belief (atheism) put into action to serve society? I guess the closest analogy I can think of would Objectivism (philosophy) vs. The Libertarian Party (an attempt to apply the tenets of  Ayn Rand's political philosophy to the real world. )

Sailorlal79 wrote:

I was taught that humanism means that you believe that human beings have dignity, and that dignity should be respected. I'm down with that.

That's how I've always understood it as well, sailor.

Tribalism, ethnocentricism, racism, nationalism, and FEAR is the Mind Killer... >:(

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6 years ago  ::  Jul 11, 2008 - 2:35PM #9
mountain_man
Posts: 38,790

agnosticspirit wrote:

Perhaps it's a result of the way people either use or misuse these terms, but I've always thought Secular Humanism and Atheism are basically the same thing.   Yet the way I hear them applied at times has prompted me to ponder whether there IS a difference.


There is a difference. All Atheists lack a belief in gods, as do SECULAR Humanists, but not all Atheists are Secular Humanists. For many Atheists since "Atheism" is simply a lack of belief in gods, they look around for a life philosophy to fit in with. Secular Humanism fills that need. And in SH there really isn't any dogma, not much you could study to become one. I don't think one can convert to SH since it's something that you already are. I did not become a SH, I found out that they agreed with me.

Now there are several SH groups and they have specific philosophies, but they do not speak for all SH. I agree with some of what the two major groups have to say, and disagree with some too. Thinking is embraced in SH and blindly following is seen as a bad thing.

And as an agnostic atheist, I identify with Atheism because I don't believe a god exists but since I don't know that for sure, I temper Atheism with Agnosticism.


What is there in a lack of belief in gods to temper?

Is it more accurate, then, to consider that Secular Humanism is the political organization, or better yet, the lack of belief (atheism) put into action to serve society? I guess the closest analogy I can think of would Objectivism (philosophy) vs. The Libertarian Party (an attempt to apply the tenets of  Ayn Rand's political philosophy to the real world. )


That would be alright to say... although most of the SH groups tend to shy away from politics. Of course the individuals have very definite political opinions and we love to argue about them, but as a group they try to stay neutral and concentrate on how to help our fellow humans.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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