What Humanism can mean and what it commits us to - May 28, 2018 Newsletter

Over the past seven weeks, I've shared each of the fundamentals of Humanism as set out on our website. Today I want to conclude this series looking at the rest of the text of that declaration.

The Amsterdam Declaration 2002, which is how the BCHA defines Humanism, begins:

Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world’s great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.

"Freethought" is a term that's been used widely and for centuries to describe those atheists and deists who pushed for liberal democracy and a separation of church and state. More recently, as Jeet Heer notes in The New Republic, the term has been "hijacked by right-wing trolls" and hip-hop artist Kayne West. Heer goes on to discuss Susan Jacoby's valuable text Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.

But as we've seen, Humanism is not just a challenge to the authority of the church or religion but a rounded ethical worldview that elevates human compassion and ingenuity. Which brings us to the conclusion of the Amsterdam Declaration:

Our primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilising free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, we have confidence that we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We call upon all who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this endeavour.

And it's this statement, more than any other in the Declaration, that encapsulates what vision Humanism has for the world. We're not about attacking religion or worshipping science. Our goals are promoting peace and compassion. Our means are free and scientific inquiry and human creativity.

The simplest terms I've heard to describe Humanism come from James Croft who has said Humanism is simply "reason, compassion and hope."

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