Secular humanism is a philosophical belief that states that humans are to be valued above all else. The inclusion of the word "secular" indicates that the philosophy includes atheism. The term was created in the 20th century as the opposite to religious humanism. Some humanists prefer the term "Humanism" (capitalized) without the word "secular", since adding this word emphasizes the philosophy's lack of religion. The Norwegian Humanist Association, Human-Etisk Forbund (HEF), is currently the largest secular humanist organization in the world.
Secular humanism usually contains the following tenets:
- Beliefs need to be tested instead of being accepted solely on faith.
- Reason, evidence, and the scientific method are the best methods of finding solutions to problems and answers to questions.
- Fulfillment, growth, and creativity are emphasized for both the individual and mankind in general.
- A constant search for objective truth, with an understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our perceptions of it, and that scientific ideas should constantly change to better describe the real world.
- An emphasis on making this life the best it can be for everyone, since humanists (especially those who include the word "secular") tend to believe that this life is the only one a person gets.
- A search for a good system of individual, social, and political ethics.
- An ultimate goal of building a better world for ourselves and our descendents by working together.
Some people criticize secual humanism on the grounds that it offers no eternal truths nor a relationship with the divine. It is the belief of these critics that the lack of these things leaves humanity without a good anchor and that it makes secular humanism itself cynical and pessimistic. Humanists respond that these criticisms reflect a lack of knowledge of the fundamental beliefs of humanism, which is not cynical and pessimistic, but idealistic and optimistic.
Secular Humanism "Religion"?
Some Christians maintain that secular humanism is a religion. Humanists deny this (humanism has no gods, churches, etc), but do acknowledge that some varieties of humanism may be religious in certain senses of the word.
There are several humanist manifestos:
- Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
- A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980)
- A Declaration of Interdependence (1988)
- IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism (1996)
- HUMANISM: Why, What, and What For, In 882 Words (1996)
- Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism (2000)
- The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles
- Amsterdam Declaration (July 2002)
- Core Principles of Humanism
- Humanist Manifesto III (Humanism And Its Aspirations) (2003)