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Austin Cline

Humanism, Definitively

By June 29, 2005

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In America, humanism tends to be a maligned philosophy. If you just listened to the Christian Right, you'd have to conclude that humanism is the next worse thing after Nazi ideology (although gay rights seems to be taking that place lately). Some people, though, are coming to realize that humanism isn't so bad after all.

Robin Herlands writes:

Humanism seems... wonderful. It seems like a philosophy with an incredible amount of respect for human beings and their deservance of dignity and good treatment. It also seems to embrace scientific reasoning and evidence. Humanists also seem like good, liberal, life is important even if it isn't tied to an afterlife types. I like those types. Humanists tend to support gay rights, separation of church and state, assisted suicide and a woman's right to get an abortion. They tend NOT to support the death penalty, prayer in school, or censorship.

It seems to me like humanists are idealistic, too. It doesn't mean they aren't practical, but the principles seem to embrace equity, respect, academic freedom, democracy. Maybe humanism itself is idealistic. Most groups that are anti-censorship trust that more knowledge will help people rather than hurt them. It puts trust into the hands of all people to make decisions for themselves based on whatever they can find and believe. That's pretty idealistic. I love it :)

Humanism, all definitions aside, seems pretty darn cool.

As I wrote in the comments there, "One of the advantages that humanism has is the fact that it is more about principles, not dogmas and conclusions. Being a humanist means affirming particular approaches to problems rather than particular conclusions. Humanism doesn't tell you what to believe; instead, it helps you do a better job at forming beliefs."

This makes humanism compatible with science more compatible, I think, than most religions like Christianity. Religion relies upon dogma and doctrine; science relies upon methodology. Humanism, like science, focuses upon how we arrive at beliefs and ideas, preferring to promote particular principles of inquiry and ethics rather than definitive conclusions which must be accepted for all times.

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