About Religious Humanism

One of the major stumbling blocks the UU Humanist Association has when interacting with the secular community is our use of the historical term "Religious Humanism". When the original Humanist Manifesto was written in 1933, heavily influenced by Unitarians and a few Universlists, the authors explicitly intended and expressed their expectation that Humanism would become the "religion of the future". We recognize that the wider Humanist community has moved away from the phrase (as reflected in the subsequent Manifestos) but we believe "Religious Humanism" still has value with respect to the relationship between Humanism and the UUA which considers itself a religious association, and when refering to other congregational-style groups such as the American Ethical Union and the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

As it says in the UUHA Core Values and Aspirations:

We are Naturalists: Although we do not consider Humanism to be a “religion” within the wide-spread use of the term to denote beliefs and practices resting on some hypothetical supernatural entity, we are “religious” in that we share with most Unitarian Universalists the natural human desires for a beloved and accepting community; a purpose greater than ourselves; rituals and practices that resonate with our common humanity and shared mortality; and opportunities to work with other tough-minded, warm- hearted people to do good in the world and to help one another attain the greatest possible fulfillment in life.

We embrace the best aspects of religious congregations while rejecting all supernatural agencies and the traditional, hierarchical, dogmatic and creedal religions.

Here are some additional perspectives on Religious Humanism:

"Like most persons of this persuasion, I regard myself as a Religious Humanist not because of having been converted to a creed; a faith; not because of my having signed a membership card in a crusading fraternity of believers. The term Religious Humanism is more descriptive of a state of mind, of an attitude with respect to philosophy, religion, ethics, than it is a label for another 'ism.'"

-- Lester Mondale (from Religious Humanism: A Testimonial)

"Humanism is a celebration and a promise; it celebrates the integrity of human reason, responsibility and compassion, and it promises a satisfying lifestyle that can be counted on. No more deprecation of the human condition; rather, an opportunity to remain true to ourselves by having both feet in this world and responding to the challenges of existence with excitement and pragmatic service to others. Humanism is religion come of age; at long last we humans can live dignified lives, finite creatures though we may be. At long last, men, women and children can find ultimate fulfillment through bringing out the best in humanity for the sake of humanity."

-- Beverley Earles

"...YES: Humanism can be religious; indeed, the most meaningful and liveable kind of humanism is itself a religious way of understanding and living life. It offers a view of [people] and [their] place in the universe that is a religious philosophy...overarching and undergirding it all, there can be a haunting sense of wonder which never leaves one for whom life itself is a mystery and miracle. Where did we come from, why are we here, where are we going with all the effort, frustration, the grief, the joy? To be caught up in this sense of wider relatedness, to sense our being connected in live ways with all the world and everyone in it, is the heart dimension of religion, whatever its name."

-- Peter Samson (from Can Humanism Be Religious?)

"I have been enthusiastic about our Religious-Humanist Fellowship because it presages an enlargement of humanism, a creatively different emphasis in humanism...life's dimensions and puzzles, for their happy resolution, demand rationality, but not bellicosity, required is an imaginative psychology as well as an analytical logic, an inward look as well as an extraversion...to hold eternity in an hour and to see the world in a grain of sand are valid human endeavors...it is an honest and valid emotional appeal to still undefined values of tomorrow as they stand in tension with the values which have egregiously failed our today. For motivational insight maybe we need a Prometheus. Or in remembering another mythmaker, maybe we need to see things as a little child."

-- Robert Hoagland (from A New Dimension of Humanism)