Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Secular humanism

Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice and specifically rejects rituals and ceremonies as a means to affirm a life stance. The term was coined in the 20th century to make a clear distinction from "religious humanism". A perhaps less confrontational synonym is scientific humanism, which the biologist Edward O. Wilson claimed to be "the only worldview compatible with science's growing knowledge of the real world and the laws of nature.

When humanists use the phrase secular humanism it is typically to emphasize differences relative to religion or religious humanism. There are a number of ways in which secular and religious humanism can differ:
  • Religious humanists may value rituals and ceremonies as means of affirming their life stance. Secular humanists are typically not interested in using rituals and ceremonies.
  • Some religious humanists may seek profound "religious" experiences, such as those that others would associate with the presence of God, despite interpreting these experiences differently. Secular humanists would generally not pursue such experiences.
  • Some varieties of nontheistic religious humanism may conceive of the word divine as more than metaphoric even in the absence of a belief in a traditional God; they may believe in ideals that transcend physical reality; or they may conceive of some experiences as "numinous" or uniquely religious. Secular humanism regards all such terms as, at best, metaphors for truths rooted in the material world.
  • Some varieties of religious humanism, such as Christian humanism include belief in God, traditionally defined. Secular humanism is skeptical about God and the supernatural and believes that these are not useful concepts for addressing human problems.
While some humanists embrace calling themselves secular humanists, others prefer the term Humanist, capitalized and without any qualifying adjective. The terms secular humanism and Humanism overlap, but have different connotations. The term secular humanism emphasizes a non-religious focus, whereas the term Humanism de-emphasizes this and may even encompass some non-theistic varieties of religious humanism. The term Humanism also emphasizes considering one's humanism to be a life stance. Secular humanism advocates secularism but is a broader concept. Secularism has a number of usages but generally emphasize limits on the role of religious or supernatural considerations in the affairs of society or government. Secular humanism adds to these positions a comprehensive perspective on life, including affirmation of human dignity and the importance of ethics.

 ...includes Julie Andrews singing "something good" and "your crowning glory"

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