In Defense of Secular Humanism

In Defense of Secular Humanism

In Defense of Secular Humanism

In Defense of Secular Humanism

Synopsis

Are the fundamentalists shaking the foundations of the American republic?

- When they condemn humanism's influence in the schools, are they not actually
attacking modern education, science, culture, and philosophy?

- Is it possible to be moral without benefit of clergy or creed?

- Can humanism help open doors so that individuals, singly and in cooperation
with others, can create lives that are rich in enjoyment, eloquent and
meaningful?

What is humanism, and why have humanists come under attack by religious conservatives and the fundamentalist right? "Humanism is not a dogma or a creed," writes Paul Kurtz. "Humanists have confidence in human beings, and they believe that the only bases for morality are human experience and human needs. Humanists are opposed to all forms of supernaturalistic and authoritarian religion. Many humanists believe that scientific intelligence and critical reason can assist in reconstructing our moral lives... Humanists believe in freedom and pluralistic democracy as virtually our first principle, and we are disturbed by any authoritarian effort to impose one point of view on America. Defense of the open, democratic society should be the first point humanists make in response to the Moral Majority, making it clear that in our reading of the American tradition, pluralism is essential."

In Defense of Secular Humanism is a volume of collected essays by one of the leading exponents of secular humanism. It is a closely reasoned defense of one of the most venerable ethical, scientific and philosophical traditions within Western civilization.

Excerpt

Secular humanism has come under sustained criticism in recent years, especially from religious conservatives and the fundamentalist right. Critics have called it the "most dangerous" and "influential" intellectual and religious movement in America in the present century. Basic to the attack is the view that secular humanism lacks a moral framework and that it has contributed to the decay of moral values in modern society.

I think the opposition is profoundly mistaken. For it fails to appreciate the significant role humanism has had in developing a moral position relevant to the present age of rapid scientific advances and social change. Indeed, humanism expresses a set of significant moral values, which focus on fulfilling the best in human beings and are positive contributions to human good.

There are, of course, many forms of humanism, religious and secular. My main interest is in defending secular humanism, that is, the point of view that holds that it is possible to lead a good life and contribute significantly to human welfare and social justice without a belief in theistic religion or benefit of clergy. Human beings, as free, autonomous individuals, can discover that life can be good and bountiful. Humanist morality can provide a genuine basis for excellence and nobility. Moreover, it is closely related to developments in modern science, and hence is a naturalistic philosophy.

I have been deeply involved in the humanist movement throughout most of my life, and I have often defended humanism from its critics. Indeed, I have been singled out by many on the radical right for special criticism. My writings on humanism, spanning more than thirty years, have appeared in many different periodicals and books. It thus seems worthwhile to compile in one place many of my statements on humanist philosophy and morality. Accordingly, this book contains much that I have said in developing and clarifying the humanist position. There will no doubt be some overlap, since the articles were written at different times in response to different challenges. This volume contains, for example, Humanist Manifesto ii, which I drafted in collaboration with many others and which especially has come . . .

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