The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone. — Humanist Manifesto III

UU Humanists believe that religion is too important to be based on unprovable beliefs such as a belief in God. They wish to base the meaning of their lives on something that they can be sure of, that is here with us, that gives us meaning and purpose. — Rev. Christine Robinson

Humanism refers to the affirmation of the worth and dignity of every person, a commitment to human betterment, and the necessity for human beings to take responsibility for themselves and the world. — Rev. William R. Murry

I believe in God, but I spell it nature. — Frank Lloyd Wright

Humanism affirms this physical, finite life as all we have—along with the ability and responsibility to fulfill it as ethically as we can using our experience, reason, and a deep acknowledgement of our interconnectedness to one another. In Humanism, there is no supernatural purpose or power, no meaning-maker or authority beyond humankind. It acknowledges the power of the natural, not the supernatural, and the strength of community, while holding up the agency and responsibility of the individual.

Humanism has roots in ancient Greek philosophy. It developed alongside science during the European Age of Enlightenment, coalescing as a philosophic and religious movement beginning with the French Revolution. It has continued to evolve through history to its flourishing in the 20th century when it became a basic tenet of Unitarianism, then Unitarian Universalism. In the United States, Unitarian ministers were prominent leaders of Humanism as both a philosophic and theological movement. While humanism is often equated with atheism, some forms are theistic, for example, Christian humanism. The religious humanism of Unitarian Universalism is nontheistic, as is secular humanism (a humanist philosophy outside any religion).

It is important to emphasize what humanists believe and what Humanism offers, not just what humanists do not believe. In this workshop, youth discover Humanism at the core of our Unitarian Universalist faith, tying us together across diverse theologies and spiritual practices. Further, they recognize humanistic beliefs in the foundation of our nation's political philosophy and institutions, popular culture, and values. They identify humanism in their own world views.

Since the mid-19th century, the term "secular humanism" has described a world view that relies on science and reason, and rejects supernatural beliefs. However, this workshop concentrates on those who choose Humanism as their religion which, like other religions, provides community with which to make meaning of life, death, and other great mysteries and to affirm a framework for knowing right from wrong.

Read this workshop, including the Alternate Activities, to choose the best experiences for your group. Note that for the Engagement activity, you may visit a secular humanist group, a UU congregation, or bring together a panel of participants from your own congregation.

Given the importance of Humanism in Unitarian Universalism, you may well want to spend two sessions on the topic.

Goals

This workshop will:

  • Describe Humanism as a philosophy and as a religion, and explain its tenets
  • Track the development of Humanism in Western history and thought
  • Demonstrate how religious Humanism addresses needs for meaning, purpose, moral guidance, and faith community that other religions address
  • Help youth identify Humanistic beliefs in themselves, in Unitarian Universalism, and in our society's culture and institutions.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Learn the history and tenets of Humanism
  • Identify Humanistic tendencies in their own beliefs and values
  • Understand Humanism's influence in Unitarian Universalism and in other institutions of our society
  • Consider ways Humanism can function as a religion, and explore the compatibility of Humanism and spirituality for themselves.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.