Wednesday, 26 March 2008

What is Humanism? A Simple Definition

Humanism isn't a religion - it's a very old philosophy that represents the views of hundreds of millions of people around the world. There are lots of definitions  out there, but my favourite comes from the late Kurt Vonnegut, who said that "being a humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead".

Another way of putting it is to say that humanists believe we can live good and worthwhile lives guided by reason and compassion, rather than religion or superstition, and that there are more things that unite humanity than divide it. Or, as we say in Scotland, "We're a' Jock Tamson's Bairns" - we're all the same under the skin.

Some humanists are atheists; others are agnostic. Not everyone who chooses to have a humanist ceremony will be either. I've married couples where one partner was Catholic, or Muslim or Protestant. They chose a humanist ceremony because they felt they could relate to the values of humanism, which are universal. 

Karen Armstrong  writes about 'The Golden Rule' that all the world's great religions hold in common, which is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Compassion is the key. Which sounds suspiciously like humanism to me...

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Jaclyn and Stuart's Humanist Wedding at The Vu

Stuart and Jaclyn first met at an NME Nominees gig in Glasgow, but it took Stuart a while to win Jaclyn's heart because she thought...