Here’s the way I see it: What we call Humanism is the stuff inside — the liquid contained — in a variety of containers.
That liquid, Humanism, distilled to its essence, is about a naturalistic worldview, a commitment to human rights, and the conviction that human beings must take responsibility for human problems. That’s the content.
The packaging of Humanism varies widely — there is secular humanism of the type the American Humanist Association supports; there is the sort of secular humanism that the Center for Inquiry and the Freedom From Religion Foundation support; there is the Humanism that the American Ethical Union practices; there is the Humanism that the Society for Humanistic Judaism practices; there is the Humanism that Black Nonbelievers practices, the Humanism that Secular Muslims practice; the Humanism that Unitarian Universalists practice.
Many different containers. What those containers contain, however, is very similar: a naturalistic worldview; a commitment to universal human rights; a conviction that human beings can solve human problems.
That’s why, as senior minister of First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis , I insist upon using the term “congregational humanism” rather than the older term “religious humanism” for what we do in the congregation.
Why? Because Humanist thought is consistent in both congregational and secular contexts. It’s not the concepts that are different. It‘s merely’ that some people enjoy congregating in ways that have been traditionally considered “religious,” and other people don’t.
There are lots of ways to congregate.
Congregating as traditional religous groups do has some advantages and some challenges. In a more secular setting, Humanists can gather, discuss and talk, and leave, never having shared more of themselves than is comfortable. Social.
In a congregational setting, however, we go deeper. We are more likely to “get all up in your business,” as we phrase it in the South. In a congregational setting, we share more deeply; we experience each other’s lives more deeply. And, this leads to some challenges. Challenges unique to congregating in traditionally religious ways.
Some like it hot; some like it not. There are many containers for the distillation we call “humanism.”
Management theorist Peter Drucker once said, ”All nonprofits have one essential product: a changed human being.”
A “changed human being” committed to a naturalistic worldview, universal human rights, and the conviction that human beings must take responsibility for human problems.
This is the essence of what Humanism is about. The rest . . . is only containers.