From a lunchtime seminar organised by the East of England Faiths Agency for Suffolk County Council Staff in Ipswich on 14 October 2010. The previous seminar was led by a local vicar and more seminars would be led by various faith representatives. My introduction was followed by a Q & A session.
Iâ€™m a Humanist. Humanism is a descriptive word applied retrospectively (from about the late 19th century) to a certain set of beliefs and values, free from religion. These beliefs and values are at least as old as recorded history.
Humanists accept naturalism (rather than supernaturalism) and we value scientific method as a means to gain knowledge. We accept that this life is the only one we have, and we think that morality arises out of human nature and culture. These ideas are a â€˜permanent alternativeâ€™ that recur throughout time and place. Theyâ€™ve been evident in Europe from the 6th century BCE to about 6th century CE, in China from the 6th century BCE onwards (the followers of Confucius were humanists), in India from the 6th century onwards, in the Arab world from about the 12th century, and in the Western world from about the 17th century onwards.
Humanism isnâ€™t a religion for atheists. Itâ€™s not equivalent to religion. Itâ€™s not a â€˜faithâ€™ â€“ the word â€˜faithâ€™ means believing in something without evidence, which is anathema to a humanist. Humanists use reason to try to make sense of life and the world we live in, and if thereâ€™s something we donâ€™t know or understand weâ€™re content to admit that we donâ€™t know.