Humanism as a Religion, and Why it Matters
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Have you ever heard somebody say “I’m not religious, I’m an atheist/agnostic”? On the contrary, atheism and agnosticism are subsets of Humanism, which can certainly be classified as a religion. As noted in the American Humanist Association’s (AHA) list of possible definitions for Humanism,
“Humanism is a philosophy, worldview, or lifestance based on naturalism—the conviction that the universe or nature is all that exists or is real. Humanism serves, for many humanists, some of the psychological and social functions of a religion, but without belief in deities, transcendental entities, miracles, life after death, and the supernatural.”[i]
In regards to morality, one definition offered by the AHA says,
“Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.”[ii]
While other religions look to the authority of God, gods, and associated sacred texts to define right and wrong, Humanism establishes human opinion as its moral authority. Therefore, Humanism essentially becomes the “catch-all” for individuals who claim to be “nonreligious.”
Even from a legal perspective, Humanism has been classified as a religion. Both the 1961 Supreme Court case, Torcaso v. Watkins, and the 2014 U.S. District Court case, American Humanists v. U.S. established that Humanism is a religion in order to protect Humanist beliefs.[iii] Using the same logic, if Humanism is a religion, then Humanism cannot be “established” by the government. This aspect of Humanism’s status as a religion is seldom discussed, but it does answer an important question: why does it matter whether or not Humanism is classified as a religion in our society?
What if the moral beliefs of the LGBT movement are consistent with that of Humanism? Consider cake bakers and wedding caterers who are fined tens of thousands of dollars for not participating in gay weddings that go against their biblical beliefs regarding the definition of marriage. Is not the religion of Humanism being forced upon those business owners? Moreover, when corporations (like Disney, Target, etc.) promote the LGBT agenda, are they not ultimately promoting the Humanist morality/religion, as opposed to “civil rights”?
What if the evolutionary worldview is consistent with that of Humanism? This would make the evolutionary worldview a religion, not "science." Would this not mean that teaching the evolutionary worldview in public schools, without alternative views on origins, is a way of establishing a religion? Would this not also mean that churches that promote evolutionary beliefs are essentially promoting a different religion?
We tend not to think this way in our culture. The Humanism religion hides behind a variety of veils and masks, such as “civil rights,” “science,” and others. The purpose of this blog is to begin some of this unmasking.
[i]. “Definitions of Humanism,” American Humanist Association, accessed 24 September 2015, http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Definitions_of_Humanism.
[iii]. Torcaso v. Watkins, Supreme Court, 367 U.S. 488 (1961); American Humanist Association v. US, US District Court, Oregon, 3:14-cv-00565-HA (2014).