World Humanist Congress 2002

Anniversary 50 year IHEU

In 1952 at the first and founding Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a declaration with IHEU's principles about Humanism was formulated and accepted as a resolution.

In 2002 at the 50th Anniversary Congress of IHEU this updated version was adopted.


Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world's great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.

The fundamentals of modern Humanism are as follows:

1. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.

2. Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world's problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.

3.Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.

4. Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognises our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.

5. Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. The world's major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process. of observation, evaluation and revision.

6. Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination and recognises the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.

7. Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment through the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.

Our primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilising free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, we have confidence that we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We call upon all who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this endeavour.
IHEU Congress 2002.
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Secular Humanist Values and Beliefs

Humanists of today identify with a distinctive belief system, specifically known as contemporary Humanism. This system is identified by certain essential features. These are:

1. Humanism is naturalistic

Humanism views the universe, including all life, as having a natural, evolutionary origin. This view excludes acceptance of any supernatural act of creation by any kind of spirit creator. Humanists take a sceptical scientific approach about spirits, souls or other transcendent beings, forces, or supernatural processes, including life after death.

2. Humanism is ethical

The ethics of Humanism are based on quality of life considerations relating to the maximisation of well-being and the reduction of suffering. Humanist values are also reflected in a deep concern for equity, fairness and social Justice. Humanists recognise that a person only becomes fully human in a community that respects each person's autonomy and liberty whilst fostering a culture of mutual care and cooperation. As they mature, individuals learn to take responsibility for their choices and actions, a development which is particularly important when these affect the lives of others.

3. Humanism is rational

Humanists consider that knowledge is gained through experience, critical investigation, the formulation of theories, and the careful evaluation of evidence. Humanists adopt a sceptical, scientific approach to unsupported claims of special knowledge, power or authority (e.g. miracles, psychic surgery,channelling, divine revelations, etc.).

4. Humanism is universalist

Humanism is a philosophical life stance that upholds the principles of freedom of, and freedom from, religion. Humanists strive to establish a secular, civil society that respects the individual's right to freedom of conscience and belief They envisage a democratic State that operates without the official use of religious symbols or practices. Such a State legislates and operates in a non-discriminatory way towards its citizens without regard to their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or systems of belief. The Humanist project is to build a global community living in harmony with nature under a fair and just secular system of law, and a social organisation which protects human rights and satisfies the basic needs of all.

5. Humanism is holistic

Humanism recognises the many and varied traits, capacities and abilities of the ‘whole' person. Humanists acknowledge that each individual has many facets to his or her personality including those in the areas of intellectual, emotional, physical, creative, critical, aesthetic, social, cultural and ethical development. Humanists also acknowledge the place of the human species in the global environment as being both part of nature and totally dependent on it.

Prepared by the Humanist Research Group led by John Russell, agreed to by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies 37th Convention 2002.

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