Guidance for Life
Humanist beliefs impact on humanists’ lives in the following ways:
- Humanists try to live good lives by the light of reason and experience, rather than by relying on tradition or authority;
- Humanists try to avoid hypocrisy and tend to be disinclined to compromise over matters such as participating in worship or calling themselves “Christians” for convenience;
- For this reason, humanists have developed their own ceremonies to mark the significant stages of life. However, there are no obligatory rituals, practices or texts for humanists;
- Humanists may feel rather isolated if they have arrived at their beliefs independently, as many do, and if they never learn about humanism or discover other humanists or humanist organisations;
- Humanists may be discriminated against in various ways, though this depends very much on the society they live in. Even in our relatively secular and tolerant society, they are often told that religious believers are morally superior to them, or that humanism has no place in education.
The benefits to individuals of learning about humanism and defining themselves as humanists include:
- Finding philosophical and practical support for their deeply held beliefs and values;
- Finding a positive way to describe themselves and their worldview, instead of a negative like “atheist” which simply describes what they do not believe, or “agnostic”, which implies that they don’t know what they believe. “Humanist” includes a moral perspective and a respect for human life and human capacities;
- Increased confidence in their values from the realisation that they are not alone, that many great thinkers over the ages have expressed humanist beliefs.
The benefits to communities and to the world from atheists and agnostics learning that their beliefs need not be purely negative ones, that moral values are not unique to the religions, and that there are rational reasons for trying to live a good life, must be considerable. Humanists have always worried that an over-close identification between religion and morality would encourage some non-believers to think that morality has nothing to do with them.