Humanist Diversity

Humanists are fairly diverse, as humanist ideas have arisen independently in many places at many different times. There are humanist groups and organisations all over the world. In the UK and the USA, most humanists come from a Jewish or Christian background, but in other societies the religious or ethnic heritage may be very different. As with religions, shared ideas, beliefs and values can create strong bonds across different nationalities and cultures.

Humanists sometimes worry that Humanism lacks a clear “identity”. For the non-religious it is not always easy to find a group identity, but many humanists are satisfied by their belief in human solidarity and / or the concept of “multiple identities”, which may include family, profession, politics, hobbies and interests, neighbourhood, nationality and their humanist worldview. One humanist answered a child’s question “Who am I?” like this:

“You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil – you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.” (Dan Barker in “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist”)

Humanists will be divided, as are philosophers and scientists, on the “mind / body question”: Is the mind is simply another way of talking about the brain, or is the mind (or consciousness or “spirit” or “soul”) something separate and different? Whichever it is, humanists will look for a naturalistic explanation; it is inconceivable to a humanist that there is anything within us that could exist independently of the brain, or after death. For humanists the only possible survival after death is in the work, the memories, the children, that we leave behind, and in the fact that our remains will sooner or later become part of natural world.

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