The Journey of Life

Humanists may see life as a metaphorical journey, from youth to maturity, from ignorance to understanding, from aspiration and hope to fulfilment, but the journey is not a central concept or metaphor in Humanism (despite some critics seeing Humanism as embracing a naïve belief in human progress).

Humanists recognise the human need for rituals to mark the important stages of life. There are humanist ceremonies to celebrate birth and marriage (and same-sex civil partnerships) and in some countries, though not the UK, the arrival of adulthood. Humanist ceremonies are tailor-made for the people involved, and may involve readings, music, poetry as well as statements from those most closely involved and, possibly, a humanist officiant or celebrant. They will not include hymns, worship or prayer, though they may include time for quiet reflection or prayer for those who wish. They may also include traditional symbols such as flowers and rings.

Humanist baby-namings or welcomings can take place anywhere, and are usually fairly informal occasions, in which family and friends welcome the new arrival and express their hopes and promises, in words such as: “We promise to use all our wisdom, patience and love to help you to fulfil yourself and help others throughout your life.” They may invite a friend to be the baby’s mentor or involve other children in the family in the ceremony.

Humanist weddings or same-sex partnership ceremonies may be indoors or outdoors, formal or informal, traditional or very individual in style. The important thing is for the ceremony to suit the couple and add something personal, particularly the couple’s own readings and vows, to the necessary legal civil ceremony.

Humanists do not believe in an afterlife, and so humanist funerals look back rather than forward, celebrating the life of the deceased as well as offering an opportunity to grieve and say farewell. There will be no suggestion of life after death. A humanist celebrant may lead the funeral and offer guidance and suggestions to ensure that it reflects the beliefs, culture and personality, as well as the life and achievements, of the deceased.

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