The American Humanist Association has been devoted to applying critical inquiry and social concern to everyday human activity and to our society for seventy-five years.
In 1933, the first Humanist Manifesto was crafted to communicate a need to transcend the limitations of religious belief systems. Those who penned and signed this comprehensive document on humanism affirmed the necessity of establishing “conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few.”
Forty years after the first official statement, the updated Humanist Manifesto II voiced a vision for a time that craved direction. Its authors and signatories agreed that we must rectify social injustices, that compassion and empathy were just as necessary as scientific reason, and that a commitment to all humankind is the highest commitment of which we are capable.
The third installment of the Humanist Manifesto was published in 2003. It affirms that humanism is a lifestance “guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience” and emphasizes that humanists are “committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity.”
Humanist philosophy and the need to combat various forms of social, economic, and political inequality is a rational merger of common goals.
In fact, social justice activism goes hand-in-hand with humanism, a philosophy of human ethics and reason premised on human accountability.
The American Humanist Association is dedicated to live the established values of humanist thought articulated in the aforementioned manifestos. This is why the AHA took a more pronounced stand to redress social ills. There has been some dissent concerning this decision within the secular community. However, we are undeterred by malcontents—even alleged humanists—who are unwilling to appreciate the full nexus of difference that accounts for social and cultural capital (or lack thereof) associated with various identities and experiences.
As Virgil suggested to Dante in the Divine Comedy, “let us not talk of them, but look and pass.”
What truly matters is what we plan to do and how humanists can become more involved in outreach programs. As stated in our official Strategic Plan, we must build awareness of what we do to achieve our goals. Beyond lending volunteer support to social justice causes, our goal is to place a more explicit humanist face to social justice action and normalize the fact that it’s more than possible to be socially engaged for the mere sake of goodness.
In Humanism As the Next Step—a brilliant, accessible presentation of humanist philosophy—notable humanists Mary and Lloyd Morain state, “If ever there was a point of view which inspires considered action, and the application of theory to practice, it is that of humanism.”
To this end, we have created three adjuncts that will spearhead the American Humanist Association’s social justice work: the Feminist Humanist Alliance (formerly the Feminist Caucus), the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance (formerly the LGBTQ Humanist Council), and the Black Humanist Alliance. These three programs will mobilize humanist volunteers to create real, impactful, lasting social change in their communities and put a humanist face on the advocacy and charity work for social justice taking place in their communities. Each of these adjuncts is led by volunteer advisory councils and headed by passionate co-chairs who were enlisted because of their strong humanist convictions and their dedication to fighting injustice.
The Feminist Humanist Alliance supports feminist and womanist efforts seeking the social liberation of all women through critical dialogue and grassroots organizing. As an official partner with the Act For Women campaign, we advocate for the advancement of reproductive rights. Additionally, the FHA looks to mobilize humanist volunteers for voting rights through the organizing efforts of the League of Women Voters.
Our Black Humanist Alliance teams with Black Lives Matter to combat anti-blackness and racialized oppression through direct action. The alliance also focuses on doing its part to curb recidivism and encourage hope through restorative justice. To achieve this, BHA works with the Lionheart Foundation, an evidence-based nonprofit dedicated to providing social and emotional learning programs to incarcerated adults, highly at-risk youth, and teen parents in order to significantly alter their life course. Volunteers are often in demand for Lionheart Foundation’s One-on-One Houses of Healing Correspondence Course. BHA also works with the Insight Prison Project, an organization working to transform lives through evidenced-based programs designed to develop behavior inspired by insight, accountability, and compassion. Volunteers are essential to supporting this restorative justice service.
To effectively address issues disproportionately impacting the queer community, the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance supports and connects with Get Equal, a grassroots network focusing on immigration, religious discrimination, reproductive justice, and criminalization that targets LGBTQ people.
In addition to the above programs, the American Humanist Association has become a collaborator with Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network of individuals and groups organizing, mobilizing, and educating white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. Members of each of our adjunct groups are urged to participate in SURJ’s Super Volunteers program that consists of digital media and communications outreach.
As we increase our network of volunteer activism and coalition-building with social justice organizations, the AHA will demonstrate that humanists are kind, caring, rational people who are committed to applying reason and empathy in solving the problems of inequity that plague marginalized communities.
Embracing an inclusive humanist worldview and living those values through compassionate activism is the answer to widespread prejudice and disparity. As poet and activist June Jordan said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
For those who wish to join our quest to express a more socially active humanism, please either email me or visit our Feminist Humanist Alliance, LGBTQ Humanist Alliance, or Black Humanist Alliance to fill out a “Join Us” form.