Humanist EDge: How People Are Using the Ten Commitments

The Ten Commitments represent the core tenets of humanist values and principles. To learn more and purchase a Ten Commitments poster, visit humanistcommitments.org

It’s been incredible to see how much the Ten Commitments have been appreciated and shared by folks around the world who are passionate about living humanist values. The American Humanist Association (AHA) promotes the Ten Commitments by writing articles, making presentations, developing a workbook for children, and selling Ten Commitment posters and badges. (We now include free postcards in packages of event materials for our local groups.)

And we’re not the only ones getting the word out. Here are some recent examples of inspiring ways people are using the Ten Commitments:

Elle the Humanist Shares Ideas on Social Media

In 2020, Elle Harris and her father Doug featured the Ten Commitments in their children’s book, Elle the Humanist, which shares simple ways that people of all ages can practice their values by thinking about how our actions impact others and the world around us. “We are all trying our best to be happy as we live on this wonderful Earth. And being a good person and loving others makes us happier than anything else!” Since we interviewed them, they’ve translated the book into several languages. They regularly share the Ten Commitments on social media (see recent Altruism and Empathy posts) and encourage people to act on them. You can find memes for each commitment and translations on our artwork page so you can also post them on your platforms (thank you to all who already do).

Drew Bekius Inspires us to Upgrade Our Humanism

Drew Bekius

In his 2022 American Humanist Association Conference session on “Upgrading Our Humanism: Building a Lifestyle of Embodied Values,” Drew Bekius displayed the Ten Commitments and led attendees in a thought exercise in which we reflected on our personal values. He directed us to select one commitment that we want to increase in our lives and take time to assess it to find specific ways to manifest it. “Humanism that stays in the head may not really be all that humanist,” said Bekius. “Humanism must push down from the head, through the heart, and into the hands and into action.” Bekius is a humanist speaker, writer, personal coach, and finance professional based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After serving as a pastor for twelve years, he found humanism and became president of The Clergy Project, providing peer support, community resourcing, and transition assistance to other deconverted religious leaders. He now teaches and serves on the board at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis and is an endorsed humanist celebrant with The Humanist Society.

Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists Runs Essay Contest

Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists, a chapter of the AHA and Washington Area Secular Humanists, runs an annual essay contest for graduating seniors in the public high schools in Warren and Shenandoah counties in Virginia. For the past five years, they have awarded three winners $500 each that can be used for any purpose, knowing that some participants start apprentice programs or jobs instead of college after completing high school. They host an awards ceremony and winners are encouraged to learn more about humanism and Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists events.

For 2021 and 2022, the essay topic focused on Critical Thinking. For example, the last contest round asked: Does the use of social media encourage or impede critical thinking? They will choose a different commitment for the 2023 contest. “The early essay contest questions revolved around religion, but we’ve tried to get away from that relatively negative type of topic,” explained SASH Coordinator Martha Heisel. “The Ten Commitments have given us a way to challenge the thinking of these young people about to step out into the world.”

John Hooper Teaches on Humanism

John Hooper

This summer in upstate New York, AHA Board Treasurer John Hooper is teaching a popular weekly Introduction to Humanism class, sponsored by The Chautauqua Humanism Initiative, that includes the Ten Commitments. He said he “wanted to incorporate an example of how the AHA is sharpening its focus on humanism as an embodied, on-the-ground, mode of living, not just a post-enlightenment philosophical position. The commitments really exemplify that focus.” Hooper volunteered to be the coordinator of the Initiative, which was established by The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Chautauqua and The Chautauqua Institution’s Religion Department to engage the increasing number of people having no religious affiliation.

John says, “I’ve found that introducing people to the Ten Commitments broadens their perspective. They begin to see modern humanism not just as a philosophical stance but as an approach to living based on reason, empathy, and our common humanity. As Antonio Damasio has observed ‘we are not thinking people who feel, but feeling people who think’.” For more on the Chautauqua Humanism Initiative, contact John Hooper at jhooper@americanhumanist.org.

AHA Wants to Do More

The AHA Center for Education is currently working on Ten Commitments curriculum for children and resources for groups that we’re excited to share with you all when ready. We’d love to know how you’re using the Ten Commitments and if you have more ideas, please email us at education@americanhumanist.org.

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