In the secular movement, you’ll often hear “atheism/agnosticism is what I believe, humanism is what I do” when discussing how we label ourselves. Just as believing in God doesn’t automatically make one a righteous person, not believing also doesn’t guarantee one is good. As humanists, we use free inquiry, compassion, and accountability (concepts explored in this current Ten Commitments article series) to direct how we behave and to reflect on how our actions should change so we can better support each other and our planet. Living our humanist values requires us to connect our brains and hearts with our hands and feet to positively impact our communities and society as a whole. It is through our Service & Participation that we strive for Peace & Social Justice, putting our humanist values into action and committing to progress.
For many humanists, the prime focus of our service is protecting the separation of religion and government to ensure the United States remains a secular democracy, as it was founded to be. We advocate for evidence-based policies, science education, comprehensive sexual education, equality for people of minority faiths or no religious affiliation, and removing dogmatic indoctrination from all institutions. We remind our legislators that they must uphold the Constitution and serve their constituents, no matter their connection to a higher power. We also collaborate with progressive religious organizations and work in interfaith circles to bring humanist voices to the table and challenge stereotypes about nonbelievers.
However, our participation stretches beyond seeking equality for nontheists. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, recognizing the many identities (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political affiliation, etc.) that make up one’s full self. As the Humanist Manifesto III says,
Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.
Peace involves an intense commitment to social justice—the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities—and affirms the human rights and personal autonomy of all people. Peace can only be attained by confronting injustice with methods that aim to repair harms and ensure a fair and equitable society moving forward. Ignoring or denying past harm adds to existing conflict and distrust, and deters us from sustainable resolutions. We all must take claims of injustice seriously and ensure that those who are impacted most by rights violations determine the best course. We must try to show up ready to listen, learn, and offer our skills and resources and, further, reach beyond our comfort levels to develop new skills and find more resources.
Humanism is more than an idea we hold inside ourselves and a label we stick on. It’s about how we intentionally seek ways to help develop a more just and peaceful world for all. It’s about how we engage with the world to solve problems, understand new people and concepts, and find sustainable solutions. Let’s together put our values into action each day to better serve humanity.