So, what is humanism? Historically there have always been non-religious people who believe that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural occurrence with no spiritual or supernatural side, and that we can live decent, caring and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. Humanists trust to the scientific method, evidence, and reason to establish truths about the cosmos and have placed human welfare and happiness at the centre of their ethical decision making.
Millions of Britons share this view, but many of them have not heard the word ‘humanism’ and don’t realise that it describes what they believe.
Believing that it is possible to live confidently without metaphysical or religious certainty and that all opinions are open to revision and correction, [Humanists] see human flourishing as dependent on open communication, discussion, criticism and unforced consensus – Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy
Humanism can be a very confusing world view. Its origins can be traced back to Greek philosophers of ancient times and there have been many strains of humanism over the years.
In the modern world there are two dominant approaches to humanism which experienced a resurgence after World War II.
Firstly, Secular Humanism. This view is stated to be the view of Humanists UK, there is no allowance to acknowledge any spiritual or religious content or rituals during celebrant led ceremonies. However, in recent times lines seemed to have been wilfully blurred with the rise of independent celebrants, as humanist celebrants are openly permitting spiritual and religious elements into their ceremonies. Frankly, this change in view is welcomed but goes against the grain of the humanist.
The second dominant approach is Religious Humanism where humanists are viewed as a non-superstitious people who nevertheless see ethical humanism as their religion, and who seek to integrate (secular) humanist ethical philosophy with congregational rituals centred on human needs, interests, and abilities. Humanists UK could arguably be viewed as subscribing to this view too.
In 2007 an Ipsos Mori Poll found that 36% of the population share humanist beliefs and values but did not subscribe to the humanist movement per se. Why? Well, although “humanism” seems a noble endeavour and widely shared ideal, Humanists UK, in recent times, has been viewed as a religious organisation in all but name, in that they are a doctrine driven membership organisation, whose members must subscribe annually, often tithing the incomes of their members / celebrants (like many churches) and geographically restricting their practices.
It may be of benefit to appreciate the terminology surrounding celebrants in the UK by understanding what a celebrant is.
It is estimated that there are 4000+ celebrants in the UK, where Humanist UK celebrants represent less than 10%. Approximately 75% of the 4000+ are independent celebrants, most of whom are truly secular.
The 1000+ Members of the UK Society of Celebrants come from every conceivable faith and non-faith background including humanists. As a group, we do not subscribe to any belief or faith system as we want to be wholly inclusive and embrace all people and all cultures in all that we do. This approach ensures that all our members and our respective clients have a positive role to play in promoting choice, equality and inclusivity. Our members all subscribe to the view that the only belief that matters is that of their client.