What is humanism?

Humanism is a progressive philosophy in life that entails human beings having the capacity to be ethical and morally upright even without theism or supernatural beliefs. It suggests that proper education can cultivate individuals who trust science and reason in understanding how the universe works, have the drive to make a positive impact in society, and make ethical decisions rooted in the concern for the welfare of the world.

Individuals who share these values are called humanists. Rather than defer to divine intervention, they focus on a person’s worth and potential for self-realization through logic.

Amsterdam Declaration

In 1952, at the first World Humanist Congress, the founders of Humanists International agreed on a statement of the fundamental principles of modern humanism. They called it “The Amsterdam Declaration”. 

As per the Declaration of Modern Humanism, humanism is the culmination of long traditions of reasoning about meaning and ethics, the source of inspiration for many of the world’s great thinkers, artists, and humanitarians, and is interwoven with the rise of modern science.

The essentials of modern humanism are as follows:

  1. Humanists strive to be ethical

We accept that morality is inherent to the human condition, grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish, motivated by the benefits of helping and not harming, enabled by reason and compassion, and needing no source outside of humanity.

We affirm the worth and dignity of the individual and the right of every human to the greatest possible freedom and fullest possible development compatible with the rights of others. To these ends we support peace, democracy, the rule of law, and universal legal human rights.

We reject all forms of racism and prejudice and the injustices that arise from them. We seek instead to promote the flourishing and fellowship of humanity in all its diversity and individuality.

We hold that personal liberty must be combined with a responsibility to society. A free person has duties to others, and we feel a duty of care to all of humanity, including future generations, and beyond this to all sentient beings.

We recognise that we are part of nature and accept our responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world.

  1. Humanists strive to be rational

We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason, and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.

  1. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives

We value all sources of individual joy and fulfillment that harm no other, and we believe that personal development through the cultivation of creative and ethical living is a lifelong undertaking.

We therefore treasure artistic creativity and imagination and recognise the transforming power of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. We cherish the beauty of the natural world and its potential to bring wonder, awe, and tranquility. We appreciate individual and communal exertion in physical activity, and the scope it offers for comradeship and achievement. We esteem the quest for knowledge, and the humility, wisdom, and insight it bestows.

  1. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism

Though we believe that a commitment to human well-being is ageless, our particular opinions are not based on revelations fixed for all time. Humanists recognise that no one is infallible or omniscient, and that knowledge of the world and of humankind can be won only through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking.

For these reasons, we seek neither to avoid scrutiny nor to impose our view on all humanity. On the contrary, we are committed to the unfettered expression and exchange of ideas, and seek to cooperate with people of different beliefs who share our values, all in the cause of building a better world.

We are confident that humanity has the potential to solve the problems that confront us, through free inquiry, science, sympathy, and imagination in the furtherance of peace and human flourishing.

We call upon all who share these convictions to join us in this inspiring endeavor.

Humanism in the Philippines

Humanism is a principle that emphasizes human interest and values rather than supernatural or divine beliefs and rewards. For better or worse, humanist societies such as HAPI have difficulty operating in a country like the Philippines. The country is predominantly religious with 80% of the population being Catholic and 5% being Muslim. Atheists and humanists rarely have the opportunity to possess a platform and the few that do pop up are limited.

Article II, Section 6 of the Philippine Constitution states that: “The Separation of Church and State is inviolable. The government shall not favor any religion, support them using public funds, or even establish or set up a church. The Church should not get involved in political issues or matters. ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION CLAUSE – The State shall have no official religion. The State cannot set up a church. Everyone has the freedom to profess their belief or disbelief in any religion.”

This snippet of the Constitution is rarely implemented in the country. There are instances wherein the State still favors religious ideas that don’t allow progressive changes in the country. The government, intermittently, seeks advice from religious people in power.

Nevertheless, humanist societies and organizations like HAPI exist and continue to grow despite these conditions. Hopefully, humanism and humanists will become more prevalent in the Philippines as most of its potential advancement is being hindered by religiosity.

Humanism: FAQs

Here, you can find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are related to humanism and HAPI.


  • When and where was the term “humanism” first coined?

“Humanism” was coined in early 19th century Germany as Humanismus. However, the adjective “humanist” was already applied and in use before 1808 through its Italian Renaissance roots. The Italian term “Umanesimo” has blatant disparity with religious medieval tradition and culture; instead, it emphasizes philosophy, logic, and human creative power.

Back in the late 19th and 20th centuries, many scholars and groups began to utilize the words “secular humanism” to distinguish non-religious humanists from “Christian humanism.”

Nowadays, humanism is typically deduced as a non-religious ideology. It encapsulates the idea that each individual has the right to personal and collective freedom, equal treatment and opportunity, and a lifestyle that is morally inclined to the betterment of humanity.

  • What is secularism?

Secularism is the principle of separation of the state from religious entities or institutions. Also dubbed ‘church-state separation,’ it affirms the exclusion of religious or faith-based considerations from a decision made by the government.

Secularism does not equal atheism. The core idea of secularism is that religion should not interfere with or sway any state affairs that may impact an individual’s life or practices.

  • What is secular humanism?

Secular humanism is a life stance that necessitates the use of human intellect and secular ethics when it comes to morality and decision-making with the rejection of superstitions and dogmatic beliefs. There are plenty of secular humanists out there, in contrast to religious humanists. But secular humanists rarely identify themselves as such because they usually consider the ‘secular’ redundant. So today, it is just called humanism.

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