Where the term humanism came from

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Historical use of the term humanism (reflected in some current academic usage), is related to the writings of pre-Socratic philosophers. These writings were lost to European societies until Renaissance scholars rediscovered them through Muslim sources and translated them from Arabic into European languages. Thus the term humanist can mean a humanities scholar, as well as refer to The Enlightenment/ Renaissance intellectuals, and those who have agreement with the pre-Socratics, as distinct from secular humanists.

The term secularism was coined in 1851 by George Jacob Holyoake to describe “a form of opinion which concerns itself only with questions, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life.”

The modern secular movement coalesced around Holyoake, Charles Bradlaugh and their intellectual circle. The first secular society was Leicester Secular Society, established in 1851. Similar regional societies came together to form the National Secular Society in 1866.

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Humanists have put together various Humanist Manifestos, in attempts to unify the Humanist identity.

The original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933, declared themselves to be religious humanists. Because, in their view, traditional religions were failing to meet the needs of their day, the signers of 1933 declared it a necessity to establish a religion that was a dynamic force to meet the needs of the day. However, this “religion” did not profess a belief in any god. Since then two additional Manifestos were written to replace the first. In the Preface of Humanist Manifesto II, in 1973, the authors Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson assert that faith and knowledge are required for a hopeful vision for the future. Manifesto II references a section on Religion and states traditional religion renders a disservice to humanity. Manifesto¬†II recognizes the following groups to be part of their naturalistic philosophy: “scientific”, “ethical”, “democratic”, “religious”, and “Marxist” humanism.

 

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