Humanism as a philosophy and life stance is grounded in the idea that people are capable of making ethical decisions, and that people are responsible for their actions. In the Renaissance, humanism referred to a focus in religion and philosophy on this life. More recently, it’s often used to refer to an orientation, religious or secular, where how we act is more important than whether we believe in deities or the supernatural. These humanist quotations express a variety of approaches to today’s humanism.

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We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow.

— Humanist Manifesto, 1933

Religion is a shared quest for the values of the good life, the age-long, groping effect of [humanity] to create the social order in which human powers may flower in joyous fulfillment.

— A. Eustace Haydon

Ethics cannot be based upon our obligations toward [people], but they are complete and natural only when we feel this Reverence for Life and the desire to have compassion for and to help all creatures insofar as it is in our power. I think that this ethic will become more and more recognized because of its great naturalness and because it is the foundation of a true humanism toward which we must strive if our culture is to become truly ethical.

— Albert Schweitzer

This is a call to the living,
To those who refuse to make peace with evil,
With the suffering and the waste of the world. This is a call to the human, not the perfect,
To those who know their own prejudices,
Who have no intention of becoming prisoners of their own limitations. This is a call to those who remember the dreams of their youth,
Who know what it means to share food and shelter,
The care of children and those who are troubled,
To reach beyond barriers of the past
Bringing people to communion. This is a call to the never ending spirit
Of the common man, his essential decency and integrity,
His unending capacity to suffer and endure,
To face death and destruction and to rise again
And build from the ruins of life. This is the greatest call of all
The call to a faith in people.

— Algernon Black

I find humanism to be the most rational and positive philosophy for life. And it’s not a new thing at all – the history of humanist thought is deep and inspiring.

— Alice Roberts

Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. . . .

— American Humanist Association

Humanism is a philosophy that centers on the needs, interests, and abilities of human beings, rather than on the needs, interests, or abilities of deities or supernatural beings.

— Anne Klaeysen

A Humanist Code of Ethics:
Do no harm to the earth, she is your mother.
Being is more important than having.
Never promote yourself at another’s expense.
Hold life sacred; treat it with reverence.
Allow each person the digity of his or her labor.
Open your home to the wayfarer.
Be ready to receive your deepest dreams;
sometimes they are the speech of unblighted conscience.
Always make restitutions to the ones you have harmed.
Never think less of yourself than you are.
Never think that you are more than another.

— Arthur Dobrin

Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. The head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves — along with the renewed courage to try them out.

— Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 1984

Love is a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.
As you go about your life, you can ask: the action I’m taking, does it have these six ingredients?

— bell hooks

A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.

— Bertrand Russell

Working to make those inequalities go away is being a feminist, but more importantly, it makes me a humanist.

— Beyoncé

I think the American Dream should be about a greater progressive legislation that allows for what I call a necessary future world of cooperational humanism.

— Bobby Seale

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. more

— Carl Sagan

In a universe where I believe meaning and purpose are not gifted from a divine source but are instead collectively assembled by humans, learning to live alongside and love others—all others—is perhaps our greatest task.

— Chris Stedman

For humanism also appeals to man as man. It seeks to liberate the universal qualities of human nature from the narrow limitations of blood and soil and class and to create a common language and a common culture in which men can realize their common humanity.

— Christopher Dawson

Central to being a humanist, which I am, is the core understanding that doubt and criticism are essential attributes in the quest for knowledge.

— Clive Lewis

Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and advocating the methods of reason, science and democracy.

— Corliss Lamont

Since Humanism as a functioning credo is so closely bound up with the methods of reason and science, plainly free speech and democracy are its very lifeblood. For reason and scientific method can flourish only in an atmosphere of civil liberties.

— Corliss Lamont

To define twentieth-century humanism briefly, I would say that it is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and advocating the methods of reason, science, and democracy.

— Corliss Lamont

Humanism involves far more than the negation of supernaturalism. It requires an affirmative philosophy . . . translated into a life devoted to one’s own improvement and the service of all mankind.

— Corliss Lamont

Indeed, to some extent it has always been necessary and proper for man, in his thinking, to divide things up, if we tried to deal with the whole of reality at once, we would be swamped. However when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man’s notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives, (i.e. in his world-view) then man ceases to regard the resultant divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and this world as actually constituted of separately existing fragments. What is needed is a relativistic theory, to give up altogether the notion that the world is constituted of basic objects or building blocks. Rather one has to view the world in terms of universal flux of events and processes.

— David Bohm

Albert Camus, a great humanist and existentialist voice, pointed out that to commit to a just cause with no hope of success is absurd. But then, he also noted that not committing to a just cause is equally absurd. But only one choice offers the possibility for dignity. And dignity matters. Dignity matters.

— David Simon

Humanists have every reason to hope for the betterment of humanity and every reason to look toward a better future. Despair is not in our nature.

— Doug Call

The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.

— E. M. Forster

Ethical Humanism is primarily an attitude about human beings, their worth, and the significance of their lives. It is concerned with the nature and quality of living; the character and creativity of our relationships. Because of this concern, humanism spontaneously flowers into a spiritual movement in its own right.

— Edward Ericson

Humanism is the only – I would go so far as saying the final – resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.

— Edward W. Said

There is no justice in the laws of nature, no term for fairness in the equations of motion. The Universe is neither evil, nor good, it simply does not care. The stars don’t care, or the Sun, or the sky.

But they don’t have to! WE care! There IS light in the world, and it is US!

— Eliezer Yudkowsky

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do —

The Brain is just the weight of God —
For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
And they will differ — if they do —
As Syllable from Sound —

— Emily Dickinson

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.

— Epicurus

Theologians often say that faith must come first, and that morality must be deduced from faith. We say that morality must come first, and faith, to those whose nature fits them to entertain it, will come out of the experience of a deepened moral life as its richest, choicest fruit.

— Felix Adler

The human race may be compared to a writer. At the outset a writer has often only a vague general notion of the plan of his work, and of the thought he intends to elaborate. As he proceeds, penetrating his material, laboring to express himself fitly, he lays a firmer grasp on his thought; he finds himself. So the human race is writing its story, finding itself, discovering its own underlying purpose, revising, recasting a tale pathetic often, yet none the less sublime.

— Felix Adler

One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.

— Franklin Thomas

I had grown up in a humanist atmosphere, and war to me was never anything but horror, mutilation and senseless destruction, and I knew that many great and wise people felt the same way about it.

— George Grosz

This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.

— Gloria Steinem

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

— Hillel the Elder

In a place where no one behaves like a human being, you must strive to be human!

— Hillel the Elder

Humanism will affirm life rather than deny it, seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from it, and endeavor to establish the conditions of satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few.

— Humanist Manifesto, 1933

I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.

— Isaac Asimov

The faith of free persons must tangibly make them free in a community of human dignity and equal justice.

— James Luther Adams, A Faith for the Free

Atheistic existentialism, of which I am a representative, declares with greater consistency that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it. That being is man….

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

When we say that man chooses for himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all.

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

A humanistic religion, if it excludes our relation to nature, is pale and thin, as it is presumptuous, when it takes humanity as an object of worship.

— John Dewey

Knowledge is humanistic in quality not because it is about human products in the past, but because of what it does in liberating human intelligence and human sympathy. Any subject matter which accomplishes this result is humane, and any subject matter which does not accomplish it is not even educational.

— John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Energy conveys to us the idea of motion and activity. Inside a living organism we see a source of power, which by some manner is released in terms of movement…. Life is energy… it is the creator or initiator of movement change, development. We are different from moment to moment because the life principle is at work with us…. The spirit of humanity, like the forces of nature, and like the physical life, is at bottom energy…. Spiritual life, therefore, is just as much a development out of what has gone before in the evolutionary process as physical life is; which means that the origin of spiritual life is from within.

— John Dietrich

Whether we grow more gross, more selfish, more grasping, more vulgar, more dishonorable, or whether we grow more delicate, more tender, more sympathetic, more aspiring, or more affectionate does not depend on whether we think the mind quantitative or qualitative. It depends on what we think of the values of those qualities. And I for one choose so-called spiritual qualities of mind and character because for me they contain the most enduring and highest joys of earth. Therefore, in this practical sense I am a firm believer in the spiritual life. And when I use the term as I frequently do, it is in this sense that I use it.

— John Dietrich

Humanism is the creed of those who believe that in the circle of enwrapping mystery, men’s fates are in their own hands, a faith that for modern man is becoming the only possible faith.

— John Galsworthy

Those who belong to the orthodox faiths claim that the authority of their faith rests on revelation, and that revelation is given in the pages of books and accounts of miracles and wonders whose nature is supernatural. But those of us who have long discarded the belief in the supernatural still are in the presence of revelations which are the foundation of faith. We too have our revealed religion. We have looked upon the face of men and women that can be to us the symbols of that which is holy. We have heard words of sacred wisdom and truth spoken in the human voice. Out of the universe there have come to us these experience which, when accepted, give to us revelations, not of supernatural religion, but of a natural and inevitable faith in the spiritual powers that animate and dwell in the center of [a person’s] being.

— John Lovejoy Elliott

I have known many good people who did not believe in God. But I have never known a human being who was good who did not believe in people.

— John Lovejoy Elliott

Humanism: an exaltation of freedom, but one limited by our need to exercise it as an integral part of nature and society.

— John Ralston Saul
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