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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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

The human condition is that we are individuals in relationship, and there are tensions between individuality and relatedness. A humanist spirituality is not one of complete dependence, nor of complete independence — neither condition can be defended as primary. Rather, a humanist spirituality is one of interdependence.

— Jone Johnson Lewis

Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.

— Joss Whedon

I am trying to make art that relates to the deepest and most mythic concerns of humankind and I believe that, at this moment of history, feminism is humanism.

— Judy Chicago

I am trying to make art that relates to the deepest and most mythic concerns of humankind and I believe that, at this moment of history, feminism is humanism.

— Judy Chicago

Reverence is an organic human experience that requires no supernatural explanations.

— Kendyl Gibbons

Being a humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.

— Kurt Vonnegut

We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.

— Kurt Vonnegut

I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishment after I’m dead.

— Kurt Vonnegut

Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity.

— Linus Pauling

So I had this conversation with a friend and I am of the view that, we need no tags to speak against violence of all sorts.
We need no tags to love and protect ourselves.
We need no tags to do the right thing.
We need no tags to treat each other fairly.
We need no tags to be our neighbours’ keeper.
We need no tags to stand up for what is right.
We need no tags to demand for justice.
We need no tags to punish offenders.
We need no tags to live in harmony.
All we need is a defined standard of acceptable behaviour.
All we need is to properly and promptly determine who has stepped out of the defined boundary.
All we need is to mete out prescribed punishment to defaulters without fear or favour.
There can be no different identities.
We are all humans, male or female.
We need nothing more than our humanity.

— Magnus Nwagu Amudi

I was brought up in a Jewish home, but I was brought up to be human – not fanatical, which is something that I don’t appreciate at all. I learned to become a humanist and not to dwell on the differences between Jews and Christians.

— Marcel Marceau

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.

— Marcus Aurelius

The capitalists praise individualism, socialists rely more upon humanism and for the communists it’s all about collectivism.

— Mwanandeke Kindembo

With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order.

— Noam Chomsky

Old: God created the world and humanity.
New: The world and humanity evolved.

Old: Hell is a place of eternal torment for the wicked.
New: Suffering is the natural result of breaking the laws of right living.

Old: Heaven is the place where good people go when they die.
New: Doing right brings its own satisfaction.

Old: The chief end of humanity is to glorify God.
New: The chief end of humanity is to improve ourselves, as individuals and as the human race.

Old: Religion has to do with the supernatural.
New: Religion has to do with the natural; the so-called supernatural is only the not-yet-understood natural.

Old: Humankind is inherently evil and a worm of the dust.
New: Humankind is inherently good and has infinite possibilities.

Old: Humankind should submit to the will of God.
New: Humankind should not submit to injustice or suffering without protest and should endeavor to remove its causes.

Old: Salvation comes from outside humanity.
New: Improvement comes from within. No person or god can save another person.

Old: The ideas of sin, salvation, redemption, prayer, and worship are important.
New: These ideas are unimportant.

Old: The truth is to be found in one religion only.
New: There are truths in all religions and outside of religion.

— Originally published in 1930, language updated, On Humanism, originally published in 1930, language updated

America’s freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, offers every wisdom tradition an opportunity to address our soul-deep needs: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, secular humanism, agnosticism and atheism among others.

— Parker Palmer

As a citizen, hopefully I’m humanist. As an artist, I’m free.

— Patti Smith

What I say should always be prefaced with this: I’m not really politically articulate. I just try to be like Thomas Paine: what is common sense? So when I say these things to you, I am speaking from a humanist point of view. I just look around and see what’s wrong.

— Patti Smith

When My Mind is Still

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I remember things too easily forgotten:
The purity of early love,
The maturity of unselfish love that asks —
desires — nothing but another’s good,
The idealism that has persisted through all the tempest of life.

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I can find a quiet assurance, an inner peace, in the core of my being.
It can face the doubt, the loneliness, the anxiety,
Can accept these harsh realities and can even grow
Because of these challenges to my essential being.

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I can sense my basic humanity,
And then I know that all men and women are my brothers and sisters.
Nothing but my own fear and distrust can separate me from the love of friends.
If I can trust others, accept them, enjoy them,
Then my life shall surely be richer and more full.
If I can accept others, this will help them to be more truly themselves,
And they will be more able to accept me.

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I know how much life has given me:
The history of the race, friends and family,
The opportunity to work, the chance to build myself.
Then wells within me the urge to live more abundantly,
With greater trust and joy,
With more profound seriousness and earnest service,
And yet more calmly at the heart of life.

— Paul Beattie

The fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other… Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been throughout the history of this struggle. It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people’s ability to think, to want, and to know. Accordingly, these adherents to the people’s cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.

— Paulo Freire

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.

— Paulo Freire

To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on humanism and to negate people is a lie.

— Paulo Freire

The pedagogy of the oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of the oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation….

— Paulo Freire

Thus when I have to summarize naturalized spirituality in a single phrase, it is this: the thoughtful love of life.

— Robert C. Solomon

Most of us must learn to love people and use things rather than loving things and using people.

— Roy T. Bennett

My feminism is humanism, with the weakest being those who I represent, and that includes many beings and life forms, including some men.

— Sandra Cisneros

I think I’m a humanist. I believe all humans should have equal rights to live, express, flourish, love and dissent, irrespective of their gender, caste, class, socio-economic strata, disabilities, political stance, religion or faith.

— Sayani Gupta

In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing — anti-humanism.

— Shirley Chisholm

I think students should know something about religion as a historical phenomenon, in the same way that they should know something about socialism and humanism and the other great ideas that have shaped political philosophies and therefore the course of human events.

— Steven Pinker

Every brand of religion maintains, and is, a permanent mechanism for transmitting ideas and values — whether one regards those values as admirable or ridiculous. Secularist organizations, with their generally looser, nonhierarchical structures, lack the power to hand down and disseminate their heritage in such a systematic way.

— Susan Jacoby

As a citizen of the world, I stand only with Truth and my conscience is my only leader. This is the only way to peace and justice on earth. To always do the right thing, be the right person, and stand with whoever is right always and forever.

— Suzy Kassem

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

— Thomas Paine

The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

— Vincent van Gogh

In the faces of men and women I see God.

— Walt Whitman

The purpose of democracy — supplanting old belief in the necessary absoluteness of establish’d dynastic rulership, temporal, ecclesiastical, and scholastic, as furnishing the only security against chaos, crime, and ignorance — is, through many transmigrations, and amid endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible failures, to illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man, properly train’d in sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and series of laws, unto himself, surrounding and providing for, not only his own personal control, but all his relations to other individuals, and to the State; and that, while other theories, as in the past histories of nations, have proved wise enough, and indispensable perhaps for their conditions, this, as matters now stand in our civilized world, is the only scheme worth working from, as warranting results like those of Nature’s laws, reliable, when once establish’d, to carry on themselves.

— Walt Whitman
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