What does 'humanism' mean? Some writers are intent on seeing similarities between all the things that have ever been labelled 'humanist'...but just because the same word is used, it doesn't follow that they have anything else in common, or are on a continuum. Does so-called religious humanism have anything significant in common with the kind of humanism that non-religious humanists endorse?
Nigel: There is some confusion about what 'Humanism' means. What do you understand by the term?
Andrew: I think the Oxford Companion to the Mind has it right when it calls Humanism 'a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.' This contemporary and widely-shared meaning, which the word has had now for over half a century, takes it to denote a non-religious worldview entailing a belief in reason and evidence as the ways of understanding reality, in human welfare and fulfillment as the aim of morality, and in the capacity of humanity to make meaning and purpose for itself in the absence of any 'ultimate' meaning or purpose to the universe. This is the meaning of the word understood by the British Humanist Association and all the other national Humanist organisations in the world, and the meaning that is commonly understood in education in UK schools today. It is the Humanism described in books like Richard Norman's On Humanism (Routledge) or Jim Herrick's Humanism: An Introduction (RPA) and great books from the 1960s such as Hector Hawton's Humanist Revolution. Any confusion that there still is over the term, I think, is down to the word having had different uses at different points in the past, before it came to mean what it mainly means today, and this sometimes gives rise to misleading uses of the word.