Humanists International

Giovanni Gaetani

Humanists International is the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diversity of non-religious organisations and individuals. It brings together organisations of all non-theistic traditions: humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, skeptic, atheist, and freethinking.

The organisation has four basic areas of work: one is in campaigns to promote humanist values such as reason, empathy, freedom, and secularism around the world; the second is advocacy, representing humanists at the United Nations and other international forums; the third is supporting the growth and nurture of new humanist organisations in the developing world; and the fourth is supporting humanists at risk around the world.

International campaigns

The End Blasphemy campaign is a global campaign to repeal the blasphemy laws that still exist in many countries around the world. Blasphemy laws are used to punish freedom of expression, they are used by politicians to stir up hatred against the non-religious, and (because anything can be considered blasphemous) they are often applied subjectively in order to prop up corrupt governments and control any form of dissent.

The primary aim of the campaign is to persuade countries in the West, where such laws still exist, to remove them from their statute books. In many of these countries such laws are no longer enforced. However, their existence is often cited as a defence by other countries that use them to restrict freedom of religion and belief.

The campaign started in 2015 and has so far seen blasphemy laws repealed in eight countries: Malta, France, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand. However, blasphemy laws still exist in many Western countries such as Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Freedom of thought report

Every year Humanists International publishes The Freedom of Thought Report, which assesses every country in the world on the basis of human rights and the legal status of humanists, atheists, and the non-religious. To produce the report Humanists International works with its member organisations to monitor discrimination and persecution against non-religious people. Member organisations and volunteers submit their testimony, data, and expert analysis on freedom of religion or belief violations in their respective country.

Supporting humanists in danger

Humanists International also work on the front line, helping humanists at risk, especially in those countries where atheism and apostasy are not only considered sins from a moral point of view, but are also crimes punishable with either prison or the death penalty. Work is done to try to offer these individuals legal advice and/or logistical support to help them to escape and relocate to places where they are no longer in danger, and then put them in contact with a community who is able to support them.

Growth

On its formation in 1952 there were five founding members of Humanists International (then known as the International Humanist and Ethical Union). Today it has more than 170 member organisations, 50 of whom have joined in the last two years. Many of these new organisations are from the three priority regions: Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In the last year, for example, the number of organisations in Latin America doubled to 14. The organisation is moving away from its more Eurocentric past to becoming something truly global, thereby better reflecting the truly international roots of humanism. Humanist organisations around the world are now better connected than ever.

The future

Living as a humanist today is certainly easier than fifty or a hundred years ago, but it is not a given that this progress will continue forever. It is easy to look at the risks that democracy and human rights face all over the world, and the threats to evidence-based knowledge from fake news and scientific scepticism, and conclude that humanism’s time has been and gone.

However, for humanists, it is the reason and empathy embodied within humanism that provide the best hope of solving the problems raised by divisionary discourse. Humanists are not about to give up the fight, and the impressive growth of Humanists International’s network of organisations and individuals provides tangible proof that, despite the regressive political and cultural phenomena we witness around the globe, the future of humanism is bright.

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This article is from the free online course:

Humanist Lives

Humanists UK