What questions are raised by a humanist approach to life?

Some critics of humanism claim that certain humanist beliefs and values do not sit comfortably together. Questions that humanists often therefore face include:

  • If human beings are a purely physical product of evolution, can a humanist claim there is anything special about them?
  • If certainty in our beliefs is unattainable, why should we trust the knowledge discovered through science? Why should we even bother to investigate?
  • If a humanist believes that death is the end of our individual existence, how does he or she find meaning and purpose in life?
  • Can a belief that we should make the most of our own individual lives in the here and now be compatible with a belief that we should devote time and energy to improving the quality of life of others?
  • Without objective moral rules, does morality not collapse into the acceptance that no action is any better or worse than any other?
  • Is a confidence in one’s own beliefs compatible with the promotion of freedom of belief?

These are some of the questions at the heart of humanism and these are the questions we will explore over the next six weeks. Many humanists do believe their beliefs and values are compatible and coherent, and, for many, they provide the basis of a secure, confident, and happy life. We will, however, address some of the objections to humanism and the responses to those objections. It will be up to you to evaluate whether the humanist answers you encounter are satisfactory or not, and to decide whether you feel humanism holds together as a coherent way of life.

Question: In the comments below write down some of the questions you have about humanism. What questions would you want to put to a humanist?

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This article is from the free online course:

Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life

Humanists UK