Humanist Manifesto II [Humanist Manifesto I is now a historical document, superseded by Hu
Humanist Manifesto II
[Humanist Manifesto I is now a historical document, superseded by
Humanist Manifesto II. Like the first, this second document does
not represent a binding creed or doctrine, but is merely a
consensus statement on social policy.]
The next century can be and should be the humanistic century.
Dramatic scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social
and political changes crowd our awareness. We have virtually
conquered the planet, explored the moon, overcome the natural
limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of a new
age, ready to move farther into space and perhaps inhabit other
planets. Using technology wisely, we can control our environment,
conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span,
significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human
evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and
provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an
abundant and meaningful life.
The future is, however, filled with dangers. In learning to apply
the scientific method to nature and human life, we have opened the
door to ecological damage, overpopulation, dehumanizing
institutions, totalitarian repression, and nuclear and biochemical
disaster. Faced with apocalyptic prophesies and doomsday
scenarios, many flee in despair from reason and embrace irrational
cults and theologies of withdrawal and retreat.
Traditional moral codes and newer irrational cults both fail to
meet the pressing needs of today and tomorrow. False "theologies
of hope" and messianic ideologies, substituting new dogmas for
old, cannot cope with existing world realities. They separate
rather than unite peoples.
Humanity, to survive, requires bold and daring measures. We need
to extend the uses of scientific method, not renounce them, to
fuse reason with compassion in order to build constructive social
and moral values. Confronted by many possible futures, we must
decide which to pursue. The ultimate goal should be fulfillment of
the potential for growth in each human personality - not for the
favored few, but for all of humankind. Only a shared world and
global measures will suffice.
A humanist outlook will tap the creativity of each human being and
provide the vision and courage for us to work together. This
outlook emphasizes the role human beings can play in their own
spheres of action. The decades ahead call for dedicated,
clear-minded men and women able to marshal the will, intelligence,
and cooperative skills for shaping a desirable future. Humanism
can provide the purpose and inspiration that so many seek it can
give personal meaning and significance to human life.
Many kinds of humanism exist in the contemporary world. The
varieties and emphases of naturalistic humanism include
"scientific," "ethical," "democratic," "religious," and "Marxist"
humanism. Free thought, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, deism,
rationalism, ethical culture, and liberal religion all claim to be
heir to the humanist tradition. Humanism traces its roots from
ancient China, classical Greece and Rome, through the Renaissance
and the Enlightenment, to the scientific revolution of the modern
world. But views that merely reject theism are not equivalent to
humanism. They lack commitment to the positive belief in the
possibilities of human progress and to the values central to it.
Many within religious groups, believing in the future of humanism,
now claim humanist credentials. Humanism is an ethical process
through which we all can move, above and beyond the divisive
particulars, heroic personalities, dogmatic creeds, and ritual
customs of past religions or their mere negation.
We affirm a set of common principles that can serve as a basis for
united action - positive principles relevant to the present human
condition. They are a design for a secular society on a planetary
For these reasons, we submit this new "Humanist Manifesto" for the
future of humankind; for us, it is a vision of hope, a direction
for satisfying survival.
FIRST: In the best sense, religion may inspire dedication to the
highest ethical ideals. The cultivation of moral devotion and
creative imagination is an expression of genuine "spiritual"
experience and aspiration.
We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian
religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human
needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any
account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in
our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not
do so. Even at this late date in human history, certain elementary
facts based upon the critical use of scientific reason have to be
restated. We find insufficient evidence for belief in the
existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or
irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the
human race. As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature
not deity. Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now
know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge
of the natural.
Some humanists believe we should reinterpret traditional religions
and reinvest them with meanings appropriate to the current
situation. Such redefinitions, however, often perpetuate old
dependencies and escapisms; they easily become obscurantist,
impeding the free use of the intellect. We need, instead,
radically new human purposes and goals.
We appreciate the need to preserve the best ethical teachings in
the religious traditions of humankind, many of which we share in
common. But we reject those features of traditional religious
morality that deny humans a full appreciation of their own
potentialities and responsibilities. Traditional religions often
offer solace to humans, but, as often, they inhibit humans from
helping themselves or experiencing their full potentialities.
Such institutions, creeds, and rituals often impede the will to
serve others. Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence
rather than independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear
rather than courage. More recently they have generated concerned
social action, with many signs of relevance appearing in the wake
of the "God Is Dead" theologies. But we can discover no divine
purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much
that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or
will become. No deity can save us; we must save ourselves.
SECOND: Promises of immortal salvation or fear or eternal
damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans
from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from
rectifying social injustices. Modern science discredits such
historic concepts as the "ghost in the machine" and the "separable
soul." Rather, science affirms that the human species is an
emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know,
the total personality is a function of the biological organism
transacting in a social and cultural context. There is no credible
evidence that life survives the death of the body. We continue to
exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced
others in our culture.
Traditional religions are surely not the only obstacles to human
progress. Other ideologies also impede human advance. Some forms
of political doctrine, for instance, function religiously,
reflecting the worst features of orthodoxy and authoritarianism,
especially when they sacrifice individuals on the altar of Utopian
promises. Purely economic and political viewpoints, whether
capitalist or communist, often function as religious and
ideological dogma. Although humans undoubtedly need economic and
political goals, they also need creative values by which to live.
THIRD: We affirm that moral values derive their source from human
experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no
theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need
and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life.
Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures.
Happiness and the creative realization of human needs and desires,
individually and in shared enjoyment, are continuous themes of
humanism. We strive for the good life, here and now. The goal is
to pursue life's enrichment despite debasing forces of
vulgarization, commercialization, bureaucratization, and
FOURTH: Reason and intelligence are the most effective
instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute:
neither faith nor passion suffices in itself. The controlled use
of scientific methods, which have transformed the natural and
social sciences since the Renaissance, must be extended further in
the solution of human problems. But reason must be tempered by
humility, since no group has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue. Nor
is there any guarantee that all problems can be solved or all
questions answered. Yet critical intelligence, infused by a sense
of human caring, is the best method that humanity has for
resolving problems. Reason should be balanced with compassion and
empathy and the whole person fulfilled. Thus, we are not
advocating the use of scientific intelligence independent of or in
opposition to emotion, for we believe in the cultivation of
feeling and love. As science pushes back the boundary of the
known, man's sense of wonder is continually renewed, and art,
poetry, and music find their places, along with religion and
FIFTH: The preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a
central humanist value. Individuals should be encouraged to
realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all
religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the
individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize
personality. We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant
with social responsibility. Although science can account for the
causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of
choice exist in human life and should be increased.
SIXTH: In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant
attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical
cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth
control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized. While we do
not approve of exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression,
neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual
behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual
exploration should not in themselves be considered "evil."
Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled
promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short
of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals
should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and
pursue their life-styles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the
development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which
humans are not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy,
sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relationships
are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an
important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity.
SEVENTH: To enhance freedom and dignity the individual must
experience a full range of civil liberties in all societies. This
includes freedom of speech and the press, political democracy, the
legal right of opposition to governmental policies, fair judicial
process, religious liberty, freedom of association, and artistic,
scientific, and cultural freedom. It also includes a recognition
of an individual's right to die with dignity, euthanasia, and the
right to suicide. We oppose the increasing invasion of privacy,
by whatever means, in both totalitarian and democratic societies.
We would safeguard, extend, and implement the principles of human
freedom evolved from the "Magna Carta" to the "Bill of Rights,"
the "Rights of Man," and the "Universal Declaration of Human
EIGHTH: We are committed to an open and democratic society. We
must extend participatory democracy in its true sense to the
economy, the school, the family, the workplace, and voluntary
associations. Decision-making must be decentralized to include
widespread involvement of people at all levels - social,
political, and economic. All persons should have a voice in
developing the values and goals that determine their lives.
Institutions should be responsive to expressed desires and needs.
The conditions of work, education, devotion, and play should be
humanized. Alienating forces should be modified or eradicated and
bureaucratic structures should be held to a minimum. People are
more important than decalogues, rules, proscriptions, or
NINTH: The separation of church and state and the separation of
ideology and state are imperatives. The state should encourage
maximum freedom for different moral, political, religious, and
social values in society. It should not favor any particular
religious bodies through the use of public monies, nor espouse a
single ideology and function thereby as an instrument of
propaganda or oppression, particularly against dissenters.
TENTH: Humane societies should evaluate economic systems not by
rhetoric or ideology, but by whether or not they increase economic
well-being for all individuals and groups, minimize poverty and
hardship, increase the sum of human satisfaction, and enhance the
quality of life. Hence the door is open to alternative economic
systems. We need to democratize the economy and judge it by its
responsiveness to human needs, testing results in terms of the
ELEVENTH: The principle of moral equality must be furthered
through elimination of all discrimination based upon race,
religion, sex, age, or national origin. This means equality of
opportunity and recognition of talent and merit. Individuals
should be encouraged to contribute to their own betterment. If
unable, then society should provide means to satisfy their basic
economic, health, and cultural needs, including, wherever
resources make possible, a minimum guaranteed annual income. We
are concerned for the welfare of the aged, the infirm, the
disadvantaged, and also for the outcasts - the mentally retarded,
abandoned, or abused children, the handicapped, prisoners, and
addicts - for all who are neglected or ignored by society.
Practicing humanists should make it their vocation to humanize
We believe in the right to universal education. Everyone has a
right to the cultural opportunity to fulfill his or her unique
capacities and talents. The schools should foster satisfying and
productive living. They should be open at all levels to any and
all; the achievement of excellence should be encouraged.
Innovative and experimental forms of education are to be welcomed.
The energy and idealism of the young deserve to be appreciated and
channeled to constructive purposes.
We deplore racial, religious, ethnic, or class antagonisms.
Although we believe in cultural diversity and encourage racial and
ethnic pride, we reject separations which promote alienation and
set people and groups against each other; we envision an
integrated community where people have a maximum opportunity for
free and voluntary association.
We are critical of sexism or sexual chauvinism - male or female.
We believe in equal rights for both women and men to fulfill their
unique careers and potentialities as they see fit, free of
TWELFTH: We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic
grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where
the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty
and to move toward the building of a world community in which all
sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the
development of a system of world law and a world order based upon
transnational federal government. This would appreciate cultural
pluralism and diversity. It would not exclude pride in national
origins and accomplishments nor the handling of regional problems
on a regional basis. Human progress, however, can no longer be
achieved by focusing on one section of the world, Western or
Eastern, developed or underdeveloped. For the first time in human
history, no part of humankind can be isolated from any other.
Each person's future is in some way linked to all. We thus
reaffirm a commitment to the building of world community, at the
same time recognizing that this commits us to some hard choices.
THIRTEENTH: This world community must renounce the resort to
violence and force as a method of solving international disputes.
We believe in the peaceful adjudication of differences by
international courts and by the development of the arts of
negotiation and compromise. War is obsolete. So is the use of
nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. It is a planetary
imperative to reduce the level of military expenditures and turn
these savings to peaceful and people-oriented uses.
FOURTEENTH: The world community must engage in cooperative
planning concerning the use of rapidly depleting resources. The
planet earth must be considered a single ecosystem. Ecological
damage, resource depletion, and excessive population growth must
be checked by international concord. The cultivation and
conservation of nature is a moral value; we should perceive
ourselves as integral to the sources of our being in nature. We
must free our world from needless pollution and waste, responsibly
guarding and creating wealth, both natural and human.
Exploitation of natural resources, uncurbed by social conscience,
FIFTEENTH: The problems of economic growth and development can no
longer be resolved by one nation alone; they are worldwide in
scope. It is the moral obligation of the developed nations to
provide - through an international authority that safeguards human
rights - massive technical, agricultural, medical, and economic
assistance, including birth control techniques, to the developing
portions of the globe. World poverty must cease. Hence extreme
disproportions in wealth, income, and economic growth should be
reduced on a worldwide basis.
SIXTEENTH: Technology is a vital key to human progress and
development. We deplore any neo-romantic efforts to condemn
indiscriminately all technology and science or to counsel retreat
from its further extension and use for the good of humankind. We
would resist any moves to censor basic scientific research on
moral, political, or social grounds. Technology must, however, be
carefully judged by the consequences of its use; harmful and
destructive changes should be avoided. We are particularly
disturbed when technology and bureaucracy control, manipulate, or
modify human beings without their consent. Technological
feasibility does not imply social or cultural desirability.
SEVENTEENTH: We must expand communication and transportation
across frontiers. Travel restrictions must cease. The world must
be open to diverse political, ideological, and moral viewpoints
and evolve a worldwide system of television and radio for
information and education. We thus call for full international
cooperation in culture, science, the arts, and technology across
ideological borders. We must learn to live openly together or we
shall perish together.
HUMANITY AS A WHOLE
IN CLOSING: The world cannot wait for a reconciliation of
competing political or economic systems to solve its problems.
These are the times for men and women of goodwill to further the
building of a peaceful and prosperous world. We urge that
parochial loyalties and inflexible moral and religious ideologies
be transcended. We urge recognition of the common humanity of all
people. We further urge the use of reason and compassion to
produce the kind of world we want - a world in which peace,
prosperity, freedom, and happiness are widely shared. Let us not
abandon that vision in despair or cowardice. We are responsible
for what we are or will be. Let us work together for a humane
world by means commensurate with humane ends. Destructive
ideological differences among communism, capitalism, socialism,
conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism should be overcome. Let
us call for an end to terror and hatred. We will survive and
prosper only in a world of shared humane values. We can initiate
new directions for humankind; ancient rivalries can be superseded
by broad-based cooperative efforts. The commitment to tolerance,
understanding, and peaceful negotiation does not necessitate
acquiescence to the status quo nor the damming up of dynamic and
revolutionary forces. The true revolution is occurring and can
continue in countless nonviolent adjustments. But this entails
the willingness to step forward onto new and expanding plateaus.
At the present juncture of history, commitment to all humankind is
the highest commitment of which we are capable; it transcends the
narrow allegiances of church, state, party, class, or race in
moving toward a wider vision of human potentiality. What more
daring a goal for humankind than for each person to become, in
ideal as well as practice, a citizen of a world community. It is
a classical vision; we can now give it new vitality. Humanism thus
interpreted is a moral force that has time on its side. We
believe that humankind has the potential intelligence, goodwill,
and cooperative skill to implement this commitment in the decades
We, the undersigned, while not necessarily endorsing every detail
of the above, pledge our general support to "Humanist Manifesto
II" for the future of humankind. These affirmations are not a
final credo or dogma but an expression of a living and growing
faith. We invite others in all lands to join us in further
developing and working for these goals.
[Thousands of names have been added to the list of signatories
which followed the original "Humanist Manifesto II," published in
the September/October 1973 issue of "The Humanist" by the American
Humanist Association, 7 Harwood Drive, P. O. Box 146, Amherst, New
York 14226-0146, (716)839-5080.]
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