About Progressive Humanism

The philosophy of humanism has a long and honorable tradition. It stresses the dignity and value of the individual, while rejecting the need to submit to the authority of some divine being or creator whose existence we can only postulate, not demonstrate. For millennia, thoughtful people have developed it in one form or another as a counterpoint to prevailing religious thinking.

Progressive humanism draws on this humanist tradition. It strikes a balance between a humanist concern for all humanity, and an impulse to solve problems and get on with the job, whatever that may be. These two concerns are each important but they often conflict. The secret to a meaningful life can be found in finding ways to reconcile them, and to achieve lasting solutions to the world’s current problems in a humane manner.

There are many contemporary problems where the quickest and most effective solutions must be rejected on humanitarian grounds; and there are others where the most humanitarian approaches must be passed over because they are demonstrably ineffective. Now more than ever before, humanity is being challenged to find intelligent solutions to problems arising from the population explosion, environmental degradation, and regional conflict that resolve these contradictions in ways that are both effective and humane.

When do the ends justify the means? At what point do we forego efficiency for the sake of humanity? There are usually no easy answers to these questions, and in view of the novelty of many of them, answers from traditional religions and ethical codes frequently prove to be irrelevant or worse. The Progressive Humanist believes that the ultimate authority to decide such issues has to be a popular consensus, shared by as wide a constituency of people as possible. Common sense, in the sense of a consensus that is common to many, has to be the ultimate arbiter.

Certain conclusions follow from these generalities: (1) Democracy is essential for the maintenance of a broad consensus as a hedge against the possible excesses of tyranny. (2) Freedom of speech and religion are equally essential, and for much the same reason. (3) Education is the basis for creating an enlightened constituency; it must be kept as free as possible from specific religious or ideological biases.

In sum, Progressive Humanism is fortified by an optimistic attitude toward our long-range future. It is based on four principles:

We are one species (the essential unity of humanity)

We are masters of our own fate (no passing the buck to some deity)

Truth changes (the situational nature of values and other verities)

Progress is inevitable (eventually)

[About the principal author]

I welcome your comment. My e-mail address is: ccoon@mindspring.com

12 Responses to About Progressive Humanism

  1. I am impressed by your ideas and ideals. I am a humnasit psychotherapist and share your philosophy. My latest book is titled
    The Next Stage of Human Evolution…Essays on science, psychology and humanism
    Keep up the good work
    peacefully
    khalid sohail

    • Annie says:

      Ah yes, there you go again. Your progressive humanism is identical to identifying yourself as an atheist communist. Go ahead……say it!

      • Steven McMacken says:

        Annie, your comment was unnecessary and irrelevant, and makes me think you might have some anger issues. FYI, an atheist lacks belief in the existence of God (or gods). Being a communist is something completely different. It means you support an economic system where all means of production are owned in common, rather than by individuals.

  2. Sandra says:

    Dear Ladies & Gentlemen:

    I have questions for you. Is Our Lord indeed unnecessary to you? Are you saying, You are The Beginning and End ….You have The First & Last Say? Are you saying, You are Your Own God?

    If so, I will be including each and everyone of you in my prayers. For I know first hand, Our Lord is Very Much with us. For example: Our son was born 4 months early. At the time of his birth, he was the youngest premature baby ever to survive at the hospital in our area.
    One evening, as we made our way to the NICU where he was located, one of his doctor’s beckoned my husband & I info a waiting room. It was there he proclaimed that upon his approach to the NICU to do his rounds, there stood a clear image of our Lord among all those precious premature children. This doctor is very well known and, At the Top of his profession.
    I ask you, Was this Dr. telling the truth. I think Most Certainly He was. And I am happy to say, this isn’t the only time Our Lord has made his presents known to our family. I will ask you the same question; Are we telling the Truth? Why “YES we are!!”
    Our family, and others we have come in contact with are educated, smart & problem solving individuals. We can find our way out of a “Rabbit Hole.” But, one very important difference between “US & You” We have Our Lord walking with us, each and everyday. We take Great Comfort in knowing, it is not “Us who are All Knowing” It is Our Lord, and looking to him for guidance on a daily basis does not show weakness, or vulnerability. We are Smart Sheep to a Loving God. We choose Not to claim ourselves as “The All Knowing.” For Our Lord is just that.

    • Robert Park says:

      Emotion is certainly part of the human experience, and many people raised in traditional religious faiths (Christianity being one of them) feel strong emotional ties to the ideas and teachings of that faith, but emotion is not the path to truth.

    • mdforbes500 says:

      The concept of God is the representation of your own subconscious, particularly the Ego. This does not make it less valid to you, but only to you and as an emotional representation of your inner psychology. So, essentially, yes. We are our own Gods and Goddesses.

  3. bryan says:

    If you say truth changes and progress is inevitable how could you even have a point of action because with that philosophy your goal would be ever changing. You would be absent of any finality. That is a form of burning in hell. I will at least have the enjoyment of knowing when a project has success and I argue to you, truth never changes it is standing and confirmed if you don’t believe that figure out this math problem 2+2=4

  4. Carl Coon says:

    bryan (and others): check out my “One Step at a Time” on this website and my “Short History of Evolution” was published serially in The Humanist earlier this year and is now available on amazon.com. If you define progress in terms of increasing complexity and concentration of power than a long view will confirm my assertion, and clarify related points.

  5. phil says:

    None of us will really know until our last breath is gone. If you are correct and there is no God nor life after, then my belief’s have given me a false sense of peace and comfort through my life. I would not trade that peace.

    If on the other hand it turns out I was right and there is a God, I feel sadness for you because it may be to late for you.

    One thing for certain we will all find out that truth one day.

    • Simon in Spain says:

      This is my first post here, but I’ll jump straight in.
      I wonder how many people would still follow a religion if no afterlife were promised. Religion does provide consolation and an explanation for everything that means no further effort or investigation is required. It’s a good product.

      What annoys me most about many who follow relgion (not believers in god per se), is the lack of humbleness. How arrogant and self-important do you have to be to believe that a higher being talks to you directly and helps you. And how cruel and narrow minded do you have to be believe that “I’m going to be ‘saved’ and you’re not’ and to judge others in god’s name!
      Surely, any higher being would understand the thinking behind being skeptical and wouldn’t do anything as petty and human as, “you didn’t believe in me nd adore me, so now you’re not going to heaven, so there!” The god of religion is a very human god indeed and is a manifestion of our need for consolation and also to feel superior to others.

      With the evidence available to us, and a knowledge of human psychology, both quite poor, I prefer Plato’s humble statement about the limits of human understanding: “All I know is that I know nothing.”

      Be more humble and respectful. Don’t try converting others to your way of thinking or praying for them (this is so condescending). Whether you are religious or humanist, try and accept other people’s beliefs in a respectful way.

      Just see how hard it is for us humans to accept other points of view. If you are a true beleiver, you’re pulse is probably racing in righteous rage (notice the alliteration). Our personal convictions don’t make us right. They are just an opinion.

      • Carl Coon says:

        There is merit in what you have just said. If everyone gave up active, aggressive proselytizing then everyone, including humanists, would gain.

        • Simon in Spain says:

          Thanks for your fast reply. I’d just like to say that this site is a fantastic initiative and a great place for humanists to learn more about humanism and to exchange opinions.

          I’m glad I found humanism and can say I’m a ‘humanist’, not an ‘atheist’, due to the negative connotation this carries with it for believers.

          For me, humanism provides a community and a home to describe my values and moral views that the tag ‘atheist’ does not have. As Greg Epstein, the Humanist chaplain at Harvard writes, you can be Good without God.

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