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)
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