Throughout recorded history there have been non-religious people who have believed that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They have relied on the scientific method, evidence and reason to discover truths about the universe and placed human welfare and happiness at the centre of their ethical decision making.
Today, people who share these beliefs and values are called humanists and this combination of attitudes is called Humanism. Many millions of people in Britain share this way of living and of looking at the world, but many of them have not heard the word ‘humanist’ and don’t realise that it describes what they believe. The national charity promoting humanism is Humanists UK: http://humanism.org.uk.
A short reading list:
Humanism, an update for the new millennium, Barbara Smoker. Short and accessible introduction.
Humanist Anthology, edited Margaret Knight, revised Jim Herrick, RPA. These short pieces range from Confucius to David Attenborough.
Godless Morality: keeping religion out of ethics, Richard Holloway, formerly Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church, Canongate.
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, Michael Sandel, Penguin Books. “Invites readers of all ages and political persuasions on a journey of moral reflection, and shows how reasoned debate can illuminate our lives.”
The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for living a good life without God, Alom Shaha, Scribe Publications.
Humanism, a very short introduction, Stephen Law, Oxford. A recommended author.
On Humanism, Richard Norman, Routledge.
Humanism: A beginner’s guide, Peter Cave, One World Beginner’s Guides.