Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles

March 24, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More

What guiding principles would you select if you wanted to establish a highly cooperative new society? In order to avoid re-creating the deep-seated cultural strife that is ripping us apart, you might be tempted to brush aside all current conflicting systems of religious-based morality and start fresh, striving to come up with a system to which most non-believers and many believers could assent.   At center, it would be an evidence-based system.


Paul Kurtz (creative commons)

That’s what Paul Kurtz has done with his newly released Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values. It’s not for everyone, but its list of principles and values will resonate with many people.   Here are the basic principles:


  1. aspire to be more inclusive by appealing to both non-religious and religious humanists and to religious believers who share common goals;
  2. are critical of traditional theism;
  3. are best defined by what they are for, not what they are against;
  4. wish to use critical thinking, evidence, and reason to evaluate claims to knowledge;
  5. apply similar considerations to ethics and values;
  6. are committed to a key set of values: happiness, creative actualization, reason in harmony with emotion, quality, and excellence;
  7. emphasize moral growth (particularly for children), empathy, and responsibility;
  8. advocate the right to privacy;
  9. support the democratic way of life, tolerance, and fairness;
  10. recognize the importance of personal morality, good will, and a positive attitude toward life;
  11. accept responsibility for the well-being of society, guaranteeing various rights, including those of women, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; and supporting education, health care, gainful employment, and other social benefits;
  12. support a green economy;
  13. advocate population restraint, environmental protection, and the protection of other species;
  14. recognize the need for Neo-Humanists to engage actively in politics;
  15. take progressive positions on the economy; and
  16. hold that humanity needs  to move beyond ego-centric individualism and chauvinistic nationalism to develop transnational planetary institutions to cope with global problems—such efforts include a strengthened World Court, an eventual World Parliament, and a Planetary Environmental Monitoring Agency that would set standards for controlling global warming and ecology.

Paul Kurtz has issued an invitation for others who accept its main principles and values to sign on in support, even if they do not agree with all of its provisions.   I have signed up.  The values listed in this document are my values.  It is so rare that I find a collection of principles to which I would so readily aspire.  These principles should not surprise anyone familiar with the work of Paul Kurtz.

This Neo-Humanist statement is both a set of positive principles and a push-back against radical atheism:

Writing in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Free Inquiry, the magazine he founded, Kurtz declared “militant atheism is often truncated and narrow-minded…it is not concerned with the humanist values that ought to accompany the rejection of theism. The New Atheists, in my view, have made an important contribution to the contemporary cultural scene because they have opened religious claims to public examination…What I object to are the militant atheists who are narrow-minded about religious persons and will have nothing to do with agnostics, skeptics, or those who are indifferent to religion, dismissing them as cowardly.”

In his interview at Huffpo, Kurtz reminds us that only 2 to 3 percent of Americans self-identify as “atheists,” whereas 16 percent of Americans (50 million people) do not affiliate with any religious organization.

The Statement ends with this invitation:

We submit that the world needs to engage in continuing constructive dialogue emphasizing our common values. We invite other men and women representing different points of view to join with us in bringing about a better world in the new planetary civilization that is now emerging.


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Category: Current Events, Good and Evil, Meaning of Life, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Comprehensive moral instruction | Dangerous Intersection | April 12, 2010
  1. Erich Vieth says:

    I'm proud to say that I am now listed as one of those persons who has endorsed the Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values: Personal, Progressive, and Planetary.

    For more: See

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Today I had the opportunity to discuss one the above principles with Paul Kurtz by telephone. I mentioned that I had seen a slightly different version of these principles, where the second principle read as follows: "Neo-Humanists . . . are critical of traditional theism." [Emphasis added].

    Paul indicated that his website, which currently reads that "Neo-Humanists . . . are critical of theism." is incorrect. He will soon be making this correction to his site. On my post above, I have already made the correction.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Here is a copy of a comparable set of principles, “The Humanist Manifesto” published by the American Humanist Association:

    FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

    SECOND: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.

    THIRD: Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected.

    FOURTH: Humanism recognizes that man’s religious culture and civilization, as clearly depicted by anthropology and history, are the product of a gradual development due to his interaction with his natural environment and with his social heritage. The individual born into a particular culture is largely molded by that culture.

    FIFTH: Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values. Obviously humanism does not deny the possibility of realities as yet undiscovered, but it does insist that the way to determine the existence and value of any and all realities is by means of intelligent inquiry and by the assessment of their relations to human needs. Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the light of the scientific spirit and method.

    SIXTH: We are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of “new thought”.

    SEVENTH: Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation–all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained.

    EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man’s life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist’s social passion.

    NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.

    TENTH: It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

    ELEVENTH: Man will learn to face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness and probability. Reasonable and manly attitudes will be fostered by education and supported by custom. We assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.

    TWELFTH: Believing that religion must work increasingly for joy in living, religious humanists aim to foster the creative in man and to encourage achievements that add to the satisfactions of life.

    THIRTEENTH: Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.

    FOURTEENTH: The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.

    FIFTEENTH AND LAST: We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow.

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