Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who
- trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)
- makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
- believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.
What do Humanists believe?
- Humanism is an approach to life based on humanity and reason - humanists recognise that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone. Our decisions are based on the available evidence and our assessment of the outcomes of our actions, not on any dogma or sacred text.
- Humanism encompasses atheism and agnosticism - but is an active and ethical philosophy far greater than these negative responses to religion.
- Humanists believe in individual rights and freedoms - but believe that individual responsibility, social cooperation and mutual respect are just as important.
- Humanists believe that people can and will continue to find solutions to the world's problems - so that quality of life can be improved for everyone.
- Humanists are positive - gaining inspiration from our lives, art and culture, and a rich natural world.
- Humanists believe that we have only one life - it is our responsibility to make it a good life, and to live it to the full.
- At least 15.5% of the population is non-religious according to the 2001 census, making this the second largest "belief" group in the UK.
- Ipsos MORI poll of November 2006 revealed that 36% of the population share humanist beliefs on morality and the nature of the universe. More statistics on religion and belief here & here.