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A New Paradigm

by Paul Kurtz

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 18, Number 3.

A new paradigm is emerging today. This paradigm is thoroughly humanistic:

  • It concentrates on ways of realizing and embracing human happiness in this world, not the next.

  • It is concerned with the secular city. It wishes to separate the church (or mosque or temple) from the state, politics from theology, morality from religion.

  • It is democratic. It emphasizes the dignity and worth of every person; it seeks to enhance the dimensions of human freedom; it believes in social justice, equality, and fairness; it wishes to afford to each individual the opportunities to achieve the good life.

  • It is naturalistic in that it wishes to extend the methods of science and reason to understanding nature and solving human problems.

  • It believes that reliable knowledge is possible.

  • It is nonetheless skeptical. It considers beliefs as hypotheses tested by their experimental consequences.

  • It doubts claims for which there are insufficient evidence or reasons.

  • It emphasizes education, the cultivation of critical thinking, and persuasion as the best means of achieving social change.

  • It is universal.

  • It seeks to rise above the narrow parochial interests of the past in order to build a world community based on planetary ethics.

  • It is optimistic and realistic in that it has some confidence in the ability of humans to resolve their problems.

  • It wishes to cultivate goodwill. It prefers the arts of negotiation, compromise, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts to violence or force.

  • It does not counsel retreat into a mood of passive acceptance or piety, but wishes to actuate the virtue of courage, the fortitude to overcome and achieve what we believe in.

  • It is not the tragic dimensions of human existence, angst, or despair that are the marks of the humanist, but the quest for the best that we are capable of achieving-in human terms, the bountiful life of excellence and nobility for ourselves and other human beings.

Paul Kurtz is the executive editor of Free Inquiry and chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism.

[*] Secular Humanism Online Library

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