Out of the long history of the rejection of the traditional religious moral frameworks, practices, rituals, and beliefs about the fundamental constituents of the world, humanism bubbled to the surface in pockets in the world’s history, whether schools associated with Charvaka or Lokayata materialist school in India and Mengzi or Mencius in China, or thinkers of the Greco-Roman orientation (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica; Stefon et al, 2016; Humanists UK, 2018).
Even with these formations in various parts of the world with different histories and peoples, humanism arises as a tendency in human thought across time more than a formal school of thought, with exceptions to some uncommon instances in the ancient world.
Of course, these “tendencies of thought” arose as rich and accepted, and flourishing, formal schools of thought in the Rennaissance Era, with approximations of their modern form, during the 13th and 14th centuries in Northern Italy with a geographic transition into England and continental Europe (Grudin, 2017).
Given its assertions about the nature of the world — an emphasis on empirical investigation for imprecise, but ever-improving, reels of the material world, the focus on the natural world discovered by natural means or naturalism, reason and compassion allied with scientific investigation for decision-making with relevance to human beings and their happiness, and so on and so forth, these tend towards opposition with the dominant schools of thought seen in mainstream faiths across the world because of perpendicular, in content and purpose, assertions about the universe (Papineau, 2016; American Humanist Association, 2003; Harvard Divinity School, 2018).
The emphasis on, though not exclusionary utilization of, faith or “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” the discovery and comprehension of the world through revelation in order to prepare for the hereafter in some form, and care, compassion, and often good works (if not by grace) geared to the wellbeing of immaterial souls (The Bible, 2018; The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017).
Granted, Encyclopedia Britannica orients humanism within the religion palette, but with an addendum about its own emphasis on human community and the natural world and not on the sacred and a potential afterlife.
In short, another form of religious belief focused on the here-and-now rather than the unforeseen and hoped-for there-and-then (The Bible, 2018). Formal religious practices tend to require assiduous effort, especially if of the self-flagellate kinds.
Given current trends within Canada, and by these standards, most Canadians with religious traditions, heritage, and practice do not meet this criteria for formal religious practitioners: religious by title (Press, 2013; Clark, 2003; Slater et al, 2015).
However, if the belief and epistemology, in its standard representation of trust in a higher power than oneself, then it amounts to hazy-lazy as a life trail.
To investigate, to prod and probe, to question, to doubt about everything, this takes time, effort, and another path in life less fuzzy and with fewer lazy moments than its traditional and dominant counterpart.
To construct a community in this manner brings about the common wisdom, which contain some modicum of truth values in its fundamental presuppositions, the unbelievers and infidel types, to play on the conceptual maps of the formal religious, in the construction efforts towards a communal environment of some form can feel as if “herding cats.”
How almost completely true, how pitiable, yet how hopeful and triumphal, the assumption amounts to at least two or more people trying in spite of the common pessimism and tiresome intellectual meanderings around the creation of said community.
That community of human beings in search of meaning, relationships, a common language and culture, music and art, and some place to build a foundational sense of family and sense of mutual respect and individual dignity in the pursuit of one’s livelihood: humanists.
In a Christian country, in Canada, via interpretation of the numbers throughout its history right into the present, many of the individuals with rejection of God with a formal atheism, often in the Abrahamic tradition, will move into the religiously unaffiliated categorization, but this amounts to a rejection of God or gods and the affirmation of their non-existence as well, in general (Press, 2013; Clark, 2003; Slater et al, 2015).
One of these groups of people equate to the humanists. Not only the standard denial found in atheism or the standard position of unknowing known as agnosticism; not only those related but distinct positions, humanism provides an affirmation of life values with an implied axiological status or set of values about life, epistemology or means through which to know the world, ontology or considerations about the foundational nature of being, ethic or how we should behave in accordance with and to one another, even a young aesthetic with the slow development of an art and culture with some writings and music and visual presentations meant to evoke emotions or strike thoughts.
Many in Canada grow without a faith or transition into none, the Nones, and then find a secular religion in its benign interpretation in humanism. It may seem like a big switch, but probably does not amount to much for many. In other words, to get a new lease on life, all you need to do is change your point of view a bit; and we are never too old for that. Plus, it comes with a community, but it remains acknowledged as a hard road to earn it.
American Humanist Association. (2003). Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933. Retrieved from https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto3/.
Clark, W. (2003). Pockets of Belief: Religious attendance patterns in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2002004/article/6493-eng.pdf?contentType=application%2Fpdf.
Grudin, R. (2017, November 22). Humanism. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/humanism.
Harvard Divinity School. (2018). Humanist Manifestos. Retrieved from https://rlp.hds.harvard.edu/humanism/humanist-manifestos.
Humanists UK. (2018). The Ancient World. Retrieved from https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/the-humanist-tradition/the-ancient-world/.
Papineau, D. (2016). Naturalism. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/naturalism/.
Press, J. (2013, May 8). Religion in Canada, a breakdown. Retrieved from http://www.canada.com/life/Religion+Canada+breakdown/8354112/story.html.
Slater, P., Coward, H., Chagnon, R., & Baird, D. (2015, March 5). Religion. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/religion/.
Statistics Canada. (2008, November 21). Canadians attend weekly religious services less than 20 years ago. Retrieved from https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-630-x/2008001/article/10650-eng.htm.
Stefon, M., et al. (2016, July 6). Mencius. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mencius-Chinese-philosopher.
The Bible (NIV). (2018). Hebrews 11:1. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+11%3A1&version=NIV.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2017, June 16). Charvaka. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Charvaka.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2017, April 28). Religion. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/religion.