Consider Humanism

The American Humanist Association launched a new nationwide ad campaign to encourage people to “Consider Humanism.” And I have to say, I LIKE this campaign. It is way better then the “good without god” campaign they had last year. I understand why they did that campaign, but honestly, you don’t need to bring god into the discussion when talking about Humanism. Really, you don’t.

Anyway, I love the print ads - they contrast a quote from the bible with a quote from a famous Humanist. I particularly like the one on Hatred, which features Katherine Hepburn where she says, “I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there is nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.” This quote is contrasted with one from Luke where Jesus is quoted as saying that he only wants disciples who hate their parents.

Anyway, they also have television ads. And in the traditional Humanist spirit of “hey, that’s not the way I would have done it,” I am going to give my two cents on the tv ads. The main one on the site, spot #2, I like. It has a older looking white guy giving the religious quote and a nice looking young woman giving the Humanist quote. The impression one gets is that the religious quote is quite literally old and ugly (no offense to the actor who is well groomed, it is just what he is saying is really pretty disturbing) while Humanism is portrayed as fresh and beautiful. Perfect.

But the other two ads, feature Richard Dawkins and Carl Coon. And while I like what they say in their spots, my gut impression of them was - old white guy vs old white guy. It doesn’t have the same visual impact that the young lady has. In them, Humanism isn’t fresh, its old and white just like the religious quote is.

So, to my good friends over at the AHA, I do honestly love the spots. Just next time you spend this much money, try paying a little more attention to what the visuals are saying, and not just to what the script says. Just because Dawkins agreed to appear in the spot doesn’t mean you actually have to use him if his presence ruins the visual appeal of the spot. (Again, no offense to Dawkins who is also well groomed and quite handsome - but he is old and white).


  1. Help educate you have to be an atheist to be a humanist or can you be an agnostic or a deist and still be a humanist?

  2. Ok - lets try this again - You don't have to be an atheist to be a Humanist, but you do need to be a secularist.

    Humanism is a philosophy that gauges moral good by human need, in other words, it is concerned with secular issues, not sacred ones. What the gods may want, if they exist at all, is considered irrelevant.

    I would say that agnosticism, deism, and pantheism are all compatible with the philosophy of Humanism Polytheism probably isn't because most polytheist systems have very active interventionist type gods in them and that isnt' very compatible with Humanism because it is very hard to ignore the will of the gods when they conflict with human needs when the gods in question are actively involved in controling your life.

    That leaves monotheism. With this group it really depends on the individuals perception of what god is. If their god is non-interventionist their beliefs are probably compatible with Humanism. If their conception of god is that it is interventionist, then their beliefs are probably not compatible with Humanism.

    That being said, the modern Humanist movement is largely a nonreligious one because it is obviously easier to focus on secular issues when your mental life isn't divided between the secular and the sacred.

  3. Oh - and last year's good without god campaign was based on a book of the same name which was actually about Humanism and not about god. It was written by a Humanist Rabbi who comes from the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Greg Epstein - he is now the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard. I think his publisher's just thought the title would sell better.

  4. Thank you for the article.


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