What is Humanism?

What did Linus Pauling and Albert Schweitzer have to say about Humanism?

“Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all.” – Linus Pauling.
For those of you who don’t know, Linus Pauling was the chemist and a peace activist and a Humanist. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He was Humanist of the Year in 1961.

What I like about the Linus Pauling definition is how much his definition is echoed in the current definition from the American Humanist Association, which includes a bit about Humanists affirming our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment to the greater good of humanity.

Humanism, for all its emphasis on morality, critical thinking, and personal responsibility is actually a joyful approach to life.  We choose to be moral, critical, and responsible so that we can be happy.  And yes, it does work – check out my other post on wisdom.

When I was researching the Linus Pauling quote, I came across this one from Albert Schweitzer.
 “Humanism, in all its simplicity, is the only genuine spirituality.” – Albert Schweitzer upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for coming up with Humanism (he was one of many but the only one to get an award for it)
What’s cool about Schweitzer was not just that he was an accomplished organist and that several of his published works are actually transcriptions of Bach organ pieces, but that he literally won the Nobel Peace Prize for coming up with a philosophy and moral system that was rational and based on a reverence for life, otherwise known as Humanism. Now obviously, he wasn’t the only one to formulate Humanism, but it’s really cool to know the philosophy was recognized as globally important.

The reason I am so tickeled with Schweitzer is because he was so stereo-typically a Humanist. Check out the Wikipedia article on him (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Schweitzer)  He didn’t have a singular interest. He was interested in everything from philosophy to theology to organ music to recording organ music (there is actually a technique for recording organs that bears his name) and medicine. If you were to pick a Humanist role model to emulate, Schweitzer would be a good one.

This makes me wonder. Who is your favorite famous Humanist? And why?

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