How many Humanists are there?


Is it proper that humanist organizations count (more or less) all non-religious people as humanists?

My answer: 

I don’t think it’s proper. We should be counting those who share our philosophy, not just people who are irreligious.  The British Humanist Association commissioned a study once and found that something like 36% of British people shared the majority of the Humanist philosophy for instance.  I suspect this number is probably pretty consistent regardless of what country you go to as humanist values are very common. In fact, global studies of ethics back that up. The only really contentious part of the philosophy is the rejection of supernaturalism as a problem solving technique.

Now – just because I don’t think we should label people as Humanist just because they are irreligious doesn’t mean I don’t think that Humanist groups don’t have a good reason to count the non-religious. In many societies being non-religious means being a 2nd class citizen. So there are human rights concerns for the entire non-religious population that need to be addressed.

The other reason to talk about the number of irreligious is because we do reject supernaturalism and theological beliefs as a way to solve problems. Meaning, we think the best sort of problem solving is secular or reality based problem solving. To convince people it’s OK to approach problem solving this way it does help to provide social validation that this is a common way to problem solve. We aren’t just saying this works – look at all the other people who reject supernaturalism too!  We do this to normalize and create acceptance for non-belief. This accomplishes a triple goal – reduce the stigma against non-belief so we personally can openly be non-religious, reduce the level of violence directed at the non-religious, and encourage people and society to use critical thinking when problem solving.

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