When I was in high school, which was a fundamentalist baptist school, we were warned continuously against "Secular Humanism". The teachers and preachers would practically spit out the term, and their explanations totally confused me. What they were complaining about, the "secular humanists" beliefs, or shall I say, the purported crimes, were exactly what their Jesus was preaching!
Atheism was not addressed much, as it was not considered a threat to us. Somehow those "Secular Humanists" could seduce us if we weren't careful! We were told not to be deceived!
Where is the deception?
Treating others with respect? Caring for our fellow humans and our planet?
Taking this into account, along with what I've learned in the 30+ years since high school, I would say that Humanism is basically a code of being respectful and doing no harm, while atheism is simply a logical conclusion there is not a deity.
That is not to say Atheists cannot have a Humanist perspective, as many do. And I dare say it's logical for Humanist to reject the notion of a god. Not all of either group, however, embrace the ideals of the other.
Well, I don't willingly associate with Objectivists, i.e. the groupies of that maniac Ayn Rand. These characters can also be found in the ranks of the humanist organizations. What then is the operational difference between "atheists" and "humanists"? I'm highly skeptical of the adequacy of "humanism" as a philosophy, even though it seems to promise more than "atheism".
Atheism is the first step toward a reasonable rational understanding of the world. I believe humanism is the next. It goes beyond atheism by stating that it will not believe in anything that can not be deduced from evidence. Not simply in Deities. It takes an additional step by proposing guidelines for improving the human condition. This is not to say that a humanist is better than an atheist. If you align yourself with the ethics of humanism, it is simply more exact to call yourself humanist. Just as calling yourself a theist may be technically correct, but not as precise as stating that you are Greek Orthodox, or muslim.
Regardless of what atheist groups have for there membership requirements. To be an atheist is to simply not to believe in deities. It doesn't matter if, say, the Atheist Compatriots of Southwestern Tulsa requires that you not believe in U.F.O's or Bigfoot. Humanism is a philosophy, Atheism is not.
Since morality does not exist in nature, it is a human invention. Therefore, morality changes across culture and time and can never be defined in terms of absolutes.
Humanism, in Rogerian terms, is a theory based on the idea that in the right environment (genuiness, empathy and respect) a human will naturally move towards self actualization (the best possible self). I like it... but I don't buy it ;-)
I am actually surprised in the number of atheists here who wouldn't call themselves humanists. Or I should say I'm surprised at the reasons given. I am an agnostic(not quite atheist yet), but I am explicitly strongly a secular humanist. Like someone said earlier Humanism offers a little bit more than Atheism. What, you say? Humanism offers a more concentrated social movement, which can bring about change. If we're tired of living in a theocratic world, we should aim to change things to the best of our ability. Atheism doesn't offer this. To state again atheism is simply lack of faith. I've met atheists who voted for Bush twice, meanwhile I'm a staunch liberal on most days. I think if someone is aligned with Secular Humanism, they are more likely to align politically, socially, and of course religiously. Not to say you're not doing anything to bring about change if you're not a Humanist. But I just think Secular Humanism aids the "new atheism," movement/uprising/thingy better than anything else out there.
This is a vacuous argument, judging movements by the dictionary definitions of their key terms. Actually, Madalyn Murray O'Hair's American Atheists membership form defined atheism in exactly the same terms as humanists define themselves. "Atheism" as a concept doesn't offer anything, but whether the atheist movement does, or the humanist movement, depends more on stated definitions of terms. There are indeed an awful lot of redneck atheists, and here I'm not limiting the designation "redneck" to any particularly race, ethnicity, or region. "Humanists" historically are more upscale and polished, but are they really any more humane? What is constituted by "humanism" as a movement? "Atheists" who refuse to association with "humanism" and "humanists" who think they're better than "atheists" are both ideologically motivated, and they're both full of shit.
I've personally never met a humanist who thought he/she was better than an atheist or vice versa. I'm talking about the respective movements which I've seen and still see try to mobilize. I can't neccessarilly judge the efficacy right now, but I can judge practicality of the respective 'movements,' based on their espoused goals. I can go by the definitions set by these groups, and show you in greater detail if you'd like.
Ralph Dumain says:
"Atheism" as a concept doesn't offer anything, but whether the atheist movement does, or the humanist movement, depends more on stated definitions of terms.
What I'm saying is that the 'atheist movement,' is a very flawed term. Sam Harris was one of the first public figures I heard say this. It doesn't matter the "stated" definition. We all know what atheism is. Because of what atheism is there can never be an effective movement. I just think Humanism offers more when we're talking about mobility and change. For someone to consider themselves a secular humanist they have to suscribe to more than just a lack of belief in god. Thus, making humanism the more viable pathway to change this chaotic world.
Ralph Dumain says: "Humanists" historically are more upscale and polished, but are they really any more humane?
Do you have any examples of this? I don't recall saying Humanists were any more humane or morally superior to any random atheist. Humanism serves as my example of a 'moral compass' when speaking to theists. It also serves as an ideal to guide me in transcending towards a purpose greater than me. And I'd go even further and say most Humanists feel as I do in this regard.
And I don't think you addressed the meat of my message here either. Most atheists I've spoken with, agree, organizing nonbelievers is like herding cats. Most Atheists I've spoken with also acknowlege religion as a problem. Some of us believe we can mobilize to change this problem. You don't agree? Humanism can serve as a great driver to solve a lot of the world's problems, in my opinion. Could you please elaborate more on your post?
Isn't making a distinction between atheism and Humanism like making a distinction between theism and Christianity? They aren't actually distinct, are they? Many posters have commented that they are atheistic humanists. Mere atheism and theism are, at most, a small part of a world view, since they are just opinions on one topic: the existence of a supreme being.
So, what is this conversation really about? Humanism versus rational skepticism? Scientific materialism? Bare-bones Buddhism? I don't see these things as being in opposition, either.
Many atheists are Humanists. Many are not. Atheists are more likely to consider themselves Humanist than theists are, but a lot of theists act like Humanists.
You really need to know more about someone than whether they are an atheist or a theist before you can even start talking about their philosophy. No thoughtful person would venture to speculate on someone's positions based on only knowing the person they're talking to is a theist. To meaningfully proceed, that would need to know what kind of theist it is they're conversing with...Christian, Hindu, or whatever. But many people seem to think they've got a meaningful handle on you if all they know about you is that you're an atheist.