by Edd Doerr
Like Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Humanism comes in more than one flavor. The principal ones are Secular Humanism and Religious Humanism. The first is represented by WASH, the Center for Inquiry, and similar groups, the second by the over one thousand Unitarian Universalist, Ethical Society and Humanistic Jewish congregations in the US. Some Humanists are comfortable with either term, some prefer one term over the other, and some prefer to leave their Humanism unmodified, as is the view of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The differences between the two are mainly matters of semantics and/or style and/or organization, not basic philosophy.
Secular Humanism's most well known explicator is philosopher Paul Kurtz, whose voluminous writings over decades need no introduction here. Religious Humanism is more defuse. Its most well known advocate is William R. Murry, who was president and dean of the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago from 1997 to 2003 and before that minister of the large River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, for many years. Both Kurtz and Murry, by the way, have been associated with Americans for Religious Liberty, which was founded in 1982 by Humanist leaders Edward Ericson and Sherwin Wine, and which I have headed since 1982.
Bill Murry is the author of two important books on Religious Humanism: Reason and Reverence: Religious Humanism for the 21st Century (Skinner House, 2007, 183 pp) and Becoming More Fully Human: Religious Humanism as a Way of Life (Religious Humanism Press, 2011, 217 pp -- may be ordered from HUUmanists, Box 185202, Hamden, CT 06518, for $16 plus $4 for s&h).
Murry's and Kurtz's Humanism both evolved from the 1933 Humanist Manifesto and are compatible with 1973's Humanist Manifesto II, which was mainly written by Kurtz. It might be noted that among the 34 signers of the 1933 Manifesto were philosopher John Dewey and 17 Unitarian ministers, and that among the throng of scientists, writers and others who signed the 1973 manifesto were a number of Unitarian Universalist ministers, Ethical Society leaders and Humanistic Judaism advocates. (Disclosure: I was one of the original signers of the 1973 Manifesto.) We followers of Darwin can appreciate the evolution of Humanism into varieties.
Murry's two books comprehensively cover every facet of Humanism as a lifestance, from the scientific naturalism that undergirds it to its applications to every aspect of everyday living. They avoid the rather sterile "Johnny-one-note" stuff of so much of the popular atheist writing of recent years, preferring to accentuate the positive.
Murry, like Kurtz, merits a wide readership.
Edd Doerr (email@example.com; arlinc.org)