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Randall A. Poole
The true meaning of humanism: Religion and human values

If humanism is defined as the defense of human dignity, human rights, and human values, then few people today would declare themselves in opposition to it. Yet the meaning of humanism is highly controversial: there are both “secular” and “religious” proponents of the movement, and each vie for the honor of representing “true humanism.” Ever since the term was coined in the early nineteenth century, humanism has tended to be associated with its secular version. Secular humanists oppose religion for two basic types of reasons (ethical and epistemic): they maintain it is harmful and that its ideas are false. In considering (and critiquing) their arguments, I contend that there are both humanistic and anti-humanistic forms of religion. The first (religious humanism) promotes respect for human dignity while the second (religious anti-humanism) undermines it. Further, I contend that there are rational grounds for theistic belief – grounds that can be found in human experience and in the very ideals that humanism claims to champion.

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