Oliver L. Reiser
Humanist Manifesto I
Note: The first draft of this document was
written by Roy Wood Sellars, and published in The New
Humanist (May-June, 1933): 58-61. I have copied the
material from a posting by the American Humanist
Association, adding some stylistic changes and the
names of those who signed it.
The time has come for widespread recognition of
the radical changes in religious beliefs throughout the
modern world. The time is past for mere revision of
traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have
disrupted the old beliefs. Religions the world over are
under the necessity of coming to terms with new
conditions created by a vastly increased knowledge and
experience. In every field of human activity, the vital
movement is now in the direction of a candid and
explicit humanism. In order that religious humanism may
be better understood we, the undersigned, desire to
make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of
our contemporary life demonstrate.
There is great danger of a final, and we believe
fatal, identification of the word religion with
doctrines and methods which have lost their
significance and which are powerless to solve the
problem of human living in the Twentieth Century.
Religions have always been means for realizing the
highest values of life. Their end has been accomplished
through the interpretation of the total environing
situation (theology or world view), the sense of values
resulting therefrom (goal or ideal), and the technique
(cult), established for realizing the satisfactory
life. A change in any of these factors results in
alteration of the outward forms of religion. This fact
explains the changefulness of religions through the
centuries. But through all changes religion itself
remains constant in its quest for abiding values, an
inseparable feature of human life.
Today man's larger understanding of the universe,
his scientific achievements, and deeper appreciation of
brotherhood, have created a situation which requires a
new statement of the means and purposes of religion.
Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of
furnishing adequate social goals and personal
satisfactions may appear to many people as a complete
break with the past. While this age does owe a vast
debt to the traditional religions, it is none the less
obvious that any religion that can hope to be a
synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped
for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion
is a major necessity of the present. It is a
responsibility which rests upon this generation. We
therefore affirm the following:
- First: Religious humanists regard the universe as
self-existing and not created.
- Second: Humanism believes that man is a part of
nature and that he has emerged as a result of a
- Third: Holding an organic view of life, humanists
find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must
- Fourth: Humanism recognizes that man's religious
culture and civilization, as clearly depicted by
anthropology and history, are the product of a gradual
development due to his interaction with his natural
environment and with his social heritage. The
individual born into a particular culture is largely
molded by that culture.
- Fifth: Humanism asserts that the nature of the
universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable
any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values.
Obviously humanism does not deny the possibility of
realities as yet undiscovered, but it does insist that
the way to determine the existence and value of any and
all realities is by means of intelligent inquiry and by
the assessment of their relations to human needs.
Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the
light of the scientific spirit and method.
- Sixth: We are convinced that the time has passed
for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties
of "new thought".
- Seventh: Religion consists of those actions,
purposes, and experiences which are humanly
significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious.
It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love,
friendship, recreation -- all that is in its degree
expressive of intelligently satisfying human living.
The distinction between the sacred and the secular can
no longer be maintained.
- Eight: Religious Humanism considers the complete
realization of human personality to be the end of man's
life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the
here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist's
- Ninth: In the place of the old attitudes involved
in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious
emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal
life and in a cooperative effort to promote social
- Tenth: It follows that there will be no uniquely
religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto
associated with belief in the supernatural.
- Eleventh: Man will learn to face the crises of
life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness and
probability. Reasonable and manly attitudes will be
fostered by education and supported by custom. We
assume that humanism will take the path of social and
mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal
hopes and wishful thinking.
- Twelfth: Believing that religion must work
increasingly for joy in living, religious humanists aim
to foster the creative in man and to encourage
achievements that add to the satisfactions of life.
- Thirteenth: Religious humanism maintains that all
associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment
of human life. The intelligent evaluation,
transformation, control, and direction of such
associations and institutions with a view to the
enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of
humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their
ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal
activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as
experience allows, in order to function effectively in
the modern world.
- Fourteenth: The humanists are firmly convinced
that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society
has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical
change in methods, controls, and motives must be
instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order
must be established to the end that the equitable
distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal
of humanism is a free and universal society in which
people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the
common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared
- Fifteenth and last: We assert that humanism will:
(a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit
the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c)
endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory
life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive
morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from
this perspective and alignment the techniques and
efforts of humanism will flow.
So stand the theses of religious humanism. Though
we consider the religious forms and ideas of our
fathers no longer adequate, the quest for the good life
is still the central task for mankind. Man is at last
becoming aware that he alone is responsible for the
realization of the world of his dreams, that he has
within himself the power for its achievement. He must
set intelligence and will to the task.
J. A. C. Fagginger
E. Burdette Backus
Harry Elmer Barnes
L. M. Birkhead
Raymond B. Bragg
Edwin Arthur Burtt
A. J. Carlson
John H. Dietrich
F. H. Hankins
A. Eustace Haydon
Robert Morse Lovett
Harold P. Marley
R. Lester Mondale
Potter Randall, Jr.
Curtis W. Reese
Oliver L. Reiser
Roy Wood Sellars
Clinton Lee Scott
W. Frank Swift
V. T. Thayer
Eldred C. Joseph
Jacob J. Weinstein
Frank S. C. Wicks
Edwin H. Wilson
Note: The Manifesto is a product of many minds. It was
designed to represent a developing point of view, not a
new creed. The individuals whose signatures appear
would, had they been writing individual statements,
have stated the propositions in differing terms. The
importance of the document is that more than thirty men
have come to general agreement on matters of final
concern and that these men are undoubtedly
representative of a large number who are forging a new
philosophy out of the materials of the modern world.
-- Raymond B. Bragg (1933)
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