What is Humanism?

No-one owns the word ‘Humanism’, so it’s had various meanings. Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who:

Trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic).

Makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals.

Believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

But there are other definitions, notably Humanists International’s Amsterdam Declaration (most recently updated in 2022), which is more detailed and has a measure of international agreement.

Click here for some recommended books and “Understanding Humanism” for resources both for teachers and for anyone interested in exploring Humanism.

What do humanists do?

The national charity supporting and representing humanists is Humanists UK. There is a wealth of information on its website including its extensive list of distinguished patrons. South West London Humanists (SWLH) is a Partner of Humanists UK. You can see the latest update on our activities here. Although we’re separate organisations, most people who support SWLH are also members of Humanists UK. Click here to join, or donate to, Humanists UK. Their activities fall into two broad categories:

Campaigning: on schools & education; human rights & equality; secularism; and public ethical issues.

Community services: training and accreditation for Celebrants (namings, weddings & funerals); Non-Religious Pastoral Support (hospitals and prisons); education (support for teachers, including school speakers); Faith to Faithless (support for ex-religious people suffering prejudice); Defence Humanists (humanists in the armed forces); LGBT Humanists; Young Humanists; Humanist Students; Dialogue (constructive engagement with religious people); Local Groups (support for groups such as SWLH).

As well as supporting Humanists UK activities, South West London Humanists’ own activities include:

Speaker/discussion meetings on ethical and other issues; a book group; coffee mornings; Sunday pub lunches; walks; community activities (such as partnering with the local Unitarian Church to provide Vineyard lunches for homeless people); providing a humanist voice in local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs), “Inter Faith” forums; and engaging in other forms of Dialogue.

Campaigning where there has been a local need and opportunity. Examples include a major campaign opposing faith-based admissions to state-funded schools, and support for action to protect women accessing a local pregnancy advisory clinic from harassment from protesters outside (while recognising the right to freedom of speech for the protesters).

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Our constitution

You can view our formal constitution here.