Humanists celebrate 70th anniversary with new manifesto
by Christopher L. Walton
Seventy years after the first “Humanist Manifesto,” which affirmed a post-theistic philosophy and expressed the convictions of many Unitarians and Universalists in the 1930s, the American Humanist Association has issued a new statement of humanist principles. Entitled “Humanism and Its Aspirations,” the new manifesto proclaims “a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”
Released April 21, the new manifesto (on-line at www.americanhumanist.org) strikes a resonant chord for many Unitarian Universalists, using phrases like “interdependence” and “inherent worth and dignity.” two of its writers are longtime UUs and among the initial signers are longtime UUs including the Rev. Kendyl Gibbons, president of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association and senior minister of the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, a leading humanist congregation since the 1920s. Among Unitarian Universalists, she said, “humanism has suffered from being such a constant background that people forget that it’s there.” Even UUs who identify with Christianity or Buddhism essentially endorse much or all of the humanist position, she continued, and “that’s why it’s important to have a statement like this, so people can see how the statement is foundational for a lot of liberal religion.”
The Humanist Manifesto of 1933 was substantially rooted in Unitarianism.
Fifteen of the original thirty-four signers were Unitarian ministers;
another was a Universalist. A second humanist manifesto, published in
1973, took a more secular turn—and proposed a lengthy political
program. The new statement is much shorter and affirms broad themes.