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The unfolding of Humanist Manifesto III. (Cover Story).

Seventy years after the first Humanist Manifesto * and thirty years after the second, we find ourselves living in a world where many Humanist values and ideals have never been more widely accepted while others have never been more urgently needed. Ideas that were new and shocking in the decades leading up to the first manifesto are now, under various labels, quite commonplace. References to human rights and human dignity, social concern and social justice, global thinking and global inclusiveness, as well as the questioning of beliefs and authorities can be found everywhere. The secularization and democratization of society has expanded around the globe. However, with that change has come growing resistance from religious extremists, totalitarian regimes, and others in response to the underlying Humanist ideals that have been driving this cultural shift. This development makes the humanization of culture more urgent than ever before.

The past seventy years have also seen an increased interest in Humanism per se. The number of Humanist organizations and publications continues to rise. Millions of people now follow the Humanist value system, or lifestance, and new books exploring Humanist thought and the history of organized Humanism continue to be published. In this latter category, two are of particular note: The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto by Edwin H. Wilson and Making the Manifesto by William F. Schulz, both of which tell the story of the first Humanist Manifesto.

In 1933 thirty-four Humanists in the United States came together as signers of A Humanist Manifesto, later known as Humanist Manifesto I. This declaration--made up of fifteen affirmations on cosmology, biological and cultural evolution, human nature, epistemology, ethics, naturalistic religion, self-fulfillment, and the quest for freedom and social justice--was the first concise articulation of the basic principles, values, and ideals of Humanism as we have come to know it. Though not a technical, philosophic treatise establishing the foundations of Humanism, it did give voice to a lifestance that, since the opening of the twentieth century, had emerged out of the traditions of academic philosophy, freethought, and liberal religion in a world transformed by scientific discovery, technological advance, and social upheaval.

Almost from the beginning, however, Humanists saw ways to refine this first effort. As Raymond B. Bragg made clear in his introduction to the document, it had been "designed to represent a developing point of view, not a new creed." The suggested ideas for improvement were finally brought together in the pages of the Humanist magazine on the document's twenty-fifth anniversary in 1958. Then in 1973, its fortieth anniversary, Humanist Manifesto II was released.

This second manifesto, featuring an introduction by Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson, was written to accommodate the sobering challenges to the original manifesto's optimism. These challenges had been brought about by World War II; the Holocaust and other atrocities; the spread of communism and the Cold War; the rise of new fanaticisms and the invigoration of old ones; degradation of the environment; the dangers of nuclear annihilation; and other adverse developments. The new manifesto also addressed the leading issues of the 1970s, calling for "a full range of civil liberties in all societies;" the extension of participatory democracy "to the economy, the school, the family, the workplace, and voluntary associations"; "the separation of church and state and the separation of ideology and state"; "elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin"; universal education; a world community advancing peace, human rights, social justice, and protection of the environment; and "recognition of the common humanity of all people." As such, Humanist Manifesto II was an attempt at an exhaustive statement of all that Humanists think and do as Humanists. It was also a socio-political commentary with a call to action on certain general proposals. Because of this departure from the simple and direct espousal of basic Humanist principles that had characterized Humanist Manifesto I, the new document was three times longer.

This level of specificity naturally invited critiques concerning what should have been excluded as well as what shouldn't have been neglected. So, even though Humanist Manifesto Il was signed by thousands of people, including a significant number of recognized leaders of thought from all over the world, efforts to develop a third manifesto commenced less than a decade later in 1981. Numerous Humanists over the intervening years, some of whom are listed on page fourteen, submitted specific ideas as well as complete drafts.

Then in 1998 the Humanist magazine marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Humanist Manifesto II with a series of articles exploring the foundations of Humanism along with a collection of commentaries by original signers. Proposals were also made regarding a third manifesto in Free Mind, the membership newsletter of the American Humanist Association, with a call for member input and subsequent interactive development of specific provisions over a period of a year and a half. AHA annual conference sessions featured input by a variety of panelists as well as attendees. Through these activities it was determined that the new document should be a basic declaration of values and ideals modeled after the first manifesto, rather than a consensus statement on social policy modeled after the second. It should represent the cutting edge of Humanism, revealing where Humanists are today in order to clarify a Humanist identity and appeal to a broad and global audience.

In the fall of 2001 complete drafts were solicited from several individuals. The drafts received were compared to the previous work, Humanist Manifesto I, and to similar existing documents. The common denominators found became the basis for a fresh version that the drafting committee fine tuned and presented to the AHA board of directors in the spring of 2002. The board approved the general direction of the effort and provided critical input. The draft was then revised accordingly and submitted to leading Humanists in the United States and internationally for comment and compared to the 2002 Amsterdam Declaration of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The collected ideas of the entire process were then integrated into the final construction, the end result of over twenty major drafts that incorporated commentary from AHA members and leaders as well as from leaders in allied organizations around the world. The document carries the unanimous endorsement of the drafting committee as well as the AHA board of directors.

The purpose of Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto Ill is to restate the boundaries of Humanism in words that can resonate with the culture we find developing in our new century. It is to provide a simple, direct, and easily understandable summation of the Humanist principles that underlie Humanist ethics, the Humanist commitment to a better world, and the Humanist goal of more fulfilled living. As a distillation of the foundations of the Humanist lifestance as it is being lived and advanced in our time, this new manifesto is intended to clarify and inspire. The tasks of formal philosophical justification and social application are to be the product of future efforts. The same is true for extrapolations as to how people can or should live their lives. Forthcoming issues of the Humanist magazine will carry essays that seek to develop and expand the ideas in the new manifesto, providing discussion on the application of Humanist ideals to the real world of people and events.

This third manifesto, like the two that came before it, isn't a binding creed, catechism, or decalogue, but a clarification and development of Humanism as endorsed and advanced by a cross section of Humanists living, thinking, and acting today. And, like its predecessors, it remains subject to clarification, modification, and improvement as times and conditions change.
Drafting Committee

Fred Edwords, chair
Edd Doerr
Tony Hileman
Pat Duffy Hutcheon
Maddy Urken

Board of Directors

Melvin Lipman, president
Lois Lyons, vice president
Ronald W. Fegley, secretary
John Nugent, treasurer
Edd Doerr, immediate past president
Wanda Alexander
John Cole
Tom Ferrick
Robert Finch
John M. Higgins
Herb Silverman
Maddy Urken
Mike Werner

with gratitude

Isaac Newton once said, "We stand on the shoulders of giants," a statement which sums up the position of the current drafting committee in relation to those who labored in these fields before us as well as with us. From 1981 through 2000, the drafting committee was chaired by Bette Chambers, Vern Bullough, Gordon Gamm, and M.J. Hardman. Gamm further served as a special adviser to the current committee along with Carlton Coon, Suzanne Paul, Howard Radest, Lyle Simpson, Michael Werner, and Florien Wineriter. Special assistance was provided by Roy Speckhardt, who toiled through long and tedious hours of review and served as a conduit for the important input of the AHA staff. The contributions of all were invaluable; the final product couldn't have emerged without them. We are in their debt and thank them for making the work easier.

In looking forward to your agreement that this new statement offers a positive expression of Humanism worthy of your support, we invite your endorsement and encourage you to seek the endorsement of others. Sign online at or mail your endorsement to the AHA national office.
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Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
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