Humanism refers to a philosophy or system of beliefs which focuses on the human needs and potentialities and centers on human values, their needs, desires and experiences. The essence of humanism lies in human experience and the ability to enjoy life without harming fellow humans in the process. Humanism believes in the progress of humanity through open communication and discussion rather than any forced ideologies.Humanism as a philosophy has inspired innumerable philosophers, artists, writers, social reformers and scientists all over the world with a deeply rooted tradition in both eastern and western philosophy.
Humanism originated nearly 2,500 years back with Socrates in the west and Confucius (Kung Fu Tzu) in the East. Socrates was a Greek philosopher who was of the view that sound human values could result if people learnt the techniques to think independently for themselves. Confucius believed in the workings of a society where all the members are benefited and have concern for one another. In Asia Humanism as a philosophy originated in early 1000BCE as reflected in the Indian philosophy of the Lokayata system which rejected the supernatural and focused on human centered ideology.
The ideology of Humanism gives significance to the scientific methods in understanding the working of the universe, thus rejecting the supernatural beliefs. A humanist is a person who arrives at an ethical decision based on the principles of empathy, reason and concern for others. Since Humanism does not believe in the rituals of afterlife, the focus falls on the human activities in this life as a means to achieving happiness and helping others to achieve the same. Humanism believes in performing moral action for the well being of human beings rather than any religious compulsions.
Humanism focuses on satisfying the material and spiritual human needs and realizing the human potential in the present life. As such humanists do not indulge in the theological, supernatural or afterlife. Secular humanists did not accept anything solely on the grounds of faith; instead they sought substantial evidence for accepting different sets of beliefs. Humanists are however not atheists as evidenced by religious humanists like Thomas Aquinas who was drawn towards the humanism of Aristotle and tried to incorporate them into Christianity. Religious Humanism tries to integrate the ethics of humanism with religious beliefs centering on human interests.
Humanism is seen as a secular philosophy which bases its beliefs and value system on ethics and reason while shunning religious and supernatural beliefs in the decision- making process. Humanism endorses the belief that the universe is the result of a natural occurrence and humans can live fulfilling lives based on sound ethics and humanity without taking resort to supernatural beliefs. The appeal here is to reason rather than any religious authority to guide the destiny of human beings. Millions of people all over the world share such human values without realizing that they are subscribing to the beliefs of humanism.