1) Definition of Humanism

The International Humanist and Ethical Union defines humanism as "a democratic, non-theistic and ethical life stance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility for giving meaning and shape to their own lives. It therefore rejects supernatural views of reality. At the IHEU founding congress in Amsterdam, in 1952, the participants adopted the following detailed definition of humanism:

1. Humanism is democratic. It aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that this is a matter of right. The democratic principle can be applied to all human relationships and is not restricted to methods of government.

2. Humanism seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. It advocates the worldwide application of scientific method to problems of human welfare. Humanists believe that the tremendous problems with which mankind is faced in this age of transition can be solved. Science gives the means but science itself does not propose ends.

3. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the dignity of man and the right of the individual to the greatest possible freedom of development compatible with the rights of others. There is a danger that in seeking to utilise scientific knowledge in a complex society individual freedom may be threatened by the very impersonal machine that has been created to save it. Ethical humanism, therefore, rejects totalitarian attempts to perfect the machine in order to obtain immediate gains at the cost of human values.

4. Humanism insists that personal liberty is an end that must be combined with social responsibility in order that it shall not be sacrificed to the improvement of material conditions. Without intellectual liberty, fundamental research, on which progress must in the long run depend, would not be possible. Humanism ventures to build a world on the free person responsible to society. On behalf of individual freedom humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.

5. Humanism is a way of life, aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment, through the cultivation of ethical and creative living. It can be a way of life for everyone everywhere if the individual is capable of the response required by the changing social order.

2) Polish Humanist Association

Polish Humanist Association was set up in the beginning of the nineties (1991) as the first humanist organisation in post-communist Poland. At that time, we didn't know about the existence of international humanist movement and the contemporary meaning of humanism as a worldview, set of values, intellectual, social and political option was a concept we had developed quite independently in the late eighties (nearly 40 years after Amsterdam founding congress of International Humanist & Ethical Union). It was only a year or so after the establishment of the Association when we had first contact with Dutch humanists and when we discovered that humanism in the modern sense was not our original discovery. As you may imagine we were both - a little disappointed and quite thrilled by the perspective of the future possible relations with a large international movement.

The founding group consisted mainly of young intellectuals: writers, philosophers, historians, publicists and students. Some of us were mainly interested in politics and social issues (advocating human rights and liberties, redefining democracy etc.) others in arts or philosophy, so for the first two years we were first of all preoccupied with building our own group identity. This process has not been and will probably never be finished but what we have already managed to achieve in this regard proved to be enough to survive and do some work together.

With some help of the often forgotten humanist value of sense of humour, we have solved some classical dilemmas facing humanist organisations in many countries: For example, we had to answer the question whether we should accept religious members; strange as it may seem, being openly non-theistic to say the least, we had attracted some persons who declare adherence to one of the Christian churches. After long deliberations we have come to the conclusion that we can accept those who believe in God on condition that they do not believe in Hell. The reasoning here is that belief in God is just a morally neutral error of judgement (after all, we are all mistaken) while belief in Hell ensues some degree of acceptance for the idea of eternal condemnation and suffering which we find incompatible with humanist values.

As for the activities it is too long a story to give account here. We would have to write and insert a whole book, so if you want to have some idea about what we think and what we do, please have a closer look at our site.

Andrzej Dominiczak

Towarzystwo Humanistyczne
Humanist Assciation