reprinted from Daylight Atheism, Syndicated by PeaceVoice)
Long ago, when I was a congressional press secretary, Jennings Randolph was a wise senator from West Virginia. On his Washington desk, he kept a motto I never forgot:
"The most important lesson you can learn is that other people are as real behind their eyes as you are behind yours."
That nugget of insight has deep implications, asserting that nearly everyone in the world all seven billion-plus of them more or less share the same human feelings, fears, wants, hopes, questions, frustrations, pleasures and the like.
This, to me, is the heart of humanism: recognizing the worth of everyone, and striving to make life as good as possible for the whole populace.
Humanism means helping people, and secular humanism means doing it without supernatural religion.
It began as long ago in ancient Greece, when some thinkers advocated humanitas, a helpful spirit toward all. During the Renaissance, a few scholar-priests began caring more for people than for the church, so they became religious humanists. Then came the Enlightenment, when rebel thinkers challenged the supremacy of kings and holy men. They laid the groundwork for modern democracy, which is rooted in humanism.
Various manifestos have been written to crystallize the need for intelligent people to support human betterment. In 1933, the first Humanist Manifesto was signed by three dozen philosophers, Unitarians, reformers and scholars, including John Dewey. It called humanism a new "religion" to replace magic-based supernatural faiths.