A Vision for 21st Century Humanism – TheHumanist.com


When the Islamists in Iraq took over the government through the elections in 2005, it was a wakeup call to me and all those who believe in human rights, freedom and humanism. In addition to the Islamist control of the government as well as the destruction of the civil society by radical Islamic militias, some of the totalitarian characteristics of the previous dictatorship still remained.

From my travels and observations of the world, I have deduced that totalitarianism is not only a form of government, but also a mentality. As a global phenomenon, totalitarianism takes many forms, and the degree to which totalitarian governments restrict individual freedom and abuse human rights varies greatly from one country to another.

When I first started the Global Secular Humanist Movement, I was inspired by the writings of Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan, Paul Kurtz, Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson as well the great women’s rights activists in the Middle East and abroad such as Mariam Namazie and Ayan Hirsi Ali. I was inspired to create a global society guided by knowledge and reason and motivated by compassion and our common humanity.

At that time, I could not have imagined that I would eventually reach a quarter of a million followers from 150 countries. I could not have predicted that one day, I would work alongside extraordinary thinkers such as Richard Dawkins, Sean Faircloth and Greg Epstein of the Harvard Humanist Community, as well as other influential secular thinkers around the planet such as my dear friend Alishba Zarmeen who is the founder of ex-Muslim women’s network from Pakistan. Never could I have guessed that I would connect with such an unlikely coalition of secular humanists from the Middle East where I come from, who valiantly share their beliefs despite the religious tyranny and oppression of the region.

And I certainly didn’t imagine that one day I would be speaking at venues as diverse as prestigious universities, humanist conferences, and small gatherings, attended by nervous participants scared to death of coming out as “non-believers”.

The reason I didn’t envision these things was not because I lacked a vision or ambition; I simply did not possess the resources, and could never assume I would be able to continue what I am doing the next day.

Despite these obstacles, my determination to never stop being a secular activist and the model I envisioned, strategized and implemented in the past couple of years to achieve this goal has proven successful, and I would like to share it here.

In my first essay for Big Think years ago, I mentioned that one of my favorite things about secular humanism is that it is leaderless. Founded upon principles of self-empowerment, critical thinking, reason, curiosity and doing good for the sake of the other, humanism requires no authoritarian figures such as Yahweh or Saddam Hussein to control our thinking or motivate our actions.

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  1. I never follow anything online. I wish they would change it from followers to observers. I have no problem observing, will not follow. Following is the problem.

  2. Agreed that atheists of all descriptions should unite on the issues that we agree on…..but…..I can only speak for myself to say that Atheist’s barely agree on anything…and we keep insisting on squeezing diverse views into one little box…..
    Its quite uncomfortable……almost like being a secret atheist among a religious congregation…..
    One thing that all atheists believe is that there is probably no god….and religions are tools for corruption…we fear corruption more than we fear religions..hence not wanting to belong to a large group….however
    Secular Activism is probably a more useful group which shakes off the atheist label a bit….

  3. •Do you support the separation of mosque/church and state?
    •Are you against sharia law or any religious bias in government?
    •Do you consider women’s rights and LGBT rights to be human rights?
    •Do you think the human rights transcend cultural or religious rights?

    Correcting these points you brought up within the human civilization are noble and admirable causes, however they do not require non-belief. I do not know if approaching them using a humanist platform will gain anymore traction than each point would via its own merits. I think one could put up a quality debate on either side of this one, primarily because of the dislike people have of non-believers. I do wish you the best of luck moving forward though.

  4. The only thing that I really fear more than anything is Death!……

    I go through torture worrying about each and every day I get closer to this certainty……

    I do not fear the religious or the establishment or corruption or anything esle for that matter. Maybe I should?.. Only three things I am certain of. One that I will someday expire. Two that I have no reason to believe in god what so ever. Three that I love my wife very much indeed.
    Sorry not really relevant to the subject at hand. Just needed to say this.

  5. More use should be made of the word ‘freethinkers’ and cognates to embrace everyone who is opposed to the influence of superstition in society. The virtue of this word ‘freethought’ or ‘freethinking’ is that it captures the positive point we godless, irreligious, unsuperstitious people agree on, namely that we are free to think without censure from irrational tyrannies like dogmatic religious authorities and ideological political parties. In general we favor reason and science over custom and dogma in determining what is best for people and society and for the world we all inhabit. We humanists, secularists, atheists, agnostics and so on are all freethinkers, though we vary in what we take an interest in and how we go about things.

  6. It’s impossible to enjoy complete freedom of course, but, for me, freethinking gets closer to it than anything else I’ve known ; so far.

  7. There is only one thing that I would add to his list of five items and that would to “mind my own business”

  8. In reply to #4 by mourneviewer:

    The only thing that I really fear more than anything is Death!……

    I go through torture worrying about each and every day I get closer to this certainty…..

    I would try not to let this worry you so badly while you have life to live – you’ll make yourself sick by worrying……. Perhaps the fear is more about it being painful ? Fear is the thing we are scared of most…it seizes us…..but fear passes and then we have to face it calmly…

  9. In reply to #4 by mourneviewer:

    The only thing that I really fear more than anything is Death!……

    Death will be no more horrible than it was before you were born. As it is impossible to experience either, I wouldn’t worry about it. Just enjoy your life!

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