Bahai News - Three proposed tenets of modern religious humanism: Toward humanist unity

Three proposed tenets of modern religious humanism: Toward humanist unity

The author traces the historical path of Christian Humanism and suggests that today they are isolated from the main body of humanists. Therefore, it seems appropriate for presentday humanists to actively invite Christian Humanists into their group. It is contended that this action is timely and prudent because of the sizeable numbers of Christian Humanists.

The term religious humanism is a vague concept and is defined by these basic tenets: (a) honest and serious scholarship; (b) an attitude that human affairs are important, not transcendent; and (c) a commitment to practice religious teachings. This article is an attempt to clarify both the commonalities and the differences between religious humanists and secular humanists who are associated with a nonreligious stance.

This statement proposes a rapprochement, which is appropriate because there is a widespread perception that all humanists are secularists. Not only is this view erroneous, but it also tends to alienate religious humanists from humanist organizations and, as a result, diminishes the voice of all humanism.


Both Maritain (1938) and Akroyd (1998) acknowledged that the word humanism is potentially confusing. Akroyd stated, "If Cardinal Wolsey, Desiderius Erasmus, Marsilio Ficino and Thomas More were all humanists, then the term has such a wide applicability that it becomes for all practical purposes useless" (p. 89). Akroyd added that in the sixteenth cenfury a humanist was a student of classical literature, grammar, and rhetoric. He also advised caution about applying the term humanism, because it was not coined until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Maritain wrote, "The word 'humanism' is ambiguous (p. xii)," which means that discussions of the subject must be particularly sensitive to the nuances being used. Dawson (1993) noted, "Humanism is one of those words like 'democracy' that has been used so loosely during the last fifty years that it can mean almost anything" (p. 2). Combs, Richards, and Richards (1988) wrote, "The term humanism identifies a wide variety of persons and groups" (p. 6).

The multidimensionality of humanism is accentuated among twentieth century humanists who embrace a variety of postures including theological orientations that range from strict secularism (nonreligious posture) to devout religious faith. Within the humanist group, secularism has by far the highest profile, which promotes a general view that all humanists are secularists. Carter (1993) wrote, "Even if what some religionists call secular humanism is not a religion... it might properly be called an ideology" (p. 171). Similarly, Colson (1987), a conservative Christian minister, stated, "The view that man in his own rational interest can sustain a man- made religion (secular humanism) is voiced regularly on op-ed pages, on television specials, even from church pulpits" (p. 486).

The diverse membership of the Counseling Association for Humanistic Education and Development demonstrates that the term humanism is claimed by religious humanists from an assortment of orientations (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam). In short, it is both unfair and uninformed to attribute antireligious or even nonreligious views to all humanists; yet, that is precisely what has happened widely throughout the latter decades of the twentieth century (Aspy, 1993). Therefore, this article suggests three tenets that will help identify the stance of modern religious humanism.


Religious humanism can be traced to fourteenth century Italy and the teachings of Petrarch, a poet who, according to Tarnas (1991), combined religion with classical culture in such a way that he became the first Renaissance man. Bronowski and Mazlish (1960) stated, "The theme of Christian virtue [faith, hope and love] ran through Renaissance humanism all the way from Petrarch to Erasmus" (p. 63). Tarnas added, "The Renaissance integration of the renaissance integration of contraries had been foreshadowed in the Petrarchian ideal of docta pietus was now fulfilled in religious scholars like Erasmus and his friend Thomas More ... The philosopher Plato and the apostle Paul were brought together and synthesized to produce a new philosophia Christi" (p. 229). Thus, Petrarch serves as an historical marker for the humanist tradition (Plumb, 1987, p. 161).

Despite its long history, religious humanism is subject to various interpretations, but certain common strands can be discerned by discussing the contributions of four exemplars of religious humanism: Erasmus (1668/1913), Thomas More (Lupton, 1895), Elie Wiesel (Aikman, 1998), and Clifton Sparks (1976).


In presenting Erasmus as an exemplar of religious humanism, it is appropriate to offer some biographical background to reveal the dimensions of his personhood. When the Renaissance moved into northern Europe, it attracted the attention of Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch scholar, Augustinian priest, and humanist, who defended, and also criticized, the spirit of the Catholic Church. Solomon and Higgins (1996) wrote, "His (Erasmus's) humanism was not a doctrine as much as it was part of his character, the result of his own modest upbringing as an illegitimate child and his extensive experience in many of the main cities of Europe" (p. 161).

Erasmus's writings were spread throughout Europe. One of his most significant books was In Praise of Folly (Erasmus, 1913/1668), a satire on the monastic life. Martin Luther (see Bronowski & Mazlish, 1960, p. 71) used Folly in the formulation of his 95 Theses, but Erasmus believed that Luther converted them into a new, rigid theology, which the Dutch humanist found unacceptable. Erasmus believed that both the Church and Luther should be more moderate but eventually complied with the Church's request that he criticize the German reformer by attacking him on the topic of free will. Subsequently, Erasmus broke with Luther.

Erasmus wrote several other offerings including a Greek version of the New Testament and Handbook of A Religious Warrior (see Bronowski & Mazlish, 1960, pp. 66-67), which contrasted the mechanical worship of the church with the congenial practices of the Brethren of the Common Life who were connected with certain institutions. Bronowski and Mazlish reviewed Erasmus's work and stated, "His cause had failed; he was at home in neither of two camps now at war; and he lived beyond his time. ... he gave his life to the belief that virtue can be based on humanity, and that tolerance can be as positive an impulse as fanaticism" (pp. 74-75).

Bronowski and Mazlish (1960) summarized Erasmus's work by stating that Erasmus conceived of the word Christian as pertaining to universal good, but the concept could not overcome the underlying violence of both sides (Protestants and Catholics). Thus, Erasmus's dream of universal peace died. His moderate or conciliatory posture was insufficient to the challenge.

In this biographical overview, Erasmus emerges as an active thinker whose commitments were to the integration of scholarship and the Church. Thus, he serves as an exemplar for today's religious humanists.

Sir Thomas More

Another of the religious humanist exemplars was Sir Thomas More, a devout Catholic and one of Erasmus's closest friends, who was disturbed by what he considered abuses by the Church of Rome. However, More, a humanist, was canonized by the Church in 1935 (McConica, 1991). Because he is presented as an exemplar, it is appropriate to provide a fuller representation of his multifaceted character.

More's background differed radically from that of Erasmus. He was born to a privileged family and attended St. Anthony's School in London, which served the sons of businessmen. Akroyd (1998) observed that More's and Erasmus's early education directed them toward administrative endeavors and teaching, respectively. Thus, their later works were predictable outcomes.

The two men's lives converged in 1499 in London when Erasmus visited with More, who had organized a circle of scholarly friends (humanists) including John Colet (government official and scholar), William Grocyn (Greek scholar), Thomas Linacre (physician and Greek scholar), and More. Bronowski and Mazlish (1960) described Erasmus's reaction to the experience by stating, "Among these English idealists, Erasmus felt Christianity was truly an expression of the (religious) spirit, and of the classical spirit [italics added]. Argument and worship were not brittle forms here; the search for truth was generous; and faith was not, as he felt it to be in Paris, a dead superstition (p. 67). These characteristics, then, could be called the hallmarks of Erasmus's and More's form of religious humanism.

Thomas More wrote Utopia (Lupton, 1895), which was a two-part description of how to live in an ideal state. Part I suggests that Machiavellian principles were emerging in Europe. Part II focuses primarily on problems of economics. More wrote that there would be no money in Utopia because money is the source of problems with institutions and overthrows all excellence, magnificence, splendor, and majesty. Some observers have called Utopia a communist state, whereas others have referred to it as a monastery.

Eventually, More gained a solid reputation in business as well as in the practice of law so that he wa\s appointed to a series of governmental posts, culminating in the position of Chancellor of England. In that exalted position, More's Christian beliefs continued to influence his practices, and it is reported widely that circumstances ultimately converged to confront him with a difficult choice: either sanction Henry VIII's separation of the Church of England from the control of the Catholic Church or remain true to the Catholic Church and become an enemy of the king. More chose the latter; that is, More, a humanist, maintained his faith in religion even in the face of a horrible execution.

Solomon and Higgins (1996) summarized the lives of the two religious humanists, Erasmus and More, by stating, "Both Erasmus and More campaigned to unify Christianity and open Christian scholarship to the wisdom of the Greek classics" (pp. 162-163).

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel (see Aikman, 1998) is a Jewish writer who probably is best known for his commemoration of the Jewish Holocaust, especially through books such as Night (1986), which received almost instant acclaim and gave him immediate status. Among his many other writings are The Town Beyond the Wall (1995), The Gates of the Forest (1989b), and A Beggar in Jerusalem (1989a).

Wiesel was born a Hasidic Jew in Sighet, Romania, on September 30,1928. He and his family were imprisoned in Auschwitz on May 17,1944. On January 29, 1945, Weisel's father died of dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion in Auschwitz. On April 11, 1945, Wiesel was freed from Auschwitz by a group of underground soldiers.

After Auschwitz, Wiesel became a writer with a special interest in human suffering. He continued to write at a steady pace until July 1956 when he was struck by a taxi in New York At that time, he decided to live with a sense of urgency, which subsequently motivated his prolific writing.

As a reporter, Wiesel covered the U.S. invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (1961); the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, head of the SS (elite security unit) in Nazi Germany during World War II (1962); and the assassination of President John Kennedy (1963). In 1965, he traveled to Russia where he studied the plight of the Jews. From that experience came The Jews of Silence (1968), which helped form the worldwide movement to protect the Soviet Jews. Then, in 1967, Wiesel was among the first at the Western Wall in Jerusalem after the Six Day War.

From 1972 to 1976, Wiesel was Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York. From 1978 until the present, he has been the Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Boston University. In 1980, Wiesel traveled to Thailand on a mission to bring aid to political prisoners in Cambodia. This was motivated by his sense of keeping faith with the victims of the Holocaust.

Wiesel was an honored guest at the White House in 1985 and received the Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement. In his acceptance speech, he advised President Reagan not to attend the ceremony at the Bitburg Cemetery during an upcoming state trip to Germany. He offered these remarks because of the controversial nature of the appearance of support to the Nazi's. The following year, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, where he was introduced as a man whose mission was to awaken the world's conscience (Aikman, 1998).

While addressing a meeting with President Clinton in attendance, Wiesel foresaw recent events. He advised, "Mr. President, I must tell you something. I have been in the former Yugoslavia last fall. I cannot sleep since what I have seen. As a Jew I am saying that. We must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country: People fight each other and children die. Why? Something, anything, must be done" (Aikman, 1998, p. 358).

Clifton Sparks

Clifton Sparks was born in a small town in Texas where her father was a high school science teacher and her mother a homemaker. With her typical sense of humor, Clifton said that she liked her name because it confused people who received advance notice and almost always expected a man to appear and were caught a little off guard when a nice, charming, openfaced woman arrived.

Clifton was born into a Christian family and during her early years practiced that faith. Throughout her life, Clifton's religious beliefs broadened to encompass many different religions and was comfortable with most religious stances. However, she was disquieted by closed-minded practitioners whose main forte was the exclusion of others. She was a confirmed "inclusivist."

Clifton finished high school at the age of 15 and moved on to Spelman College in Atlanta as its youngest enrollee. Her time there was one of ineffable joy that offered lifelong inspiration. During her undergraduate days, Martin Luther King, Jr., attended Morehouse College and through mutual social contacts developed a speaking acquaintance. King became one of Clifton's heroes. She described him as a rather shy fellow with a profound sense of dedication (personal communication to D. Aspy, August, 1983).

Clifton's uncle was a judge in New York and he invited her to come to the city to attend New York University, where she enrolled at the age of 19. In one year, she completed her master's degree and returned to Texas to start her career as a high school social studies teacher. When Tarant County Community College opened, Clifton was one of its counselors while she completed her doctorate at Texas Womans University (TWU). Her professors described her as a delightful student. Clifton joined the faculty of TWU as a professor of counselor education and her charismatic compassion led to the role of friend to most students. Everybody wanted to enroll in her classes, especially the group dynamics course in which participants learned to share themselves. She was declared TWU's teacher of the year in 1984.

As a member of a minority, Clifton understood the stresses and advantages of that role. She spoke about the glories of being Black in a book titled Melodies of Blackness (1976). The following is one of her poems:

A Song of Blackness

I'm excited to be

Black like me.

Free of spirit and free from hate,

Filled with love and nourished by faith. I'm happy to be

Black and free,

With nothing to change and little to protest

I might have been dead and accomplished less.

It's fun to be

Black like me,

Loving and knowing all colors

Of my American sisters and brothers.

I'm grateful to be

Black like me,

With a heritage rich in history

Of art, music and spontaneity.

It's sad to be

Black and free,

And cry when I see some

Who have yet to overcome.

Be glad to be

Any color, but free.

Celebrate our life and individuality,

Rejoice in the excitement of diversity.

Thank you, that I am able to see

Beauty in the spectrum of humanity.

God, it's good to be me,

Black and free.

Clifton Tinsley Sparks

At TWU, the number of minority students was growing, and they shared their emerging issues. Clifton developed into a strong exemplar of the idea that fulfillment was possible for everyone. She served as president of the Texas Classroom Teachers, as chairperson of the Department of Counselor Education, and finally as the first African American female dean of a College of Education in the state of Texas.

Clifton believed that one of her peak moments was the time she served as a group leader during a 1975 person-centered conference led by Carl Rogers at Mills College in Oakland, California. She was the only Black woman in attendance and rejoiced in her distinction. Rogers described her unique contributions in his postconference summary for the staff (personal communication, D. Aspy, August, 1975).

Clifton died in 1990, but today her spirit flourishes in the lives of her students who teach in classrooms across Texas. Quite literally, they represent a bouquet of races and religions. Clifton valued them all and became a role model for humanistic theory and concepts.

In summary, there are three discernible strands that ran through the lives of Erasmus, More, Wiesel, and Sparks. First, they were humanists because they believed human affairs were important. Second, they were religious practitioners who applied their religion to "real world" circumstances. Third, they were honest and serious scholars. If religious humanists of the twentieth century use these three people as exemplars, they can identify their stance as one that encompasses three hallmarks:

* Compassionate attention to human affairs

* Application of religion to real life

Honest scholarship


In the twentieth century, religious humanists might be described as a diaspora of scattered people because they have few "home base" organizations. In the United States, religious humanists include individuals interspersed in a population that tends to erroneously identify all humanists as secularists. This mislabeling must be interpreted in light of polling results reporting that 90% of the U.S. population believes in the existence of some type of Supreme Being (Wolfe, 1998). Therefore, anyone viewed as antireligious or even nonreligious is susceptible to the majority's disapproval.

The foregoing discussion suggests that "coming out" as a religious humanist means to risk rejection from both religionists and secularists while not having the support of other religious humanists. These circumstances exist despite the fact that no one knows with certainty just how many religious humanists there are. In fact, they may be a majority or at least a sizable minority of the population.

A true anecdote illustrates the benefits derived from encouraging religious humanists to identify themselves. At the 1981 meeting of the Texas Personnel and Guidance Association, there was a session titled "Christianity in Counseling." The group was assigned a small area in a rather secluded section of the meeting hall. No one, not even the presenter, expected a large group; however, more than 100 people attended. Afterthe presenter disclosed his premeeting doubts about attendance, several others expressed similar misgivings. In fact, many participants confessed that they were afraid to attend the session for fear of being thought of as religious zealots.

There is more to the story of that session. In the postconference period, several participants formed a committee that organized a Christian Counselors Association, which several hundred counselors joined. The point is that there is a body of religious humanists who will step forward if given the opportunity.

Humanist organizations that have survived, even prospered, in the late 1900s are relatively small. For example, the Association for Humanistic Education and Development claims about 2,000 members and is one of the smaller divisions of the American Counseling Association, which lists more than 50,000 members.

Notably, religious humanists exist largely as a group of independent or solitary individuals who continue to take human affairs seriously, do scholarly work, and apply religious teachings to their "real worlds." They differ from their colleagues, who may also practice certain religious principles but without a commitment to a religion. That is, religious humanists practice religious principles because they are following the teachings of a religion. Others may do so because they agree with certain religious principles. Certainly, in the matters of kindness and study, there is a welcomed functional unity between these groups.


What practices distinguish religious humanists? Primack and Aspy (1980) discussed three areas of Christianity: preacher, teacher, and creature. These aspects are a useful focus for discussion because they pertain to many other religions. The preaching component concerns humankind's relationship to a higher power. This includes such practices as prayer, worship, study, and meditation (Wuthnow, 1998). The teaching component pertains to the honest pursuit of truth. These practices are consistent with the scripture verse that encourages "rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). The creature component relates to interpersonal matters. The essence of this practice is expressed by the golden rule-do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12). Simply put, religious humanists try to apply the preacher (relationship with and worship of a Supreme Being), teacher (study), and creature (practice love) functions in their daily practices, which is what Wuthnow described as the next phase of spiritual development in the U.S. The salient point is that religious humanists do these things because they are committed to the teachings of some religion. The three aspects of the religious lifestyle are presented in Figure 1.

Fully developed (mature) religionists integrate all three functions into their lives; developing (immature) religionists focus on only one or two functions. For example, a person might concentrate on the preacher function and participate only marginally in the teacher or creature functions. In a similar way, a religious humanist is a religious practitioner who performs the creature function of the religious lifestyle. That person might practice all three functions or only two of them, or only the creature function. The critical factor of all humanism is that the individual practices the creature function. In this vein, Maritain (1938) wrote, "Humanism is inseparable from civilization and culture, these two words being taken as synonymous" (p. xii).

In many religions, the creature function involves two aspects: sharing resources without consideration for personal gain and generating opportunities for others without regard for personal benefit. Nonreligionists might well perform these same tasks, which would qualify them as humanists but not as religious humanists because they are not doing so in keeping with a religion. Thus, there are two qualifications for religious humanists: (a) to perform the creature function and (b) to do those tasks in the name of a religion.


When identifying specific religious humanists, Mother Teresa comes readily to mind as do Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham (Aikman, 1998), and Mahatma Gandhi (Payne, 1969). However, the religious element of the humanist tradition can also be illustrated through the thinking of Carl Rogers (see Primack & Aspy, 1980), who signed the 1973 edition of the Humanist Manifesto. Bergin (1985) stated that in a personal letter to him Rogers wrote, "I do believe there is some kind of a transcendent organizing influence in the universe which operates in man as well . . . . My present, very tentative, view is that perhaps there is an essential person which persists through time, or even through eternity" (p. 102). During a conversation at TWU on March 12, 1983, Rogers made a similar statement to me (personal communication, D. Aspy ).

May (1953) addressed the integration of religious and nonreligious positions by stating, "I believe that in future generations the main insights of both Freud and Nietzsche will be absorbed into the ethical-religious tradition, and religion will become the richer and more effective for their contributions (pp. 191-192). Later, May added, "In any discussion of religion and personality integration, the question is not whether religion itself makes for health or neurosis, but what kind of religion and how is it used" (p. 193).

On the other side of the coin, prominent humanists Art Combs, Morrell Clute, and Earl Kelley exemplified the creature (person to person) and teacher (scholarship) aspects of humanism. During their lifetime, these three people demonstrated that religious and nonreligious people can and ought to work harmoniously within their common interests.


The size of the religious humanist community in the U.S. is unknown. There is reason to believe that its numbers are large because, according to the Time Almanac (1999), there are more than 175 million religious adherents in the U.S. An extrapolation of the data leads to a warranted prediction of potentially large numbers of religious humanists. Worldwide there are more than a billion nominal religious adherents.

It also is relevant that when compared with religious adherents, the current number of affiliated humanists of all types is relatively small. For example, Primack and Aspy (1980) conjectured that, at most, 300,000 people in the U.S. were candidates for a secular humanist organization. Quite probably that number has not changed significantly, and it represents less than lls of 1% of all U.S. citizens. So, by sheer force of numbers, there is an advantage to be gained by inviting religious humanists to membership in an umbrella- styled humanist organization. In the tradition of Erasmus, Sir Thomas More, Elie Wiesel, and Clifton Sparks such an organization could state its tenets in a straightforward way. First, it takes human matters seriously. Second, it favors serious, honest scholarship. Third, it sanctions kindness (respect) in all human relationships. Conceivably, with those three planks as its platform, an organization could attract many members who are currently unresponsive to the widely held assumption that all humanists are secularists.

A reasonable hypothesis is that if humanist organizations were to sponsor an effort to inform the broader public that humanism's distinction includes the three previously mentioned planks this action might correct the widely held misperception that humanism is based exclusively on the antireligion posture espoused by secularists. A corollary is that under those circumstances the numbers of affiliated humanists might grow substantially. The present cultural circumstances seem hospitable to this type of integrative gesture (Wuthnow, 1998).

The logic of enlisting religious humanists in the broader humanist fellowship is explained by Wuthnow (1998), who stated that in general spirituality is waxing. He wrote the following:

Moderate mainline, denominations, Catholics, Jews, and evangelical Protestants also participated in the redefinition of spirituality that took place in the 1960s. The reason for this participation was organized religion's own desire to promote intense spiritual conviction in the face of a rising tide of secularism, scientific agnosticism, and implicit indifference bred from taking spirituality for granted as a part of one's lineage and community. (p. 80)

Kelly (1995), who qualifies as a religious humanist, offered a strong rationale for including religious humanists in humanist organizations. He stated, "It is a small step from the 'church' or 'religious' forms of universalist, humanistic spirituality as manifested in Unitarianism and Baha'i to the non-church-affiliated humanistic spirituality that characterizes a wide range of people outside organized religion" (p. 23). Elkind (1997) provided a culture- based reason for adopting an inclusivist policy. He contended that the challenges of the postmodern period are found in the integration of what formerly appeared to be dichotomies.


To a significant number of people, humanism can be equated to secularism or atheism. This flawed equation is unfair to religious humanists, who have a clear and distinguished humanist legacy beginning at least as early as Petrarch in the fourteenth century. In the sixteenth century, two other religious humanists, Erasmus and Sir Thomas More, established exemplary records in the annals of the history concerning humanism. Then, in the twentieth century, Jacques Maritain (1938) delineated a modern religious humanism based primarily on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Hill (1997) contended that religious humanists turned earlier to St. Augustine to "develop a philosophy that interpreted temporal passage as the necessary condition of experience without making it the essence or ultimate measureof human purpose" (p. 1). Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that humanism has an enduring religious thread that is certainly consistent with many of the beliefs of today's humanists (i.e., kindness [decency] and serious scholarship). To ignore or refute that historical connection is to be in serious denial.

Secular humanism can be traced to the Renaissance and conservatives contend that it was brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s by liberal intellectuals (Marzano, 1994). During the twentieth century, its impact has been extended and perhaps intensified by the efforts of the American Humanist Association, which sponsored the issuance of the celebrated Humanist Manifestos I (1933) and II (1973) which deals with the humanist view of religion, ethics, the role of reasoning, the need for individual dignity, and commitment to a democratic society (Primack & Aspy, 1980, p. 226).

One result of the secularization of humanism is that there are relatively few affiliated religious humanists, which means that they exist primarily as a minority immersed in a population whose overwhelming majority professes a religious belief. Ironically, religious humanists cannot join fully with secular humanists if and when the major issue is the acceptability of a religious faith. Thus, religious humanists are a diaspora of undetermined proportions. However, because there are at least 175 million religionists in the U.S., there is reason to believe that there are many religious humanists and it would be productive to recruit them into a functional group with other humanists who wish to promote scholarship and human decency

A first step is to specify the beliefs of religious humanists. Three enduring trends can be identified: serious scholarship, the attitude that human affairs are important, and a desire to practice the teachings of a religion. Quite probably, all humanists could concur on the first two traits, but religious humanists are distinguished by their adherence to religious teachings as a base of belief. This delineation of characteristics indicates that all humanists share commitments to serious scholarship (teacher) and facilitative human relationships (creature), which give them common ground; the members also manifest distinct worldviews that give their subgroups unique identities. In brief, humanists have much to gain by being inclusive.

A statement by Dawson (1993) underscores the importance of an immediate effort to coalesce humanists into a functional group. He wrote, "humanism today is on the retreat on all fronts, and it seems as though the world is moving in the direction of non-humanist and even an anti-humanist form of culture" (p. 1). A coalescing (inclusivist) strategy reverses the exclusivist humanist response to today's sweeping information age challenges. The organizational policy approach is based on the premise that religious humanists have a significant contribution to make to twenty-first century civilization and that a facilitative structure is a necessary component of that effort.


There is reason to believe that religious humanists will be amenable to affiliation with an organization that will subscribe to two basic tenets (human affairs are important, and the search for truth should be the prime purpose of scholarship) and recognize the legitimacy of a third (a commitment to the teachings of a religion as the ascendant motivation for human activity). The first two beliefs are common to all humanists. The third is unique to religionists. Thus, there are both appropriate similarities and differences among humanists. If humanists are enthusiastically inclusive then each identity has an appropriate place.

It also seems appropriate for humanists to claim their religious heritage. That process may be similar to the one in which each of us embraces a part of our lineage that at some point may have caused us shame. It is a part of the path to wholeness. Perhaps we can say in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., that we dream of the day when secular humanists may meet with religious humanists in harmony.


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I can see how a man can keep his eyes on the mud and conclude that there was no God, but I cannot see how anyone could turn his eyes to the heavens on a starry night and deny the existence of a Supreme Being. -Abraham Lincoln

David N. Aspy is an educational consultant in Edmond, Oklahoma. Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to David N. Aspy, 1208 Rockwood Drive, Edmond, OK 73013 (

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