why a page on humanism? I suppose because it’s important to me, and you’ll find an explanation of how I became a humanist here. What is humanism anyway? A good definition is that humanism is the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values, and that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. If you want to know more about it, Humanists UK is a good place to start. Given that this site is largely about making sense of science, and medical science in particular, the inclusion of information about humanism is not that odd, given that it is one manifestation of the rationalist viewpoint. In the same way that evidence-based medicine requires us to have proof of the efficacy of treatments before we use them, humanism holds that we should adhere to similar principles in our personal philosophy, and not fall back on religious or metaphysical cop-outs when we encounter something we can’t immediately explain.
Humanism is much more than atheism or agnosticism, although humanists are clearly likely to be atheists, given the definition of humanism offered above. But the Humanists UK website will explain all this better than I can. If you are religious, there’s no way I will convince you that you are wrong, nor would I try to do so. The most I would suggest is that you might want to think about the sort of god you believe in. The incident of the Chilean miners raised similar issues, and this was my response in an article published in the international Humanist News.
And the Pope’s visit in 2010, and the outraged response of theists to anyone suggesting there were better ways of spending taxpayers’ money than on protecting him and generally giving him a good time, stimulated this musing on the concept of ‘aggressive atheism’.
When I retired from full time work at the end of 2010, I signed up for the Humanists UK training course to qualify as a Humanist celebrant. This equipped me to conduct secular funerals for those with no religious beliefs. The best way to find a Humanist celebrant in your area is to use the Humanists UK website, click the ‘ceremonies’ tab and then go to ‘celebrant search’. In addition to finding a celebrant, the site will also give you information about Humanist ceremonies (including those for weddings and namings).
My funeral work proved to be very challenging and rewarding, and in 2015, I attended the Humanists UK training course in pastoral care, aimed at getting non-religious chaplains into our prisons and hospitals. I was fortunate that the chaplaincy team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals was very receptive to the idea of a humanist chaplain, and I was duly appointed on a voluntary basis. I was initially attached to the teenage oncology unit, but with a remit to meet with any patients, especially those who are wanting to talk to someone with a secular philosophy of life. Covid interrupted my work, as volunteers were not allowed into the hospitals, and now I have retired from formal involvement. However, my early experiences in the role prompted this personal view, and the Trust has now appointed a full-time paid humanist pastoral carer.