Twenty Years Later: Symposium-Parts I and II
While the first manifesto was never revised, debate over the need for revision or for a new document continued. So much so, that twenty years later, a symposium was published containing the views of the twenty-seven surviving signers (John Dewey, Bernard Fantus, William Floyd, Maynard Shipley, W. Frank Swift, Joseph Walker, and Frank S. C. Wicks had all died) as well as a selection of other humanists. However, before discussing that symposium, let us get an overview of the interim twenty years.
The Humanist Moves East
In August 1941, I moved from Chicago to the Unitarian pulpit at Schenectady, New York, for a five-year war-time ministry. With the encouragement of Corliss Lamont and Max Otto, I resumed publication of The New Humanist, now as editor and under the altered title, The Humanist. The word new was deleted from the title to help disassociate the movement from the literary humanism of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More.
At the same time in 1941, following the organizational insights of Curtis Reese, the name of the magazine’s sponsor was changed from the Humanist Press Association to the American Humanist Association. We had become more than just a publishing organization; we were now a fellowship of like-minded supporters of a cause generating commitment. Over the next decade, the membership and magazine circulation grew. By 1952, The Humanist had correspondents in Denmark, England, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latin America, West Germany, Sweden, and Uruguay. In addition to serving as editor, I was devoting most of my time serving as executive director of the AHA from its offices in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
A Point of Controversy
Because various philosophic points of view emerge religiously and ethically as humanism, there came a time in the 1940s when there was a rather vigorous complaint that the editorial policy of The Humanist was too pragmatic in its orientation. (This was the position of philosopher Arthur Murphy who chose to drop out.) Roy Wood Sellars was a critical realist and therefore, in epistemology, anti-Dewey. Eventually there was also a rather sharp conflict between the logical positivists, as represented by Charles Morris, John Dewey, and Arthur Bentley, and conflict between Bertrand Russell and John Dewey.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union
Also in 1952, an important, historic event took place: with the founding of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, humanism became an organized world movement. The IHEU filed incorporation papers in New York and established its international headquarters in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It stated in its "Declaration of the Founding Congress, Amsterdam, 1952":
The primary task of humanism to-day is to make men aware in the simplest terms of what it can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilizing in this context, and for purposes of peace, the new power which science has given us, humanists have confidence that the present crisis can be surmounted. Liberated from fear the energies of man will be available for a self-realization to which it is impossible to foresee the limit.
Ethical humanism is thus a faith that answers the challenge of our times. We call upon men who share this conviction to associate themselves with us.
The Symposium: Part I
In the March/April 1953 issue of The Humanist (13:2:63-71), a symposium was published which included the original manifesto; "An Historical Note" by Raymond Bragg; an article by Roy Wood Sellars entitled "Naturalistic Humanism: A Framework for Belief and Values"; as well as the responses of the surviving signatories (and preselected others) to the questions: "How has the manifesto stood the test of time?" and "If a new statement were to be prepared today, what changes should be made?"
Roy Wood Sellars. Having drafted the original manifesto, the editors at The Humanist were pleased that Sellars agreed to write an article for the symposium, which read in part:
Much has happened since the formulation and the publication of the Humanist Manifesto. Under able and vigorous leadership in this and other countries, Humanism has become an international stream of thought and commitment aiming at a basic revision of the human outlook and a revaluation of values. I still think the adjective, naturalistic, best symbolizes the perspective of religious Humanism since it calls attention to its rejection of supernaturalism. Modern naturalism is, inevitably, evolutionary in its premises. . . . As I see it, it is all a matter of accent. The essential thing is to have a common framework.
Is Humanism a religion, perhaps, the next great religion? Yes, it must be so characterized, for the word, religion, has become a symbol for answers to that basic interrogation of human life, the human situation, and the nature of things-which every human being, in some degree and in some fashion, makes. What can I expect from life? What kind of universe is it? Is there, as some say, a friendly Providence in control of it? And, if not, what then? The universe of discourse of religion consists of such questions, and the answers relevant to them. Christian theism and Vedantic mysticism are but historic frameworks in relation to which answers have in the past been given to these poignant and persistent queries. But there is nothing sacrosanct and self-certifying about these frameworks. What Humanism represents is the awareness of another framework, more consonant with wider and deeper knowledge about man and his world. The Humanist movement is engaged in formulating answers, with what wisdom it can achieve, to these basic questions.
. . . The Humanist outlook is based on the empirical fact of evolutionary levels in nature. Man has abilities which are unique and which rest on his capacity for symbolism because it is magnified by cultural inheritance. Each generation begins where the prior generation left. The reductionist is simply one who ignores what biological and social evolution have wrought, and has eyes for inorganic themes. The mechanical materialist is of the same vintage. Modem quantum mechanics is primarily mathematical and is not tied in with fixed, mechanical models and pictures. The patterned subtlety of nature, as exhibited in biochemistry, for instance, is not denied but given an historical dimension, one step making possible another step. . . .
In conclusion, I want to contrast the perspective of humanism with that of traditional rationalism. . . . The older rationalism was on the defensive. And so it expressed itself too often in negative terms; not this;not that; not God; not revelation; not personal immortality. What Humanism signified was a shift from negation to construction. There came a time when naturalism no longer felt on the defensive. Rather, supernaturalism began, in its eyes, to grow dim and fade out despite all the blustering and rationalizations of its advocates.
Now this was a change in dominance, long prepared in both philosophy and science, and beginning to manifest itself in everyday life. To use a homely expression, the shoe was on the other foot. Instead of feeling that he had to disprove the existence of a God, special revelation, and the general mystique of a supernatural realm, the naturalist simply began with good reason to feel that the job of proving these pivotal assumptions rested with the supernaturalist. And he knew that both theologians and philosophers in the past had never been able to develop satisfactory proofs. In short, the strategic situation had changed.
As I conceived it, then, the Humanist Manifesto expressed this change of dominance as a sort of declaration of independence. And I imagine that Wilson and the others who supplied the comments and suggestions which went into its making had something similar in mind. Naturalism was maturing into a humanistic phase. The old supernaturalistic framework no longer possessed its former intrinsic prestige. There were now two competing frames of reference for both belief and values. The time had come for a reassessment all along the line. If possible, a friendly debate was indicated. Let the premises or theses be stated and the arguments, pro and con, be entered. To the best of our knowledge, what kind of a universe are we in? What can man expect? Is man now his own worst enemy? What are the complexities of human nature? In what fashion are these tied in with cultural arrangements? What can be done about it?
I have recently read over the fifteen theses. On the whole, I think they sketch the essentials of a framework which is both naturalistic and humanistic. There is, of course, nothing sacrosanct about any of the formulations. New conditions will bring new emphases. . . .
The Signers Reappraise. In their introduction to the symposium, The Humanist‘s editors included a statement which is really a fine definition of humanism:
This present reappraisal is a continuation of the constant effort to keep Humanism a dynamic movement. Humanists do not look back to a faith delivered once and for all time at a particular moment or during a particular period in history. They rather look forward to a constantly growing synthesis produced by the interaction of many minds relating the increasing discoveries of science to human fulfillment.
From his "Historical Note" of introduction, Ray Bragg wrote:
. . . The Manifesto had a wide press coverage. Time, The Literary Digest, The Christian Century, the Associated Press, religious journals representing a variety of denominations sent it into every corner of this country. The late Clarence Skinner thought it might some day rank with Luther’s more extensive theses. Catholic journals presented it as the logical outcome of the centuries of Protestant thought.
The immediate aims were achieved: to stir up discussion, to prompt debate. The editorial note accompanying the publication was explicit on that score. And, for the greater part, that spirit was carried in the reporting of the document.
To revise the Manifesto, in my estimation, would be misfortunate. If Humanists in 1953 or 1954 want to restate the position, let it be done in today’s terms. Twenty years ago the editors were careful in their designation. The document of 1933 was called A Humanist Manifesto. Each living signer has pondered many meanings since that time. Nonetheless, in 1933 he stood by what he signed, whatever qualifications he may have made in his own mind or for the informal record.
A new formulation may be in order. May the vigorous undertake it!
There followed the comments of the signatories in the exact order of their appearance in the symposium:
J. A. C. Fagginger Auer (Cambridge, Massachusetts):
I have read the Manifesto over and I do not think I should want to change anything at the present moment. Even the fourteenth point does not disturb me very much. I believe we still want a socialized and co-operative economic order to the end that equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. I see nothing revolutionary in it and a good deal that is commendable.
E. Burdette Backus (Indianapolis, Indiana):
On the whole, I should be willing to sign the Manifesto again as it now stands. Some of the points I might want to modify to a slight extent. For instance, in the first one I should like to include the statement that I regard the universe as itself creative. The suggestive material in Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, indicating that the creative process is going on all the while is a case in point. Similarly, under point eleven I should like to be more specific about using the social sciences, particularly psychology, as instruments for securing Humanist objectives.
As to point fourteen, I am convinced that it is descriptive of an historic trend which has by no means played itself out. Norman Thomas is doubtless right in his new pamphlet, "Democratic Socialism, A New Appraisal," in his statement that developments of recent years compel a revision in our thinking on certain traditional socialist doctrines. None the less it still seems to me clear that we shall have to achieve a much greater degree of socialization if we are to promote the Humanist purpose of fulfilling personal lives.
Even as it stands the Manifesto is still a significant document and I am proud to have been one of the original signers.
Harry Elmer Barnes (Cooperstown, New York):
A careful reading of the Humanist Manifesto convinces me that it has stood up remarkably well considering the fact that the last twenty years have been the most dynamic and world-shaking, for evil as well as good, but more for evil than good, in the history of mankind. Some additions might be desirable but it would not be necessary to retreat from any main position taken.
I would criticize the seventh proposition, not in the light of any changes since 1933, but because of what I believed to be a serious defect when stated in 1933. Humanists should be able to define religion more precisely or not try to define it at all. The definition in the seventh point is too loose and inclusive to mean anything at all. The words "art," "education," "philosophy," "ethics," etc. could be substituted for the term religion and the statement would readjust as soundly as it does now. Religion may be interested in all the fields and activities mentioned, but it does not "consist of" them. Or it may represent a special approach to, or evaluation of, these fields and human interests. But, as it stands, the definition is vague and worthless and could be used to base a charge that the Humanists do not actually know what religion is.
In point fourteen, I would leave out the word "socialized" and say "a free and co-operative" economy. It is symptomatic of the changed temper of the times that what would have been regarded as a mildly conservative economic statement in 1933 might well lead to the charge in 1953 that Humanists are "security risks."
It might be well to add something which would indicate the transformations that have taken place in the main challengers to Humanism between 1933 and 1953. In the religious field in 1933 fundamentalism, Catholic and Protestant, was the main menace or challenge to Humanism. Today, it is more Niebuhrism, neo-orthodoxy, intellectual obfuscation, and the like. Humanism has successfully battled against antiscientific views of life which antedated modern science and Biblical criticism, but it has not made any systematic attack on the intellectualistic obscurantism led by Niebuhr and others which does not stem from fundamentalism, though it may have less logic to sustain itself and be less entitled to respect on the ground that its expositors should know better.
Far more menacing to Humanism and to the "good life" Humanism seeks to promote than fundamentalism, Niebuhrism, and related trends-or all combined-are the rise of globaloney and world-meddling, the conquest of internationalism by militarism, and the growing acceptance of a world system of "perpetual war for perpetual peace."
L. M. Birkhead (New York, New York):
The Manifesto seems to me to represent the thinking of enlightened religious liberals today as it did twenty years ago. I would leave out nothing.
In paragraph three the word "establish" should be changed to "develop." Humanists do not seek to establish a religion, but to develop their Humanist religion. And couldn’t some word be added to point fourteen to indicate a less dogmatic economic point of view? There seems to me to be a paradox in the repudiation of capitalism in the early part of the paragraph and an expression of Humanist faith in "a free and universal society" at the end of the paragraph.
Edwin Arthur Burtt (Ithaca, New York):
The word "Humanism" still comes closer than any other to representing my general philosophic position. But I’ve gone a long way since 1933. And to square my present thinking with the details of the Manifesto would require that I complete, right now, what I hope to work out in a book some ten years in the future. Many issues of basic importance are involved.
Ernest Caldecott (Los Angeles, California):
I think the Manifesto is still very sound, but somewhat "stuffy." I would leave out nothing, but would change wordings here and there to make the document more semantically correct.
I would add between paragraphs fifteen and sixteen the following new paragraph: "Due to man’s understanding of his own nature, and, therefore, of his fellows, it is imperative (that we explain) our faith in man. Wars constitute an individual aberration which traditional religions have not cured. A re-evaluation of the nature of man, to be applied in terms of his surroundings, will give hope and determination that we shall so arrange our thinking, ethics, and actions that war shall be no more."
A. J. Carlson (Chicago, Illinois):
I would change paragraph fourteen in the direction of paragraph two of the explanatory statement of July 24, 1952 [which read: "Point fourteen, especially, has been the object of criticism from various angles. It reflects the outlook of depression times. Since the Humanist Manifesto ought not to enter as far into controversial realms as did point fourteen nor to take an official position as a movement with regard to any particular economic system."].
I think the social responsibility of the individual might be pointed out more clearly.
Frank H. Hankins (Northampton, Massachusetts):
On the whole the Humanist Manifesto is still an acceptable statement. Nevertheless, it might still be rewritten in its entirety. Since Humanists do not pretend to dogmatic finality, there should be no loss of prestige in alterations.
If I were doing a complete rewriting, I would alter every statement. At the same time, since any statement requires consensus among the signers, I would not insist on rewriting any theses except the third, the seventh, and the fourteenth.
[Since the rest of Mr. Hankins’s letter is too long to quote in its entirety, only his suggested revision of points three, seven, and fourteen are given below.]
Third-Humanists therefore hold that the traditional belief in the dualism of mind and body was one of the basic errors of human thought from earliest times. Humanists hold the organic view that mind is the functioning of living bodies. While this view denies the possibility of future life, it sanctifies efforts to free this life of poverty, crime, vice, and every human meanness.
Seventh-Sociological and historical researchers have shown that the essential core of religion is devotion to those social values which bind men together in cooperative effort for group preservation and mutual welfare; and that these values are discovered through human experiences. Among those discovered in recent times are devotion to truth as exemplified in the scientific mentality, the dignity of individual man, and the ideals of democracy. Humanism thus becomes the next logical step in religious evolution; it is the heir and creative fulfillment of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the democratic revolutions.
Fourteenth-Since the goal of Humanism is the highest possible development of the personality of each consistent with the welfare of all, and since this is possible only in a society cherishing ideals of human liberty, equality, and fraternity, a society in which people voluntarily and intelligently co-operate for the common good, Humanism favors such changes in the social order as promise [of] a more equitable distribution of the material bases of a good life.
A. Eustace Haydon (Chicago, Illinois):
The introductory statement has stood up remarkably well. The description of religion is abreast of the findings of the most advanced scientific research in the field today. I would like to add only that beneath the threefold complex of world view, technique, and ideal which serve as the embodiment of a religion there are the driving desires which determine the values of the ideal, physical, personal, and social desires.
In the fifth statement I would leave out "cosmic" since it is clear that while there is no personal or supernatural guarantee, man as a part of nature does get support for his values in the balance of the natural order, in the age-old habits of biology, and in the sense of oneness with the planetary process.
In the sixth, I would express sympathetic understanding for these old forms of thinking which we must nevertheless now surrender.
For fourteen I would substitute a statement calling upon all phases of civilization and culture to serve the commonweal as their only right to exist-a new synthesis of culture around a human, social ideal. Around this it would be possible to make a full statement of the social program and the method of progress toward the ideal. In this it could be made very clear that any religion vital today must be secular.
Llewellyn Jones (Cambridge, Massachusetts):
I see in general nothing wrong with the Manifesto, and while certain small changes might be suggested, they would be debatable. And, after all, is it not wiser to leave it as it was: by now it is a part of history, a "source." We all realize that it is "of 1933."
If I were preparing a new statement today I might either leave out section fourteen or change it to read that any society, whether profit-motivated or not, must exist to serve all individuals; that is, make some protest against the idea that "natural law" in the old sense, or any independent law of economics-such as the laws of the Manchester school-must be given full rein.
In the present state of ethical and philosophical thinking I do not think you could add anything that would meet with the approval of surviving original signers or new signers if you contemplate having younger people sign a revised Manifesto.
Have you thought that changing or adding to the Humanist Manifesto involves one very ticklish point? How will you get the consent to any changes of the seven deceased signers? By hypothesis we are denied the use of the Ouija board. We cannot have two Manifestoes, the historic one with their signatures on it and a new one with new signatures on it. After all, the importance of the Manifesto was to state a broad position: to rally to our banner Humanists who had learned their Humanism from such diverse sources as the old rationalist movements, agnosticism, atheism of the Lewis type, and then the naturalistic philosophies of Santayana, Dewey, Woodbridge, Sellars, Russell, the logical positivists, and so on. Any attempt to be too exact or even too contemporary in the phrasing of the Manifesto will simply result in a sort of argumentative free-for-all.
Robert Morss Lovett (Chicago, Illinois):
I think the Manifesto is fine. I would change nothing.
Harold P. Marley (Chicago, Illinois):
The Manifesto is too long-too wordy. There is not enough coming to grips with reality in view of Spain, World War II, release of atomic energy, and release of peoples from colonial imperialism.
If I were to prepare such a statement today I would leave out nothing of the essence, but would sharply condense.
[A section of Mr. Marley’s letter dealing with particular methods of reorganization of the Manifesto is here omitted for lack of space. The letter concludes with a suggested rewording for point fourteen.]
Fourteen-The radical changes in profit-motivated society, held to be necessary twenty years ago, have steadily been taking place. Today, we witness an unprecedented rise of people’s movements, particularly in colonial and exploited areas of the globe. The vitality of such movements was demonstrated during World War II against a Fascist onslaught which was stopped but not destroyed.
The evil forces of fascism, wherever they may be, would again join together to risk a world holocaust, and the bloody civil strife which would inevitably break out in country after country, continent by continent. The unspeakable terrors of civil strife in an atom-bomb age can well be guessed.
Humanists face these awful consequences (already manifest to a degree) knowing that not only Humanism, but civilization itself, is at stake. We believe that conciliation is the answer to impending world conflict, and that economic justice to all peoples is the only solution for achieving lasting peace and harmony.
Lester Mondale (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania):
I am still very much in sympathy with the general tenor of the statement; in particular, the stress on centering religion on man rather than on worship of a transcendent divinity, the emphasis on the natural (which is not to say naturalism) as against the supernatural, on this life rather than on life in any other sphere or time.
[A section of Mr. Mondale’s letter dealing with specific minor changes suggested in wording and emphasis is omitted here for lack of space.]
My first addition would be to substitute for point fourteen a statement showing recognition of the fact that the threat to the democratic and free world today is religion of a totalitarian kind (including communism), and that what is inescapable for the free nations is a humanistic outlook, rather than a mere anti-communism, behind which they can unite and rally to the offensive.
I should like to see incorporated in any future statement this fact: that the fruitage of the ethical, or shall we say humanistic, life is a lively and sustaining sense of cosmic at-homeness.
Again, I believe that no religious movement, or philosophical for that matter, can regard itself as contemporary without an explicit statement that recognizes the tragic character not only of man’s perennial inability to grasp truth entire or practice justice without at the same time being in some degree unjust, but also of certain ineradicable contradictions in the nature of man, in all human association, and in the best of the virtues themselves. Hence, the kind of "personality realization" (point eight) I hope any future statement will feature is that of the hero of Greek tragedy, maimed and ruined albeit, by evils from which the gods themselves are not exempt, but at the same time transcending evils with the nobility of an Oedipus, or with the contagious morale (in contrast with the probably more factual wail of defeat of "My God, My God") of the Greek Gospel: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Charles Francis Potter (New York, New York):
The Manifesto today looks antique and sententious. It is verbose and dogmatic: even shrill at times. It is dated and it squeaks. My! Didn’t we think we were wonderful crusaders!
If I were to prepare such a statement today, I would omit "or cosmic" in the fifth thesis. Omit sixth thesis entirely. It is a gratuitous slap, and there are, for instance, "New Thought" preachers more "humanistic" than some Unitarian Humanists. In the eighth thesis omit "in the here and now" which is an unnecessary limitation of personality.
Condense the three-paragraph preamble to one which should be less vague and preachy. A little humility and modesty of statement wouldn’t hurt our cause. In the third sentence of first paragraph of the preamble, include "psychology." Combine the first four theses into one. Note how the fourth duplicates the second. Rewrite the seventh thesis and include the twelfth in it by simply adding the adjectives "creative" and "joyful." Rewrite fourteenth thesis in the light of recent history.
Add more fervor, hope, and enthusiasm.
J. H. Randall, Jr. (New York, New York):
I originally signed the Manifesto in a spirit of general agreement, without quibbling over details. My own philosophical views I have long preferred to call naturalistic rather than humanistic, and while for the purposes of stating a religious position the differences are minor, they are there. Thus in Point Five, while there certainly has been discovered no "cosmic guarantee of human values" I have always wished that there were some emphasis on the fact that such values are and must be rooted in the natural conditions of human life. Religion has always seemed to me truncated when focused too narrowly upon man alone, without a sense of the encompassing presence of the nature that has generated man and his concerns.
On two points on which the Manifesto failed to satisfy me I have come to feel more strongly. First, there is lacking any expression of a tragic sense of life. "Joy in living" (point 12) is not the only attitude religion must foster. There is also such a thing as humility. The inevitabilities of frustration and the evil that men necessarily do must be seen in proper perspective, but they must be seen. There is no reason why supernaturalism should be allowed a monopoly on the religious expression of this tragic sense. Humanism can do it more effectively because more sanely. Thus, in the last paragraph, "man has within himself the power for the achievement of the world of his dreams," has always sounded insensitive and brash. Man has the power to work toward it, and there is no other power. But . . .
Secondly, there is insufficient recognition of the need of imagination in religion, and of the role of religious symbols. The traditional Christian symbols are no longer adequate-though they seem much more relevant to present-day experience than to that of a generation ago. But no religion that tries to get along without any imaginative embodiment of its basic attitudes and values is likely to attract many. Humanism should face seriously the very difficult problem of creating more adequate imaginative symbols. It should at least recognize the need even if it cannot yet satisfy it.
Both these points demand much further elaboration, especially the second, to which I have given a great deal of attention and thought. But I think the problems suggested will be sufficiently indicated to any one who has lived through the last twenty years with some sensitive attention to the direction of religious feeling and thought.
Curtis W. Reese (Chicago, Illinois):
The Manifesto seems to me today as valid as it was in 1933. I would change nothing and add only a more extensive statement of the implications of the scientific method and spirit-clearly implied in point five.
The controversy about point fourteen appears to me to be much ado about nothing. By no stretch of the imagination can point fourteen be made to support Soviet Communism. We must not allow our anticommunistic attitude to swing us out of accord with the world-wide trend toward a more socialized economy. The sentence beginning "The goal of humanism . . ." was written by me, and was designed to put point fourteen in definite opposition to totalitarianisms of all kinds. Nor do I think point fourteen reflects "depression days." In the prosperous years of 1920-29, there was widespread discussion of "acquisitive and profit-motivated society." My own published writings and also those of Roy Wood Sellars, published before 1929 are even more socially radical than point fourteen.
Oliver L. Reiser (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania):
In the main the Manifesto still appears sound, enlightened, and forward-looking.
In the fifth proposition I would delete "or cosmic"; and I would delete proposition six entirely. I would change the emphasis of the whole Manifesto so that world citizenship in a planetary democracy would stand out. Loyalty to man as the planetary species is our highest loyalty.
I would add in proposition one or two, a more explicit statement of the meaning of "naturalism." Negatively, naturalism rules out supernaturalism (miracles) and also a mechanistic-materialistic view. Ethics now needs a cosmology, and pantheism provides a new plateau transcending the conflict of Marxist atheism and Christian supernaturalism.
Clinton Lee Scott (Boston, Massachusetts):
Except for some rephrasing to make the Manifesto a bit less dogmatic I would change nothing. Point fourteen will again be relevant. I wouldn’t change it.
V. T. Thayer (Arlington, Virginia):
I would still be willing to sign the Manifesto. However, I am less convinced than in the 1930’s that "In every field of human activity, the vital movement is in the direction of a candid and explicit humanism." There are too many drums sounding a retreat!
If I were to prepare such a statement today I would tone down expressions of dogmatism here and [t]here. Thus, in number six I would suggest "the time has come for a thorough revision of theism, deism . . ." rather than to say "the time has passed. . . ."
I would change number four so as to stress that the individual is both molded by his culture and, as an active participant in it, can help to give form and character to his times.
Number nine should read not merely "co-operative effort to promote social well-being," but "finds his religious emotions expressed in fruitful living within the lives of others and in co-operative efforts to promote social well-being."
The first sentence of number fourteen requires rewriting in the present context. We should condemn both a profit-motivated society and a collectivist- and state-dominated society.
We should affirm our faith in a free intelligence. We oppose all attempts to cabin, crib, or confine the minds of men. We believe the health of a free society, as well as that of a free individual, is conditioned upon keeping open the channels of free inquiry. Only thus can men assure to themselves and their successors a perennial replenishment of the human spirit and the adequate utilization of resources, both physical and spiritual, essential to a good society.
E. C. Vanderlaan (San Francisco, California):
I am glad that there is to be a fresh look at the Humanist Manifesto. My comments (without at this moment being ready to frame the improved language I should desire) deal mainly with the following points:
1. The opening paragraphs. Here I would not insist that Humanism be called religion. I would state that Humanism is for some the essence of religion, while others regard it as a philosophy and central devotion which is, strictly speaking, an equivalent or substitute for religion. This might free us of the charge of currying favor by the misuse of language.
2. Seventh affirmation. In line with the above, this paragraph, while noble-sounding, is objectionable. If "religion" covers all human interests, the word has no distinctive meaning, and merely serves to impart (we hope) an air of good intentions to our declarations.
3. Fourteenth affirmation. Here we should make clear that Humanism is not bound by any economic dogma-neither Marxian theory nor the superstition that unrestrained profit-hunting is productive of all good. Or say, Humanism holds that every political and economic system in the world is subject to impartial scrutiny and ethical appraisal.
4. In the light of present trends, we should strongly protest against the assumption, sometimes tacit but often implicit, that good citizenship is necessarily bound up with belief in traditional religious doctrines. For this means that the greatest questions which can engage human thought, are now to be removed from the field of open inquiry, and are to be answered once [and] for all by the authority of churches and the prejudices of the uninformed. No revised Manifesto should fail to deal sharply with this current phenomenon.
Jacob J. Weinstein (Chicago, Illinois):
Humanism is essentially a young man’s faith. It is Promethean and therefore limited. How long can you shout defiance at the heavens? Life’s slow strain finds it inadequate in situations of emotional stress. There are mysteries which cannot tolerate an agnostic answer. There are moments when the refusal to call upon the Friend behind phenomena leads to paralysis of the will. To accept only what the intellect clears makes for a glacial astringency of the blood. To refuse to personalize "the power not ourselves making for righteousness" leads to a sense of rootlessness and makes it almost impossible to communicate one’s faith in moral integrity to his children. To accept the mytho-poetry of the classical religions does indeed open the door to superstitions and irrational binges of the emotions, but it is a chance we must take. Better to take it than to close the door on the tides of inspiration that bring us the profound and sustaining insights.
I have tried to resist the fears that come with the middle years. I have tried to detour the highway of "disillusion with science because it has not brought Utopia." I hope this is not a reaction of the jilted. But who can tell? Who can really penetrate to the true sources of one’s judgment?
Nevertheless, I shall always be grateful to Humanism. It has, among other things, placed certain limits on the waywardness of the emotions. It has reigned in the heart and contributed toward that search for a synthesis of mind and heart which is the quest of every mature man.
David Rhys Williams (Rochester, New York):
Most of the ideas are still valid, but the language in which they are couched is deadly prosaic and unnecessarily uninspiring. It is like a scientifically built aeroplane, but without wings-it doesn’t get off the ground. The Declaration of Independence is very concrete but it also possesses eloquence and literary power. The Manifesto needs rephrasing as much as anything.
In point five I would leave out "or cosmic." Does not "makes unacceptable any supernatural guarantees of human values" describe the Humanist position sufficiently? Are the "human values" outside the cosmos?
I would leave out point six entirely unless theism, deism, modernism, etc. are specifically defined. There are some whose theism doesn’t seem to differ much from Humanism.
I would amend point fourteen by the addition suggested by the staff of The Humanist [quoted in A. J. Carlson’s reply above].
I believe if the Manifesto is to be rewritten it should indicate some awareness of the atomic age in which we now live and have something to say about the peril to human values involved in the use of atomic weapons by any nation, including our own.
Edwin H. Wilson (Yellow Springs, Ohio):
I would prefer that we leave the Humanist Manifesto for what it has always been-a dated document representing a general agreement of thirty-four men at a particular moment in history. For today’s purposes we need a new and fighting Humanist Declaration under whose banner we can lead a crusade for the freedoms across the country.
Point five in the present Manifesto seems to me insufficiently to show that, as Julian Huxley has put it, "man is the conscious agent of the evolutionary process." Although our values are not guaranteed by evolution, the need for them and the materials for their realization have all been determined in part by the process that has made man what he is.
Concerning point fourteen, if today many Humanists, including myself, are less sanguine about state ownership and operation of industry as a magic means of solving all our problems than we were in the great days of Norman Thomas’ leadership, it is because we have seen what happens when the state gets too much power in its hands. The Humanist movement, however, should not be committed to any one specific economic answer. It would be enough to say that continued struggle by all Humanists to end poverty, disease, ignorance, and prejudice-the real sources of war and other international conflict-seems imperative.
In any new Humanist Declaration there should be a reaffirmation of the freedoms and adequate delineation of antidemocratic and anti-Humanist forces which threaten to destroy the democratic way of life here at home under the guise of protecting our security from alien forces abroad. McCarthyism; crypto-fascist attacks on the UN and UNESCO; clericalist pressures to invade our public schools; efforts to impose a theocratic basis of citizenship ("freedom under God"); the subversion of free, modern public education in behalf of a program of ritualistic indoctrination to favor a confluence of reactionary forces-all these need resisting with all the force we can muster.
The Symposium: Part II
The reappraisals by two manifesto signers-Dieffenbach and Dietrich-were received too late for publication in the first part of the symposium, so were included in the second part, which was published in the May/June 1953 issue of The Humanist (13:3:136-141). In addition, a number of persons who had by this time become actively involved in the humanist movement were invited to comment. They were Van Meter Ames, professor of philosophy at the University of Cincinnati; Fred G. Bratton, professor of literature and history of religion at Springfield College, Massachusetts; Harold Larrabee, professor of philosophy at Union College, Schenectady, New York; Alfred McClung Lee, a sociologist and president of the Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice; Corliss Lamont, author of The Illusion of Immortality and The Philosophy of Humanism; Francis Meyers, professor of philosophy at the University of Denver; Arthur E. Morgan, engineer, Antioch College president, author, and active commentator to our journal since 1933; Lloyd Morain, then president of the American Humanist Association; Herbert J. Muller, professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (not to be confused with Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller, who later became president of the AHA); Harold Scott, minister of the Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utah (and brother of Clinton Lee Scott, manifesto signer); Mark Starr, the educational director for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union; Gerald Wendt, the former editorial director of Science Illustrated and, at the time, in charge of popular education in the physical sciences for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and Gardner Williams, professor of philosophy at the University of Toledo, Ohio.
The inclusion of these additional persons shows the growth of the movement in the two decades following publication of the manifesto. These people represent the individualism that inevitably is found in a movement practicing freedom of inquiry, with no absolutes, creeds, or revelations to bind its participants or inhibit critical thought. They were posed with the same questions as the participants of Part I.
Van Meter Ames (Cincinnati, Ohio):
In several of the articles of the Manifesto the word "religion" is used, but not defined or delimited. On the contrary, as in Article 10, we are told there are "no uniquely, religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural." But what kind are there now?
In fact I thought there was some question whether Humanism should be considered a philosophy rather than a religion. As long as no content is given to the word "religion," should it and its adjective be omitted from the Manifesto, as being question-begging and lacking in meaning?
I balk at Article 14. It gets into questions we have not worked out and are united on. So far as it says anything we all accept, hasn’t it been covered by the preceding points? With Norman Thomas going back on socialism, with capitalism being modified, this is a pretty difficult region to be sure of. A shared life in a shared world, yes; but as to the specific political or economic aspects of it, I wonder if we are technically qualified to take a definite stand. Here is something for social scientists and philosophers to work on; not for us as a sect to make a pronouncement.
Fred G. Bratton (Springfield, Massachusetts):
As over against the otherworldliness of traditional supernaturalism, the unreason of neo-orthodoxy, and the compromises of modernism, religious humanism stands as the most satisfactory realignment of religious thought for our day. And after two decades the Humanist Manifesto emerges as a fitting description of mature religion.
To become more specific in the Manifesto is to relate Humanism only to the present, to freeze it, so to speak. Therefore, I feel that the Manifesto, on the whole, is relevant without being dated.
The only possible addition I would suggest is this: as the common denominator of religion, Humanism emphasizes the ultimate ideal ends to be achieved in life rather than the incidental or instrumental means. To conceive religion in terms of universals rather than particulars, personal attitude rather than the observance of specific forms and beliefs, to see it as a qualitative whole rather than an isolated segment of life is to reach "the higher synthesis." This is Humanism.
Albert C. Dieffenbach (Cambridge, Massachusetts):
I have read the comments [of the other original signers] in the proofs, and I really have nothing to add to them.
It may be that a new Humanist declaration is desirable, as indicated in several of the comments, but my own feeling is that the original one may well stand, for is it likely that there could be agreement upon anything better?
In any case, I feel no interest in a revision of the Humanist Manifesto.
John H. Dietrich (Berkeley, California):
I do not have a copy of the Manifesto at hand, so cannot comment on it in detail, but I think you are wise to let it stand as an historical document. It is definitely a dated instrument and represents what I have come to feel is a dated philosophy-a philosophy too narrow in its conception of great cosmic schemes, about which we know so little, and concerning which we should be less dogmatic and arrogant. It in no [way] reflects the humility which becomes the real seeker after truth. But that is the kind of fellows we were in those days. In fact, I was one of the chief offenders, and I confess it now in all humility. I see now that my utter reliance upon science and reason and my contempt for any intuitive insights and intangible values, which are the very essence of art and religion, was a great mistake. I think the Humanism of that period served a good purpose as a protest movement, but its day is passed. What I am trying to say is that the positive side of Humanism was and is fine-its insistence upon the enrichment of life in its every form; but its negative side, cutting itself off from all cosmic relationship, and denying or ignoring every influence outside of humanity itself, I think, was and is very shortsighted.
Corliss Lamont (New York, New York):
I believe that the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 was a landmark in the development of religious and philosophical Humanism. It is an historical document of great worth and importance in the Humanist movement and must be included as vital source material in any careful study of modem Humanism. Frank criticism of the Manifesto, however, must be the prelude to any new declaration of basic Humanist principles.
In my opinion the Humanist Manifesto’s definition of religion is far too vague; and for this reason I would favor the omission of Point Seven altogether. In its place, in the preface, I suggest some such definition as this: "Religion is an integrated and inclusive way of life to which a group of persons give supreme commitment and which involves the shared quest of the ideal." At the same time I would not repeat the phrase "religious humanism" throughout the Manifesto, but would talk merely of "Humanism." In the preface, too, should be a statement that Humanism is "a religion or philosophy."
The First Point of the Manifesto I would rephrase as follows: "Humanism regards the universe as eternal, self-existing and uncreated, with no supernatural origins or destiny. This universe is dynamic in its very structure and is constantly changing in its every aspect."
To the Second Point I would add this sentence: "Man’s inseparable unity of mind and body indicates that in all probability there is no personal survival after death."
Point Six should be revised as out of date, with "the several varieties of neo-orthodoxy" substituted for "modernism and the several varieties of new thought."
Point Fourteen, as I have been saying for many years, goes too far in involving Humanism in fundamental economic issues. Humanism as such should not claim to have solutions for all human problems or set itself up as a specific economics, political science, or sociology. In place of Point Fourteen, I think a new declaration might well state: "Humanism relies upon the use of intelligence and scientific method, applied with courage and vision, in the solution of all human problems-whether personal, social, economic, political, national, or international. The method of intelligence requires the further extension of conscious planning into the various realms of human endeavor."
Definite lacks in the Humanist Manifesto are its failure to state Humanism’s ultimate ethical allegiance to the welfare and progress of all humanity, regardless of race, nationality, religion, sex, or occupation; its failure to include a separate plank on the achievement of international peace; its failure to mention the importance of art, beauty, and the appreciation of external nature; and its failure to give due significance to democracy and democratic procedures.
Regarding this last-mentioned deficiency, I would like to see some such formulation as this: "Humanism stands for the establishment of democracy in the fullest sense in every relevant sector of human life. It believes in the complete social implementation of reason and scientific method; and thereby in the use of democratic procedures, including freedom of speech and civil liberties, throughout all areas of political, economic, and cultural activity."
I consider very important the inclusion of a final point showing that Humanism is not dogmatic. Here I suggest: "Humanism, in accordance with the principles of science, believes in the unending questioning of basic assumptions and ideas, including its own. The Humanist viewpoint is a developing one which remains ever open to new facts and more rigorous reasoning, and which can never be restricted to any final formulation."
Harold A. Larrabee (Schenectady, New York):
As I have often written, the religious side of Humanism is what interests me least, and the least appetizing phase of it is the creedal or semicreedal. I think Humanism ought to try hard to avoid degenerating into "just another church" or "just another sect."
So my idea of a manifesto would be something you could get on a postcard. . . . I think anything else inevitably leads to signers versus nonsigners, orthodox versus heretics, ad infinitum.
There should be just two or three very broad principles which make you a Humanist or not-and the lines should not be precisely drawn.
Alfred McClung Lee (Thomaston, Connecticut):
Whether or not a manifesto might once have been appropriate for Humanism, in my estimation anything that might be called a manifesto is not appropriate for us now.
Humanists have in common chiefly an attitude toward belief and knowledge. We believe in the findings of science, subject to constant check, recheck, and modification. The findings of science come from the observation of natural phenomena-physical, biological, and social. Scientists state their findings in the simplest terms and theories that will fit available data. In terms of our evidence, this leaves no room for such dualism as body and spirit. Scientific evidence tells us nothing about spirits or gods as such. It deals with such nonworldly matters as artifacts.
Beyond this attitude, with its implicit distrust for dogmas and authoritarianism, there is room for many healthy disagreements. Even in the definition of this attitude,
Humanists disagree and are likely to continue to do so.
Francis Meyers (Denver, Colorado):
I think the Manifesto is generally accurate to the spirit of Humanism. But it also strikes me as being somewhat repetitious, pedestrian, and professional. There is a tendency for the basic issues to be lost in the enumeration of many points. The main suggestion, then, would be to reorganize the many separate parts into an eloquent, simple, direct, and clear statement of the meaning of religion and science, their relationships, and their significance for human affairs. This, I think, would make possible a more positive statement, and one which would eliminate such irrelevant and possibly misleading specifics as those contained in the first and fourteenth points. (I mean by this that the Humanist movement is not, as such, committed to any particular item of belief-as in the first point-nor to any particular social program-as in the fourteenth.)
Lloyd Morain (Cambridge, Massachusetts):
Rare though wonderful is the individual whose intellect is excited and whose heart is warmed by the Manifesto. In the early thirties the framers of the Manifesto, like most of us, were unaware of the full implications of the third way. For, instance, they failed to make explicit the great simple difference between Humanism and traditional religions. The Humanist has a developing viewpoint. For him, scientific and critical methods are of primary importance. He has no place for the methods relied on by the traditional religionists who depend upon revelation, sacred books, and upon institutionalized religious authority. Humanism recognizes that knowledge is forever expanding, being revised, and cannot legitimately be bound by revelation or authority.
To me it is unfortunate that the framers of the Manifesto implied that religion is almost everything under the sun except possibly Mrs. MacGillicuddy’s cooking of cabbage for dinner. In actual usage Humanism is the name applied to the general naturalistic viewpoint or orientation. It serves many people as a religion, others as a philosophy, and still others as a general social viewpoint-that is, Men’s relations with each other, with nature, and with society.
It may be "heresy" but from time to time I have wondered whether the publication of the Manifesto didn’t set back the development of the Humanist movement. This is my opinion even though I am in general agreement with practically everything stated in the document.
Arthur E. Morgan (Yellow Springs, Ohio):
Twenty years ago I refrained from signing the Humanist Manifesto, for several reasons:
The first point, "Religious Humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created," states a dogmatic position. I know of no conclusive evidence, pro or con.
Throughout the Manifesto human life is regarded as the sole end and aim of human concern. The assumption, by inference, that ours is the only organic species that can have significance, may, I think, have practical results that are far-reaching and harmful, in the thoughtless elimination of other species.
The fourteenth point, calling for a co-operative and socialized economic order, tends to commit Humanism to a special type of social structure. Given informed and disciplined good will, I believe that varied types of social structures may be equally beneficent.
Intelligence supplies the chart and compass of life, but emotion is the power plant. No religion or way of life will be fully effective unless it emphasizes education and nurture of the emotions in co-operation with intelligence. The lack of such definite emphasis in the Manifesto, and in the Humanist movement, is, I think, a serious defect What the conventionally religious man calls "consecration" is analogous to a quality without which great human advance seldom occurs.
My chief reservation concerning the Manifesto was not for what it contained, most of which I agree with, but because of what was omitted. My hesitancy lay in the hope that a more eloquent pronouncement might be made.
Herbert J. Muller (Lafayette, Indiania):
Although I substantially agree with the Manifesto, I should boil it down considerably. A point-by-point manifesto looks too much like a creed-which you say it isn’t. It is unlikely to make converts or even to unite Humanists, who are of many degrees and varieties. And do you really want something as aggressive in its connotations as a "manifesto"?
Harold Scott (Salt Lake City, Utah):
In rereading the Humanist Manifesto, I find it, in my judgment, surprisingly good-after all these years. Of course, it would be easy to find some fault with it-the seventh proposition gives a very sloppy definition of religion that might be tightened up a bit.
I note you mention something about [a revision of] point fourteen. It seems to me it is just as true as it ever was-and there is nothing in it that I can see that gives any aid and comfort to either Fascism or Sovietism.
Mark Starr (New York, New York):
The Manifesto has stood up remarkably to the test of time. Twenty years ago it was the economic depression. A disastrous Second World War has revealed extremes of bestiality and cruelty which have been used to "prove" that evil man is beyond redemption except by supernatural aid. Science has solved old problems and advanced new and complicated conceptions of "matter" and "energy" which have also been misused to support superhuman explanations or reliance on the "leap of faith" to accept what we cannot yet explain. We are also more aware since the fifth clause was drafted that science can be misused to the point of cosmic suicide.
For my part, point fourteen still holds. The motive of individual pecuniary profit remains inadequate. The suggested change to "a socialized and co-operative . . . order" is now no longer acceptable as a general panacea. The process of change has become more complicated in a simultaneous operation of private and public enterprise. Ideas about large-scale business and collectivism have been revised, but the emphasis of the common good remains paramount.
Gerald Wendt (Paris, France):
A brief comment on the Humanist Manifesto is not easy to write because the Manifesto is, for the most part, very good indeed and the suggested changes involve subtleties that are not easy to explain in few words, or, on the other hand, they involve whole new points of view that also need full statement to be comprehensible. But within the limits of your present interest and of my present time-allowance, I’d write something like this:
The Manifesto was certainly written by a small group of serious thinkers and apparently addressed to a group, not much larger, of the same. Its major defect is that it employs the language of professional philosophers, including many technical terms which are not understood outside the profession, and is therefore meaningful only within the profession. For this reason it is not a public manifesto at all but a credo for initiates. Hence a new manifesto is needed which may say the same but will say it in words of one syllable.
As for the individual points, I feel that the fifth is an inadequate and somewhat negative statement which should be revised to express a profound reliance on the research method for gaining reliable knowledge in the vast universe of truth that comprises not merely physical "realities" but biological, psychological, sociological and even spiritual truths as well.
And the fourteenth seems unwise, not because it is for the moment unpopular in the United States, but because it is too specific and conclusive and represents a passing phase of a local "culture pattern." This point instead should express faith in the abiding Christian (or not) virtue of good will toward all men, in the educability of all men, in the value of the democratic spirit and the desire of the Humanist to solve economic problems and revise economic theories, including establishing practices, with the same objective method and the same acceptance of new truths that have made the scientific revolution so inevitably successful.
Finally, what the Manifesto lacks is specific reference to other cultures than Western, other religions than Christian, other races than white. It should now be written as a true manifesto that appeals to the entire human race and that should provide a foundation for a new faith that will unite humankind.
Gardner Williams (Toledo, Ohio):
In many places its language is unintelligible to persons who have not studied philosophy or who have not studied Dewey. By adhering narrowly to Dewey it ignores the larger insights of Santayana and other sound naturalistic thinkers. Actually the dualism of physical substance and conscious experience is basic in the theory of knowledge. These are not two substances, but they are two things, substance and attribute. All science indicates that consciousness depends upon the nervous system and is tied down to its neurons. It is not possible for men to share their experiences.
Almost nobody will know what is meant by the assertion that man must face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness and their probability. No connection is shown between their naturalness and their probability. Few people know what "their probability" means, or what "in terms of" means.
Prayer, as practiced in many liberal Unitarian churches, is a rededication of the self to ultimate ideals. This should not be disparaged.
The modernism of Santayana is based upon a thorough-going naturalism and Humanism. It expresses a more profound wisdom in matters of religion than Dewey ever possessed.
Socialism is no part of Humanist doctrine.
The unqualified assertion that man has the power to realize the world of his dreams is false optimism. Man can only partly realize this world anyhow, and all his hopes may be shattered. Let us try to realize as much as possible. But Reinhold Niebuhr can ridicule this false optimism powerfully by appealing to obvious facts.
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