philosophical thoughtWhat is Humanism?

Humanism is defined as:

“a rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.”

Humanists are people who believe in the scientific method as a way of understanding the universe. They attach little significance to and theory or idea that is not based on scientific research. Reason, logic and morality are important to humanists. To help you understand humanism in full, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 books on this area of philosophical thought.

5 Essential Humanism Books

1. You Are Not So Smart – David McRaney 


Also subtitled: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.

This book is one that you will breeze through quickly.  Although, after nearly every page you want to tell every single person you know what you have learned. It fully explains how the tenants of psychology apply to your life, even though you never realize it. Whether you’re deciding which smartphone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic. But here’s the truth: You are not so smart, and this book will tell you why.

2. Essays In Humanism Albert Einstein


Albert Einstein was undoubtedly the most famous and revolutionary scientist of the 20th Century. But he also had wide-ranging beliefs about politics and social affairs. This book is a collection of 43 essays and talks that were written for specific occasions. They cover a variety of humanistic topics that interested him and in several cases provide useful lessons for our own time.


This is a deep, thoughtful book for people who are interested in knowing the case against religion. In the second part of his book he presents an argument for Humanism, about which Grayling has a great deal to say.

“Humanism”, he says, “is the concern to draw the best from, and make the best of, human life in the span of the human lifetime, in the real world, and in sensible accord with the facts of humanity as these are shaped and constrained by the world. This entails that humanism rejects religious claims about the source of morality and value.”

4. What Is Secular Humanism? Paul Kurtz


There are few American philosophers better qualified to write on secular humanism than Paul Kurtz, and his What Is Secular Humanism? This small book is actually the text of an article Kurtz wrote for the New Encyclopedia of Unbelief.  It is a very good primer on the conceptual structure of secular humanism. Perhaps because he’s a philosopher, Kurtz doesn’t merely offer assertions and descriptions. Instead, he seeks to provide arguments that defend humanism’s basic conclusions.

5. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark – Carl Sagan


Demons, UFO’s, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, fairies and the like are all investigated in this incredible non-fiction book by the late Carl Sagan. Pseudoscience, and those who perpetuate it, find their place in today’s society among those who want to believe in the impossible. However, science today has not been able to prove that such things exist.

 “The siren song of un-reason is not just a cultural wrong but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.”

This book challenges the reader to critically scrutinize information professed by supposed experts, and be more of a skeptic. By using the scientific method combined with a little bit of logic and common sense, one should find that it is much more difficult to be mentally taken advantage of by pseudoscience “experts.”

For more information about Humanism, check out some of the links below:

The British Humanism Association

American Humanist Association