Croft Press / David / Religion / Sermons

The Founding of the Humanist Church
and the
History of Religious Humanism

David Wallace Croft

A sermon presented to the
Humanist Church of North Texas
2003 Jul 19 Sat

Please see the 2003-09-16 revision.

* thanks to Rev. Dr. Don Fielding
* DUUF and UUCoOC Minister
* helped us make arrangements to hold services at the DUUF
* advocate of Religious Humanist for years
* now promoting Religious Naturalism
* 10:30 tomorrow

* recognition of Dr. Russel Elleven
* HoFW Chair
* Humanist Minister
* Humanist Society of Friends

* Freethought Fellowship
* November of 2002
* Founding Members:  Cynthia Keaton, Shannon Woody, myself
* Former members of the North Texas Church of Freethought (NTCoF)
* NTCoF religious and atheistic but not democratic

* Web search for similar organizations
* Some UU churches exact match
* Why not UU?
* "Spirituality for Atheists" or "A Super, Natural Religion"
* Rev. Dennis Hamilton, Horizon UUC in Carrollton

"I want to preface the readings with an explanation. Every Sunday people come
to celebrate and worship together, but not everyone has the same theology. The
same may be said for other churches but not in such dramatic contrast as in
ours. As might be expected, in our ranks there are people who are quite
comfortable praying to a personal God, a supreme Being. But there are others
for whom such a notion is actually uncomfortable. Not only uncomfortable but
hypocritical for them.

Most Unitarian Universalists express their theology as some form of a natural
theology with God either embodying nature or imbuing nature with sacrality. For
these people, it is far easier to hear the names of God as metaphor. For
theists, nothing satisfies quite so much as direct prayer to a Supreme Being.

And so we gather knowing that each of us needs to be aware of the stretch
others are making to accommodate us, just as we are being tolerant of their

But for an atheist, one for whom the idea of God simply isn't relevant, there
is a lot to tolerate. I sometimes say that since all of our names and ideas for
God are just ideas, just names, we are actually creating partial and inaccurate
concepts of the ultimate, and thus end up worshipping something false. The
atheists are the only ones who are obeying the first commandment that we shall
worship no false Gods."

* Freethought Across the Centuries
* Gerald LaRue
* AHA 1989 Humanist of the Year
* Definitions of various forms of atheism

"Rationalists reject the supernatural and argue that reason is the prime
source of knowledge. Reason, not spiritual or supernatural revelations,
provide the only valid basis for ethics and beliefs. Some rationalists
are deists, others are atheists or agnostics.

Humanists. Basic to each freethought group is a humanistic emphasis.
Each is concerned with the human dimension, with the affairs of life on
planet earth without reference to supernatural interference or
direction." [p29]

* Web search on "Humanist"
* Humanist Society of Friends
* American Humanist Association
* Ethical Society of Austin
* Humanists of Fort Worth

* Religious Humanism
* Religious and Atheistic
* Heavy emphasis on democracy
* Humanist Manifesto II, 1973

"EIGHTH: We are committed to an open and democratic society. We must extend
participatory democracy in its true sense to the economy, the school, the
family, the workplace, and voluntary associations. Decision-making must be
decentralized to include widespread involvement of people at all levels
-- social, political, and economic. All persons should have a voice in
developing the values and goals that determine their lives. Institutions
should be responsive to expressed desires and needs. 

* What is a freethinker?
* Religious beliefs independent of authority
* Includes free-thinking supernaturalists
* Name change to Humanist Church of North Texas

* Multiple Humanist organizations
* Humanist Society of Friends
* American Humanist Association
* Council for Secular Humanism
* American Ethical Union
* International Humanist and Ethical Union
* Common roots

* Sources
* The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto by Edwin H. Wilson
* Making the Manifesto:  The Birth of Religious Humanism
  by William F. Schulz
* Humanism as the Next Step by Lloyd and Mary Morain
* Two of the books online
* The other published a few months ago
* Links at

* 1850
* Positivism
* "a religion of humanity"
* Based on science
* Auguste Comte
* pioneer French sociologist
* William James and F.C.S. Schiller liked his ideas for a humanist religion
* Church of Positivism in Brazil

* 1853
* Humanist Religious Association
* London, England
* forgotten and unknown until 1951 
* independent of Comte?
* article in The Humanist by James V. Grasso

"In forming ourselves into a progressive religious body, we have adopted
the name 'Humanistic Religious Association' to convey the idea that
Religion is a principle inherent in man and is a means of developing his
being towards greater perfection.

We have emancipated ourselves from the ancient compulsory dogmas, myths and
ceremonies borrowed of old from Asia and still pervading the ruling
churches of our age."

Grasso noted:
"The objectives of the Association were to spread the knowledge of the time
and to foster the cultivation of the sciences, philosophy and the arts. The
group recognized the individuality, independence and equality of members,
and established an electoral system for officers, which provided the vote
for each member, male or female, at the age of 18.

The group provided for universal education of children, mutual assistance
for those in need (provided that they were unable to help themselves), for
the appointment of qualified speakers and teachers, and for social and
cultural meetings. Their objective seems to have been to better the members
as a whole through education of both children and adults, without
neglecting the fine arts and worth-while social intercourse. The
association would, they hoped, become 'a high school for the people' and
would help 'form the groundwork for a higher period of cultivation.'"

* 1867
* Free Religious Association
* Boston, Massachusetts
* offshoot of American Unitarian Association
* non-Christian positivist theists
* scientific theism
* rejected Christian creedalism
* creed:  organizational statement of beliefs
* a creed excludes the non-believers
* Led by Ralph Waldo Emerson
* Humanistic Theism

* 1876
* New York Society for Ethical Culture
* Felix Adler
* former member of Free Religious Association
* ethical behavior, not creed
* social service instead of prayer and ritual
* American Ethical Union
* Ethical Society of Austin

* 1886
* Western Unitarian Conference annual meeting
* Christian Unitarians threatened by Free and Ethical Religion
* resolution passed to reaffirm that no creed would be established

* 1899
* book:  The New Humanism:  Studies in Personal and Social Development
* Edward Howard Griggs

* 1909
* book:  Religion and the Modern Mind
* Frank Carleton Doan
* used term "cosmic humanism"
* disciple of William James and F.C.S. Schiller

* 1915
* "humanism":  a belief and trust in human effort
* magazine published by the British Ethical Societies
* Frederick James Gould
* a Positivist

* 1916
* article read by Rev. John H. Dietrich
* a Unitarian minister in Minneapolis, Minnesota
* adopted term for his new beliefs

* 1917
* Western Unitarian Conference
* Rev. Curtis W. Reese
* Unitarian minister of Des Moines, Iowa
* Spoke on "The Religion of Democracy"
* promoted scientific method
* promoted achievement of human welfare instead of God's glory
* Met Dietrich
* Changed name of book to Humanism

* 1918
* Roy Wood Sellars
* book:  The Next Step in Religion
* promoted religious humanism

* 1921
* Unitarian National Conference, Detroit
* debate between humanists and theists
* delegates reject another call for a theistic creed

* 1927
* Reese publishes volume Humanist Sermons
* contributions from 18 Unitarian ministers

* 1927
* Chicago
* Humanist Fellowship

* 1928
* journal:  The New Humanist
* by Humanist Fellowship
* book:  Relgion without Revelation
* by evolutionary scientist Julian Huxley

* 1929
* First Humanist Society of New York
* Julian Huxley and Albert Einstein on society advisory board
* founded by Charles Francis Potter
* Former Unitarian minister
* biblical expert for defense in Scopes "Monkey" Trial
* wrote multiple books on religious humanism

* 1933
* Humanist Manifesto
* Published in The New Humanist
* not a creed

"The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in
religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere
revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have
disrupted the old beliefs. Religions the world over are under the necessity
of coming to terms with new conditions created by a vastly increased
knowledge and experience. In every field of human activity, the vital
movement is now in the direction of a candid and explicit humanism. In
order that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned,
desire to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our
contemporary life demonstrate.

There is great danger of a final, and we believe fatal, identification of
the word religion with doctrines and methods which have lost their
significance and which are powerless to solve the problem of human living
in the Twentieth Century. Religions have always been means for realizing
the highest values of life. Their end has been accomplished through the
interpretation of the total environing situation (theology or world view),
the sense of values resulting therefrom (goal or ideal), and the technique
(cult), established for realizing the satisfactory life. A change in any of
these factors results in alteration of the outward forms of religion. This
fact explains the changefulness of religions through the centuries. But
through all changes religion itself remains constant in its quest for
abiding values, an inseparable feature of human life.

Today man's larger understanding of the universe, his scientific
achievements, and deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a
situation which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of
religion. Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of furnishing
adequate social goals and personal satis- factions may appear to many
people as a complete break with the past. While this age does owe a vast
debt to the traditional religions, it is none the less obvious that any
religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today
must be shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a
major necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon
this generation. We therefore affirm the following:

* 1935
* Humanist Fellowship becomes Humanist Press Association

* 1936
* The New Humanist journal folds
* Edwin Wilson replaces it with Humanist Bulletin

* 1936
* election for presidency of American Unitarian Association
* Dr. Frederick M. Eliot an ally of the humanists
* opponent Rev. Charles Joy
* possible divisive theological battle
* Joy persuaded to withdraw
* Eliot wins unopposed
* prevented split of Religious Humanists from Unitarians

* 1939
* Humanist Society of Friends
* humanist Quakers
* magazine:  Humanist Friend

* 1941
* Humanist Press Association becomes American Humanist Association
* Humanist Bulletin becomes The Humanist

* 1952
* International Humanist and Ethical Union founded
* Edwin Wilson

* 1962
* Fellowship of Religious Humanists
* Edwin Wilson
* Keep humanism alive within UU
* later becomes The Friends of Religious Humanism

* 1973
* Humanist Manifesto II


It is forty years since Humanist Manifesto I (1933) appeared. Events since
then make that earlier statement seem far too optimistic. Nazism has shown
the depths of brutality of which humanity is capable. Other totalitarian
regimes have suppressed human rights without ending poverty. Science has
sometimes brought evil as well as good. Recent decades have shown that
inhuman wars can be made in the name of peace. The beginnings of police
states, even in democratic societies, widespread government espionage, and
other abuses of power by military, political, and industrial elites, and
the continuance of unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult
social outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority
groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.

As we approach the twenty-first century, however, an affirmative and
hopeful vision is needed. Faith, commensurate with advancing knowledge, is
also necessary. In the choice between despair and hope, humanists respond
in this Humanist Manifesto II with a positive declaration for times of

As in 1933, humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially
faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to live and care for persons, to
hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about
them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism, based on mere
affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of
heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.

Those who sign Humanist Manifesto II disclaim that they are setting forth a
binding credo; their individual views would be stated in widely varying
ways. This statement is, however, reaching for vision in a time that needs
direction. It is social analysis in an effort at consensus. New statements
should be developed to supersede this, but for today it is our conviction
that humanism offers an alternative that can serve present-day needs and
guide humankind toward the future.

-- Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson (1973)"

* 1980
* "A Secular Humanist Declaration"
* Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism
* later renamed the Council for Secular Humanism
* Paul Kurtz

* 1987
* Humanist Society of Friends becomes chapter of AHA
* Responsible for AHA ministerial and religious programs

* 1996
* journal:  Religious Humanism
* Friends of Religious Humanism
* "Strained Bedfellows:  Pagans, New Agers, and 'Starchy Humanists' in
  Unitarian Universalism" by Richard Wayne Lee
* creedlessness of Unitarians tolerates humanists, even though
  predominately theist
* later the creedlessness of UU lets new religions in and drives the
  humanists out
"Despite the considerable resistance of its largely humanist membership,
Unitarian Universalism in recent years assimilated such new religious
movements as neopaganism and new age. In accounting for this apparently
unlikely development, I examine the historical development of Unitarian
Universalism, its integration of new religious movements, and the internal
conflict this provoked."

* 1999
* last article of journal Religious Humanism published?

* 2002 (?)
* Friends of Religious Humanist web site goes offline
* name changed to HUUmanists and articles archived at AHA
* no response to e-mail inquiries
* not certain if still active

* 2002
* Humanist Church of North Texas founded

* 2003
* book:  Making the Manifesto:  The Birth of Religious Humanism
* William F. Shulz
* UU Minister
* Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA
* President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (1985-1993)
* worked to keep humanists within UU

* 2003
* Humanist Manifesto III

* 2003
* Humanist Church of North Texas holds first service
* Considering becoming Membership Chapter of AHA

Creative Commons License

© 2003 David Wallace Croft
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.5.

Croft Press Web