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What is humanism

Humanism is a non-religious approach to living an ethical life that is based on reason, compassion, and tolerance. Humanists use science and rational inquiry to try to explain the universe, and reject supernatural explanations. Humanism is a democratic belief system that values all humans equally. It places the happiness and flourishing of all humans at its centre, and encourages cooperation towards this shared common goal.

Declaration of Modern Humanism

Humanism has a rich and varied history, but in modern times those that describe themselves as humanist can be understood to share the core values that were agreed upon in the Declaration of Modern Humanism.

The declaration was ratified in 2022 and is an updated version of the original declaration of the fundamental principles of modern humanism initially agreed at the first general assembly of Humanists International in the Netherlands in 1952, and first updated in the 2002 Amsterdam Declaration.

The declaration asserts that:

  • Humanists strive to be ethical
  • Humanists strive to be rational
  • Humanists strive for fulfilment in their lives
  • Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism. 

Read the full Declaration of Modern Humanism

Read the Declaration of Modern Humanism in Scots Gaelic

Humanist Society Scotland

Humanist Society Scotland is the voice of humanism in Scotland. We represent Scots with a non-religious humanist view of life, and have campaigned for a secular society and on human rights issues since 1989. Our mission is to help to create a Scotland (and world) that reflects and respects its predominantly non-religious population, and is built on respect for human rights and individual autonomy. We are also Scotland’s original and most trusted provider of humanist wedding, funeral, and naming ceremonies. 

Our History

The first humanist group in Scotland met in Glasgow in the 1930s, and the first Scottish Humanist conference was held in Edinburgh in 1962. By 1978 the Glasgow and Edinburgh humanist groups had joined together to create the Scottish Humanist Council. 

The Scottish Humanist Council was not open to public membership and was composed of twelve representatives taken from local humanist groups. If humanists in Scotland wished to join a humanist organisation they had to join Humanists UK (then known as the British Humanist Association) which struggled to adequately represent Scottish viewpoints in its work because of the separate legal and educational systems in Scotland. In 1989 the Humanist Society of Scotland was established and run on a volunteer basis. 

In the 1990s demand began to grow for humanist ceremonies and the organisation started to formally train humanist celebrants whilst actively campaigning for the legalisation of humanist wedding ceremonies in Scotland. Due to this campaign humanist weddings were authorised by the Registrar General of Scotland in 2005. 

By 2010 the organisation had grown considerably from its grassroots origins, with membership growing to 7000, 90 trained celebrants, and income generated by the rising popularity of humanist wedding ceremonies and funerals. In 2011 there was a unanimous vote to become a charitable company limited by guarantee, governed by a Board of Trustees. In 2012 the changes were actioned, an extraneous ‘of’ was dropped from our name, and Humanist Society Scotland as it is now came into being.

Global Humanism

We are part of an international movement of organisations that seek to represent non-religious viewpoints and humanism across the globe. We are members of Humanists International, the global representative body of the humanist movement that unites a diversity of non-religious organisations and individuals that want everyone to live a life of dignity in a world where universal human rights are upheld and protected, and where states uphold secularism. Humanists International represents member organisations on various United Nations committees and other international bodies, and seeks to influence international policy through representation of humanist views at the highest level.

Humanists UK 

We are a separate organisation to Humanists UK but seek to work closely with Humanists UK on policy matters that extend across the UK and internationally. Our respective work on most issues, including education, assisted dying, and ceremonies is separate, as reflects the separate legislature of Scotland. We support local groups in Scotland and Humanists UK support groups elsewhere in the UK. All members of Humanist Society Scotland are counted as associate members of Humanists UK and may join and participate in any of Humanists UK’s sections and networks. In the event that a member accidentally joins Humanists UK when they thought that they were joining Humanist Society Scotland, our staff have good links with their Humanists UK counterparts and can remedy the situation.  

Become a member

Sign up to become a member of Humanist Society Scotland and help make Scotland a more secular, rational, and socially just country.

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