Humanism is a philosophy and attitude that stresses the importance and dignity of man. Unlike some religions which stress the importance of God above all things, humanism focuses primarily on the importance, achievements, authority, and potential of mankind.
Humanism can be found at different points in history. In the fifth century B.C. the Sophists stressed social and moral questions. Humanism is often linked to the Renaissance Period of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries. During this time, in some areas of Europe, there was a rediscovery of the art and literature of the Greeks and Romans which was viewed as superior to that of the Medieval Era. The Renaissance Era also brought with it a renewed interest in the achievements and potential of man. Whereas in the Medieval Era most art and literature focused primarily on God and spiritual issues, art in the Renaissance Period focused more on man and nature. While most participants in the Renaissance strongly believed in God, God’s role in the universe was viewed as less immediate, and his participation in the world was seen as a general control and not so much a moment by moment intervention. The Renaissance Era also saw an increased interest in education for the common people. Humanism was also furthered by the scientific discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, andNewton.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, humanism became more associated with atheism and agnosticism. The catalyst for this development was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution which removed God from having an essential relationship with mankind. Modern humanism of today relies almost exclusively on the powers of reason, science, and education. It welcomes less focus on God and more emphasis on man to solve the problems facing humankind in the twenty-first century.