Although these quotes reflect my interpretation of Humanism, not all the speakers can be classified as Humanists. Humanism is an eclectic philosophy.

Humanism in General

“Humanism involves far more than the negation of supernaturalism. It requires an affirmative philosophy . . . translated into a life devoted to one’s own improvement and the service of all mankind.” Corliss Lamont

“The beginning of wisdom is the awareness that there is insufficient evidence that a god or gods have created us and the recognition that we are responsible in part for our own destiny. Human beings can achieve this good life, but it is by the cultivation of the virtues of intelligence and courage, not faith and obedience, that we will most likely be able to do so.” Paul Kurtz

“A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.” Bertrand Russell

“Do you say that religion is still needed? Then I answer that Work, Study, Health and Love constitute religion. . . . Most formal religions have pronounced the love of man for woman and woman for man an evil thing. . . . They have said that sickness was sent from God. . . . Now we deny it all, and again proclaim that these will bring you all the good there is: Health, Work, Study – Love!” Elbert Hubbard

“I settled upon . . . a trinity of goals to pursue to give meaning to my life. I would live to find love, in both its physical and abstract forms. I would live to experience beauty, and I would pursue the pleasurable exercise of my creative powers.” Frank R. Zindler

“Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. . . .” American Humanist Association (


“To define twentieth-century humanism briefly, I would say that it is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and advocating the methods of reason, science, and democracy.” Corliss Lamont

“Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Thomas Jefferson

“The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.” Thomas Paine

“A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” David Hume


“For the Humanist, . . . head and heart . . . must function together. . . . The constitution of the Phillips Exeter Academy reads: ‘Though goodness without knowledge . . . is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous. . . . Both united form the noblest character and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.'” Corliss Lamont

“Intellect, without heart, is infinitely cruel. . . .” Robert Ingersoll

“Intelligence, guided by kindness, is the highest wisdom. . . .” Robert Ingersoll


“Man is the measure of all things.” Protagoras

“In spite of all the yearnings of men, no one can produce a single fact or reason to support the belief in God and in personal immortality.” Clarence Darrow

“There is no evidence that God ever interfered in the affairs of man. The hand of earth is stretched uselessly towards heaven. From the clouds there comes no help.” Robert Ingersoll

“There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“If abuses are destroyed, man must destroy them. If slaves are freed, man must free them. If new truths are discovered, man must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if justice is done; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of man. The grand victories of the future must be won by man, and by man alone.” Robert Ingersoll


“And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable – and we believe they can do it again.” John F. Kennedy

“The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.” Albert Einstein

“Griefs upon griefs! Disappointments upon disappointments. What then? This is a gay, merry world notwithstanding.” John Adams

“The healthy individual . . . sees the world in ways that accentuate the positive.” Shankar Vedantam and Bill Mesler


“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. . . . We might as well require a man to wear the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” Thomas Jefferson

“The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln

“Man must not check reason by tradition, but contrariwise, must check tradition by reason.” Leo Tolstoy


“When I became convinced that the universe is natural – that all ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain . . . the joy of freedom. . . . I was free – free to think, to express my thoughts . . . free to live for myself and those I loved . . . free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope . . . free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the ‘inspired’ books that savages have produced . . . free from popes and priests . . . free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies . . . free from the fear of eternal pain . . . free from devils, ghosts and gods. . . . There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought . . . no following another’s steps . . . no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words.” Robert Ingersoll


“Since Humanism as a functioning credo is so closely bound up with the methods of reason and science, plainly free speech and democracy are its very lifeblood. For reason and scientific method can flourish only in an atmosphere of civil liberties.” Corliss Lamont

“The values of science and the values of democracy are concordant, in many cases indistinguishable. Science and democracy began . . . in the same time and place, Greece in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. . . . Science thrives on, indeed requires, the free exchange of ideas; its values are antithetical to secrecy. Science holds to no special vantage points or privileged positions. Both science and democracy encourage unconventional opinions and vigorous debate. Both demand adequate reason, coherent argument, rigorous standards of evidence and honesty.” Carl Sagan


“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” Thomas Paine

“They who say that we should love our fellow-citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, with which benevolence and justice would perish forever.” Cicero

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties . . . must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“The ultimate sense of security will be when we come to recognize that we are all part of one human race. Our primary allegiance is to the human race and not to one particular color or border. I think the sooner we renounce the sanctity of these many identities and try to identify ourselves with the human race the sooner we will get a better world and a safer world.” Mohamed ElBaradei


“Do you want a purpose-filled life? Then find a problem to solve. . . . Identify something you hate and work against it. . . . Or find something you love and work for it.” Dan Barker

[By working to improve the world:] “One thing is certain: you will find plenty of worthwhile things to do. You will not be bored, or lack fulfillment in your life. Most important of all, you will know that you have not lived and died for nothing, because you will have become part of the great tradition of those who have responded to the amount of pain and suffering in the universe by trying to make the world a better place.” Peter Singer

“I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.” Thomas Paine

“Acting in behalf of others’ welfare, scientists have found, improves your own mental and physical health.” William Falk

“. . . the weal of the race,
and the cause of humanity, here and now, are enough
To give life meaning and death as well.” Edgar Lee Masters

Humanist Happiness

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer

“Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to help make others so.” Robert Ingersoll

“Many persons have no idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Helen Keller

“Happiness is not synonymous with pleasure. It is, instead, a deeper emotion that originates from within. . . . Happiness results from a sense of mental and moral contentment with who we are, what we value, and how we invest our time and resources for purposes beyond ourselves.” David Shi

“Humanism believes that the individual attains the good life by harmoniously combining personal satisfactions and continuous self-development with significant work and other activities that contribute to the welfare of the community.” Corliss Lamont

“The late Dr. Hans Selye, in his monumental research on stress, basically says that a long, healthy, and happy life is the result of making contributions, of having meaningful projects that are personally exciting and contribute to and bless the lives of others. His ethic was ‘earn thy neighbor’s love.'” Stephen R. Covey

Humanist Activism

“Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.” Isaac Asimov

“On religion in particular, the time appears to me to have come, when it is a duty of all who, being qualified in point of knowledge, have, on mature consideration, satisfied themselves that the current opinions are not only false, but hurtful, to make their dissent known.” John Stuart Mill

“I think . . . that philosophy has the duty of pointing out the falsity of outworn religious ideas, however estimable they may be as a form of art. We cannot act as if all religion were poetry while the greater part of it still functions in its ancient guise of illicit science and backward morals. . . .” Corliss Lamont

“Those with the privilege to know, have a duty to act.” Albert Einstein

“That so much . . . suffering can be directly attributed to religion – to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious taboos, and religious diversions of scarce resources – is what makes the honest criticism of religious faith a moral and intellectual necessity.” Sam Harris

“To destroy guide-boards that point in the wrong direction . . . to drive the fiend of fear from the mind . . . is the task of the Freethinker.” Robert Ingersoll

“I do not understand those who take little or no interest in the subject of religion. If religion embodies a truth, it is certainly the most important truth of human experience. If it is largely error, then it is one of monumentally tragic proportions – and should be vigorously opposed.” Steve Allen

“What can you or I do? Alone, almost nothing. Yet one person – you alone – can make the difference. . . . The failure of just one person to join, to participate, to do whatever he or she can – your failure or my failure – may mean that there is just one too few to win the fight for sanity, and so leave the world on the road to destruction. Each of us, all of us, must do what we can.” Archibald Cox

“As a single vote may be crucial in an election, so the whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual. . . . This is why the individual is sacred.” M. Scott Peck

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Edmund Burke

“I am only one
But still I am one
I cannot do everything
But still I can do something
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Edward Everett Hale

“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except the best.” Henry van Dyke

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert F. Kennedy

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Desmond Tutu

“A final victory is an accumulation of many short-term encounters. To lightly dismiss a success because it does not usher in a complete order of justice is to fail to comprehend the process of achieving full victory.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.” Theodore Roosevelt

“My heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain  . . . to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.” Robert Ingersoll

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform.” Susan B. Anthony

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Chinese proverb

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Humanist Organization

“As with military campaigns, cultural warfare is always decided over the pragmatic problems of strategy, organization and resources. . . . The factions with the best strategies, most efficient organization, and access to resources will plainly have the advantage and very possibly, the ultimate victory.” James Davison Hunter

“The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.” Kurt Vonnegut

“Change comes from power, and power comes from organization.” Saul D. Alinsky

“Power is the flower of organization.” A. Philip Randolph

“Justice needs money; it always has . . . whether for abolition of slavery and early women’s rights movements or the civil rights and environmental drives of our generation.” Ralph Nader

“Nothing is possible without men but without institutions nothing is lasting.” Jean Monnet

Links to humanistic organizations