email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
"Intimate" Violence against Women3 NBS of Julian DrewA Little PregnantA Natural History of RapeA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Stir of BonesAbout a BoyAdult Children of Emotionally Immature ParentsAgainst MarriageAgainst MarriageAlmost a PsychopathAlone TogetherAnatomy of LoveAngelsAnother CountryAnxious ParentsApples and OrangesBe Honest--You're Not That Into Him EitherBeing the Other OneBetrayed as BoysBeyond AddictionBipolar DisorderBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Breaking ApartBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBringing Up ParentsBut I Love HimCaring for a Child with AutismCaring in Remembered WaysCherishmentChildren of the Aging Self-AbsorbedChildren of the Self-AbsorbedChildren, Families, and Health Care Decision MakingClawsCloserCold HitCoping With Difficult PeopleCouple SkillsCruddyDancing in My NuddypantsDivorce PoisonDoing ItDone With The CryingEcstasyEmotional ClaustrophobiaEmotional Fitness for IntimacyEmotional Intelligence at WorkEntwined LivesErotic PassionsEssentials of Premarital CounselingEvery Pot Has a CoverFacts About ADHD ChildrenFamilies Like MineFamilyFamily BoundFamily FirstFear of IntimacyFinal JeopardyFind MeFlashpointFor Lesbian ParentsForgive Your Parents, Heal YourselfGandhi's WayGeorgia Under WaterGetting over Getting MadGetting the Love You WantGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGirl in the MirrorGirl StuffGoing Home without Going CrazyHandbook of AttachmentHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHappiness Sold SeparatelyHard to GetHe's Just Not That Into YouHealing ConversationsHollow KidsHot ButtonsHot Chocolate for the Mystical LoverHow Families Still MatterHow to Create Chemistry with AnyoneHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Handle a Hard-To-Handle KidHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tI am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!I Don't Know How She Does ItI Hate You-Don't Leave MeI Only Say This Because I Love YouI'm OK, You're My ParentsIn the Mood, AgainInside the American CoupleIntrusive ParentingIt's Called a Breakup Because It's BrokenIt's Love We Don't UnderstandJakarta MissingKeeping Passion AliveKeeping Your Child in MindLet's Get This StraightLiberation's ChildrenLife's WorkLikely to DieLove JunkieLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderLoving Someone with Borderline Personality DisorderLust in TranslationMaking the RunMaking the RunManic DepressionMars and Venus - Starting Over.Mating in CaptivityMom, Dad, I'm Gay.MotherstylesMurder in the InnMysterious CreaturesNecessary NoiseOdd Girl OutOpenOpening to Love 365 Days a YearOphelia's MomOrgasmsOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the DustOvercoming Your Difficult FamilyParenting and the Child's WorldParenting on the GoParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerParents and Digital TechnologyParents Do Make a DifferencePassionate MarriagePlanet JanetPreventing Misbehavior in ChildrenProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Raising AmericaRaising ElijahRaising Kids in an Age of TerrorRaising Kids in the 21st CenturyRaising Resilient ChildrenRay's a LaughRelationship RescueRelax, It's Just SexRespect-Me RulesRomantic IntelligenceRoom For JSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSelf-NurtureSelfish, Shallow, and Self-AbsorbedSex Addiction: The Partner's PerspectiveShidduch CrisisSickenedSingleSlut!Socrates in LoveSomeone Like YouSong for EloiseSpecial SiblingsSpiritually Healing the Indigo Children (and Adult Indigos, Too!)Staying Connected to Your TeenagerStaying Sane When Your Family Comes to VisitStop Arguing with Your KidsStop SignsStop Walking on EggshellsStop Walking on EggshellsStrong, Smart, & BoldSummer of the SkunksSurviving a Borderline ParentTaking Charge of AngerTelling SecretsThank You for Being Such a PainThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe AwakeningThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Birth of PleasureThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Bully Action GuideThe Burden of SympathyThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe CorrectionsThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe DisappearanceThe Dream BearerThe Educated ParentThe Emotional RevolutionThe Employee Assistance Treatment PlannerThe EpidemicThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good DivorceThe Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageThe Healing Journey for CouplesThe Hostile HospitalThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Introvert AdvantageThe Little FriendThe Love HexagonThe Moral Intelligence of ChildrenThe Neuroscience of Human RelationshipsThe New I DoThe Normal OneThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Philosophical ParentThe Psychology of Parental ControlThe Real Rules for GirlsThe Reflective ParentThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of WivesThe Spider and the BeeThe State of AffairsThe StepsThe Story of My FatherThe Velveteen FatherThe Virgin BlueThe Visitation HandbookThe Whole ChildTo Have and To Hurt:Two Is EnoughUnderstanding MarriageUnderstanding the Borderline MotherUnhitchedUntrue Up in FlamesWe've Got IssuesWhat about the KidsWhat Goes UpWhat Is Secular Humanism?What It Means to Love YouWhat Our Children Teach UsWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen Mars Women DateWhen Someone You Love Is BipolarWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhy Are You So Sad?Will You, Won't You?WomanWorking With Emotional IntelligenceWorried All the TimeYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!

Related Topics
What Is Secular Humanism?Review - What Is Secular Humanism?
by Paul Kurtz
Prometheus Books, 2007
Review by Simon Riches, Ph.D.
Dec 16th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 51)

Secular humanism is a markedly nonreligious worldview that "rejects supernatural accounts of reality" (p. 8) and considers that there are "ethical values and principles that nonreligious individuals can live by" (p. 7). Expanding on the solely negative claims of atheism, it "expresses a positive normative concern for developing constructive ethical values" (p. 57). Paul Kurtz's What is Secular Humanism? provides a concise and yet illuminating introduction for beginners to this subject, and helpfully manages to uncover the historical traditions and developments underlying the secular humanist position.

Scientific advancements have contributed much to the humanist cause. As Kurtz remarks "it was the development of the scientific method and its application to nature that brought a decisive intellectual influence to bear on humanist thought" (pp. 13-14). According to secular humanism, the primacy of scientific inquiry goes hand-in-hand with a naturalist or non-supernatural conception of the world. Kurtz highlights the fact that secular humanists are "dubious of any effort to divide nature into two realms: the natural and the supernatural", and he goes on to characterize their religious skepticism by pointing out that "they find the classical definition of an omnipotent, omniscient, and beneficent God to be unintelligible" (pp. 30-31), or, at least, they think there is "insufficient evidence" (p. 34) to support this claim.

The early sections of the book are exclusively devoted to historical background and, while the exposition is brief, they successfully manage to trace the core lineage of the movement and provide the reader with a clear overview of the secular humanist beginnings in Confucian China and ancient Greece, its progression through the Renaissance period and the Enlightenment, and the widespread humanist movement of the nineteenth and twentieth century. As Kurtz explains, the contemporary ascendancy of humanism has encompassed such diverse doctrines as Marxism, existentialism, pragmatism, naturalism, positivism, behaviorism, and libertarianism (p. 17).

Interestingly, Kurtz reveals that during recent years a broad construal of the humanistic outlook has also been hijacked by religious believers, with 'Christian humanism' a notable contemporary movement. In Kurtz's view, we might understand this apparently conflicted adherence to humanism by taking into account the possibility that "the term humanism is considered so ennobling that few thinkers are willing to reject it outright" (p. 17). Yet although the secular humanist view is widely shared amongst contemporary thinkers, there are still prominent dissenting voices. Kurtz cites the cases of both Pope Benedict XVI who "rejected "secularism" and "relativism", which he considered to be purely subjective", and also many Islamic extremists who insist that Sharia law "is rooted in the Qur'an" and have "even threatened jihad against those who espouse the secular outlook" (p. 19).

The later sections of the book are devoted to a more systematic definition of secular humanism and the proposal of what Kurtz terms 'a new paradigm' in the subject. Central to Kurtz's project is a defense of six claims, which collectively aim to characterize secular humanism. Taking each claim in turn, be argues that (1) it is a method of inquiry, (2) it provides a naturalistic cosmic outlook, (3) it is nontheistic, (4) it is committed to humanistic ethics, (5) it offers a perspective that is democratic, and (6) it is planetary in scope.

Understood as a summary of the central tenets of the position, these claims serve as a useful set of coordinates from which to get a foothold in a subject that represents one side in a difficult contemporary debate over the role of religion in ethical, moral and political questions. A thoroughly compelling defense of such fundamental philosophical claims, either those against religious belief, those in favor of "an affirmative set of ethical principles and values" (p. 35), or those occupying the later stages of the book which attempt to outline the relationship between secular humanism and democracy, clearly requires a far more substantial study than this. But Kurtz's aim is really just to present the basic arguments in favor of a naturalistic, scientifically-led understanding of the world and to his credit in such a brief introduction, he manages to achieve this goal in a clear and compelling fashion, and he covers a large amount of ground with both a clarity and a flair that will be welcome to any reader previously unacquainted with these complex and enduring issues.  

© 2008 Simon Riches

Dr Simon Riches has recently completed a PhD in philosophy at University College London, with a thesis on a priori knowledge, and has taught in their philosophy department for the last three years. Before that he studied philosophy at the University of Southampton.


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716