It’s World Humanist Day! Today humanists from around the globe are coming together to celebrate the values of humanism – kindness, equality, rational thought, and working towards a world where everyone can live a flourishing life.
World Humanist Day is celebrated on June solstice, an event that by its nature is shared globally – summer solstice in the northern hemisphere (the longest day of the year) and winter solstice in the southern (the shortest day of the year). The event originated in the 1980s, its date inspired by the echoes of ancient communal gatherings and humanity’s growing understanding of the universe. Summer solstice was one of the earliest astronomical observations in human prehistory, its discovery marking the beginnings of neolithic humans making predictions about their environment in order to survive. As well as being a milestone of human progress, it also represents togetherness and global community.
This year’s World Humanist Day is an extra-special one for Humanists UK. On 30 April, we celebrated our 125th birthday; the day when, in 1896, our founders first came together to form a national organisation for the promotion of non-religious ethics and a better society: today’s Humanists UK. And we’ve remained true to those aims! Over the last 125 years and long before that, the humanist approach has been a major force in the evolution of modern values. We’ve sought to trace and record the development and influence of those humanist ideas by creating a brand new website, Humanist Heritage, which identifies the humanist thinkers who have changed the course of our lives for the better. I encourage you to take a look!
Today, we also reflect on the achievements of the last year, during which, despite the challenges, Humanists UK has evolved and adapted to with the support of its members. In the last 12 months, we’ve had major successes with our assisted dying, blasphemy, and humanist marriages campaigns; we’ve started a coalition to defend human rights and judicial review which now has more than 200 organisations as members, from NGOs to religious groups; our census campaign reached more than 12 million people online; our humanist podcast What I Believe has ranked in the top 1.5% of podcasts globally; and we’ve seen The Little Book of Humanism become a Sunday Times bestseller!
And while we can celebrate progress at home, let’s not forget that this day is also about supporting those of us who face persecution and violence. In many countries around the world, you would scarcely mention you were a humanist, let alone celebrate humanist values in any public way. World Humanist Day serves as a timely reminder of the systemic discrimination humanists, atheists, and the non-religious are still subjected to. If you’d like to learn more about this, I encourage you to read Humanists International’s Freedom of Thought Report.
However you celebrate today, whether it’s a picnic in the park with friends, a quick flick-through The Little Book of Humanism, or a look at some of our online courses and YouTube videos, we encourage humanists and those interested in humanism to reflect on their own values, convictions, and beliefs. Ask yourself what can we celebrate about being human, what would a humanist vision for the world look like, and what would you like to do to bring about a better world?
Happy World Humanist Day!