Can Humanism replace Religion?  Can Humanism replace Religion? Today religion is often seen as a source of conflict and intolerance in the world with calls to do away with the theistic philosophies altogether and replace them with the so-called secular or humanist principles. So is it finally time to rid ourselves of religion? Or in discarding it, will we be losing something vital to the human condition?

We need first of all to define Religion and Humanism

Religions are ways of life that are influenced by the belief that something other than the mere material world exists; that every human being has a soul or spirit that is to be nurtured, just as the body must be nurtured. Religions seek to bring harmony within the human being, between mankind and nature, within society, between different nations and –  depending on which form of religion we are talking about –  between mankind and the Divine. As a Being of superior goodness, God is One to be followed and emulated within the limits of one’s humanity.

I want to make it clear from the very beginning that I have not – and indeed cannot –  come to defend every form of religion. In many of its modern forms, religion has been handed down to us full of irrational ideas, superstition, contradictions and teachings that deprive people of some of their human rights. I can only present and defend Islam as expounded by the Ahmadiyya school of thought, a school of thought which abhors superstition, irrationality and dogma.

In our view, Islam is a religion that fulfils three roles – those pertaining to the physical, moral and spiritual states of man, and not just to the physical and moral states.

Not wanting to misrepresent our esteemed Humanist interlocutors, I have taken the short definition of ‘Humanism’ as it appears on the British Humanist Association website:

Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who:

  • trusts to the scientific method in understanding how the universe works and rejects the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)
  • makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for humans and other sentient animals
  • believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

I propose to go through the qualities of Islam according to the Ahmadiyya school of thought and examine Humanism – according to the definition given by Humanists themselves – to determine whether or not it is capable of replacing our religion.

1. In Islam, we are first of all called upon to begin everything with the اسم “ism” or Name of Allah, God, the Most Gracious and Beneficent One, the Most Merciful.

The word اسم “ism” denotes the mark of the qualities or characteristics of someone or something.

This pronouncement lies at the very basis of all philosophy and understanding in Islam: When we begin anything in the Name of God, Most Gracious, Ever-Merciful, we recognise that it is with His attributes, qualities and characteristics that we are colouring ourselves and leading our lives. God and His qualities are our point of reference for all things.

A human being is not only a physical and moral being. These are only two of the states of humankind, and materialistic philosophies can at best deal with these two and cannot satisfy spiritual yearnings. Human beings are also spiritual creatures of the highest order, and the religion of Islam recognises this and offers a comprehensive teaching that enhances the spiritual state of the human being as well as the physical and moral.


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