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Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought


Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 24.E, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Twenty)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,397

ISSN 2369-6885


Dr. Herb Silverman is the Founder of the Secular Coalition for America, the Founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, and the Founder of the Atheist/Humanist Alliance student group at the College of Charleston. He authored Complex variables (1975), Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt (2012) and An Atheist Stranger in a Strange Religious Land: Selected Writings from the Bible Belt (2017). He co-authored The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America (2003) with Kimberley Blaker and Edward S. Buckner, Complex Variables with Applications (2007) with Saminathan Ponnusamy, and Short Reflections on Secularism (2019), Short Reflections on American Secularism’s History and Philosophy (2020), and Short Reflections on Age and Youth (2020). He discusses: Humanist Manifesto I; freedom of speech; religious humanism; consistent parts over time; and freedom of speech or freedom of expression.

Keywords: freedom of expression, freedom of speech, Herb Silverman, Humanism, Humanist Manifesto I.

Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The original documentation of the humanist movements began with the Humanist Manifesto I from 1933 with an opening descriptive quotation by Raymond B. Bragg:

The Manifesto is a product of many minds. It was designed to represent a developing point of view, not a new creed. The individuals whose signatures appear would, had they been writing individual statements, have stated the propositions in differing terms. The importance of the document is that more than thirty men have come to general agreement on matters of final concern and that these men are undoubtedly representative of a large number who are forging a new philosophy out of the materials of the modern world. (American Humanist Association, 1933)

The obvious values delineated within an evolutionary perspective on a worldview, a collective effort for this worldview as presented, the bias of the times inherent in the language of “men,” while working against or in contradistinction to the views of the past or old philosophies with its replacement in this “new philosophy out of the materials of the modern world.” In much of the old world, religion reigned supreme; critics, doubters, unbelievers, and dissenters were shunned, banished, and killed. In this “new philosophy,” these “critics, doubters, unbelievers, and dissenters”[1] came together as “men” to ‘forge a new philosophy.’ In review of the fundamental tenets proposed in the outdated and historical document, the formal foundations of modern or American Humanism, i.e., “religious humanism,”[2] none of the speak to freedom of speech, free speech, free expression, or freedom of expression. In turn, they focus more on the proposition of a paradigm shift into a continual evolution paradigm in which change becomes inevitable without dogma and an emphasis on Humanism as a religious philosophy bound to a natural self-existent armature entitled “the Universe.” First question, why was freedom of expression[3] in general not emphasized at the time?

Dr. Herb Silverman[1],[2]To me, freedom of expression must include freedom of speech, as well as freedom of the press and the right to peaceably assemble. So my answer to this question will include my answer to your second question about freedom of speech.

Perhapfreedom of expression was assumed because it is included in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.  Humanist Manifesto I (1933) is so-called because it was the first attempt to describe a formal humanist philosophy without any gods. The writers knew there would be additional manifestos as we increased our knowledge and cultural attitudes changed. The document speaks of social justice and scientific optimism. It refers to “socialized and cooperative economic order” and “equitable distribution of the means of life.” Though it wasn’t explicit, it seemed to favor socialism. There was no mention of racism, sexism, minority rights, or environmentalism.

Humanist Manifesto II (1973) promotes democracy, civil liberties, human freedoms, separation of church and state, and elimination of discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age, or national origin. It also refers to ecological damage and overpopulation.

I was on the American Humanist Association Board in 2003 when we approved Humanist Manifesto III. We defined Humanism as a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. (I hoped to get “atheism” into the definition, but had to be satisfied by “without supernaturalism.”) This document also says that humanists are guided by reason and inspired by compassion. It adds that humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change and that ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.

Jacobsen: Second question, why was freedom of speech[4], in particular, excluded, too?

Silverman: See answer above.

Jacobsen: What did this document provide for the foundations of modern Humanism through its “religious humanism”?

Silverman: “Religious Humanism” was an integral part of Humanist Manifesto I. The phrase is still used today by some freethinkers, though it is not without controversy. Ethical Culture societies as well as many Unitarian Universalist congregations describe themselves as religious humanists. There seems to be no difference in worldviews between secular humanists and religious humanists. Secular humanists see their worldview as a philosophy, while religious humanists see it as a religion.                                  

But that depends on your definition of religion. Secular humanists think of religion as theistic. Religious humanists say that religion is that which serves the personal and social needs of a group of people sharing the same philosophical worldview. They say religious humanism offers a basis for moral values, an inspiring set of ideals, methods for dealing with life’s harsher realities, a rationale for living life joyously, and an overall sense of purpose.

When I first became a board member of the American Humanist Association, I discovered it called itself religious, for tax advantages, I argued for abandoning its religious designation, and it eventually did. One of its affiliates to which I belong, Humanist Society, is religious, because that helps members in some states be allowed to perform weddings. I am a humanist celebrant who, in South Carolina, has performed several weddings, none of which were religious.

Jacobsen: What parts have the humanist movements kept as consistent parts over time because of the value of the principles?

Silverman: The movements have always had an evolutionary, atheistic worldview, though often with different terminology. What I said about Humanist Manifesto III in my first answer is a summary of what I think has always been the essence of humanism. We defined Humanism as a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Jacobsen: Do freedom of speech or freedom of expression seem like fundamentally humanist values?

Silverman: They are fundamental humanist values, as well as fundamental values in any democratic society.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Silverman.

Silverman: Thank you.


American Humanist Association. (1933). Humanist Manifesto I. Retrieved from

Cornell Law School. (n.d.). First Amendment. Retrieved from

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Secular Coalition for America.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 1, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2020:

[3] In this context, a “Member State” refers to a nation, country, or state with approved and formal status within the United Nations.

[3] The signatories to the Humanist Manifesto I (1933) as follows:

J.A.C. Fagginger Auer—Parkman Professor of Church History and Theology, Harvard University; Professor of Church History, Tufts College.
E. Burdette Backus—Unitarian Minister.
Harry Elmer Barnes—General Editorial Department, ScrippsHoward Newspapers.
L.M. Birkhead—The Liberal Center, Kansas City, Missouri.
Raymond B. Bragg—Secretary, Western Unitarian Conference.
Edwin Arthur Burtt—Professor of Philosophy, Sage School of Philosophy, Cornell University.
Ernest Caldecott—Minister, First Unitarian Church, Los Angeles, California.
A.J. Carlson—Professor of Physiology, University of Chicago.
John Dewey—Columbia University.
Albert C. Dieffenbach—Formerly Editor of The Christian Register.
John H. Dietrich—Minister, First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis.
Bernard Fantus—Professor of Therapeutics, College of Medicine, University of Illinois.
William Floyd—Editor of The Arbitrator, New York City.
F.H. Hankins—Professor of Economics and Sociology, Smith College.
A. Eustace Haydon—Professor of History of Religions, University of Chicago.
Llewellyn Jones—Literary critic and author.
Robert Morss Lovett—Editor, The New Republic; Professor of English, University of Chicago.
Harold P Marley—Minister, The Fellowship of Liberal Religion, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
R. Lester Mondale—Minister, Unitarian Church, Evanston, Illinois.
Charles Francis Potter—Leader and Founder, the First Humanist Society of New York, Inc.
John Herman Randall, Jr.—Department of Philosophy, Columbia University.
Curtis W. Reese—Dean, Abraham Lincoln Center, Chicago.
Oliver L. Reiser—Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh.
Roy Wood Sellars—Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan.
Clinton Lee Scott—Minister, Universalist Church, Peoria, Illinois.
Maynard Shipley—President, The Science League of America.
W. Frank Swift—Director, Boston Ethical Society.
V.T. Thayer—Educational Director, Ethical Culture Schools.
Eldred C. Vanderlaan—Leader of the Free Fellowship, Berkeley, California.
Joseph Walker—Attorney, Boston, Massachusetts.
Jacob J. Weinstein—Rabbi; Advisor to Jewish Students, Columbia University.
Frank S.C. Wicks—All Souls Unitarian Church, Indianapolis.
David Rhys Williams—Minister, Unitarian Church, Rochester, New York.
Edwin H. Wilson—Managing Editor, The New Humanist, Chicago, Illinois; Minister, Third Unitarian Church, Chicago, Illinois.

See American Humanist Association (1933).

[4] Ibid.

[5] In international rights, in Canadian law and the constitution, in regional rights stipulations, in the European Union, in the U.K., and in many other nation-states, the rights stipulations continually reference the right to “freedom of expression” as opposed to the more particular “freedom of speech.” The Americans emphasize “freedom of speech”; whereas, most others place more import on the generic and general “freedom of expression.”

[6] See Cornell Law School (n.d.).

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Free
of Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought

[Online].September 2020; 24(E). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition,
 Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, September 1). Free of
Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought. 

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN,
S. Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of
 In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.
24.E, September. 2020. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen,
Scott. 2020. “Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of
” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen,
Scott “Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of
” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.E.
(September 2020).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist
Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought‘
In-Sight: Independent
Interview-Based Journal
, vol. 24.E. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Free of
Charge 3 – “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought‘
Independent Interview-Based Journal
, vol. 24.E.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition,
 Scott D. Jacobsen. “Free of Charge 3 – “Humanist
Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought
.” In-Sight: Independent
Interview-Based Journal
24.E (2020):September. 2020. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Free of Charge 3
– “Humanist Manifesto I” and the Path of Freethought
(2020, September 24(E). Available from:

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