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Secular Humanism in the United States - Religious Humanism

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Humanism as a distinct intellectual movement arose in early-twentieth-century America among self-described religious humanists. It arose first among radical theologians, especially Unitarian clergymen, who saw religious humanism as anything but an irreligious movement; although these men entirely rejected the "God language" of their colleagues, they felt it essential to retain the institution of religion. Religion was a historical construction, they believed, which developed and changed over time to accommodate new social forms, and it would have to remake itself dramatically in order to continue to exist in the modern world. Already many Protestant modernist theologians were arguing that traditional religion was outdated, based as it was on views of God as a king or lord over creation, and that religion must change and embrace a democratic ethos. The humanists went further, rejecting all discussion of God as unjustified in a scientific age. And yet, they argued, religion itself was not defunct; it fulfilled certain social and psychological urges of human beings. The challenge for moderns was to find ways to integrate current scientific knowledge and democratic social values with the institutions of religion. This is largely what early religious humanism was designed to do.

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