Answers to life’s big questions don’t come cheap, but they very often come free, or at least we feel they should. Which answers you find compelling among your available options is up to you. In the widely pluralist parts of the world—or at least in their urban centers—the answers come as often in the form of secular humanism as they do in any other variety, and they generally come with a certain amount of satisfaction that it is humanism, in part, that makes such variety possible. So what is humanism and why is it sometimes so proud of itself? You could do much worse than ask Stephen Fry, the genial English actor, comedian, writer, and passionate activist and advocate.
Fry narrates the video series here, “That’s Humanism,” for the British Humanism Association. He begins in “How do we know what is true?” at the top of the post by telling us what humanism is not. It is not a belief that knowledge comes from a supernatural source, from revelations, prophetic visions, or divinely inspired books. While many a humanist has found poetic inspiration in such things, as Fry explains, it’s only the scientific method that provides us with reliable information about the natural world.
In the video just above, Fry takes an evidence-based approach to the question of questions: what happens when we die. The humanist answer, as he plainly states, seems perfectly obvious to anyone—everyone dies, and everyone can live on in the lives of the people who’ve loved them. We leave the work we’ve done behind, and our bodies return to the elements from which they came. Anything else, he suggests, is wishful thinking.