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The Indian Humanist Union
(full member of the International Humanist & Ethical Union)
The Logo of the Indian Humanist Union
A BRIEF HISTORY
The genesis of the Indian Humanist Union lay in an earlier society called the Society for Promotion of Freedom of Thought (SPFT) established in 1954 at Allahabad (India) by Narsingh Narain, a former teacher, civil servant and concurrent philosophy scholar. Later, when he learnt of the International Humanist & Ethical Union, as a sequel to the "Amsterdam Declaration" (1952), he changed the nomenclature of SPFT to "The Humanist Union" which he founded in 1960 at Naini Tal with the primary objective of the diffusion of knowledge concerning moral and social problems considered from the Humanist point of view, which, briefly according to IHU, stood for two basic values - love for fellow beings coupled with the scientific spirit of free enquiry. The first Chairman of the IHU was P N Sapru, former High Court Judge and Member of Indian Parliament who was succeded by Narsingh Narain, earlier working as the first General Secretary of the Union .
In 1966, Indian Humanist Union commenced the publication of a periodical The Humanist Outlook devoted to the furthering of the scientific attitude, ethical values, social reform and communal harmony. In 1970 at the joint initiative of Narsingh Narain and Abe Soloman, a distinguished humanist & Life Member of IHU the Humanist Endowment Fund Society was set up by some members of the IHU to provide financial stability to the humanist movement in India. On his death in 1972 Narsingh Narain bequeathed all his life’s savings to this Society. The Corpus of HEFS has continued to grow steadily though slowly, mainly through further donations by dedicated members.
Narsingh Narain wrote extensively for Indian and International journals. He attended World Humanist Congresses in London (1957), Oslo (1962) and Boston (1970). His input into humanist thinking was most significant in respect of some basic questions like theism and atheism in relation to humanism, the role and scope of reason, the distinction between moral and spiritual values, the nature of secularism, the concept of humanism as a religion, etc. On his death, in 1972, Narsingh Narain received rich tributes from all over the world for his erudition, intellectual brilliance & contribution to the humanist movement.
After the death of Narsingh Narain, Shyam Kumari Khan, a noted social worker, General Secretary of the Indian Council for Child Welfare, Member of the Indian Parliament and a Founder Member of the IHU was elected as the new Chairperson. She was succeded by Sajid Hussain a former Member of the U.P. Legislative Assembly and Life Member of IHU and then by Prakash Narain Founder Member of IHU with a brilliant academic record and a rich experience in the United Nations and the Government of India which included working as Chairman of the Railway Board and Principal Secretary to the Govt. of India and also as Secretary to Govt. of India in several other Ministries.
IHU is devoted primarily to the furtherance of human values and the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human perceptions and capabilities without linking it with any supra-human entity, that is, on assessments made in a spirit of reason and free enquiry. Its endeavours are oriented towards bringing about attitudinal changes amongst humanists and others through diverse means like bringing out a quarterly journal and other publications, development of humanist music cassettes, staging of street plays, holding of periodical discussions, Symposia and Seminars as well as collaborative network linked voluntary social work. The annual Narsingh Narain Memorial Seminars specially receive wide coverage in the national and international media which helps in spreading humanist values into a wider spectrum of society.
The IHU also participates actively in the International humanist movement in regard to organizational and conceptual matters. In January 1996 Prakash Narain Chairman IHU wrote a paper on the need for substantial revision of IHEU’s existing "Minimum Statement" of Humanism. He stressed the need for introducing in any brief or minimum statements of humanism a high degree of semantic linkage with the word "humanism" as also the importance of incorporating in them a reference to "human values" and "a humane society" which would automatically include concern for animals, plants & ecology and thus clarify that the modern international humanist movement is not anthropocentric. The points made by him received wide support and a revised Minimum Statement substantially incorporating the proposals made by the Indian Humanist Union was voted and adopted at the IHEU Board Meeting held in Mexico City in November 1996. IHU is also a Founder Member of the South Asia Humanist Net Work established in 1995.
THE HUMANIST OUTLOOK,
THE HUMANIST ENDOWMENT FUND SOCIETY (HEFS)
THE INTERNATIONAL HUMANIST AND ETHICAL UNION (IHEU)
The Indian Humanist Union was established in 1960, devoted primarily to the promotion of human values through free thought and the scientific spirit of free enquiry into religious and ethical questions. It seeks to effect attitudinal changes through diverse means and brings out a quarterly journal, the "Humanist Outlook" which has been under publication since 1966.
To give financial viability to the humanist movement in India, the Humanist Endowment Fund Society was established in 1970. All contributions/donations received are judiciously invested and only the dividend, interest or profit accruing from them is available for expenditure. Contributions, donations, etc. to Humanist Endowment Fund Society are eligible for deduction from taxable income in terms of Section 80(G) of the Income Tax Rules 1961.
The IHU is affiliated to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which was founded at a Congress held in 1952 at Amsterdam with Sir Julian Huxley in the chair. The IHEU is headquartered at London and over 100 organizations from more than 30 countries are affiliated to the IHEU representing nearly 5 million members. The principal object of IHEU as set forth in its Certificate of Incorporation is "to bring into active association groups and individuals throughout the world interested in promoting ethical and scientific humanism, understood as dedication to and development of human values, cultivation of science, loyalty to democratic principles and repudiation of authoritarian principles in all social relations and practice of good faith, without reliance upon authority and dogmas." The "Minimum Statement" of Humanism as adopted by the IHEU Board in their meeting at Mexico City in November 1996 says : "Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance which affirms that human beings have the right and the responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free enquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality." The IHEU has NGO Consultative Status with the U.N. & UNICEF and maintains Operational Relations with UNESCO.
(As indicated in the IHU Memorandum of Association, June 1960)
(1) The diffusion of knowledge concerning moral and social problems considered from the Humanist viewpoint, as outlined below:-
(a) Humanism stands for two basic values : first and foremost, love of fellow-beings and solidarity of mankind without distinction of race, caste, creed or nationality; and second, intellectual integrity and scientific spirit according to which all beliefs, however firmly held, are liable to modification or rejection in the light of further knowledge and experience.
(b) Humanism holds that a man’s religion should not be settled for him by the accident of his birth, or through a process of conditioning during the early years of his life, but he should be left free to make his choice after attaining maturity. The system by which a child inherits the religion of his parents, whatever its merits might have been in the past, is no longer appropriate to present conditions, as it is one of the major factors which hamper the growth of mankind into a single world-wide society and the consideration of moral and social problems in a scientific spirit.
(c) Though Humanism is not identified with any views about the factual question of life after death, it does not accept the goal of salvation. It is content to fix its attention on this life and this world. It is concerned with the preservation and furtherance of moral values in all relations and spheres of life, and with the building up of a better and happier human community.
Proviso : Though Humanism is vitally concerned with the ethical aspects of political and economic as of all other human activities, the Union shall take no part in any partisan political activity. The discussions at the meetings of the Union, and in any journal or other literature which may be published by the Union, shall not be of such a nature as to preclude the participation of any class of persons who are not supposed to take part in political activities.
(d) Humanism is not committed to any views about the existence or non-existence of God, but it is inconsistent with Humanism to regard any person (without implying any lack of respect for him) as an incarnation or prophet of God, or an infallible guide; or to accept any book (without any desire to deny its value, whether intrinsic or historical) as a divine revelation or infallible guide.
(e) Humanism regards the basis of morality to be a sense of values which is inherent in human nature, and holds that morality requires no external sanction.
(f) Humanism seeks the development of individuals as persons and sees this as inseparable from their free and responsible participation in social relations. It aims at the development of these relations for the fullest possible human fellowship, self-understanding and release of creative human energies.
(g) Humanism is not committed to any views regarding the nature of what is known as mystical, religious or spiritual experience. But whatever the value of such experience as a method of self-culture, or of discovering a new dimension of human potentiality, Humanism does not regard the attainment of such experience as the supreme goal of life.
(h) Humanism does not imply the acceptance of any metaphysical system or approach. It stands for practical ideals which may be shared by persons holding different metaphysical positions, and also by those who are not interested in metaphysical questions at all.
(i) Holding that no institution or movement, whether old or new, can rightly claim to be the uniquely destined instrument adequate to produce a greater humanity, Humanism believes not only in the toleration of one another’s beliefs between individuals and groups having different views but also in their active co-operation in the advancement of ideals which are common ground between them.
(2) Social service.
Humanism stands for the furtherance of human values and the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human perceptions and capabilities without linking it with any supra-human entity, that is, on assessments made in a spirit of reason and free enquiry.
2. The following may be considered as further corollaries to the humanist viewpoint:
(1) Human ethics needs no external sanction, and has its springs in the innate sense of values which are an intrinsic part of human nature. Though human nature and Nature itself, include both selfishness and even cruelty on the one hand and selflessness and compassion on the other, human values refer to the latter and humanist ethics believes in promoting these.
(2) Humanism believes that there is a close link between its two core values, human self-reliance and human compassion, as the spirit of free enquiry, which is part of human self-reliance, alone can genuinely promote human values.
(3) The scientific spirit of free enquiry, in its true sense, would include the acceptance of uncertainties (rather than of dogmas, rigidities or views held with aggressive certainty) and would therefore generate greater humility, tolerance and compassion and thus lead to furtherance of human values and of a more humane society.
(4) Experience shows that dogmas of all kinds, particularly religious dogmas in our context, fail to rise to the humane requirements of many situations and ultimately tend to negate compassion.
(5) The spirit of free enquiry would require that all evidence, whatever be its nature, must be examined by the method of reason and free enquiry.
Humanism, therefore, believes in the use of reason, free enquiry and free thought in the service of compassion and human values.
(6) Humanism believes in the development of ethics on a non-theistic basis in which human beings are considered to be free and responsible without referring to powers considered to be of higher importance than human beings themselves.
(7) "Theism" in its conventional sense involving the existence of an unquestionable but approachable entity which consciously intervenes in, controls or influences human affairs is not considered compatible with humanism. However, any metaphysical beliefs of individual humanists in a non-conventional theism, different from the above, would be, by definition, neither in contradiction with, nor a part of, their humanist life-stance.
(8) Irrespective of whether it is better to describe humanism as a religion or not, on which humanists may differ (as it would depend on how the word 'religion' is defined,) humanism supports the principle of secularism in the sense of separation of religion from state affairs and parity amongst people holding different religious views, including those who do not believe in any religion.
(9) Humanism believes in the freedom of the individual, including the right of self-determination and the full realization of each person’s talents.
(10) The desirable goal of promoting human values and a more humane society would include a number of elements, some of the more important being
- greater tolerance and compassion and greater feeling of oneness, and commonality not only amongst humankind but within the entire environment and the ecology of Nature
- some degree of altruism, comprising a certain generosity of the heart towards others
- promotion of justice and fair play particularly through the spirit of democracy, including respect for majority opinion as also the protection of pluralism and the reasonable rights of minority groups
· concern for human rights in keeping broadly with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations.
- Prakash Narain.
Based on a paper presented at a Conference at Westminster College, Oxford on June 25, 1997. Reference Humanist Outlook Vol.8 No.5.
Narsingh Narain was born on 4th October 1897 at Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.. Although his ancestral history on record upto seventeen generations showed affluent circumstances earlier, the family ran into considerable financial stringency during the last few generations. Narsingh Narain’s father, Mr. Chhote Lal, worked as a clerk in a Government Office at Mirzapur and he himself started life in extremely difficult circumstances. He started work as a teacher soon after passing his School Leaving Certificate Examination, while still studying for the B.A. degree. After graduation from the University of Allahabad he appeared for the first competitive examination for the UP Civil Service in 1923 and obtained the first position. His service career was marked by a combination of intellectual and practical capability and great independence and integrity. As a magistrate his judgments were widely known for their clarity of expression and were often lauded by higher courts. During the Second World War, the War Fund from his sub-division was always the lowest and he showed rare courage by giving in writing to the British Government that this would continue to be so as he was not prepared to use unfair means to collect the War Fund. After independence, he became well known for the same forthright approach when dealing with undue interference by local politicians in day to day administration After independence, with the constitution of the Indian Administrative Service, he was integrated in this cadre as one of its senior-most members.
He married in the year 1924 and had a daughter and two sons but lost his wife very early in 1936 when she was only 28 and Narsingh Narain 38. He bore the tragedy with great fortitude and never married again. In 1954, soon after his daughter was married and the sons were in service, he sought premature retirement from Government to devote himself to social work, and the furtherance of free thought and scientific approach to religion - ideals which had engaged his mind since his younger days when he had rebelled against traditional religious beliefs. This was despite the fact that he was on the verge of further promotion in service. In an atmosphere where people frantically cling to office, this was a refreshing change.
In 1954, at Allahabad, he founded the Society for Promotion of Freedom of Thought, the fore-runner of the Indian Humanist Union which was founded by him in 1960 at Naini Tal with the objective primarily of promoting the scientific spirit of free enquiry into religious and ethical questions. This was affiliated to the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He settled down in Naini Tal from where he travelled widely to organize social work, seminars, national integration forums etc.
He also started, in 1966, the publication of a periodical, the "Humanist Outlook" devoted to the furthering of the scientific attitude, ethical values, social reform and communal harmony. In 1970, along with Mr. A Solomon, he established the Humanist Endowment Fund Society to provide financial stability to the humanist movement in India. On his death in 1972, he bequeathed all his life’s savings to the humanist movement.
Narsingh Narain wrote extensively for Indian and international journals and his publications in India and abroad number more than a hundred. He represented India at the International Humanist Congress in London (1957), Oslo (1962) and Boston (1970). At the Oslo Congress he was elected one of the Sectional Chairmen and at Boston he was elected a Panel Member. Through writings, discussions and speeches he had considerable influence on IHEU’s objectives and policy formulations and received several communications from members of the humanist societies all over the world expressing appreciation for his distinctive formulation and exposition of a gentle, non-belligerent but steadfast humanism. His contribution was most significant in respect of the question of theism and atheism in relation to humanism, the role and scope of reason, the distinction between moral and spiritual values, the nature of moral behaviour and spiritual health, the nature of altruism and its role as a counter to the problem of pessimism, the nature of secularism, the concept of humanism as a religion, the importance of avoiding secular along with religious dogmatism etc.
He continued to lead an extremely active life right till the end, editing the periodical the "Humanist Outlook", and lecturing and touring in India and abroad. He influence on the thinking and activities of the humanist movement in India and the international humanist movement has been widely acclaimed. In the words of Mary Morain of the American Humanist Association and International Humanist and Ethical Union "how grateful the world should be that men like him have patiently and brilliantly been working to bring sanity and brotherhood to the world". Sidney Scheuer of the International Humanist and Ethical Union spoke of his "high integrity and erudition" and said that he "lived more worthily under more difficult conditions than most human beings ..... and left a mark which will not vanish with his death". Algernon D. Black, the doyen of the American Ethical Union spoke of his "profound admiration for his (Narsingh Narain’s) mind and his influence upon all of us".
Thanks mainly to the solid foundations laid by Narsingh Narain, the Indian Humanist Union has completed more than forty years of activity in the cause of a more humane world, its periodical the "Humanist Outlook" is in the 43d year of its publication and the Humanist Endowment Fund Society has completed more than thirty years.
NARSINGH NARAIN’S WRITINGS
The most revolutionary aspect of Humanism to my mind is the rejection of the doctrine of finality, and the extension of the scientific approach to religious problems.
As I understand, the function of religion has been to give meaning to an ephemeral and often tragic human existence.
The task of Humanism is not to repudiate the whole idea of faith but to substitute a rational for an irrational faith
With ... mental development came the realization that human life was short and precarious, threatened by all kinds of dangers and surrounded by blind forces hostile or indifferent to him over which he had no control. Our ancestors solved the problem of pessimism (or so far as they did solve it) by convincing themselves about a future life guaranteed by the existence of a merciful and all powerful God ... Let us have the courage to accept the fact that the universe does not care for us, for the human race or life. Let the tender minded continue to hug the old illusions or invent new ones. For the tough minded, stoicism is the only dignified answer ... Our ancestors related themselves to the Universe by personifying the forces and powers they could not control. Mankind now has the knowledge and the ability to establish this relationship on a new basis, that is the sense of oneness with the responsibility for, the community and beyond the community with life and nature ....
Neither spiritual health nor spiritual elevation provides any guarantee for the emergence of moral values (that is concern for others) in any active practical sense.
Spiritual health, like physical health, is a precondition to living but is not itself living ... Mysticism took a wrong direction when it made spiritual health or peace an end rather than a means....
Extended religions by linking good behaviour with the idea of Divine rewards and punishments, have hampered the growth of morality, though they might have helped in the maintenance of social order. New ethical insights and passions for social justice have seldom come from people primarily concerned with religion proper. When morality is supposed to be based on the commands of a Divine Order there is little scope for a new insight, for God’s commands don’t change; they hold good for all time.
Some people love the word "God" irrespective of its meaning and even if it means nothing at all; others have an equal aversion for it no matter what it means.
It is true, as they pointed out, that religion savours of supernaturalism, is oriented towards other - worldliness in conceptions and actions. But if there are good reasons for calling humanism a religion, we should remember that words acquire new meanings even as the word Humanism has done during the last few years. There will be some confusion and misunderstanding for a time (as there still is in case of humanism) but eventually "the man on the street" will know that there is a religion which is not based on supernaturalism and other worldliness and the lexicographers will also take notice of the fact.
We cannot all be dealing with urgent problems, and if we did, the problems would not be nearer a solution ... In any healthy society there must be people who occupy themselves with the immediate problems as well as those who have long range problems in view ... We owe a duty not only to the present but also to the future, yes, even to the distant future. And to be concerned about the future is not to sacrifice the present but to help it in some way.
We are living at a time when the age of science and technology has developed features calculated to cause deep confusion and despair ... International Humanism is a forum through which we can maintain some contact with the thinking and the efforts of like minded groups directed towards the solution of these problems, for tomorrow they will be our problems too.
THE LOGO OF THE INDIAN HUMANIST UNION
The logo of the Indian Humanist Union, designed in 1966 as the Humanist Outlook was being launched,
symbolises five important Humanist ideas. The word man, of course, is used here as shorthand for human being.
All men are equal
Man is not alone
Man reaches out to man
Man inspires man
Man reaches upward
INDIAN HUMANIST UNION (Established 1960)
H.O. : D-36, First Floor, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi 110 014
Address for Correspondence : H-41-D, Saket, New Delhi- 110017
Phone: 2686 2191; 46017206; E-Mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Founder Narsingh Narain (1897-1972)
Chairman Vir Narain, H-41-D, Saket, New Delhi- 110017 E-mail<email@example.com>
Vice-Chairman Dr. S K Minocha, B-344 B, Sushant Lok I, Gurgaon- 121002, Haryana
Hony.Secy. & Treasurer Mahesh Kapoor,D-402 Som Vihar, RK Puram New Delhi -1100 22
Members of Vir Narain; S K Minocha, Mahesh Kapoor, , RC Mody, VK Gaur,
Executive Council M K Misra, Prakash Narain,DN Chaudhri Pradip Narain, Rakesh Kumar,
R. K Shrivastav, AP Saxena, Chitra Narain, Javed Husain. G B Bagai,
HUMANIST ENDOWMENT FUND SOCIETY (Established 1970)
H.O. : D-36, First Floor, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi-110014
Address for Correspondence : H-5-D, Saket, New Delhi- 110017
Phone : 4176 4504; 93 124 35309; E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Founders Narsingh Narain (1897-1972)/ Abe Solomon (1915- 2004)
President RC Mody, H-5-D, Saket, New Delhi 110017. E-mail: <email@example.com>
Vice-President Pradip Narain, 2/22, Shanti Niketan, New Delhi -110021
Hony. Secy & Treasurer Mahesh Kapoor, D-402, Som Vihar, RK Puram, New Delhi 110022
Members Executive Board R C Mody, Pradip Narain, Mahesh Kapoor, PP Gupta , Vir Narain, M K Misra, Shahla Haidar, G B Bagai,
Lakshmi Balasubrahmanyam, Rakesh Kumar
HUMANIST OUTLOOK (Journal of the IHU: under publication since1966)
Founder Editor Narsingh Narain (1897-1972)
Editor Vir Narain, H-41/D, Saket, New Delhi-110017.
Phone 2686 2191;46017206; <firstname.lastname@example.org>