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. 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.
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