Fri tanke - nettavis for livssyn og livssynspolitikk

- For me personally humanism is a way of thinking and not a life stance, says Director of the Nansen Academy, Dag Hareide. Photo: UiO

- Norwegian Humanist Association cannot annex humanism, christian humanist says

#- The Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA) is in no position to annex this word, says Director of the Nansen Academy, Dag Hareide. Text: Even Gran N...

Fri tanke - nettavis for livssyn og livssynspolitikk
Human-Etisk Forbund


Sist oppdatert: 20.06.2008 kl 10:30

- The Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA) is in no position to annex this word, says Director of the Nansen Academy, Dag Hareide.

Text: Even Gran
Norwegian version published: June 10, 2008

For a long time the Norwegian Humanist Association has tried to establish an understanding of the concept "humanism" as a description of the Association's non-religious life stance.

In particular, the former Secretary General, Levi Fragell, has promoted this work. Among other viewpoints, Fragell refers to the fact that all over the world the concept is being defined much more precisely as an inherent, non-religious life stance compared to Norwegian practice, and he also mentions reference works like Collins', Webster's and Little Oxford Dictionary.

However, in Scandinavia the use of the concept has been more vague than what we find in English-speaking countries, he argues.

During the nineteen thirties, liberal Christians in Norway and Sweden took hold of the concept, supported by the Nansen Academy at Lillehammer and the Sigtuna Foundation in Sweden and established "Christian humanism" as a prevailing form of expression, Fragell wrote in a commentary in September 2006.

As a building block in the work to establish a more precise understanding of humanism as a non-religious life stance concept, the Norwegian Humanist Association has now decided to rename all its ceremonies with the prefix "humanist". Replacing the term "human-ethical" with "humanist" in the Norwegian name of the Association is also being considered. Furthermore, the Association has recently defined its life stance in the so-called "Norwegian Humanist Manifesto".

Historic nonsense

This does not go well with Director Dag Hareide of The Nansen Academy at Lillehammer. He is the manager of a school defining itself as "a Norwegian Humanist Academy", and finds the attempt of NHA to annex the concept unacceptable.

- Historically, humanism has been a trend in several religions. It is impossible for NHA to just ignore this definition, Hareide maintains.

Hareide maintains that the proposed Norwegian wording of "Christian and humanist values", contained in the Constitution and the legal directive for schools and kindergartens, is based on the view that this concept is understood to be precise and unambiguous.

- NHA must not tow the line with the Christian Democracy Party and other conservative Christians as regards the concept "Christian", giving it a narrow and excluding definition. Assuming that NHA wins the argument for its definition of humanism, this concept will not be approved as a description of basic ethical values by a (united) National Assembly, neither in the Constitution nor in the legal directives, Hareide points out.

He adds that it ought to be a national obligation to give the concept "humanism" a precise content.

- What is your reaction to the fact that most international reference books define humanism as inherently non-religious?

- This does not apply to my reading. Admittedly, the reference works I have consulted state that humanism is directed against authoritarian religion, and that a non-religious life stance humanism does exist. Furthermore, it is maintained that humanism, evidently, is a way of thinking that have promoters in a number of religions. You have to use a lot of eraser on history in order to ignore this.

- Which reference works are you thinking of?

- Encyclopedia Britannica, for instance. And Wikipedia. But I must admit that I have not made thorough studies of this.

- But Wikipedia's English and French versions state explicitly that humanism refuses to accept the supernatural.

- Yes, but it also says that humanism has been incorporated in several alternatives of religious philosophy.

The Nansen Academy reintroduced this concept

Hareide adds that the humanist concept, of course, lives its own life and has revised its general ideas in Europe from Italian renaissance to English protestantism and German new humanism to the French Age of Enlightenment.

- Accordingly, the concept might be connected to cultural trends on other continents. The Nansen Academy reintroduced the concept at the end of the nineteen thirties, and has been a common denominator from the start. The Academy's founders Kristian Schjelderup and Anders Wyller were Christian humanists and adopted the name of a freethinker, Fridtjof Nansen, to illustrate this wide span. Since this time, the Nansen Academy has been a meeting place for people, irrespective of religion, life stance and ideologies, he conveys.

- In your opinion, what is the essence of humanism?

I would like to define humanism as a basic mind-set where the substance is human values as defined by the Declaration of Human Rights and the Golden Rule, stating that you should treat other people in the way that you want them to treat you. A central element is free thought; the independent right to freely choose one's own faith and one's own opinions. However, for me personally, humanism is an attitude, not a life stance, he says.

Hareide ascertains that various religions, life stance and science might be used as a justification for humanist ways of thinking.

- Thus, you let a number of adjectives precede humanism: Buddhist humanism, social humanism, Christian humanism. It is also meaningful to apply the term "life stance humanism", which I have seen used by NHA members. Consequently, it is possible to make humanism into a life stance. But this does not entail that you are necessarily a "more genuine humanist" than others, he emphasises.

A two-way split is too simple

In Hareide's opinion, the thought that we have one ethical alternative based on God and religion on one hand, and a non-religious alternative based on human values on the other, this is dangerously simple.

- Then you have Gandhi and Bin Laden on one side, and Stalin and Nansen on the other. This is absurd. More accurately, the question should be related to your view on human beings and what kind of god we are discussing, he says.

Hareide would like to support another alternative.

- I advocate another two-way split, and that is a division between those who split everything into two and all the others. - This discloses something of the inherent danger of fanaticism in religions, ideologies and in the Norwegian Association of Humanists, he underlines.

- Life stance humanism is not identical to "humanism"
Hareide thinks that it is a good thing that NHA intends to define humanism as a life stance.

- In that case, however, it must, obviously, be called "life stance humanism", and not claim an exclusive right to the concept of humanism in Norway. I define myself as a humanist and I have been christened and am a member of The Norwegian Church. If NHA proposes to stand above me and tell me that I have no right to call myself a humanist, or that I am some kind of second-rate humanist, I think this is very arrogant, says Hareide.

However, he adds that it is not his impression that this is a prevailing attitude within NHA.

Beware of species egotism

In Hareide's opinion, an important priority for anybody who wants to be known as humanists is to avoid species egotism on behalf of human beings.

- Stating that "human beings are the ultimate purpose" is getting on dangerous ground. This point of view entails that nature has no value in itself, but that nature is valuable only through what it can offer to human beings. This view has influenced religious as well as secular humanists. People representing such an attitude, should take a good look at themselves, maintains Hareide.

Personally, he argues that other life has a value, independent of human beings, and this can be sustained in different ways.

- This can be motivated in the faith of God as creator, in pantheism and agnostic wonder. However, I doubt that it can be motivated in rational science. But, please try to convince me, he says.

Hareide advocates further debates on this matter

- We need further relevant discussions, because this is where constitution, legal directives and ethical values fall short in our society today.

Recognising different interpretations of the concept

Former Secretary General of NHA, Levi Fragell, does not try to hide the fact that the concept of humanism may be understood in different ways. Nevertheless, he emphasises that the understanding of humanism as a non-religious life stance, as defined by NHA, now is in the process of achieving a universal position, especially in English-speaking countries.

He questions Hareide's attitude and refers to statements from the former Director of the Nansen Academy, Inge Eidsvåg, published in Humanist magazine no. 1/98.

Here Eidsvåg declared: "..Even if I said before that the Norwegian Humanist Association has unlawfully tried to monopolise the humanism concept, I would not express myself like that today. The use of the concept has changed, and I might as well admit that humanism in English language practice often is understood as humanist ethics or life stance humanism (..) Today, the humanism concept is perceived by an increasing number of people to be identical with humanist ethics or life stance humanism. It would be imitating Don Quixote to insist on another interpretation of the word".

- Now, another ten years later, our definition of the concept has been even more widespread. I feel that it is unwise of Dag Hareide to continue pretending that this issue is still wide open, Fragell says.

He underlines that NHA's efforts to conquer the humanism concept is also a matter of trying to adjust to the international interpretation of the concept.

- As our definition is in the process of achieving a unique international position, it would be remarkable if NHA did not try to establish this understanding here in Norway as well, says Fragell.

Translated by Tone Haugen Jensen

English Vis flere

– The worst enemy of religion is the Internet

– The worst enemy of religion is the Internet

It was difficult, but this summer "The Friendly Atheist" Hemant Mehta, the man behind one of America's best known atheist blogs, chose to quit teaching to become a full time blogger.

«Growth of the religiously un-affiliated not linked to personal faith»

Refutes secularization of the US:

«Growth of the religiously un-affiliated not linked to personal faith»

«They enjoy being obnoxious», American sociologist Claude Fischer says about the new atheists. He also claims religious faith in the US is not declining. (Sept. 16, 2014)

Personvern og datalagring

Lagring og logging av data

Ved å besøke dette nettstedet lagres noen tekniske data om din internettforbindelse og nettleser. Disse data kan kategoriseres som følger:


Dette nettstedet bruker cookies/"informasjonskapsler" for å forbedre funksjonalitet og brukeropplevelse.

Vis mer

Teknisk info

Når du besøker et nettsted vil webserveren logge noe teknisk info som din IP-adresse, hvilken nettleser du bruker og tidspunktet for hver gang du forespør data fra serveren, altså når du klikker på en intern lenke og laster en ny nettside eller tilhørende data som skrifttyper, bilder, ulike script som kreves for at nettsiden skal fungere.

Disse dataene spares bare en viss tidsperiode for å kunne utføre feilsøking og feilretting i systemene, og deles aldri med avisens ansatte eller tredjepart.


Vi lagrer noe informasjon om deg som bruker. På dette nettstedet lagres ingen sensitiv informasjon, men enkel kontaktinformasjon som du gir fra deg når du oppretter en brukerkonto eller kjøper tjenester i nettavisen vil lagres i våre databaser. Dette er nødvendig for å kunne levere tjenestene til deg. Disse dataene slettes når du sletter din brukerkonto.

Hvem lagrer vi data om?

Vanlige besøkende/lesere:

Hvis du besøker dette nettstedet uten å ha registrert en brukerkonto eller abonnement, lagres følgende data om deg:

Vis mer

Innloggede brukere og abonnenter:

Hvis du velger å opprette en brukerkonto og/eller abonnement på nettavisen, vil også følgende informasjon lagres om deg:

Vis mer

NB: Etter at data er slettet vil de likevel kunne spares i inntil 180 dager i backuper. Backuper lagres med høy sikkerhet og begrenset tilgang, og er nødvendig for å kunne drive feilsøking og ivareta brukerenes og datasystemenet sikkerhet.


Her finner du informasjon om våre samarbeidspartnere:

Vis mer

Dine rettigheter:

Som bruker av dette nettstedet kan du kontakte avisen for å få dine data utlevert og/eller slettet.

Har du en brukerkonto/abonnement, kan du logge inn i din brukerprofil og laste ned dine lagrede data, samt slette din brukerkonto og tilhørende data når som helst.

Vis mer

Hvis du trykker AVVIS vil ingen informasjonskapsler lagres i din nettleser og ingen data om deg logges i våre databaser. Det betyr også at vi ikke kan vite om du har godkjent eller ikke, slik at du vil se denne advarselen på hver side du besøker. Teknisk informasjon (webserverlogger) vil likevel lagre din IP-adresse og nettleserinformasjon, men dise slettes fortløpende som beskrevet ovenfor.

Vi tar ditt personvern på alvor

Fri Tanke bruker cookies (informasjonskapsler) til å personalisere annonser og forbedre nettstedet. Ved å benytte nettstedet aksepterer du at vi kan sette cookies i din nettleser.

Vi lagrer så lite data vi kan, så kort tid som mulig.

Noe gikk galt! Vennligst forsøk på nytt.

Mer informasjon

Siden lastes nå på nytt...