Rationalism grows out of a respected tradition of critical thinking that goes back to the ancient Greeks and which flourished as the Enlightenment, but is flexible enough to change in the light of new evidence and argument. It is an ideal worldview for the 21st century.
Rationalism is an intellectual, cultural, social and political movement that exists to promote the role of reason in approaching and finding solutions to the wide range of issues and problems that confront us in public life.
Rationalism holds that our beliefs and conduct should be based on a combination of experience and reason. To a large degree it is the legacy of ideas and values that came together in the 18th-century Enlightenment, supplemented by the resulting progress in various sciences over the past two centuries.
The Four Pillars of Rationalism
Rationalists are committed to utilising reason in their beliefs and in their behaviour.
In forming beliefs, a Rationalist seeks to rely on empirical evidence, logic and thoughtful reflection, not on unquestioning obedience to authority, blind faith or emotional knee-jerk reaction. Rationalists believe public policies should be based on inquiry, evidence and reason, not on religious dogma or political ideology.
Rationalists believe in naturalism, that is, the idea that the natural world is the only world there is and that the life we live in this natural world is the only life we have.
This means Rationalists do not believe in an after-life, or a life before birth, or in any supernatural or ‘other’ world.
It also means that as humans, we derive our values and ethics from the natural world – from our need to live together and to try to improve the well-being of all around us
Rationalists support the political philosophy of liberalism – that is, freedom of the individual, social progress and reform, and government by law with the consent of the governed.
We support absolute freedom of thought, conscience and belief. All humans should be free to choose and hold their own religious or non-religious worldviews, provided they do not attempt to coerce others into accepting their preferred worldviews.
We support the freedom to express one’s worldview and the freedom to associate with like-minded others, provided such actions do no harm.
We believe people are intrinsically equal in dignity and rights. There should be no positive or negative discrimination on the basis of a person’s worldview, race, sex, sexuality or gender identity.
We believe in our common humanity, and the humanistic values of personal integrity, trustworthiness, benevolence and fairness.
Rationalists support secularism in the political sense, meaning legal and substantive separation of religious institutions (church, temple, mosque, etc) from state institutions (parliament, the public service, the courts, etc).
Secularism in this sense implies a pluralist democracy, where no single worldview dominates, where there is freedom to practise one’s worldview (as long as such practice does not harm others) or to change one’s worldview, and where there is no positive discrimination by governments that privileges any particular worldview.
Secularism values both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, and seeks to balance all human rights in practice.