Religious humanism is a philosophical integration of ethics with ritual, one that emerged from the French Revolution. The Unitarian Church frequently describes itself as humanist. In practical terms, religious humanism is a religion, including practices and a belief system, which serves the personal and social needs of a group, all sharing the same philosophical worldview.
During the radical period of the French Revolution, the Cult of Reason emerged as a religion formed from deism. It was devised largely by Jacques Hebert and Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, and in 1793 the Cathedral of Notre Dame became the "Temple to Reason." Later, in the 1805s, Auguste Comte founded Positivism, which he called a "religion of humanity." In 1853 in London, the Humanistic Religious Association formed, leading the way to the Ethical Culture Movement, which was proposed as a new religion that would remove nonscientific dogma of traditional religion.
In order to serve the needs of their members, groups calling themselves humanist religions present the following characteristics:
- Moral values
- Inspiring ideals
- Coping methods for the harsher realities of life
- A sense of purpose
The groups present religious humanism as an institutional setting for the moral instruction of children, a community of belonging, unique ceremonies, shared holidays and common rites of passage. These religions present themselves as alternatives for those who do not feel comfortable in traditional religions.