Humanism is best described by its emphasis on the ability and responsibility of mankind to make cultural, technological and scientific progress without the help of any outside forces. Humanism is generally associated with progress based on empiricism and the lack of belief in a god or gods.
Humanism was first ascribed to the renaissance thinkers who studied primarily in the humanities. They believed that the human mind was capable of overcoming great obstacles and creating a better world for all mankind. Philosophically, humanism is tied closely to modernism, which understood the world to be objectively understandable. Humanism agrees with the Greek philosopher Protagoras when he said that man is the measure of all things.
To a humanist, mankind is not accountable to anyone higher than man himself; hence, humanists are known for their work on political philosophy, which seeks to understand how people are best governed. Humanism sees man as the most important being, as opposed to other beliefs that attach prime importance to a divine being. Further, humanism sees man as fundamentally good, which is in contrast to most religious systems that consider man to be evil or sinful. Humanism still exists today in various forms and is often associated with secular or atheist movements.