The word "humanism" has a number of meanings, and because authors and speakers often don't clarify which meaning they intend, those trying to explain humanism can easily become a source of confusion. Fortunately, each meaning of the word constitutes a different type of humanism - the different types being easily separated and defined by the use of appropriate adjectives.
Literary Humanism is a devotion to the humanities or literary culture.
Renaissance Humanism is the spirit of learning that developed at the end of the middle ages with the revival of classical letters and a renewed confidence in the ability of human beings to determine for themselves truth and falsehood.
Cultural Humanism is the rational and empirical tradition that originated largely in ancient Greece and Rome, evolved throughout European history, and now constitutes a basic part of the Western approach to science, political theory, ethics, and law.
Philosophical Humanism is any outlook or way of life centred on human need and interest. Sub-categories of this type include Christian Humanism and Modern Humanism.
Christian Humanism is defined by Webster's Third New International Dictionary as "a philosophy advocating the self- fulfilment of man within the framework of Christian principles." This more human-oriented faith is largely a product of the Renaissance and is a part of what made up Renaissance humanism.
Modern Humanism, also called Naturalistic Humanism, Scientific Humanism, Ethical Humanism and Democratic Humanism is defined by one of its leading proponents, Corliss Lamont, as "a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion. Modern Humanism has a dual origin, both secular and religious, and these constitute its sub-categories.
Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of 18th century enlightenment rationalism and 19th century freethought. Many secular groups, such as the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism and the American Rationalist Federation, and many otherwise unaffiliated academic philosophers and scientists, advocate this philosophy.
Religious Humanism emerged out of Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and Universalism. Today, many Unitarian- Universalist congregations and all Ethical Culture societies describe themselves as humanist in the modern sense.