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Humanistisch Historisch Centrum Bronnen Kernteksten humanisme Articles by J.P. van Praag (1911-1981)

Articles by J.P. van Praag (1911-1981)

Van Praag grew up in a modern secular Jewish and socialist environment. He studied Dutch literature, philosophy and history and became a teacher in 1938 at the Municipal Lyceum in Dordrecht. He was active, including as president, in a number of pre-war pacifist and socialist associations, concentrating mainly on peace-related issues and non violent resistance. 

After World War II he played a prominent role in establishing the Dutch Humanist Association. He was its chairman from 1946 to 1969. The two main goals were: 

  • The creation of a life stance shelter for churchless people who were seeking meaning in life as religion declined and wanted to make people morally resilient. 
  • The emancipation struggle of unchurched people for a full place in the areas of society besides the religious people.

His pioneering book entitled “Modern Humanism: A Renaissance” was published in 1947, which he wrote during a period in hiding. This was the first book in the Netherlands, which was based on a modern secular humanist worldview. He argues for a radical renewal of moral life in the Netherlands, in particular among the unchurched. 


Known as the “father” of Dutch humanism, he was responsible for developing the theory of humanist counseling in the Netherlands. In 1946 he was one of the founding fathers of the Dutch Humanist Union 'Humanistisch Verbond' and acted as its chairman from 1947 untill 1969. Van Praag became one of the first professors in Humanistics in University of Leiden (1964-1979). On international level, he played a major role in the founding of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and was its chairman from inception in 1952 until 1975. 


The following texts are related to his main subjects on humanism:  to oppose indifference and moral emptiness and to encourage solidarity and human resilience as fundamentals for a democratic constitutional state.


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