Life stance

Life stance

Life stance or lifestance refers to a person's relation with what he or she accepts as of ultimate importance, the presuppositions and theory of this, and the commitments and practice of working it out in living.


The term encompasses both religions and alternatives to religion, without discrimination between them. It tries to amend the concern that the lack of non-discriminatory terminology could contribute to a failure to protect the rights of those with a life stance not corresponding to a traditional religion. In particular, the term "non-believer" has sometimes been used to refer to those not associated with traditional religions, misleadingly conveying a lack of convictions equal in depth to those of religious adherents.

A life stance differs from a worldview or a belief system in that the term "life stance" emphasizes a focus on what is of ultimate importance. Life stance differs from eupraxsophy in that the latter typically implies a strictly non-theistic outlook, whereas it is essential that a life stance can be theistic or non-theistic.


A "religion" is a set of beliefs and practices, often centered upon specific supernatural and/or moral claims about reality, the cosmos, and human nature, and often codified as prayer, ritual, and law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction.

In the frame of European religious thought, [Jack Goody as cited in cite web |url= |title=Sacred and Profane - Durkheim's Critics |accessdate=2007-07-10 |format= |work=] religions present a common quality, the "hallmark of patriarchal religious thought": the division of the world in two comprehensive domains, one sacred, the other profane. [Durkheim 1976, p.36 ] Religion is often described as a communal system for the coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth.
Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition, philosophy, rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core belief. Religion is also often described as a "way of life".


Some believe alternatives to religion may include life stances based on atheism, agnosticism, deism, skepticism, freethought, secular humanism or general secularism. Yet others hold the view that any life stance or belief in a moral code is religiousFact|date=June 2008.

Humanism is an example of life stance which some consider to not be religious. Yet the Supreme Court of the United States has on several occasions recognized that a person's moral life stance or philosophy qualifies as equal to religious belief and must be honored and protected under the intent of the Constitution and public law.

Theism and non-theism

Western religions are typically theistic life stances, involving acceptance of a Divine Being. Humanism is an example of a non-theistic, secular life stance, and the term "lifestance" is widely used by Humanists. Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are also life stances that are largely non-theisticFact|date=June 2008.


A life stance is basically:
*An acception of something as being of ultimate importance.
*The presuppositions and theory of this. Roughly, it is the value system or moral code based on the intrinsic value.
*The personal commitments and practice of working it out in living, roughly the lifestyle

What has ultimate importance may be explained by what has intrinsic value, i.e. valuable "in itself" or "for its own sake".

Another suggested definition of life stance is:

"a life stance is a set of interlinked, articulated system of beliefs about life, human nature and our existence connected to norms and values that are derived out of this views" [ [ International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation - Exploring your lifestance] workshop outline by Gea Meijers]


A life stance may be distinguished from general support to a cause by capitalization of the first letter. For instance, the life stance of Humanism is distinguished from humanism generally. [ [ Humanism Unmodified] By Edd Doerr. Published in the "Humanist" (November/December 2002)] Many life stances may contain humanism to a greater or lesser extent as instrumental value in order to fulfil their own chosen intrinsic value(s). However, Humanism regards it as having intrinsic value.

Not all life stances use this orthography.


"Life stance" is a neologism apparently coined within the humanist community. [ Need for a term "Life Stance"] , International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), 1996.] The term was introduced out of a concern that the lack of non-discriminatory terminology could contribute to a failure to protect the rights of those with a life stance not corresponding to a traditional religion.

Values and purposes

Different life stances differ in what they hold as intrinsic values and purposes in life.

For instance, the purpose in Humanism is, in the broadest sense, personality, determined by humans, completely without supernatural influence. For Judaism, on the other hand, it is to serve Godcite book |author=Dan Cohn-Sherbok |title=Judaism: History, Belief, and Practice |publisher=Routledge |year=2003 |pages=512 |isbn=0415236614] and to prepare for the world to comecite book |author=Abraham Joshua Heschel |title=Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations |publisher=Continuum International Publishing Group |year=2005 |isbn=0826408028] "Olam Haba".cite book |author=Wilfred Shuchat |title=The Garden of Eden & the Struggle to Be Human: According to the Midrash Rabbah |publisher=Devora Publishing |year=2006 |pages=584 |isbn=1932687319]

What is held as intrinsic value and purpose may differ substantially between individuals regarding themselves as belonging to the same life stance. However, the table below summarizes what is generally accepted as being the main intrinsic values and purposes of various life stances.

Instrumental values

When having determined what has/have instrinsic value, then there may be an approximation of the instrumental value, and therefore also the whole value, of objects. Such approximations contribute to actions and lifestyle.

Valuation of life stances

Distinguished from what various life stances hold as of intrinsic value, there is also a variation to how people externally value different life stances, especially concerning ones which are not fully followed personally.

Some [ e.g. World Congress of Ethnic Religions - "Worldwide Congress for equal value and respect of traditional religions." [] ] hold that all life stances have the same value.

This valuation may, however, may be on a theory-level and a practice-level. The theory of life stances may be viewed as being of equal value. At the same time, the practice of working it out in living may not. For instance, even the most evil and destructive life stances may be regarded as having equal value when only considering their theory, but, all in all, being of less value when considering also the practice of working them out in living.


A public declaration of principles and intentions of a life stance may be called a manifesto. However, manifestos relating to religious belief are rather referred to as credo, or a holy script if considered to be sacred or of central importance to the religious tradition.


"Life stance overlap" is the concept of life stances having features in common. This may be of various grades:
*"Intrinsic value overlap": Life stances having objects in common that are regarded as having intrinsic value. It can concern both multistic life stances and monistic life stances, since the latter ones may still be regarded as separate life stances by the commitments and presuppositions of it and the theory and practice of working it out in living.
*A more practic overlap, where separate life stances tend to result in common actions and lifestyles.

See also

* Humanism (life stance)


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