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Life stance


A person's life stance, or lifestance, is their relation with what they accept as being of ultimate importance. It involves the presuppositions and theories upon which such a stance could be made, a belief system, and a commitment to potentially working it out in one's life.

It connotes an integrated perspective on reality as a whole and how to assign valuations, thus being a concept similar or equivalent to that of a worldview; with the latter word (derived from the German "Weltanschauung") being generally a more common and comprehensive term. Like the term "worldview", the term "life stance" is intended to be a shared label encompassing both religious perspectives (for instance: "a Buddhist life stance" or "a Christian life stance" or "a Pagan life stance"), as well as non-religious spiritual or philosophical alternatives (for instance: "a humanist life stance" or "a personist life stance" or "a Deep Ecology life stance"), without discrimination in favour of any.

Humanists interested in educational matters apparently coined the neologism life stance in the mid-1970s; Harry Stopes-Roe of the Rationalist Press Association and British Humanist Association developed the concept originally in that context. The term originally arose in the context of debates over the controversial content of the City of Birmingham's Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education, 1975. That document referred to "non-religious stances for living". According to Barnes:

It was the first syllabus to abandon the aim of Christian nurture and to embrace a multi-faith, phenomenological model of religious education; and it was also the first syllabus to require a systematic study of non-religious 'stances for living', such as Humanism, and for such study to begin in the primary school.



  • Barnes, L. Philip (2008). "The 2007 Birmingham Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education: a new direction for statutory religious education in England and Wales", Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 29 (1), April, pp. 75–83.
  • British Humanist Association (1975). Objective, fair and balanced: a new law for religion in education. London: BHA.
  • Cooke, Bill (2003). The Blasphemy Depot: a hundred years of the Rationalist Press Association. London: RPA.
  • Cox, E. (1975). "Principles behind Syllabus Making", Learning for Living, Vol. 4 (4), p. 132.
  • Fowler, Jeaneane D (1999). Humanism: beliefs and practices, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Greer, J.E. (1985). "Edwin Cox and Religious Education", British Journal of Religious Education, Vol. 8 (1), pp. 13–19 [1].
  • Hull, John (1984). Studies in Religion and Education, London: Falmer.
  • Kurtz, Paul et al. (ed) (1989). Building a world community: humanism in the 21st century, Prometheus Books, pp. 166–
  • Slotte, Pamela (2008). "Waving the ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief’ Card, or Playing It Safe: Religious Instruction in the Cases of Norway and Finland", Religion and Human Rights Vol. 3 (1), March, pp. 33–69.[2].
  • Stopes-Roe, H[arry].V. (1976). "The concept of a 'life stance' in education." Learning for living, Vol. 16 (1), Autumn, pp. 25–28.
  • Stopes-Roe, Harry (1983). "Moral Practice and Ultimate Reality", Journal of Moral Education, Vol. 12 (2), pp. 81–91.
  • Stopes-Roe, Harry (1987). "Humanism as a life stance", Free Inquiry, Vol. 8 (1), Winter 1987/88, pp. 7–9, 56.
  • Stopes-Roe (1988a), "Humanism as a life stance", New Humanist, Vol. 103, (2) October, pp. 19–21.
  • Stopes-Roe, Harry (1988b). "Controversy: In defence of a life stance", New Humanist, Vol. 103 (4), December, pp. 8–9.
  • Stopes-Roe, Harry (1996). "The Presuppositions of Dialogue: a fair vocabulary." Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, Ethics and Society, Vol. 1 (2), Summer/Fall, pp. 9–15.
  • Stopes-Roe, Harry (2007). "Life stance", in Flynn, Tom (ed.). The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Amherst, New York: Prometheus, pp. 506–507.
  • Walter, Nicolas (1988a). "Rationally speaking: against Humanism as a life stance." New Humanist, Vol. 103 (3), October, p. 4.
  • Walter, Nicolas (1988b). "Rationally speaking: what kind of humanists?", New Humanist, Vol. 103 (4), December, p. 4.
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