As a Humanist who has long valued the questioning of authority, positive skepticism, and a rational scientific questioning of claims, today's discussion was amazingly familiar and surprising.
Behold my non-Buddhist friends - this is from what is called the Kalama Sutra:
• It is proper to have doubt.
• Do not be lead...
- by reports, traditions, or hearsay;
- by the authority of religious texts;
- by mere logic or inference;
- by considering appearances;
- by the delight in speculative opinions;
- by seeming possibilities;
- by the idea "this is our teacher".
• Know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome, wrong, and bad; then give them up.
• Know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good; then accept them and follow them.
• [Buddha] told the [monks] that a disciple should examine even the [fully enlightened Buddha] himself, so that the disciple might be fully convinced of the true value of the teacher whom he followed.
• Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching.
• Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words.
• Rely not on theory, but on experience.
• Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
• Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
• Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
• Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books.
• Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
• But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
These concepts were presented in the notes passed around, and attributed to http://www.alc.enta.net/kalama.htm.
For Humanist, Skeptic, and Freethinker points of reference, I might offer these few among many:
From the Houston Church of Freethought:
"freethinker, n.: a person who forms his opinions about religion independently of tradition, authority, or established belief."
From the Humanist Manifesto III:
"Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis."
From the Council of Secular Humanism:
"[Secular Humanism is] A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith."
From Skeptic Magazine:
"Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas - no sacred cows allowed."