Secular Humanism is a belief system centered around the placement of man as his own supreme being. It focuses on the independence and autonomy of man. Autonomy means man has the right to make up all rules and ethics to suit himself. The term “Humanism” means an interest in the advancement and wellbeing of man. “Secular” means that the system is not grounded in religion or belief in the supernatural.
Secular Humanism is certainly a worldview that has affects on politics, education, and morality, but the atheists holding to it do not want it categorized as a religion. Secular Humanism was considered a religion for a long time. Editor of the first manifesto and father of modern education John Dewey called Secular Humanism “our common faith”. The first Humanist Manifesto was not ashamed in calling Secular Humanism a religion in 1933. It was the only manifesto until 1973. By that time, a 1961 Supreme Court case had already determined that Secular Humanism should in fact be considered a religion. In the early 1960s there was a push for public schools to be separated from all types of religion. Secular Humanism adjusted by dropping it’s category as a religion. The structure didn’t change, the beliefs didn’t change, but humanism dropped it category of being a religion. Is it a religion? How do we categorize a religion? Is the religion only a system of beliefs it leaves in supernatural powers? If the statement “there is a supernatural” is a religious statement, then its negation, “there are no supernatural powers”, is a religious statement in the same manner. If it is religious to want to involve God in school and politics, then it is religious to eliminate God from school and politics.
Christianity is a religion based on the supremacy of God, while secular humanism is a religion based on the Supremacy of man. Secular humanism begins with the assumption of naturalism, which a priori eliminates any possibility for God. Saying that there is no God is as extreme as a religious statement that you can utter.
Secular humanism is based around 10 key beliefs:
1. Naturalism, also called materialism for physical ism. It is the police that the physical world and nature are all that exist. They believe there is no spirit and no distinction between brain and mind or body and soul.
2. Evolution. They believe that modern man has developed from lower life forms and that our personalities have evolved. They also believe in the continuation of the evolution, that man needs to progress into higher and higher forms. They believe that religion, especially dogmatic ones like Christianity hold back the evolution of man.
3. Man is his own problem solver. For any problems that arise it is up to man alone to solve. This means there is not need for prayer and that no divine intervention is available.
4. Free will. Humanists believe that man has free will. We are free to choose whether we act and behave properly.
5. Morality. All our moral actions affect this life only. We can be moral but the morality goes no further then this earthly plain.
6. Man needs to work towards improving society. Who decides what improvement for society is? I guess we have to go off consensus, the majority vote, or whatever the leaders say.
7. Humanists believe in expressing themselves through art and music; they also believe in the appreciation of nature. They must think there is an interconnectedness between nature, which is man, and nature which is outside of man. This interconnectedness causes a deep appreciation.
8. They believe in peace through world democracy. They’re advocates of a 1 world government. They believe government should revolve around the voice of the people.
9. The believe that science and reason are the only effective methods for knowing truth. Many believe that if something isn’t discoverable by science then it is not to be accepted. For the Humanist, science probably forms the foundation for reason instead of vice versa.
10. They believe in ongoing questioning, learning, and discovery. They are not naive by thinking we have it all figured out by now. They are aware that there are lots of questions they can be asked and answered through science and the study of the physical world.
Through these 10 foundations of secular humanism you can see the presuppositions and motives that drive their atheistic worldview.
There are some true things that Secular Humanism reveals about the human heart and man’s deep longings. First, Humanism recognizes the value of human life. They don’t recognize it enough to call abortion wrong, but they do have a sense of recognition of the basic moral facts. They are aware that life has a purpose, a profound and deep purpose. From this, they believe in morality, in doing good. Some, like Sam Harris, even believe in objective, or absolute, morality. They have a sense of urgency, being aware of how finite this life is, to make a difference. They reveal that man, deep inside, wants to accomplish a deep purpose that is greater, and more profound than himself. But while Secular Humanism reveals these things about the human heart, they, like so many religions, fall short in fulfilling them. They fall short because their worldview fails to account for their existence. In other words, those things that are so important to them couldn’t possibly exist if Secular Humanism were true. I will explain why, in their world view, there ought to be no talk of good, bad, value, purpose, or morality.
To simplify the argument, we can base the debate around question: “Can man be good without God?” The basic premise of Humanism is that man can be good without God. Going beyond that, man can only achieve the greatest good apart from a belief in God.
The Christian response is 3 fold. First, we should stop the question early: “Can man be good?” Second, why won’t they consider belief in God as a viable option? Third, how can good and evil possibly exist given a humanistic, atheistic worldview?
Let me break these 3 down a little bit. Can man be good? Romans 2:14, 15 and Romans chapter 3:10 and 23 give us the true perspective on this question. In Chapter 2 we find out that unbelievers and the unreligious are aware of moral standards. The moral law is written on their hearts. So they generally know what they ought to be doing. Chapter 3 lets us now that, even though people know what to do, they don’t do it. It is a universal law of humanity that we all fall short by disobeying what our instincts and the Word of God tell us to do. Therefore, all people can strive for good, but nobody will achieve it.
The second issue is: why won’t Secular Humanists consider belief in God as an option? The basic presupposition of Secular Humanism is naturalism. Naturalism is the belief that the material world is all that exists and dictates all that happens. See my other blog for more info on refuting naturalism. What about the other arguments for God’s existence? What about the cosmological argument, the moral argument, the teleological argument, the resurrection, prophecy, personal experience? I will eventually have a blog up about all of these, because each argument gives us good reasons to think that God exists. Each argument certainly does more to support its case than the blind presupposition of naturalism- which is defeated in at least 10 ways.
Third, how does the Secular Humanist justify the existence of absolute good and evil in a world that only operates according to natural law? The question is not whether we can do good actions or whether we can recognize morals. The question is whether the existence of morality is consistent in a world without God. I argue that morality could not exist unless an immaterial world with an objective law giver, who is the standard for good, exists. This will have to take another blog to effectively unfold.
To summarize: Secular Humanism is a religious worldview that is impacting our schools and politics unhindered. It makes religious claims against Christianity and against belief in God in general. It seeks to develop the greatest society possible by ruling out the beliefs of the majority of the people. It seeks to be good without God, which is impossible- because we are fallible people, illogical- because it has to reach outside its worldview in order to grasp morality, and a foundationless enterprise- because we have no reason to be good without having absolute purpose and value.