The Voice of Secular Humanism
With this article we initiate a series on the “isms” or ideologies which fill our world.
“Each human being has special value — his thoughts, yearnings, and aspirations are significant.”
What Christian could or would argue with that? From the Renaissance on, many people, Christians among them, have called themselves, or have been described as, “humanists.” They emphasized human dignity, not apart from God, but as deriving from mankind’s having been created in the image of God.
But secular humanism is a form of humanism characterized completely by a naturalistic world-view. Religion and God are irrelevant to the life and views of the secular humanist. His creed is that of the Greek philosopher Protagoras, “Man is the measure of all things.” Consequently, there is nothing and no one greater or more significant than humans. In this philosophy, “MAN” has displaced God. “Humanism is the belief that man shapes his own destiny. It is a constructive philosophy, a non-Christian religion, a way of life” (Quoted from the Humanist Membership brochure, “What is Humanism?”). Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975) defined humanism as follows: “I use the word ‘humanist’ to mean someone who believes that man is just as much a natural phenomena (sic) as an animal or plant; that his body, mind, and soul were not supernaturally created but are products of evolution, and that he is not under the control or guidance of any supernatural being or beings but has to rely on himself and his own powers.”
The first Humanist Manifesto (1933) was signed by 34 philosophers and thinkers, among them 17 liberal clergymen. It declared that science and new conditions required that religion evolve in a new, humanist direction and affirmed that the universe is “self-existing and not created” and that humans evolved as part of nature.
The Humanist Manifesto II (1973) was signed by 114 endorsers, later joined by 148 others, all of whom held influential positions in education, religion, government, and industry. It took a wholly naturalistic position, stating that “we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species” and “promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful.” As far as the progress and future of the human race were concerned, it added, “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”
All this would seem irrelevant to the child of God, and would be of interest only from an historical viewpoint, if it were not true that for all human beings — saved or not — beliefs affect behavior; creed does influence conduct. In their 1979 book, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” Dr. C. Everett Koop and Dr. Francis Schaeffer predicted that things considered unthinkable in the seventies would be quite thinkable in the nineties because “the consensus of our society no longer rests on a Judeo-Christian base, but rather on a humanistic one.
Their predictions were, as the British are wont to say, “spot on.” Since humanists view people as products of chance, not creations of God, they reject all thought of transcendent, divine standards. As far as individual behavior is concerned, Manifesto II insists that any idea of a divine law be renounced. “Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction.” Since there is no heaven or hell, “we strive for the good life here and now.” Among other things, this good life means that “the right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized.” It is wrong to “prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults.” As a general rule, tolerance is demanded for all sorts of behavior once considered immoral or even illegal. “Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they declare.”
These destructive philosophies have thoroughly permeated the educational system of many nations. They have become the accepted beliefs of legions of educators and the imbibed values of countless students. John Dewey, who, along with like-minded evolutionists, founded the American Humanist Association in 1933, and was its first president, was also the architect of American public education. He believed that morality was not based on the changeless principles of an eternal God, but was, rather, subject to the remorseless law of evolution. Therefore, ethicality itself was constantly evolving. He realized the importance of planting humanist thinking into young minds if future generations were to be free from the “restraints” of Biblical morality. Half a century later, those goals and methods remained unchanged, for in 1983 the official “American Humanist” magazine said, “The battle for mankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizing of a new faith … the classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between … the rotting corpse of Christianity and the new faith of humanism.” An equally alarming statement was made by Charles Francis Potter, author of a book titled, “Humanism: A New Religion,” and a signer of the Humanist Manifesto:
“Education is the most powerful ally of Humanism… What can the theistic Sunday Schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”
What can we do indeed? As Christianity becomes increasingly marginalized, the numbers subscribing to the “new” morality seem to increase dramatically. When we try to take the Gospel to our neighbors, we find that they have almost unconsciously absorbed the tenets of humanism without their even necessarily knowing the word, or thinking to describe themselves as humanists. Parents and Sunday School teachers constantly note with deep concern the effects that such philosophies, promulgated by the media, have on young minds. In contrast to the humanist and his moral “freedom,” Christians are viewed as Puritanical and reactionary. Self-reliant modern man looks on the age-old image of the bowed, prayerful believer who lives a life of dependence on his God, with mingled pity, scorn, and amusement. The Biblical teaching of a transcendent God, to whom the creature is accountable, is considered little more than atavistic mythology.
But none of this is new or unique to our generation. Centuries ago, the Apostle Paul faced similar destructive philosophies. He knew their origin: they were part of Satan’s “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). He did not overlook their power, and the danger they posed: “Beware lest any man spoil you (take you captive) through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). And he reminded us of the great resource we have as believers: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4,5).
In Joshua 6, the imposing fortress of Jericho fell, not to a self-made military officer, but to the humble “servant of the Lord” who said, “What saith my Lord unto His servant?” The glacial pride and self-importance of Nebuchadnezzar melted before the dealings of the God of Heaven. The self-reliant Belshazzar learned, in a painful fashion, that he was merely a mortal man, and that his disdain for the living God had only led to his own destruction.
Guided by unerring truth from the Scriptures, the child of God knows that man is not supreme; GOD is. The believer’s cosmos, his world, his life do not center around himself, but around Christ. The true understanding of human worth — regardless of whether the individual is healthy or frail or a fetus — is grasped alone by those who realize the value of each person to God. And the display of valuing human worth is never more clearly shown than when a believer, Good Samaritan-like, is inspired by Divine love to alleviate the present and eternal misery of a fellow human being.
Throughout history, other philosophies have risen, been fervently embraced by natural man and stridently proclaimed by unbelievers as God-eliminating truth. They have thrown themselves furiously against the bulwark of the Word of God, and been undone by their own folly, buried, despite the ranting of their proponents, like Shelley’s Ozymandias, beneath the desert sand. Although humanism will likely survive to the last days, and be the main plank in the political platform of the beast of Rev. 13:1-8, it and he will be brought to their utter and eternal destruction by the King of kings and Lord of lords. “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”