Secular Humanism and Statism
The secular humanism movement merits attention because it promotes an overriding, all-encompassing ideology. Because man—not God—is the measure of all things, the secular humanist says, his total environing outlook for the values and interests of human beings is the single primary consideration (see Humanist Manifesto II, 1973). This anti-Christian form of humanism “sees itself as pointing the way to an ideal society” (Packer and Howard, 1985, p. 25) by shaping religion to fit the subjective, natural needs of humans. In this sense, humanism is a religion, and the Supreme Court defined it as such in 1961 (Torcaso v. Watkins, 1961; the word “religion” or “religious” occurs 28 times in the first Manifesto, 1933). The more closely one examines secular humanism the more one finds stark inconsistency and frightening practical implications.
A prime example is the secular humanist’s position on the state as it relates to personal freedom. Inherent in humanism is the idea that humanity is free to determine its own values (see Geisler, 1999, p. 342). Because a democracy is the highest collective voice of mankind, humanists apportion extreme power to the democratic state. In the third major coalition treatise, the then-Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism’s A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980), we read:
As democratic secularists, we consistently defend the ideal of freedom, not only freedom of conscience and belief from those ecclesiastical, political, and economic interests that seek to repress them, but genuine political liberty, democratic decision making based upon majority rule, and respect for minority rights and rule of law. We stand not only for freedom from religious control but for freedom from jingoistic government control as well.... [I]ndividuals and groups should be able to compete in the marketplace, organize free trade unions, and carry on their occupations and careers without undue interference by centralized political control. The right to private property is a human right without which other rights are nugatory. Where it is necessary to limit any of these rights in a democracy, the limitation should be justified in terms of its consequences in strengthening the entire structure of human rights (emp. added).
Furthermore, “Any effort to impose an exclusive conception of Truth, Piety, Virtue, or Justice upon the whole of society is a violation of free inquiry.” The idyllic democratic government which does only the will of the people while avoiding imposition is appealing, and humanists base its conception on their optimistic perception of each man as generally good, possessing the potential to solve all of his problems, and doing what he sees fit, so long as it encroaches on no rights of others (see A Secular..., 1980; Waggoner, 1987; Geisler, 1999, p. 339) (whether the humanist conception of humanity is scriptural is for another article). Therefore, the humanistic hope (and assumption) is that the majority of humans always will choose wisely, and freedom will reign more pervasively and more often.
However, the logical, practical fruit of humanism is deceptively tyrannical. The 13th affirmation of the first Manifesto reveals that humanists are the sole regulators of “[t]he intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life...” (1933). The 14th affirmation gives insight concerning how this revolution might be accomplished: “The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted” (1933). The 1980 Declaration unveils democracy as the humanists’ vehicle for expunging religion from society, and establishing humanism as the world religion. Waggoner wrote: “The purpose and program of humanism is to evaluate, transform, control, and direct all associations and institutions. The state is the means by which such is accomplished—however, whenever, wherever, and in whatever areas the state may choose” (1988). The question of whether secular humanism is succeeding has been discussed (see Graham, 2005).
Shadia B. Drury wrote for the Council for Secular Humanism: “[C]onservatives are nostalgic for traditional societies in which the individual was buffered from the terrifying power of the state by ‘intermediate institutions’ such as the family and the church” (2007). Her implication is that, where the state is empowered by the majority of humans, it should possess unlimited authority over the family and even may (probably should!) eradicate the religious establishment. In effect, the state may impose its standard of truth, justice and virtue as long as the majority has elected the decision-making officials. Such is a democratic twist on statism: contemporary rulers may determine the relative value of laws. Consequently, the humanists’ prized “right to property,” “right to privacy,” and other freedoms may be stripped anytime the majority elects officials who desire to appropriate private property as asset to the humanistic government. Thereby secular humanism contradicts itself.
Secular humanists regret that “in communist countries, the power of the state is being used to impose an ideological doctrine on the society, without tolerating the expression of dissenting or heretical views” (A Secular..., 1980). They are saddened by the Holocaust (Humanist Manifesto II, 1973). They lament instances when democratic societies have repressed “free sexual expression” via perversions such as homosexuality (Humanist Manifesto II, 1973; cf. Miller and Harrub, 2004).
Upon what basis does the humanist decry a democratic government’s imposition upon personal freedom? The self-appointed “democratic humanists” promote “a socialized and cooperative economic order,” but in giving primacy to the secular (not spiritual) democratic state, they have allowed for any amount of tyranny.
A CONCLUDING CONTRAST
Secular humanism is not the only form of humanism. While there are non-theistic forms of Christian humanism (see “Welcome to...,” 2006), we may label as “Christian humanist” the follower of Christ who believes that a relationship with God is the only means to authentic human fulfillment. In so believing, the Christian attaches great value to humanity (both physical and spiritual parts), because God does (Genesis 1:26ff; Matthew 16:26; cf. Harrub, 2002). A Christian humanist suggests that man arose, not through random naturalistic processes, but through a special creation by an intelligent Designer. Consequently, the Christian humanist views human life as intrinsically valuable, and sees the only possibility for humanity to be truly fulfilled and saved eternally in terms of a relationship with Christ, which is prescribed in the Word of God. Men need divine guidance (Jeremiah 10:23). Christian humanists insist that access to the transcendent and the “abundant life” is available only through a biblical, theistic worldview (John 10:10; 14:6).
The Christian humanist’s biblical worldview includes a sensible approach to the government, which Paul addressed (Romans 13:1-5). The Christian humanist submits to the government, pays his taxes (Matthew 22:21), and strives to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). However, the Bible teaches that governmental power is limited (Luke 20:25). The Christian will not allow obedience to manmade laws to override his devotion to the law of God (Acts 5:29).
Drury, Shadia B. (2007), “‘Judicial Activism’ and the Conservative Revolution,” Council for Secular Humanism, [On-line], URL: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page= sbdrury_26_3.
Geisler, Norman (1999), Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Graham, Adam (2005), “The Church and Statism,” [On-line], URL: http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/6115.html.
Harrub, Brad (2002), “The Inherent Value of Human Life,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/132.
Humanist Manifesto I (1933), American Humanist Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.americanhumanist.org/about/manifesto1.html.
Humanist Manifesto II (1973), American Humanist Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.americanhumanist.org/about/manifesto2.php.
Miller, Dave and Brad Harrub (2004), “An Investigation of the Biblical Evidence Against Homosexuality,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2577.
Packer, J. I. and Thomas Howard (1985), Christianity: The True Humanism (Waco, TX: Word Books).
A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980), New Jersey Humanist Network, [On-line], URL: http://www.njhn.org/humanism_info/declaration.html.
Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), [On-line], URL: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol= 367&invol=488.
Waggoner, Robert (1987), “Insights into Humanism,” [On-line], URL: http://www.biblicaltheism.com/insighthuman.htm#_ftn18.
Waggoner, Robert (1988), “The Statist Face of Humanism,” [On-line], URL: http://biblicaltheism.com/statistface.htm#_ftn3.
“Welcome to the Christian Humanist” (2006), The Christian Humanist, [On-line], URL: http://christianhumanist.net/default.aspx.