In numerous posts here I have argued for the religious nature of secular humanism. Of course to do so unleashes the ire and venom of aggrieved secularists. As they go out of their way to attack religion, it of course does not look too good if it can be shown that they in fact are just as religious, indeed just as fundamentalist, as any theist. But religious they are, and some of the more honest of the secularists have been admitting it all along.
Indeed, in the early days the secular humanists made no attempt to disguise their religiosity. One person who should know is David Noebel. He has been following this issue for decades, and has had plenty of debates and interaction with the secularists. His many publications have ably documented this religious aspect of humanism.
In a recent article for Christian Worldview Network (May 17, 2007), he lays out some of this documentation. It is worth summarising some of this information here. He demonstrates that for well over a century, the humanists have both been declaring war against religion – especially Christianity – while also seeking to set themselves up as an alternative worldview and religion.
As far back as 1893 “Thomas Huxley declared war on God and determined to ‘overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity.’ Huxley stated his goal as the replacement of the Christian worldview with what he termed ‘the church scientific.’ Huxley’s science was Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection. A generation or so later Thomas Huxley’s grandson, Julian Huxley, former president of the British Humanist Association, took up the task to ‘develop a scientific religion’ which he termed ‘evolutionary humanism.’ It was to be a secular religion to replace the Christian religion (the goal of Secular Humanism from its inception) and it was to be a religion without divine revelation. Julian Huxley was an atheist like his grandfather.”
He continues, “About the same time John Dewey, another atheist (and socialist), wrote his groundbreaking work entitled A Common Faith published by Yale University Press in 1934. Dewey openly declares that Secular Humanism is ‘a religious faith that shall not be confined to sect, class, or race. Such a faith,’ says Dewey, ‘has always been implicitly the common faith of mankind. It remains to make it explicit and militant.’ Dewey understood the importance of destroying one faith (Christianity) by another faith (Secular Humanism).”
Such quotes can be cited at length. Indeed, Noebel has uncovered numerous such examples of humanists themselves declaring that secularism is indeed a religion. Yet for the most part contemporary humanists deny any religious aspect to their thinking. I have had secularists on this site argue the same with me.
But it seems the cat has finally been let out of the bag: “But the guessing game over whether or not Secular Humanism is a religion can now stop because Secular Humanism’s canon, Free Inquiry magazine, edited by Paul Kurtz, has now admitted that the 1933 Humanist Manifesto was written ‘for the explicit purpose of proclaiming humanism as a new religion.’ (February/March 2007, p. 65) Of course, if that is true, and it most certainly is, then Humanist Manifestos (1973 and 2000) are likewise ‘religious’ because all three proclaim the same religious dogma including atheism, naturalism, evolutionism, ethical relativism, etc. In fact, when Paul Kurtz wrote the preface to Humanist Manifesto I and II (Prometheus Books) he stated, ‘Humanism is a philosophical, religious, and moral point of view’.”
Noebel offers some other interesting facts: “A number of years ago Paul Kurtz was asked the question about whether or not Secular Humanism was a religion. His answer: ‘The organized humanist movement in America is put in a quandary, for the Fellowship of Religious Humanists, the American Ethical Union, and the Society of Humanistic Judaism consider themselves to be religious. Even the American Humanist Association has a religious tax exemption.’ What Kurtz failed to mention was the American Humanist Association was founded ‘as a church.’ One can verify that fact by simply calling the Internal Revenue Service U. S. Department of the Treasury (1-877-829-5500) and ask the staff for the current status and background of the American Humanist Association located at 1777 T Street in Washington, D. C.”
So what is the big deal about all this? The real issue is this: right now Christianity is excluded from the public school system in America, while humanism is not. If it can be clearly shown that humanism is also a religion, then it too should be banned from public education. Says Noebel:
“Secular Humanism is just as religious as Christianity! Both have a fish as their religious symbol and yet this is one point the Humanists continue to deny else they too will be eradicated from the public schools, and their agenda to indoctrinate the next generation … will come to a crashing halt. The Secular Humanist’s sex education, pro-homosexual programs have been a big-bertha weapon in their quiver to destroy Christian morality. Their other major weapon has been Darwinian evolution, which agrees with Stephen Hawking that the human race is ‘a chemical scum on a moderate-size planet’.”
Thus it was nice of Kurtz to finally spill the beans. Now maybe we can see a real level playing field, at least in the realm of education. If Christianity is religious and therefore to be driven from public education, so too should secular humanism.
23 Replies to “Secular Religion”
Bill, Does Pantheism come into Evolutionary Humanism?
But Bill, the concept of “Separation of Church and State” really means “Christianity and State”. With multiculturalism and all that pc stauff, the only thing excluded (separated) is Christianity.
Although it is good to bring up, it is not new. Anyone who argues that humanism is not religious is neither naive nor ignorant but, rather, deliberately denying the obvious and proven.
There may well be a connection there for some. Consider some New Agers for example.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Surely you need to define what you mean by “religion” before assigning that term to any particular philosophy.
In Australia, the definition of the term is enshrined in law based on the decision of the High Court in the “Scientology case” of 1983:
Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner of Pay-roll Tax (Vict.) 1983 154 CLR 120  HCA 40 (27 October 1983)
The Court defined the most important feature of a religion as “belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing or Principle”.
I think most sensible people would agree that definition, even in the USA, irrespective of what the US IRS may allow for tax purposes.
And, in any case, this has nothing to do with the teaching of science in schools. You don’t need to be an atheist or humanist to accept the scientific findings about evolution. In fact most mainstream religious denominations now accept evolution as fact.
Alan Simpson, Queensland
Alan, a couple of minor points:
Some will argue that your faith in unseen cosmological evolution, abiogenesis, and biological evolution is as superstitious as any other belief about the origin of the world. The fact that they inform and form a persons worldview and behaviour is what makes it ‘religious’.
If the IRS position is not definitive, then I suppose the ATO position would not be worth mentioning by you either.
And is ‘sensible people’ defined as ‘those who agree with your definition’ or is there some other criteria for selecting who is ‘sensible’ or not?
Perhaps you or Bill might share your own definition of religion. Dictionary definitions invariably define it using words like “belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.” I’m quite sure most people would agree that the supernatural element is fundamental to religion (Collingwood supporters possibly excepted).
As for the furphy that science, particularly evolutionary science, is a form of religion, it needs to be stated once again that science is based on observable evidence. Cosmological evolution can be witnessed today as new stars form, and the process of stellar evolution is very well understood. Similarly, genome science has demonstrated indisputably that humans evolved from primates. There is overwhelming physical evidence supporting evolution. If there wasn’t, why have so many mainstream churches agreed that evolution is fact?
Alan Simpson, Brisbane
“Now maybe we can see a real level playing field, at least in the realm of education. If Christianity is religious and therefore to be driven from public education, so too should secular humanism.”
Only a Christian would think that the world has, or has ever been, a level playing field. If liberal humanists behave at times as if they too believe in a level playing field it only shows the Christian roots of their beliefs.
The fact is neither yourself nor the humanists are fighting for a level playing field – you are fighting for what you believe in. Unfortunately what one believes will necessarily at times exclude the beliefs of others. It’s called life…
Unless of course, you are advocating that we teach children that say, homesexuality is both a sin and a legitimate lifestyle choice.
My point was simply that while Christianity has been banned from the classroom, humanism has had a free reign. But if it is in fact a religion, then maybe it should be pulled as well.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
As for the furphy that evolutionary science is not a religion, it needs to be stated once again that evolution is not that type of science which is based on observable evidence, but rather is a pseudo-science based on a string of untestable hypotheses. Cosmological evolution can be witnessed today as new stars form, but this does not prove a naturalistic origin, rather since the process of stellar evolution remains a mystery, a supernatural origin makes much more sense. Similarly, genome science has demonstrated indisputably that all humans are related which is consistent with the biblical view. Since the physical evidence supporting evolution is still lacking, it is indeed perplexing why so many mainstream churches have agreed that evolution is fact. One can only conclude that their scientific ignorance is matched only by their willingness to compromise with those who wish for their demise.
Ewan McDonald, Victoria
American Heritage Dictionary – http://dictionary.reference.com/cite.html?qh=religion&ia=ahd4
1.a Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
1.b A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
The first definition (in two parts) above is more or less what you are arguing that most people on this planet believe (excepting collingwood supporters, perhaps), and definition 2 is the practise of the same. But according to definition 4 above, your zealous promotion and conscientious adherence to your particular worldview would qualify as a ‘religion’ in a general sense. And if one were (hypothetically) a devotee of Richard Dawkins then they might in that instance also qualify under definition 3 above.
But let’s not argue about the meaning of a word.
The important issue I see in the article that we are all commenting on is: Should one worldview get to exclude all other viewpoints from being heard?
(And obviously, yours is not the only viewpoint or there would be no one here for you to discuss with 🙂
So should one worldview, (even the most popular one) get to exclude all other viewpoints from being heard?
Dear Allan, you seem to imply that only the evolutionist respects facts. This denies that the Bible is rooted in time and space. How does one explain that something, including personality, will and spirit came accidentally out of nothing? The romance of evolution, based as it is on unimaginable facts, looses itself in the mists of time. In Evolution, “Cruelty is as much a part of all that is as noncruelty” (Schaeffer). The Holocaust was a by-product of evolutionary philosophy. So to, to my mind, David Attenborough’s programs have lately become fascinated by cruelty.
David Skinner, UK
Religious intolerance kills again…
A YOUNG love, two ancient religions … a woman dying in a pool of her own blood after a very public stoning. This is the modern Iraq….
Du’a is dead. This young woman, just 17 years old and whose crime was to fall in love, is now lost from this world forever. If this is upsetting, then apologies. But this is the reality of our world, far from political spin, far from the lies of this “peaceful religion” we are force fed whenever racial tensions rise up. It is abhorrent at every level. It must be stopped. Du’a and her boyfriend, whose identity is still not known, had a plan to run away together. Elsewhere the rise in “honour” killings suggests a descent into localised law, indicating it is getting worse rather than better. Maybe it has to before things are finally righted, which gives no comfort.
Evolution is not an alternative to spiritual belief, nor should it be a threat to it. It’s simply what happened, and is supported by overwhelming evidence. Certainly it contradicts the creation story in Genesis read literally but most Christians are able to accommodate that and still retain their faith.
I don’t have a problem with people of faith, even though I personally do not share their beliefs. But I do have a problem with Biblical literalists who persist in their promotion of a young Earth and instant creation, contrary to empirical findings in every branch of science.
I don’t know what you are saying about cruelty. It exists in life irrespective of your worldview. The Bible is full of examples of cruelty sanctioned by God.
Alan Simpson, Qld
I have edited your overly-lengthy comment, as the story is on the public record now, and is hopefully well known.
I agree with you in your outrage over the stoning of this girl. It shows the dark side of militant Islam, and all the more reason why we need to resist it.
I disagree with you if you are implying that all religions are equal, and Christians too routinely stone to death young girls.
While Muslims might find Koranic justification for such activities, none can be found in the New Testament.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Tommy, are you suggesting that we should all live a world, free of all ideology, Christian, Muslim or Humanist? To live like that would mean that human nature is essentially good and that all we have to do is to hit the breeze and follow our instincts, without ever forming any view of existence? Impossible. In such a formless world where there was neither black or white, up or down, right or wrong, truth or untruth, we like the person in a sense deprivation chamber would rapidly go mad. That would surely be an intolerable situation.
David Skinner, Dorset, UK
Dear Alan, even though I am scientifically illiterate I do know that I am fundamentally different from either a machine or animal, I do know the difference between right and wrong and therefore am responsible for my behaviour and I am capable of forming personal relationships. None of this could have happened by chance . As someone once said about those children’s dot to dot drawings; it’s all about how you join the dots up; you can end up with a donkey when in fact it should have been the Mona Lisa. Maybe evolutionists are not putting the evidence together properly? One thing I do know and that is at the end of time the whole of creation will be wrapped up like a carpet and something new will be created. I Corinthians 2:9 says “ What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…. “ will be no accident of time plus chance. The blind cruelty of evolutionary humanism is a result of the theory of the survival of the fittest. The hanging of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg and the judgment of peoples in the Old Testament was as a consequence of a clear eyed need for Justice.
David Skinner Dorset UK
Dear Alan, have a look at http://www.creationontheweb.com for a comprehensive survey not just of biblical belief but also scientific evidences in support of it. If you do, you will find that biblical creation is not as anti-scientific as some lobbyists try to portray.
Dear Bill, at the risk of appearing to be attention seeking, whilst adding to what Dale has offered to Alan, may I also submit the following sites. But may I remind Alan that the greatest discovery a person can make, is not how the universe was formed – even the devil knows that – but the person of Jesus Christ. To spend all one’s time wondering how the Queen planted out the gardens at Buckingham palace, without actually going inside and meeting her personally would be an opportunity lost – maybe forever.
David Skinner Dorset UK
The CMI “What we Believe” page makes the following statement:
“By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.”
That’s not science.
Alan Simpson, Qld
Alan, was that the only part you read?
Naturalistic science says:
“Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”
That’s not empirical science.
Ewan McDonald, Victoria
It is intertesting, evolutionists state that “the evidence for evolution is overwhelming” yet I must be entirely illiterate or perhaps not reading the right books.
I am interested in all this overwhelming evidence, where is it located?
I was always taught that science is not only observable but is capable of being repeated, to observe where one animal is changing to another form would be fantastic.
Dale, of course it was the only part Alan read. Misotheists repeat this like facile argument like a mantra. I answered such nonsense briefly a few years ago.
Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane