Ethics Of Humanism

Eugene Britnell
Little Rock, Arkansas

The Bible says, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint" (Prov. 29:18, New King James).

Humanism says, "If there is no morality laid up in heaven, by what yardstick will we measure earthly moralities? The answer, of course, is that we should use the same yardstick we use to evaluate any other human artifact: satisfaction of our needs" (Humanist Ethics, p. 138).

The above statements present a clear contrast between Christianity and humanism. One system is based upon belief in God who has revealed the principles by which man is to conduct himself for a successful life here and eternal life hereafter. The other system is subjective, intuitive, hedonistic, and allows every man to become a law unto himself.

I appreciate the privilege of contributing to this special study of humanism and shall endeavor to show the consequences of living without divine revelation and its restraining influence as I discuss with you the ethics of humanism.

Humanism's Version Of Scripture

The contrast mentioned above is seen when we consider what God said to man and what humanism thinks he should have said. In exalting man's freedom and capacity to form his world and to vary it, Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) expressed this faith in man with the famous words he attributes to God in the oration on The Dignity Of Man:

I have given you, Adam, neither a predetermined place nor a particular aspect nor any special prerogatives in order that you may take and possess these through your own decision and choice. The limitations on the nature of other creatures are contained within my prescribed laws. You shall determine your own nature without constraint from any barrier, by means of the freedom to whose power I have entrusted you. I have placed you at the center of the world so that from that point you might see better what is in the world. I have made you neither heavenly nor earthly, neither moral nor immoral so that, like a free and sovereign artificer, you might mold and fashion yourself into that form you yourself shall have chosen (The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 4, p. 70).

But God did not say that! That's what the humanist wishes He had said. Instead, God gave the first human pair revelation and regulation - a standard by which to live.

A Description of Humanism

In order to understand the ethics of humanism, one must understand what the system is.

Humanism, secular, a more or less systematic body of thought or action concerned with merely human interests, as opposed to divine, with the implication that it offers a substitute for the service of a being who is altogether out of this world. It tends to be a protest against religion, which it regards as profoundly inhuman (Encyclopedia Dictionary of Religion, pp. 1734, 1735).

Humanism . . . takes the "death of God" seriously as freeing man once for all from his ancient bondage of whatever has hitherto seemed transcendant or supernatural; it regards man as the summit of the evolutionary process and the sufficient reason of his own existence; and it places upon man the sole responsibility for his betterment and fulfilment. As a matter of fact, the dignitative use of the word "man" is one of the hallmarks of the humanist mode of thought.

In the twentieth century humanism acquires further connotations without abandoning its basic premises. It becomes institutionalized in Communism . . . . It is enunciated as the playform of a group of religious liberals, mostly left-wing Unitarians, who would offer man or humanity as a God-substitute (Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Westminister Press, Philadelphia, p. 157).

Is the growth of modern and contemporary humanism only the fruit of a "tragic misunderstanding"? That is, can it be shown that humanism, instead of being inimical to Christian faith, is actually its corollary and derivative? Is it reasonable to declare that humanism requires and can profit from the correction of biblical and theological insights concerning man? Humanists themselves would be likely to retort that Christian modes of thought represent a continuing threat to their efforts and an outright denial of their beliefs. This is because they view all faith in God as illusory, defeatist and an obstacle to human progress all along the line. Why look to God for what unaided, disenchanted man can accomplish on his own?" (Ibid., pp. 158,159).

An advertisement in the summer, 1983 issue of Free Inquiry (advertising Humanist Manifestos I and 11) was headed: "Secular Humanism Is Under Attack. Find out why religious fundamentalists consider humanism 'America's most dangerous religion."'

We agree that it is. Why? Well, let's judge it by its fruits. First, let us look at their own definition of ethics. To understand what they think, we must understand how they think.

We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life. Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures * Happiness and creative realization of human needs and desires, individually and in shared enjoyment, are continuous themes of humanism. We strive for the good life, here and now (Humanist Manifesto II).

Humanism Is Atheistic

James Curry, president of the American Humanist Association, said in 1969, "Humanism is a polite term for atheism." Corliss Lamont wrote, "Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics that considers all forms of supernaturalism a myth. Humanism is the viewpoint that men have but one life to live and that human happiness is its own justification and needs no sanction or support from supernatural sources: that, in any case: the supernatural does not exist (The Philosophy of Humanism).

We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race. As non-theists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity . . . . But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species . . . . No deity will save us; we must save ourselves (Humanist Manifesto II).

Humanists Are Evolutionists

Having denied the existence of God, they have no alternative. The first three articles of the Humanist Manifesto I state: "Religion humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created. Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process. Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected."

All of this proves again that it is impossible to separate one's concept of origin and destiny from a concept of duty and morality.

Humanism Advocates Immorality

"In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion and divorce should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered 'evil.' Without counteriancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire (Humanist Manifesto II, Article Six).

Humanism and Human Personality

"Religious humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist's social passion" (Humanist Manifesto I, Article Eight).

Notice the emphasis placed on human personality, seekingfulfillment in the here and now, and this explains their social passion. It is hard to read more into this than they suggest. The whole of life must focus on present joy, achievement and passion! This explains why they endorse homosexuality, adultery, pornography, obscenity, abortion, and other degrading practices. What is to hinder? They don't believe there is a God to bring them into judgment. Why not let passions reign and fleshly lusts be gratified? There is no spiritual restraint, for they deny that the human spirit exists? Remember, they believe that man came by evolution,, and need not answer to biblical principles. Bible believers are reminded of the statement, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment" (Eccl. 11:9). A supercilious attitude will not excuse the humanist from that bar of Divine Justice!

Four Additional Fruits of Humanism

"Humanism has also been used to designate the following doctrines:

" (1) Communism, in that it would abolish man's alienation from himself, which is a product of private property and capitalistic society.

"(2) Pragmatism, because of its anthropocentric view which makes man 'the measure of all things.'

"(3) Personalism (also called spiritualism), which affirms man's capacity to contemplate the eternal truths or, in general, to enter into a relationship with transcendent reality.

"(4) Existentialism, which affirms that 'there is no other universe than the human universe, the universe of human subjectivity. . . (The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, p. 72).


It has been established beyond doubt that humanism denies the existence of God, rejects the Bible, tolerates immorality, and advocates such social and moral evils as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and adultery. Why not? Their religion concerns the here and now, allows them to engage in anything which the human body may desire, and destroy anything and everything that would in any way hinder the gratification of their passions.

Let us all remember that the tenets of humanism are embraced and advocated by many religious groups (such as Unitarians), the feminist movements (such as N.O.W.), the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Communist Party. Birds of a feather! We must also remember that humanism is taught in our public schools (This will be covered by another writer.) While the Bible and creation cannot be taught, evolution is taught - and that is the religion of humanism.


"So stand the theses of religious humanism. Though we consider the religious forms and ideas of our fathers no longer adequate, the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind. Man is at last becoming aware that he alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams; that he has within himself the power for its achievement. He must set intelligence and will to the task" (Humanist Manifesto I).

In answer to such a conclusion, we believe that British author Malcolm Muggeridge summed up the fallacy of humanism beautifully when he wrote:

"The most optimistic humanist would hesitate to suggest, in the light of his own or mankind's experience, that he is perfectible; but no such inhibition arises when his extraordinarily credulous scientific mind envisages collective perfectibility.

"Is it often supposed that when people stop believing in God they believe in nothing, but the situation is far more serious. The truth is that when they stop believing in God they believe in anything. With that extraordinary credulity, those who run away from notions like the incarnation are ready to accept without question the possibility of imperfect man creating a perfect society" (HIS Magazine, May, 1973).

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:5,6).

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 13, pp. 389-390, 408
July 5, 1984