By Mike Willis
This entire issue of Guardian of Truth is devoted to a study of humanism. Most of our readers probably have heard very little, if any, about humanism and never read the Humanist Manifesto I or II or A Secular Humanist Declaration. Most probably imagine that humanism is a philosophy that is studied only by a few “eggheads” in some university somewhere. While it may be true that the study of humanism is rather limited, the doctrinal conclusions of the philosophy of humanism are affecting various areas of our lives.
The basic tenets of humanism arc as follows:
1. It affirms that the universe is self-existent and denies that it was created. Thus, it affirms the eternity of matter and denies the existence of God and His word of creation.
2. It affirms that man has evolved by purely natural means. This means that they hold that God had nothing to do with bringing man into being.
3. It affirms that man is totally physical, thus denying that man has a spirit or soul.
4. It affirms that all religion is the result of social evolution.
5. It denies that God is the ultimate good, thus denying that men do either that which is really (objectively) wrong or that which is really (objectively) right.
6. It affirms that the ultimate end of man’s life is to be found in the here and now. Humanism rejects Heaven; it denies there is a Hell.
7. “Worship” of and prayer to God is rejected. Man should rather use his time in seeking to promote social well-being.
8. It affirms that man must learn to depend upon science and must discourage hopes of Heaven (which involve wishful thinking).
9. It affirms that all religious institutions – thus, including the church for which Jesus died must be “reconstituted” (changed).
10. It holds that man alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams, thus. holding that God has nothing whatsoever to do with it.(1)
Most of us have long ago decided that there is a God who created the world, who revealed His will to mankind in the Bible. We believe that the Bible, as the revelation from God, is authoritative in our lives. We have begun our life as a Christian and are seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. Why would I want to use my time learning about some philosophy of little interest to me?
The first reason why I should want to be concerned about humanism is its influence on my life. Your life and mine are touched by the influences of infidelity which are manifest in humanism. Secondly, I need an understanding of humanism to understand why the unbelieving world believes what it believes. I must understand the thinking of the unbeliever to some extent in order to reach him with the gospel of Christ.
To demonstrate the influences which infidelity is having on our lives, I would like to relate some of the modern concepts held by the American populace and how these concepts are rooted in the philosophy of humanism, whether perceived or not by those who hold them.
Concepts Regarding Religion
Humanism believes that God was a concept invented by man in coping with a world which he did not understand.(2) Religion was developed over a period of time in various stages until it evolved into its present forms. Julian Huxley wrote of the development of religion stating that “the main and most essential steps appear to have been, first, the personification of the powers revered and religiously feared as brooding over human destiny; then the progressive unification of these powers, resulting in the substitution of few gods for innumerable spirits; and finally the fading or fusing of the several gods into one God”(3) This is the concept of religion which is presented in most state supported university classes on “comparative religion.”(4) The results of this concept of religion are: (1) Religion was invented by man instead of being revealed to us by God; (2) One religion is just as good as another; (3) There is no one true religion.
As these ideas have become generally accepted, we are seeing attitudes develop in the general populace. Here are some of those attitudes for us to consider:
1. “Religion is something to be tolerated.” It is a part of man’s past heritage which is no longer useful or relevant to man’s needs.(5)
2. “Religion is viewed as useless.” “First, religion is considered subordinate and even useless to science; hence it is to be ignored as a possible source of knowledge . . . Second, when the fears and hopes of man which give rise to religion have been, respectively, allayed and fulfilled, religion is rendered useless and vanishes.”(6)
3. “Religion is a display of man’s weakness.” It is viewed as a crutch on which emotionally weak people must lean.
4. “Religion is a hindrance to social progress.” John Dewey, who signed the Humanist Manifesto I and whose influence in education is extensive, wrote, “. . . the assumption that only supernatural agencies can give control is a sure method of retarding this effort [of social betterment].”(7) To have social progress, religion must either be eliminated or completely revamped. Karl Marx viewed religion as the opiate of an oppressed people. He wrote, “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.”(8) Based on Marxist thought, Communist countries have systematically sought to abolish religion.
5. “Religion is communion with nature.” Sometimes our friends emphasize that they can be just as religious in a boat on a lake as you can in attending worship. Religion is just as religious without God as with Him.(9)
6. “One must not be dogmatic in religion.” Since all religions are the inventions of man, those who make dogmatic statements affirming that theirs is the only true religion are narrow-minded, bigoted, and to be pitied. [Christians have been influenced by the spirit of this age as well as others. Many churches no longer appreciate sermons on the one true church or which imply that only those who have believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, confessed their faith in Christ and been immersed in water for the remission of sins are the “only Christians.”] Tolerance should be exercised toward all religions.
Brethren, watch how religion is being portrayed on television to see the influence of infidelity. The preachers portrayed in television programing are ungodly and immoral, unable to contribute anything to cope with the needs of the people, and useful only for weddings and funerals. What part does church attendance have in our lives, based on the portrayal of television, the newspapers, and other forms of public media? The influences of humanism and The relative approach to ethics is the approach used in the television programs, and movies. These concepts are being accepted by many who have no formal contact with humanism.
Concept Toward The Universe
The humanist concept of the universe is also pervading our society. The humanist deny any supernatural origin or providential direction of the world. Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.(10)
Quoted . . .
“Most journalists are simply blind to religion. They think it’s somehow slightly embarrassing, a holdover from the Dark Ages. . . . something only ignorant’~and backward people really believe in. This is not necessarily a conscious judgment on their part. It’s just part of their general world view . . . in which religion is seen as an aberrant phenomenon.”
– Robert Bellah, professor of sociology, University of California, Berkeley, quoted by David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times, Dec. 28, 1983.
We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural . . . . But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species.(11)
This concept of the universe has also led to some general attitudes shared by many.
1. “The world originated through evolutionary processes.” Atheistic evolution posits that matter is eternal and that the world has evolved into its present form by chance and the survival of the fittest. This idea is taught as fact in most schools, colleges, and universities. Television programs of a scientific nature present evolution as fact. The humanists who preach tolerance for other points of view and academic freedom are intolerant of creationism and refuse to allow a two-model approach to be taught in the public schools.
2. “Man is only a little more highly developed animal.” Tied with this concept is the belief that man’s existence ends with death. Man’s place in relation to the rest of nature is judged superior only on the personal evaluation of the scientists that he is the most highly developed animal of all creation. (What standard is used to form this judgment has never been revealed.) Consequently, man should not worry about an afterlife.
3. “Miracles have never occurred.” The miracles of creation, those associated with the life of Jesus, and otherwise recorded in the Bible are discarded and disbelieved because they are contrary to the presupposition that there is no God to cause them. Miracles do not occur today; consequently, we have no reason to believe that they occurred in the past.(12)
4. “There is no need to pray.” “Why should one pray to a God who does not exist? Why should one pray to a God who does not intervene in the affairs of men? Rather, one should get up off his knees and do something to change his situation in life.” As this attitude has spread in our society, prayers have changed. Even in churches, Christians are very careful in how they pray for the sick. Why should one pray for rain when he can find out on the six o’clock news whether or not it will rain tomorrow? Surveys have indicated that even preachers are spending little time in prayer.
The concepts of humanists have infiltrated every level of our society, even though many who hold these points of view have had no formal contact with humanism.
The reason that you should be concerned about humanism should be more apparent to you now than at the beginning of this article. Humanism is influencing the world around us. In order to understand why our world is now accepting homosexuality as an acceptable form of sexual expression, abortion on demand, withholding food and water from handicapped infants, defending the pornographers’ right to distribute his wares, and other things which Christians understand to be wrong and which our government formerly disapproved, a person must understand the fundamental doctrines of humanism. To help enlighten us on this subject. This special issue on humanism is presented. I commend it to you.
2. Humanism contends that instead of the gods creating the cosmos, the cosmos, in the individualized form of human beings giving rein to their imagination, created the gods” (Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, p. 145).
5. Today, God can no longer be considered as the controller of the universe in any but a Pickwickian sense. The god hypothesis is no longer of any pragmatic value for the interpretation or comprehension of nature, and indeed often stands in the way of better and truer interpretation. Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire Cat” (Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation, pp. 58-59).
9. The foregoing survey of the field of philosophy of religion … does nevertheless very clearly reveal a tendency to dispense with God as the goal of religion and the end of life” (Fulton Sheen, Religion Without God p. 58).
10. (Note: Corresponding footnote number not found in original article) Humanist Manifesto II, pp. 17-18; cf. Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, p. 13.
11. (Note: Corresponding footnote number not found in original article) Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics, p. 26.
12. (Note: Corresponding footnote number not found in original article) John A.T. Robinson, Honest To God, p, 114.
13. (Note: Corresponding footnote number not found in original article) The Scriptures teach that one should seek fulfillment in life, but this fulfillment is found in “fearing God and keeping His commandments (Eccl. 12:13-14).
12. This same kind of reasoning would eliminate belief in evolution. We never see a “big bang” bring a world into existence. Why should we believe it happened in the past? We never see an evolution from one kind to another. Why should we believe that occurred in the past? The premise of uniformitarianism which denies miracles also undermines belief in evolution, if consistently applied.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 13, pp. 385, 394-395, 411
July 5, 1984