The Goal of Humanism

By Mike Willis

As a philosophy, humanism has several goals. Among some of humanism’s positive goals are: (1) freedom in the realm of civil liberties; (2) world peace; (3) elimination of poverty; (4) world unity; etc. These aspirations may be summarized by saying that humanism hopes to make this world “heaven” on earth. Humanists deny life after death and are concentrating their energies on improving this world.

Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.(1)

Man’s most sacred duty, and at the same time his most glorious opportunity, is to promote the maximum fulfilment of the evolutionary process on this earth; and this includes the fullest realization of his own inherent possibilities.(2)

Humanists may be divided into two classes with references to the goals which they hope to achieve in life: (1) egocentric humanists and (2) cultural humanists. The egocentric humanists understand that the greatest goal in life is personal fulfillment and gratification(3); the cultural humanists understand that the greatest goal in life is to improve the society or culture in which we live (in which case the personal whims should be subordinated to the good of society).(4) Cultural humanists look to make earth a utopia.

When death comes, all is over according to humanist philosophy. Man’s personal enjoyments and satisfactions are all behind and there is nothing before him. “Like the little dog Rover,” the humanists teach, “once man is dead, he is dead all over.” If society has not been improved and the utopian life has not been accomplished, man’s chiefest good has failed and his life is ended. There is nothing but the bleakness and darkness of death before him.

However, humanists believe and hope that a utopia can be brought into existence. How is this to be accomplished? Who is going to bring this utopia into existence? Who is man’s “savior”? According to the humanists, man is his own savior.

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.(5)

Heaven is, therefore, not a thing of another world, and is to be sought in this life and it is the task of believers to establish this Heaven, the Kingdom of God, here on earth. Just as there is no Heaven in the beyond, there is also no Hell and no damnation. Similarly, there is no devil but man’s evil lusts and greed. Christ was a man as we are, a prophet and a teacher, and his Eucharist is a mere commemoration meal wherein bread and wine are consumed without any mystic garnishing.(6)

If man is going to accomplish his goals, he is going to have to do it himself. He is going to have to “pull himself up by his own bootstraps.” We can have no confidence in a God providentially directing the course of history. He cannot look forward to some ethereal “heaven.” His only life is here and he alone is in control of it.

How is man to accomplish his goals? What instrument must be used to save mankind? The humanist responds, “Science!”

Humanism, having its ultimate faith in man, believes that human beings possess the power or potentiality of solving their own problems, through reliance primarily upon reasons and scientific method applied with courage and vision.(7)

With faith in the scientific method, humanists have elevated “science” above its legitimate sphere. Gordon H. Clark, renowned philosopher, wrote,

Finally, to show the uselessness of science outside of its own restricted sphere, science cannot determine its own value. No doubt, science enables man to dominate nature. By science bombs are made and cancer may soon be cured. Most people think that bombs and medicine are good to have. But there is no experiment that proves their goodness. They are undoubtedly “good for” something; they are effective means to an end. But can experimentation demonstrate that either the destruction of cities or the extension of life is good?(8)

Humanists believe that science has rather unlimited potential as a means of improving life on this earth.

We believe the scientific method, though imperfect, is still the most reliable way of understanding the world. Hence, we look to the natural, biological, social, and behavioral science for knowledge of the universe and man’s place within it . . . . We are thus opposed in principle to any efforts to censor or limit scientific research without an overriding reason to do so.(9)

If scientists want to experiment with genetic engineering to make all white babies, six feet tall, with blond hair and blue eyes, they should be left free to conduct their experiments. This would be a means of enabling man to reach his highest human potential and to establish the greatest society on earth.

A Christian Response To The Hope of Humanism

Because humanists deny the existence of God and life after death, they have missed the greatest goal of human existence: to please God and to so live as to go to heaven when one dies. Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). Jesus asked, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The chief goal in life is to please God, to live in such a way that Jesus will receive us unto Himself after life is over saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

The goals of humanism, personal self-fulfillment and the improvement of society, are the by-products of faithful obedience to God. By denying the existence of God and disobeying God’s will, humanists make the attainments of their own goals impossible. They imagine that revelation limits man, inhibiting the full exercise of human liberty.

Much of the emphasis in supernaturalist ethics has been negative calling on men continually to deny many of their most wholesome impulses in order to keep their souls pure and undefiled for that life after death which is so very much more important than life before death.(10)

The humanists attitude toward the commandments of God reminds me of the fable of the fish who felt restricted and bound by the banks of the shore. He would look longingly at the green grass on the bank and lament, “If only I was not inhibited and restricted by those banks, I could really be free. ” Soon, he decided that he was going to break out of the restraints imposed on him. He swam round and round the pond, building up his speed, and then darted full speed toward one of the banks. When he flounced out of the water and into the shore, he exclaimed, “Now I am free! ” Of course, he soon discovered that he was not as free as he thought he would be, that he functioned best in water instead of out of it, and that he was only “free” to die outside the water.

In a similar way, God’s restrictions on man are for man’s own good (cf. Deut. 6:24; 10:13). By making our highest goal to fear God and keep His commandments, one finds personal fulfillment and the improvement of society.

Man is personally fulfilled in obeying the commandments of God. Jesus promised to give us life saying, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). He would provide that which would satisfy the longing of men’s souls. “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water -springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14). When man tries to live while denying this need, he will constantly be searching for something to fill it. Whatever he puts in its place will only be temporarily gratifying. That which provides permanent happiness will continue to elude him until he turns to the worship and service of God. Humanism promises what it cannot live! Humanists are like the false teachers in Peter’s day who “promise liberty” but are “servants of corruption” (2 Pet. 2:19).

Can Humanists Create A Utopia?

The humanists who promise that the world can be improved through humanism are promising what they have not and cannot deliver. We do not have to wonder whether or not humanists are able to create their idealized utopia; we can look and see.

Communism is one kind of humanism. We can judge the fruits of humanism and judge for ourselves whether or not humanism has delivered what it promises. Humanism promises personal freedom. Has it delivered? The most repressive governments in existence are those under the influence of humanism. Humanism promises tolerance for other view points. Has it delivered? The governments which give least opportunity to express divergent points of view are humanistic.(11) Humanists promise free inquiry. What have they delivered? The humanist governments limit inquiry more than most others. Humanists promise better educational institutions. What have they delivered? Under the leadership of humanists such as John Dewey, the American educational system has degenerated below the standards of other nations. In humanists controlled countries such as Russia, education is provided only for a limited few.

Humanists promise mature moral decisions by those who accept the principles of humanism. What have they Jelivered? As humanist morality has become more widely accepted in America, we have seen these results: (1) the murder of 1.5 million infants a year in abortion chambers across our land; (2) the acceptance of homosexual relationships as morally upright; (3) social acceptance of many’ sins(12)

; (4) easy divorce and remarriage; (5) increased numbers of child abuse; (6) development of AIDS disease; (7) increase of crime to such an extent that one fears to walk the streets; etc. Humanism promises a utopian society which it cannot deliver!

Man Has A Savior

All is not hopeless, however. Man has a Savior – a Savior who can redeem one from the guilt of his personal sins, who can give a person fulfillment, and who can save society from disaster. The Savior of Man, Jesus Christ, died on Calvary’s cross to redeem mankind, including humanists, from sin. Whatever sins one might have committed can be forgiven through the precious blood of Christ. The one who turns to Christ can find the peace which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7).

Christ makes a better man out of His disciple. The man who lives according to Christ’s word will be a model citizen with reference to his government (Rom. 13:1-7); he will not lead revolutions, burn down buildings, and loot shops. He will be the kind of husband who rules his family with love, showing the same kind of love to his wife as he has for himself (Eph. 5:25). He will raise his children to respect God, His word, civil authorities, his parents, his elders (cf. the book of Proverbs). On the job, the Christian will give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay (Eph. 6:5-6). The Christian employer will pay a fair and honest wage to his employees (Jas. 5:14). As more and more people are converted to Christ, the society will be purified. As righteousness permeates the people, it will exalt the nation (Prov. 14:34). Christianity can produce what humanism promises but has not and cannot produce!

What is more is that Christianity promises life after death with God in heaven! If humanism could produce everything that it promises, it could only produce something as good as Christianity on earth. It has not and cannot produce what it promises, however. Humanism denies the existence of heaven and has nothing in its system that can compare to life with God after death. Christianity’s superiority is seen in that it promises the life which is life indeed here and now and life with God after this life has ended (1 Tim. 4:8).

Let us not be deceived by humanism and its unfounded optimism which promises a utopian society. Experiments in humanism have produced totalitarian governments, reduced human liberties, oppressed divergent views, limited free speech and free press, and produced other social evils. Man’s only hope is in Christ. Paul wrote that Christ “in you” is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). That remains true today. There is no other place to turn. Christ has the words of life (Jn. 6:68). He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). We waste our time in looking elsewhere for life and truth!


1. Humanist Manifesto II, p. 16.

2. Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation, p. 194.

3. Ayn Rand expressed this concept by saying that “man – every man – is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose” (quoted by Norman L. Geisler in Is Man The Measure?, p. 70).

4. Marxist humanists fall into this category. Through the years, Communist countries have thought little of eliminating those who retarded social progress or the good of the state.

5. Humanist Manifesto I, p. 10.

6. Friedrich Engels, Marx and Engels On Religion, pp. 111- 112.

7. Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, p. 13.

8. Gordon H. Clark, The Philosophy of Science and Beliefln God, p. 95.

9. A Secular Humanist Declaration, p. 20.

10. Lamont, op. cit., p. 228.

11. American humanists sought to divorce themselves from their Marxist brothers in A Secular Humanist Declaration. They wrote, “This declaration defends only that form of secular humanism which is explicitly committed to democracy” (p. 7). In the document itself, however, the humanists called for an end to religious oaths and prayers in public facilities, a state sponsored education system to teach the system of values of humanism, and the teaching of only evolution as the explanation of the origin of man (pp. 12,16,20). Corliss Lamont’s book, The Philosophy ofHumanism, contained a “Foreword” which was rather intolerant of the Moral Majority and other dissenting voices. Humanism has not shown itself to be tolerant of divergent views.

12. “It is not clear that people today actually behave in a more sinful way than their ancestors did. What is undeniably different, however, is how they think about their sins. A skewed psychology not only recognizes neurotic guilt, which is real and a perversion of genuine moral sense, but equates all sense of sin with such guilt and defines it as sick. There is no longer the possibility of repentance, because the sin itself is rationalized, even proclaimed virtuous. Repentance is ruled out as a product of neurotic guilt which stifles personal growth. Sins of the flesh, traditionally regarded in Christianity as the least serious because mostly the result of weakness rather than pride, have now been turned into sins of pride. The sinner wears his sin as a badge of honor, boasts of his emancipation from all moral authority, and, in effect, dares God to judge him” (James Hitchcock, What Is Secular Humanism, p. 75).

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 14, pp. 418, 432-434
July 19, 1984