By Chris White

It was the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras (490-420 BC) who said “Man is the measure of all things..”.  Secular Humanism is a comprehensive philosophy and worldview which makes man the center of all truth and reality. While some Humanist philosophers would argue the point, Secular Humanism could be properly classified as a religion or cult. While Secular Humanism has none of the sacraments or rituals associated with religion, adherents do reverence and arrange their entire lives around an idea which is to replace a deity.  This was publicly acknowledged when Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black stated in 1960 “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”  Stark and Bainbridge would define Secular Humanism as an “audience cult” in that those defining themselves as Secular Humanists have no official membership requirements and are only loosely affiliated through agreement to a general ideal or philosophy.[1]

Paul Kurtz, author of the Humanist Manifesto II, sums up well the very heart of Secular Humanist thought: “Secular Humanists may be agnostics, atheists, rationalists, or skeptics, but they find insufficient evidence for the claim that some divine purpose exists for the universe.  They reject the idea that God has intervened miraculously in history or revealed himself to a chosen few, or that he can save or redeem sinners.” [2]  But beyond a mere disavowal of the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview, Secular Humanism presents its own program of redemption for human society.

What is that plan?  It is concisely and forcefully presented in Secular Humanism’s clarion-call documents, Humanist Manifesto I and II.  The remainder of my comments are based on the propositions of these documents and so if you would like to view them now go to for the Humanist Manifesto I or for the Humanist Manifesto II.

Personal comments on Humanist Manifesto I 

The numbers of each point correspond to the propositions of the Humanist Manifesto I: 

  1. The universe is self-existing.  Aseity is considered a divine attribute.  What is being said is that the universe is our creator and God.  This impersonal cosmos in some inscrutable way gave birth to humanity.
  2. Man is not a special creation but rather one of the many life forms that resulted from the natural force of evolution.  The largest implication of this is that humans are of equal importance to all other animals and plants that have survived to evolutionary process up to this point.  This always breaks down in practice because it is impossible for men to live as if this is true.
  3. Because man is not especially endowed by a creator but is rather a result of the impersonal work of the cosmos, then he cannot possibly be body and spirit.  He is all body with the sensation of having an inner man due to his complex brain and neurochemical makeup.  Essentially the traditional view of animals has been expanded to include mankind.
  4. Man’s religious nature is a projection of his need to make sense of his environment and social relations.  It brings order to these in his mind.  There is no such thing as a true religious faith only social conditioning and convention.
  5. Science and its unquestionable unlocking of the laws that govern the universe are to be the sole determinates of reality.  Scientific reality is the only ground of moral law.  Supernatural bases for reality and moral law are irrelevant in light of the discoveries of modern science.  Religion, in belief and praxis, must reform its vision of reality to conform with modern scientific inquiry.
  6. Any belief system related to God should be considered obsolete and eventually dismantled.
  7. Mankind’s religious impulses should be redirected.  Instead of seeking to follow and worship a God who exists apart from ourselves, we should make a religion that is centered on man and his quest for significance.  Then there will be a complete integration of man’s religious nature with his daily life because this will become his religion.
  8. The Chief end of man’s existence is to seek complete development and fulfillment of the human personality in the here and now.  This is the underlying moral vision of secular humanism.  There is no obligation to please any deity in this life or the next and thus we must endeavor to please ourselves.
  9. The impulse of worship and prayer is replaced by a greater sense of personal awareness and the joy of helping improve the lot in life of society.
  10.  Any religious emotions and attitudes are irrelevant.  There is no supernatural and therefore they are human emotions and attitudes to be shaped and conformed to societal growth and expression.
  11.  As man faces the uncertainties and contingencies of life, he must do so without the false hope of divine help or intervention.  Education, social conditioning, and mental health counseling will help humanity attain coping skills apart from religion.
  12.  Human achievement and creative expression will be the source of joy in a humanist society.
  13.  All human associations and institutions must serve the purpose of enhancing human self-fulfillment.  All institutions, religious and otherwise, must be systematically evaluated and discarded or reformed by Secular humanist authorities to ensure their conformity with the higher purpose of mankind.
  14.  Capitalism, profit-motive, and private ownership must be reformed and controlled.  To progress as a society we must move into a socialized economic system where all people will cooperate voluntarily for the good of humanity. Curiously this is demanded by humanists which hardly makes it voluntary and since this would require supervision to make it a reality, it would necessitate some sort of elite group, which if Soviet communism is any indication of how this works would translate into two-tiered society of haves and have-nots.
  15.  Humanism is guided by the embracing the here and now and living for the present.  It affirms all possible ways of living which enhances self-fulfillment and seeks to offer this to all of humanity.  It fails to address the fact that cooperation will require sacrifices and that some people’s fulfillment might not be another’s.  In the final analysis, a cultural elite must supervise and force humans to conform to these principles.  It is merely a replacement of God or ecclesiastical or political authority with secular humanism authority.  In the end it comes down to “we know what’s best for you.” 

Comments of Humanist Manifesto II

As before, the numbers of my comments correspond to the propositions of the Humanist Manifesto II: 

  1. Religion is the primary threat.  It must be eradicated because it stands in the way of human development making people have hope in the hereafter.  We must keep its morals insofar as they serve the public good.
  2. Hope in salvation or eternal life is harmful.  No one has a soul and this is proven by science.  We can progress only if we lose this point of view.
  3. Moral values derive their authority from human experience not from a transcendent deity.  We should strive for personal fulfillment and happiness as the chief ends of life and ethics.
  4. Reason and intelligence are the most important means of advancing man.  We should use science to solve all of our problems, including social ones.
  5. Maximum individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility.  Whose ethics then?
  6. Maximum sexual freedom—this is prominent in the humanist manifesto II.  There is a real contradiction in that we are to be maximally autonomous persons and enjoy maximal freedom of sexual expression apart from traditional morality yet we are to restrain ourselves if it hurts others or society.  But for some sexual expression requires the degrading of people and mindless permissiveness.  How can one be free from any sexual restraint if one has to restrain themselves?.
  7. Support of democratic freedom and dignity of the individual upheld.  But discusses the right to die, the right to suicide, and the right to euthanasia? Euthanasia is when someone else puts you to death.  What sort of right does someone have to kill me?  What will be the basis for their decision?  When I prevent their self development?
  8. There is a commitment to an open and democratic society with everyone allowed to participate in decision-making.  Anyone or groups who go against the will of all will need to be modified or eradicated.  So much for any dissension.  Totalitarianism.
  9. The state is to separate itself from all religion or ideologies and is to be an instrument in promoting the maximum freedom of individuals.  However, how can a state which is made up of people not have an ideology or religious belief?  If it is a humanist government then it is most certainly not neutral.
  10. The economy should be regulated or changed entirely to promote greater happiness to the largest sum of individuals and reduce want and poverty.  A good economic system would meet this criteria.  Unfortunately who is going to decide what makes people happy?  Is it having material abundance?  What makes people happy and how hard people want to work are variables that differ from country to country and race to race.
  11.  Equal rights for everyone and equal opportunity and recognition.  Everybody is to succeed and no one should do better than others because this would be divisive.
  12.  All national governments should be replaced by a world government who would oversee all people and do what is best for the whole world not just their own lands.
  13.  War should be outlawed as a means of settling international disputes.  Military budgets should be turned to productive people interests.
  14.  The environment of the world is one ecosystem and should be preserved for all people and not exploited for its resources to create wealth for a few.
  15. Technology should not be bridled for any ethical or religious reasons.  Its only regulation should be based on whether its results will be desirable for society and culture.  Who will be defining this?
  16.  This is a call for a globalistic society which has put aside any geographical sovereignty and has become a monolithic culture linked together with communication technology. 

Secular Humanism and Christian Thought 

Believe it or not, there are many propositions in the Humanist Manifestos that would certainly be in line with the millenial vision of the Holy Bible.  A fair, just, and equitable society that exists with the conspicuous absence of ignorance, war, poverty, bigotry, and degradation of the environment are found in the writings of the Hebrew and Christian prophets.  Many, if not most of the overarching goals (such as justice, education, harmony) of Secular Humanism are the shared aspirations of all people religious or not.  Despite these admirable ends, Christianity as a philosophy and religion stands diametrically opposed to the ways and means of Secular Humanism.

In closing, I would make several points about Christianity as it relates to Secular Humanist thought: 

  1. The greatest point of divergence is the idea that there is no God and therefore not moral imperative beyond our own evolution and development as a species of animal evolving on earth.  If there be no God, then this is true and Christians of all people should be pitied for wasting their lives (I Cor. 15:19).  But is it really plausible to say there is no God based on scientific method?  Modern science was born out of the worldview that God exists and therefore there is an order to be found.  And an order has been found even in the basic building blocks of life.  Admittedly this does not prove the existence of God nor should it, but could or would the scientific method ever be able to prove or disprove God categorically?  In the final analysis, it always comes down to faith.  It requires faith to believe in Secular Humanism too.  The most reasonable thing to do is look at the total belief system of Humanism and Christianity and ask which most closely follows reality on earth as we live it day to day?  True faith must have something behind it besides personal preference or wish fulfillment.  
  2. Secular Humanism presents men as reasonable creatures capable of consistently choosing to do good in their own lives and the life of collective society.  This power is our ability to reason and think and evolve.  This power is backed up by yet unnamed government and leadership who will ensure we as a world society move in the right direction.  Christian teaching presents men as reasonable creatures created by God to serve a noble and holy purpose on earth.  It further teaches us that in our primeval era, our race failed morally before God and now has deeply ingrained a distorted way of thinking, reasoning, and choosing known as ‘sin’.  We frequently choose to do wrong and live only for ourselves.  This doesn’t mean we do not have our noble moments and good deeds however.  Christianity teaches that God almighty redeems men from their fall through Jesus Christ and restores them to a path of development towards their original purpose.  Christians are given divine help through the Spirit of God to live out this calling to a holy purpose and standard of morality. 
  3. Christianity as a belief system teaches reconciliation between God and Man and reconciliation between Man and Man.  Though there have been tragic abuses in past history when the Church and State were united, its God appointed means of societal change are persuasion through dialogue, teaching the Gospel, and the power of personal example.  Secular Humanism speaks much of harmony and accepting of diversity among people, but it does so in terms of demanding, requiring, and eradicating any group who stands in the way of it.  Just beneath the surface is a methodology of coercion and totalitarianism.
  4. Secular Humanism has within its doctrine an unbridled optimism in the power of technology, knowledge, sexual freedom, and redistributive economics to bring man into a state of his highest good.  In light of the century just past, this seems hardly credible.  All of the above have proven the law of unintended consequences.  Take for instance technology.  We have gone to the Moon and have developed the computer and eradicated many diseases.  We have also developed the nuclear bomb, internet sites to deliver messages of hate and child pornography, and have compromised our environment through car and factory exhaust.  Are these really the means to a better future?  Christianity teaches that man’s unhappiness is largely due to an emptiness in his soul that only God can fill.  I know people in the island nation of Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, who feel they have it all because they know God through Jesus Christ.  There is a place for technology, knowledge, economics, and even sexual expression that contributes to a happier life, but seeking these alone can never fill the void in the human heart. 
  5. Finally, there is a strain of the “blame game” within the Humanist Manifesto that seems hard to ignore.  What is being blamed for all the problems in the world?  People who insist on believing in God and in particular institutional religion with its moral ideas and spiritual directives.  This is the true impediment to human progress on the grand scale.  If people could be free from the moral impediments of religion they would be enlightened.  This line of thought goes back to Eden when the serpent came to Eve and explained to her that eating what God had forbidden would make her like Him.  Christian doctrine makes it very plain that the greatest impediment to human progress is man himself.  Not institutional religion, not ignorance, not even Secular Humanism.  Our progress is halted because our sin-distorted thinking causes us to sow the seeds of destruction in our own lives and our collective society.  God does not blame us (although we are quite blameworthy) but rather offers us restoration and relationship through Jesus Christ.  His teachings and way of life are the true means to human satisfaction and human progress.

[1] Irving Hexham  Concise Dictionary of Religion,   Downers Grove : Intervarsity Press, 1993  p.59

[2] David Noebel  Understanding the Times,  Manitou Springs : Summit Books, 1991