Secular Humanism





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by Josh McDowell and John Stewart

Secular Humanis is a philosophy that regards the rational individual as the highest value, considers the individual to be the ultimate source of value and is dedicated to fostering the individual's creative and moral development in a meaningful and rational way without reference to concepts of the supernatural. - Peter Angeles

by Josh McDowell and John Stewart

One of the most organized, most challenging and most clearly non-Christian philosophies of today is secular humanism. It is ably represented and defended by a core of prominent scientists and philosophers at the forefront of new scientific and philosophical thought. Secular humanism has its own meetings, its own “clergy” of spokesmen, its own “creed” called The Humanist Manifesto, and its own goals toward which it desires all of humanity to work. Because of its cohesive world view and strong threat to biblical Christianity, it needs to be examined and answered in this book.

First, let’s examine some popular ideas of what humanism can represent. The term humanism by itself is not automatically anti-God or pro-God, as many have tried so often to maintain. Historically, during Renaissance times, the word emphasized the importance of man, not to the exclusion of God, but simply with little emphasis on God.

Sometimes humanism is defined as the study of the worth and dignity of man as such worth is given him by God. As Christians, we must be careful not to build a false case about all use of the word humanism and then attempt to refute that false case. In fact, this is what some secular humanist writers do when they unfairly paint a caricature of Christianity and then attempt to tear that down.

We will make a working definition of secular humanism, adapting it from the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras, who said, “Man is the measure of all things”. Today this view holds that man is the ultimate standard by which all life is measured and judged. Thus values, law, justice, good, beauty, and right and wrong all are to be judged by manmade rules with no credence to either God or the Bible. We identify this as secular (non-theistic) humanism (in distinction to the ambiguous and broad term humanism).

Secular humanism is a collection of ideas which bind together into a coherent system. Because of this, some humanistic ideas can affect and be adapted to many different disciplines such as existentialism and communism. Thus, while we can define humanism generally, we will be careful to recognize that there is some measure of latitude in the system and our definition can be modified as necessary.

Peter Angeles, in his Dictionary of Philosophy, defines philosophical humanism as follows:

A philosophy that (a) regards the rational individual as the highest value; (b) considers the individual to be the ultimate source of value; and (c) is dedicated to fostering the individual’s creative and moral development in a meaningful and rational way without reference to concepts of the supernatural (Peter Angeles, Dictionary of Philosophy, NY. Harper & Row, Publishers, 198 1, p. 116).

As rational theists and evangelical Christians, our argument with secular humanism centers on its denial of the supernatural, especially as that precludes any idea of God. In this chapter we will examine, from secular humanistic literature itself, the main tenets of secular humanism and give brief Christian responses to its sweeping claims. By defining secular humanism, we as Christians see the need for evaluating it. Rejection of God, the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to defend the gospel through open discussion, evaluation, and refutation of these tenets of secular humanism. Support of this creed denies the heart of Christianity. (We refer the reader to the chapter on atheism for a closer look at arguments against the existence of God).

Historical Perspective

One can trace the roots of modern secular humanism back to the renewed emphasis on man during the Renaissance. This revival of classical learning and emphasis on man did not exclude God as man’s Maker, but it focused attention away from Him, as man made great strides on his own.

Later God was de-emphasized to the point where He was no longer seen as an intimate worker in creation and Father to mankind, and before long, deism became a prominent view. Deism affirmed belief in God, but a God who was not involved in the affairs of men. Deism soon gave way to naturalism, a world view which dismissed God completely from the scene.

One can trace secular humanism from the Renaissance to the present. Humanism entered the nineteenth century through the French philosopher, Comte, who was committed to the secularization of science, and through British utilitarianism via English deism. These serve as a backdrop for twentieth century naturalism and pragmatism. Through such men as Schiller and especially Dewey, the modern tenets of secular humanism began to take their expressed form.

Today this self-centered system of ideas exerts influence in all of our lives. Its assumptions and dogmas continue to be adopted by more and more people, and as a result, many secular humanist organizations are in existence both in Europe and in America, some of which have been around for a long time. Two prominent organizations, The American Humanist Association and The British Humanist Association, are both front-runners in the secular humanist cause. Another secular humanist-oriented organization is The Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies (see The Aspen Idea by Sidney Hyman, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975). The Aspen Institute is a motivator for thought and action on cultural issues affecting man and society. Committed to and rooted in a secular humanistic approach, it seeks solutions to local, national, and international problems. Another organization is The Sex Information and Education Council (see The Siecus Circle: A Humanist Revolution, Claire Chambers, Belmont, MA: Western Islands Publishing Company, 1977). The Sex Information and Education Council is humanistic in its outlook and policy. The periodical The Humanist, a bimonthly publication, is a leading outlet in America for secular humanist doctrine.

The Humanist Manifesto I

Unlike some of the quasi-religious secular movements we discuss in this book, secular humanism is a well-organized movement with unified beliefs, goals, and presuppositions. More than most modem movements, it represents an organized corporate unity.
In 1933 secular humanists, drawn together by like beliefs, ideas, and dreams, drafted a manifesto which became the creed of secular humanism. Drafter and philosopher Paul Kurtz explains the background of the Humanist Manifesto I:

In the twentieth century, humanist awareness has developed at a rapid pace; yet it has to overcome powerful anti-humanist forces that seek to destroy it.

In 1933 a group of thirty-four liberal humanists in the United States defined and enunciated the philosophical and religious principles that seemed to them fundamental. They drafted Humanist Manifesto I, which for its time was a radical document. It was concerned with expressing a general religious and philosophical outlook that rejected orthodox and dogmatic positions and provided meaning and direction, unity and purpose to human life. It was committed to reason, science, and democracy (Paul Kurtz, ed., Humanist Manifesto I and II, Buffalo, NY Prometheus Books, 1973, p. 3).

The Humanist Manifesto I reflected the general optimism of the time immediately after World War I. Mankind was convinced that it had ably weathered, in the war, the greatest evil imaginable, and that the future perfecting of humanity was now possible. Mankind had proved that it could triumph over evil.

In summary, the Humanist Manifesto I dealt with 15 major themes, or convictions, of secular humanism. It asserted that the universe was self-existing and not created; that man is a result of a continuous natural process; that mind is a projection of body and nothing more; that man is molded mostly by his culture; that there is no supernatural; that man has outgrown religion and any idea of God; that man’s goal is the development of his own personality, which ceases to exist at death; that man will continue to develop to the point where he will look within himself and to the natural world for the solution to all of his problems; that all institutions and/or religions that in some way impede this “human development” must be changed; that socialism is the ideal form of economics; and that all of mankind deserves to share in the fruits from following the above tenets.

The conclusion to the Humanist Manifesto I clearly reflects the antisupernatural and optimistic, self-centered aims of its signers:

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 (Kurtz, Manifesto, p. 10).

The Humanist Manifesto II

World War II and Adolph Hitler rudely contradicted the unmitigated optimism of the secular humanists who signed the 1933 Manifesto. Not only had World War I failed to rout evil, but evil had reared its ugly head much more powerfully through the Nazi atrocities of World War II Having rejected the supernatural and a higher judge in favor of the basic goodness and perfectibility of man, the secular humanists turned toward modifying their previous statements. Drafters Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson explained the need for a new Manifesto:

It is forty years since Humanist Manifesto 1 (1933) appeared. Events since then make that earlier statement seem far too optimistic. Nazism has shown the depths of brutality of which humanity is capable. Other totalitarian regimes have suppressed human rights without ending poverty. Science has sometimes brought evil as well as good. Recent decades have shown that inhuman wars can be made in the name of peace. The beginnings of police states, even in democratic societies, widespread government espionage, and other abuses of power by military, political, and industrial elites, and the continuance of unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult social outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.

As we approach the twenty-first century however, an affirmative and hopeful vision is needed. Faith, commensurate with advancing knowledge, is also necessary. In the choice between despair and hope, humanists respond in this Humanist Manifesto II with a positive declaration for times of uncertainty.

As in 1933, humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism, based on mere affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.

Those who sign Humanist Manifesto II disclaim that they are setting forth a binding credo; their individual views would be stated in widely varying ways. The statement is, however, reaching for vision in a time that needs direction. It is social analysis in an effort at consensus.

New statements should be developed to supersede this, but for today it is our conviction that humanism offers an alternative that can serve present day needs and guide humankind toward the future (ibid., p. 13).

The thrust of the new Manifesto, published in 1973, is much more aggressive than that of the first. No longer content to let basically good mankind evolve naturally toward his zenith, the secular humanists now have a consuming drive to help accomplish that transformation as quickly as possible, thwarting the evil of the few evil men. The introduction to the resolutions in the second creed declares:

Humanity, to survive, requires bold and daring measures. We need to extend the uses of scientific method, not renounce them, to fuse reason with compassion in order to build constructive social and moral values. Confronted by many possible futures, we must decide which to pursue. The ultimate goal should be the fulfillment of the potential for growth in each human personality -not for the favored few, but for all of humankind. Only a shared world and global measures will suffice.
A humanist outlook will tap the creativity of each human being and provide the vision and courage for us to work together. This outlook emphasizes the role human beings can play in their own spheres of action. The decades ahead call for dedicated, clear-minded men and women able to marshal the will, intelligence, and cooperative skills for shaping a desirable future. Humanism can provide the purpose and inspiration that so many seek; it can give personal meaning and significance to human life (ibid., pp. 14, 15).

Humanism is the new religion, the new God who gives meaning to life as the old one never could. This is the interloper into divinity which the Christian must challenge and answer.

The Secular Humanist Creed

The belief system of secular humanists is clearly spelled out in the Humanist Manifesto II. It is very easy to see just what the humanists have committed themselves to and just what they desire for us as Christians to embrace instead of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In order to understand and deal with the claims of humanism in such a small space, we have elected to reproduce each resolution of Manifesto II and below it our comments from an evangelical perspective. These resolutions may be found on pages 13-24 of the previously mentioned Humanist Manifesto I and II, edited by Paul Kurtz. This is not meant to be an exhaustive examination and refutation of secular humanism, but it will serve to acquaint the reader with humanist thought and will give the reader a Christian background to the subject. Since much of Manifesto II deals with a denial of the existence of God and the supernatural, the reader is referred to the chapter on atheism and its bibliography of Christian books for further information. The subject will not be dealt with extensively here.

A study of Manifesto II reveals that its 17 propositions can be categorized into six groups and we will present them within those groupings of Religion, Philosophy, Mankind, Society, One-World Government, and Science.


Religion is the topic of the first two resolutions. We quote a portion of the first resolution and the entire (shorter) second resolution:

First: … We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so. Even at this late date in human history, certain elementary facts based upon the critical use of scientific reason have to be restated. 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. Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the natural ….

But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.

Second: 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. Modern science discredits such historic concepts as the “ghost in the machine” and the “separable soul.” Rather, science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know, the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context. There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body We continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others in our culture.

Traditional religions are surely not the only obstacles to human progress. Other ideologies also impede human advance. Some forms of political doctrine, for instance, function religiously, reflecting the worst features of orthodoxy and authoritarianism, especially when they sacrifice individuals on the altar of Utopian promises. Purely economic and political viewpoints, whether capitalist or communist, often function as religious and ideological dogma. Although humans undoubtedly need economic and political goals, they also need creative values by which to live.

The world view of humanism, as expressed by these first two tenets, is diametrically opposed to Christianity. While the humanists start and end with man, the Bible starts and ends with God. It was God who was in the beginning (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3), not impersonal, self-creating nature, from which man gradually evolved. The Bible consistently teaches that it is upon the infinite God that this finite world depends for its existence. For primordial, non-intelligent mass to produce human intelligence assumes, contrary to reason, that an effect is greater than its cause. To account for that human intelligence by a higher intelligence in whose image the human was made, and who sustains the very life of the human and his world, is reasonable, and biblical. When the apostle Paul argued with the Greek philosophers of his day he testified about this sustaining God:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is both Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; … for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring’ (Acts 17: 24-28, NASB).

For the humanists to blithely dismiss all religious philosophy and all evidence in support of the existence of God in two simple propositions does not settle the matter of God’s existence. As evangelical Christians we believe that our reasoning ability was given to us by God, in whose image we were created, and that responsible use of our reasoning ability to understand the world around us can lead us to sound evidence for the existence of God. Christian philosopher Richard Purtill expressed it this way:

… if we begin to ask fundamental questions about the universe, and follow the argument where it leads us, then it will lead us to belief in God; that if we examine the evidence of history and of human experience, we will be compelled to acknowledge that the only satisfactory explanation of the evidence leads us to Christianity. Such Christians acknowledge that there is still a gap between intellectual assent and commitment to a Christian way of life, but they believe that reason is neither opposed to such a commitment nor irrelevant to it- rather, it is the best possible ground for it (Richard Purtill, C. S. Lewis’s Case for the Christian Faith, San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1981, pp. 12, 13).

Our chapter on atheism deals with this subject more in depth, and we also refer the reader to our other works, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, The Resurrection Factor, and More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, and Answers and Reasons by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart. We believe that God has given sufficient evidence as to His existence and His purpose in this world for man.

The French philosopher Pascal stated the matter plainly:

The evidence of God’s existence and his gift is more than compelling, but those who insist that they have no need of Him or it will always find ways to discount the offer (Blaise Pascal, Pense’s No. 430, translated by H. F. Stewart, NY. Random House, n.d., n.p.).

When Manifesto II says that it can find no design or purpose or providence for the human species, it devaluates man to a level below that on which God places him as His highest creation. The humanists pretend to esteem the human being above all else. In reality, as Manifesto II shows, the humanist takes away all worth from mankind. Unless our worth is rooted and grounded in something objective and outside ourselves, we are of value only to ourselves, and can never rise above the impermanence of our own short lives. The God of Christianity is outside our finite and transitory universe and His love for us gives us a value which transcends not only ourselves but our finite universe as well.

Humanist Manifesto II states that we must save ourselves. While we believe this statement was made somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since humanists do not believe man needs saving from anything, we do still need to comment on the statement. We believe it is not possible for an individual to save himself in all circumstances. In fact, given the biblical definition of salvation, it is an operation undertaken because the individual cannot help himself. While we would grant that a man could “save himself” from falling after a slip by grabbing a railing, for example, it is not always possible. Picture a man in the middle of a large lake. He has fallen from his boat, which is now hopelessly out of reach. He has been in the frigid water for two hours. He can no longer keep himself afloat. His body temperature is falling rapidly. He is becoming delirious. Would he find solace and genuine help in a bystander’s admonition to “save himself”? Of course not. Without outside intervention, he will die. The spiritual (moral) condition of man is such that he is past the point of It saving himself.” He needs outside intervention. Christians believe that intervention is from God. He alone is able to save man.

If there really is a God, and if man really is in the state of decay in which he finds himself because of his deliberate sin (offense) against God, then he must turn to God for his salvation. lb use another human illustration, if one man hits another, he cannot rectify the situation by saying, “So-and-So isn’t angry with me anymore for my hitting him, because I forgave myself”. No, So-and-So is the one offended, and he is the only one who can extend forgiveness to his attacker. That is the biblical picture of sin and salvation. Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (NASB).

Contrary to humanist declarations, Christianity gives true worth and dignity to man and secular humanism makes all human dignity subjective and self-centered. Francis Schaeffer comments:

I am convinced that one of the great weaknesses in evangelical preaching in the last few years is that we have lost sight of the biblical fact that man is wonderful. We have seen the unbiblical humanism which surrounds us, and, to resist this in our emphasis on man’s lostness, we have tended to reduce man to a zero. Man is indeed lost, but that does not mean he is nothing. We must resist humanism, but to make man a zero is neither the right way nor the best way to resist it….
In short, therefore, man is not a cog in a machine; he is not a piece of theater; he really can influence history. From the biblical viewpoint, man is lost, but great (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City, Downers Grove, IL InterVarsity Press, 1969, pp. 80, 81).

Secular humanism rejects the idea of life after death, dogmatically asserting that it is impossible to prove. On the contrary, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a fact of history, verifiable by standard historical tests. His resurrection becomes the seal and the hope of every Christian. In addition to the works previously cited in what we have written before on this subject, we here quote Michael Green:

The evidence points unmistakably to the fact that on the third day Jesus rose. This was the conclusion to which a former Chief justice of England, Lord Darling, came. At a private dinner party the talk turned to the truth of Christianity, and particularly to a certain book dealing with the resurrection. Placing his fingertips together, assuming a judicial attitude, and speaking with a quiet emphasis that was extraordinarily impressive, he said, ‘We, as Christians, are asked to take a very great deal on trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If we had to take all on trust, 1, for one, should be skeptical. The crux of the problem of whether Jesus was, or was not, what He proclaimed Himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth or otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as living truth there exists such an overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true’ (Michael Green, Man Alive, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968, pp. 53, 54).


The second major division in Manifesto II covers propositions three and four and relates mostly to philosophy.

Third: 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 the 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. The goal is to pursue life’s enrichment despite debasing forces of vulgarization, commercialization, bureaucratization, and dehumanization.

Fourth: Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute: neither faith nor passion suffices in itself. The controlled use of scientific methods, which have transformed the natural and social sciences since the Renaissance, must be extended further in the solution of human problems. But reason must be tempered by humility, since no group has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue. Nor is there any guarantee that all problems can be answered. Yet critical intelligence, infused by a sense of human caring, is the best method that humanity has for resolving problems. Reason should be balanced with compassion and empathy and the whole person fulfilled. Thus, we are not advocating the use of scientific intelligence independent of or in opposition to emotion, for we believe in the cultivation of feeling and love. As science pushes back the boundary of the known, one’s sense of wonder is continually renewed, and art, poetry, and music find their places, along with religion and ethics.

These two tenets of secular humanism are concerned with philosophy, or the way the world is viewed. They are specifically concerned with ethics first and then with reason. Again, developing from the secular humanistic presupposition of the autonomy and self-sufficiency of man, these two humanistic concerns are wholly exhausted within the framework of man.

The humanists are right to point out that their ethics (morals) are situational. Since they are based in and come forth from the individual, they are necessarily self-centered and subjective. They have no objective basis or root. On the surface, this appears to promote one’s idea of the importance and power of man.
However, upon closer examination, we find flaws with this view. If moral values are determined from human experience, there is no objective basis for calling anything right or wrong. There is no such thing as intrinsic good or intrinsic evil. Whether something is good or not depends on the context of the individual or the group of like-minded individuals the society. On this basis, could we condemn the society of Nazi Germany for judging the moral value of Jewish life as worthless? Would we have the right to call it bad? What if happiness in one society is eating one’s enemy instead of convincing him to surrender?

Because humanism does not offer any absolute value system, mankind has no absolute system of right and wrong. In such an instance, why should I believe and accept the value system of the group (society) of men who drafted and signed Manifesto II? What compelling reason can they give me for accepting their dogmatic ethical assertion that “vulgarization, commercialization, bureaucratization, and dehumanization” are “debasing?” What if I happen to believe that it is good to promote vulgarization, commercialization, bureaucratization, and dehumanization?

Christianity asserts that there is absolute good and absolute evil. Our moral values are patterned after the nature and attributes of our creator, God. He is the absolute standard by which everything else is judged. Hitler’s Germany was wrong because our God has declared that all human life is sacred and of equal value, whether it is the human life of a Jew, a German, and unborn child, or a senile old man, crippled and bedridden.

The fourth article of Manifesto II concerns the role of reason in determining man’s future. We believe that the main fault with this view of reason, that it can direct all human development, is that the humanist has no valid reason for accepting his own reason.

If mankind is actually a product of long evolutionary development from simpler life forms, having its ultimate origin in impersonal matter, how can a man know today that he is reasonable? Is impersonal matter a sufficient cause for personal mind (reason)? And even if this mindless Nature did produce a self-cognizant (personal) being, how could that self-cognizant being know that his thinking process is rational, i.e., reasonable?

The Christian does not see reason rising from within man, the biological machine. The Christian believes that man’s reason was created by God and patterned after (in the image of) God. Man’s reason can make sense of the world in which he lives because someone who is outside this world has equipped him with the critical apparatus necessary.

Although science and technology, manipulated by man’s reason, have made amazing strides in solving problems, they have not answered the ultimate questions of life. They may be able, some day, to answer the “how” of life. They can never answer the “why” of life. Os Guiness comments:

If “evolution is good,” then evolution must be allowed to proceed and the very process of change becomes absolutized. Such a view can be seen in Julian Hux-ley’s Evolutionary Ethics or in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. But in ever more areas, science is reaching the point of “destructive returns”; and the at-tempt to use evolution as a basis for morals and ethics is a failure. If evolu-tionary progress is taken as an axiom, then the trend toward convergence (social and evolutionary “unanimization”) becomes a value, as suggested by Teilhard de Chardin. But this militates against the value of individuality and can be used to support totalitarianism. Bertrand Russell was typical of a growing majority who admit that science can be no more than neutral and does not speak directly into the area of moral choice (Os Guiness, The Dust of Death, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973, pp. 15, 16).


Assumptions five and six of Manifesto II concern the nature of man, mankind. This is one of the most popular features of secular humanism, which is itself a form of the word human and so stresses continually the place of mankind in its philosophy.

Fifth: The preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value. Individuals should be encouraged to realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize personality. We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility. Although science can account for the causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of choice exist in human life and should be increased.

Sixth: 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 countenancing 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 the sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy, sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity.

The secular humanist position on relative moral values is almost the watershed for critiquing humanistic tenets. With no absolute ethic, why should we accept the humanists’ moral value that the individual person is precious and deserves dignity in his own right? The Marxist, for example, argues that the individual only has worth as a member of society. It is permissible, indeed necessary, to expend the individual for the society. Why isn’t the Marxist right? How can the humanist infringe on the Marxist’s individual preciousness and dignity by telling him his view of mankind is wrong?

The term “social responsibility” is an empty one since each society differs in what it considers responsible behavior. The rule of the society can change at any moment.

Furthermore, is there objective evidence for this unmitigated optimism concerning man’s ability to direct his own development and fulfillment? Os Guiness points out that many don’t think so:

A persistent erosion of man’s view of himself is occurring. The fact that man has made so many significant scientific discoveries points strongly to the significance of man, yet the content of these same scientific discoveries underscores his insignificance. Man finds himself dwarfed bodily by the vast stretches of space and belittled temporally by the long reaches of time. Humanists are caught in a strange dilemma. If they affirm the greatness of man, it is only at the expense of ignoring his aberrations. If they regard human aberrations seriously, they have to escape the dilemma raised, either by blaming the situation on God (and how often those most strongly affirming the nonexistence of God have a perverse propensity to question his goodness!) or by reducing man to the point of insignificance where his aberrations are no longer a problem. During World War II, Einstein, plagued by the mounting monstrosity of man against man, was heard to mutter to himself, “After all, this is a small star.” He escaped the dilemmas of man’s crime and evil but only at a price of undermining man’s significance. A supreme characteristic of men today is the high degree of dissatisfaction with their own views of themselves. The opposition to determinism is growing not because determinism explains nothing but because it explains too much. It is a clutching constriction on that which man feels himself to be. Arthur Koestler attacks it as “ratomorphic,” Vicktor Frankl as “modern nihilism” and Norman Chomsky as “the flat earth view of man”.

Mortimer Adler’s The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes is one book which probes deeply in this area and is scrupulously objective in its extensive analysis. He warns that if man continues to recognize no fundamental difference in kind between himself and the world of animals and machines, then his view of himself in terms of his moral dilemma or his metaphysical being must alter irretrievably. Anything left of contemporary concepts of morality and identity will be reduced to the level of the illusory, and the implications for individuals and for civilization are far-reaching (ibid., pp. 16, 17).

Humanist Manifesto II has a contradictory statement about human sexuality. While championing the autonomy of individual sexual rights, the statement also contradictorily makes bold universal moral assertions about some kinds of sex. What right do the humanist signers of this Manifesto have to say they do not approve of “exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression” or “mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity”? What if an individual likes such sexual activity? If the humanists were to reply that such activity denies the rights of other parties, we must ask, what right have the humanists to say that those others’ rights should come before the particular individual’s rights?

In short, without an absolute standard of ethics by which one’s sexual attitudes are determined, one cannot successfully argue for the universal adoption of his own subjective ethics. The secular humanists may have decided among themselves that certain forms of sexual behavior are “wrong,” but they have no right to enforce their ideas on anyone who disagrees.

As Christians we believe that God is the source of our ethical system. Because He commands us to have respect and love for others, it is therefore wrong to engage in exploitive and denigrating forms of sexual expression. A Christian’s sexual ethics should follow from God’s character, expressed to man.
The Bible also strongly disagrees with any taking of human life, even if such murder is disguised with the empty word “abortion.” Doesn’t abortion exploit and denigrate the unborn child who is its victim?


Articles seven through eleven of Humanist Manifesto II deal with the secular humanist view of and hope for society. These articles touch on politics, sociology, and economics.

Seventh: To enhance freedom and dignity the individual must experience a full range of civil liberties in all societies. This includes freedom of speech and the press, political democracy~ the legal right of opposition to governmental policies, fair judicial process, religious liberty, freedom of association, and artistic, scientific, and cultural freedom. It also includes a recognition of an individual’s right to die with dignity, euthanasia, and the right to suicide. We oppose the increasing invasion of privacy, by whatever means, in both totalitarian and democratic societies. We would safeguard, extend, and implement the principles of human freedom evolved from the Magna Charta to the Bill of Rights, the Rights of Man, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Eighth: We are committed to an open and democratic society. We must extend participatory democracy in its true sense to the economy, the school, the family, the workplace, and voluntary associations. Decision-making must be decentralized to include widespread involvement of people at all levels social, political, and economic. All persons should have a voice in developing the values and goals that determine their lives. Institutions should be responsive to expressed desires and needs. The conditions of work, education, devotion, and play should be humanized. Alienating forces should be modified or eradicated and bureaucratic structures should be held to a minimum. People are more important than decalogues, rules, proscriptions, or regulations.

Ninth: The separation of church and state and the separation of ideology and state are imperatives. The state should encourage maximum freedom for different moral, political, religious, and social values in society. It should not favor any particular religious bodies through the use of public monies, nor espouse a single ideology and function thereby as an instrument of propaganda or oppression, particularly against dissenters.

Tenth: Human societies should evaluate economic systems not by rhetoric or ideology, but by whether or not they increase economic well-being for all individuals and groups, minimize poverty and hardship, increase the sum of human satisfaction, and enhance the quality of life. Hence the door is open to alternative economic systems. We need to democratize the economy and judge it by its responsiveness to human needs, testing results in terms of the common good.

Eleventh: The principle of moral equality must be furthered through elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin. This means equality of opportunity and recognition of talent and merit. Individuals should be encouraged to contribute to their own betterment. If unable, then society should provide means to satisfy their basic economic, health, and cultural needs, including, wherever resources make possible, a minimum guaranteed annual income. We are concerned for the welfare of the aged, the infirm, the disadvantaged, and also for the outcasts-the mentally retarded, abandoned or abused children, the handicapped, prisoners, and addicts-for all who are neglected or ignored by society Practicing humanists should make it their vocation to humanize personal relations….

We deplore racial, religious, ethnic, or class antagonisms. Although we believe in cultural diversity and encourage racial and ethnic pride, we reject separations which promote alienation and set people and groups against each other; we envision an integrated community where people have a maximum opportunity for free and voluntary association.

We are critical of sexism or sexual chauvinism -male or female. We believe in equal rights for both women and men to fulfill their unique careers and potentialities as they see fit, free of invidious discrimination.

Rather than picking these articles apart piece by piece, we will offer some general observations in criticism. Our two major criticisms go back to two of the most basic presuppositions of secular humanism: relative morals and the basic goodness of mankind.

Because the secular humanists state that all ethics/morals/values are subjective and situational, they cannot support their system consistently and yet retain absolute values. However, many statements in these five articles do assume absolute values. We are told (article seven) that the individual “must experience a full range of civil liberties” to “enhance freedom and dignity!’ What’s so great about freedom and dignity? Why should we accept the humanists’ dogmatic assertion that human freedom and dignity are values all men should strive for? We are told that the individual has the “right to die with dignity, euthanasia, and the right to suicide”. How can relativistic secular humanists make such a value judgment? Why have the secular humanists decided that it is universally wrong to kill someone else (murder), but it is morally right to choose to kill yourself (suicide)?

As Christians we are not asked, nor do we ask others, to support an arbitrary, finite system of absolute values just on the basis of our having proposed it. We believe that there are absolute values and morals because God, the framer and sustainer of this world, has designed the world to work in accordance with His intrinsic attributes of goodness, love, etc., and to malfunction (as in the fall) when its members do not harmonize with God’s will.

As Christians we are dedicated to the freedom of man as an individual because God demonstrated the importance of that freedom in the freedom he gave man, a freedom that includes rejecting man’s very Maker and his provision of peace and eternal joy. As Christians we believe that life is sacred because it is a gift from God, its origin and sustainer. It is not for man to decide the time of death, for another person or for himself. Christianity has an absolute standard of values based on the Creator of all things.

Secular humanism and Christianity are diametrically opposed on the moral bent of mankind. Secular humanism assumes that everyone is basically good (with a few exceptions) and that evil comes from outside people and societies, rather than from within. This is somewhat like the naive view of Marxism, which taught that if the evils of society were only eradicated, evil men would cease to exist.

While Christians should applaud secular humanism’s commitment to racial, social, and sexual integration, we should not lose sight of the fact that removing the trappings of bigotry does not remove the evil seeds of that bigotry from within the individual. Society will never be transformed by tampering with the mechanics of social intercourse. Neither will it be reshaped into Utopia by temporarily forcing evil men to act like good men. The only way to change society is to transform the individuals within that society.

Christianity teaches that all of mankind made its choice for evil in the person of Adam at the fall. The Bible says that man is not basically good, but basically bad (see Romans 3:10, 23, 30; 6:23). Only through the freewill appropriation of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross can a man be turned from evil to good. The Christian works to transform the individuals who compose society. This alone will bring about true change in the society.

One-World Government

Many people in Western society are turning toward the idea of a one-world government as the solution to the problems of mankind. This idea does not belong to the secular humanists alone. A great number of those who are oriented toward Eastern philosophy and religion believe that world unity will be accomplished only in this way. In fact, the Bible itself teaches that God eventually will establish a one-world government. However, under discussion here is the secular humanist view of a one-world system, as described in Manifesto II, articles twelve, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen.

Twelfth: We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world community in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world law and a world order based upon transnational federal government. This would appreciate cultural pluralism and diversity. It would not exclude pride in national origins and accomplishments nor the handling of regional problems on a regional basis. Human progress, however, can no longer be achieved by focusing on one section of the world, Western or Eastern, developed or underdeveloped. For the first time in human history, no part of humankind can be isolated from any other. Each person’s future is in some way linked to all. We thus reaffirm a commitment to the building of world community, at the same time recognizing that this commits us to some hard choices.

Thirteenth: This world community must renounce the resort to violence and force as a method of solving international disputes. We believe in the peaceful adjudication of differences by international courts and by the development of the arts of negotiation and compromise. War is obsolete. So is the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. It is a planetary imperative to reduce the level of military expenditures and turn these savings to peaceful and people-oriented uses.

Fourteenth: The world community must engage in cooperative planning concerning the use of rapidly depleting resources. The planet earth must be considered a single ecosystem. Ecological damage, resource depletion, and excessive population growth must be checked by international concord. The cultivation and conservation of nature is a moral value, we should perceive ourselves as integral to the sources of our being in nature. We must free our world from needless pollution and waste, responsibly guarding and creating wealth, both natural and human. Exploitation of natural resources, uncurbed by social conscience, must end.

Fifteenth: The problems of economic growth and development can no longer be resolved by one nation alone; they are worldwide in scope. It is the moral obligation of the developed nations to provide-through an international authority that safeguards human rights-massive technical, agricultural, medical, and economic assistance, including birth control techniques, to the developing portions of the globe. World poverty must cease. Hence extreme disproportions in wealth, income, and economic growth should be reduced on a worldwide basis.

We believe that men live by absolute ethics even if they claim to believe only in relative ethics. One may say that all ethics and moral values are relative to one’s society or to the individual conviction, but one rarely lives by such a maxim. This we find with the secular humanists who drafted Humanist Manifesto II.

The beginning of Manifesto II declares that morals and values are
relative and largely governed by society. Yet in these four articles we find such absolute moral values as “the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty,” belief in “peaceful adjudication of differences by international courts and by the development of the arts of negotia-tion and compromise,” “the cultivation and conservation of nature is a moral value” and “it is the moral obligation of the developed nations to provide… massive… assistance,. . . to the developing portions of the globe’ “

Christians would not necessarily disagree with the above moral values. But Christians have an absolute ground for their ethics. Christian morality does not depend on the shifting subjective standards of any particular society or vocal group of people. Biblical Christianity depends on the Sovereign of the universe for its moral values.

In the twelfth article the humanists say that adopting a one-world government would commit us to “some hard choices.” Unfortunately for the layman, those choices are not identified. We would worry that, in their zeal to establish Utopia, secular humanists might consider it a hard but necessary choice to sacrifice certain dissident individuals for the better choice of promoting the one-world Utopian government. Isn’t this just the sort of “choice” we Westerners decry as human rights violations in many Marxist countries today? (See the chapter on Marxism for a discussion of the role -or lack of role – of the individual in the struggle for the classless society.) The Christian cannot endorse article twelve without knowing just what “hard choices” face the one-world government advocate.

According to God’s Word, just before the second coming of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom, the forces of Satan will attempt to set up a one-world system, implementing worship and submission to Satan’s representative, the Anti-Christ. (See Matthew 24, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and the book of Revelation.) The secular humanists, at least in that day, will get their wish of a one-world government. But it will not usher in Utopia, rather it will bring on Armageddon.

As we discussed previously, the secular humanists diverge sharply from the Christian perspective by assuming that mankind is basically good. Many of the goals of a one-world government are lofty and not in opposition to Christianity. However, the feasibility of implementing such changes is almost non-existent given the biblical presupposition that an is basically bad instead of good.

It sounds good to say that the “world community must renounce the resort to violence and force” and that “war is obsolete.” However, a proclamation by itself never altered reality. just how do the secular humanists propose to guarantee that everyone in a position of power will give up the use of force? And if even one person with power chooses to use it to force his own views, what will the humanist recourse be? Will he sweet-talk the offender? Or use force to teach him not to use force?

Christianity does not advocate the use of force to spread one’s values and beliefs. However, Christianity recognizes that self-centered men will use force. Christianity sees the ultimate “weapon!’ against force as being an individual whose life has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and whose will has been surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. Only when men are changed will violence cease. The Bible tells us the time will come when there will be no more violence. Such a world will not come about by proclamation of secular humanism, but by the divine command, judgment and forgiveness of the Lord (Revelation 20, 21).

In the meantime, the Bible specifically places responsibility for self-defense on the individual. We have a God-given obligation to protect those who depend on us. We must ensure the safety of our families. Christians may disagree about what sort of resistance is meant in the Bible. Whether or not a Christian allows for the use of force to safeguard those for whom he is responsible, he understands the serious charge God has given him and recognizes through it the measure of the va

The use of abortion appears to be allowed by both articles fourteen and fifteen of Manifesto H. Article fourteen states that “excessive population growth must be checked” and article fifteen calls birth control techniques a “human right.” Taken with the previous Manifesto II statement in arti-cle six regarding abortion as a human right, we can see that it is very likely that the secular humanists, if given the chance, would solve popula-tion booms with, among other things, abortions. We repeat what we said earlier: does it contribute to the dignity and value of the individual human life to murder it if it is inconvenient, if it doesn’t fit into the world plan for conservation of resources and if it just happens not to have been born yet? Christians cannot agree to taking innocent human life in the name of any world plan.

Article fifteen presents a socialistic world economy as the only society of value. How is this new society to be obtained? It is easy to say “disproportions in wealth, income, and economic growth should be reduced on a worldwide basis.” But how is this to be accomplished? Do the secular humanists actually think it likely that the wealthy of this world will, en masse and without exception, give up their wealth and distribute it to the poor? If so, why hasn!t it already happened? If mankind is basically good, society should need no impetus such as a Humanist Manifesto II for the wealthy to share with the poor.
Perhaps the secular humanists are not so naive as that. What then, is their solution? Should they use force to relieve the rich of their “economic burdens” and then bless the poor with the wealth taken from the rich? It seems the humanists will break either article thirteen banning violence or article fifteen banning private wealth. Marxism and socialism have similar economic goals. A look at the “freedom” of contemporary Marxist and Socialist societies show us that these goals are not realistic.


The last two propositions by the secular humanists offer the tools for implementing the grand scheme: science and its workhorse, technology. Somewhere in science, they say, lies the solution to the problems of mankind.

Sixteenth: Technology is a vital key to human progress and development. We deplore any neo-romantic efforts to condemn indiscriminately all technology and science or to counsel retreat from its further extension and use for the good of humankind. We would resist any moves to censor basic scientific research on moral, political, or social grounds. Technology must, however, be carefully judged by the consequences of its use; harmful and destructive changes should be avoided. We are particularly disturbed when technology and bureaucracy control, manipulate, or modify human beings without their consent. Technological feasibility does not imply social or cultural desirability.

Seventeenth: We must expand communication and transportation across frontiers. Travel restrictions must cease. The world must be open to diverse political, ideological, and moral viewpoints and evolve a worldwide system of television and radio for information and education. We thus call for full international cooperation in culture, science, the arts and technology, across ideological borders. We must learn to live openly together or we shall perish together.

When all else is said, it appears that the humanists rely on science and its evolution to provide the magic formulas needed to materialize the new world order envisioned by the humanists. Christianity is not intrinsically antagonistic to science. In fact, it is the Christian God who created the world around us and who determined its laws and functions, which have been categorized by what we call science. Colossians 1:16-17 reminds us that it is to the Lord Jesus Christ that we owe our existence:

For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (NASB).

Science does not create laws of nature, it discovers them. When science does discover one of those laws, it is no surprise to God. However, science is no substitute for God. All science can do is discover and describe, it cannot create reality ex nihilo, (out of nothing).

While we would not dismiss out of hand any particular advance of science, we would question the humanists’ assertion that all science will be used “for the good of humankind” and that “carefully judged by the consequences of its use; harmful and destructive changes should be avoided!’ We return to the same but still valid critique: who is to determine what the “good of humankind” is, and who is to enforce the judgments of whomever has been chosen to determine that good? The spectre of George Orwell’s 1984 looms threateningly as we think of the abuses, intentional or not, to which such judgment and enforcement could be put.

Finally, we agree with the last sentence of proposition seventeen: “We must learn to live openly together or we shall perish together.” This is exactly what the Bible has to say. However, the Bible states that because man is basically self-centered and sinful, he will forever be unable to live peaceably with his fellow man on his own initiative. It takes the supernatural intervention of God to transform individuals into selfless, caring, loving people who really will sacrifice their own desires for the sake of their fellow men. Universal peace will come only with the intervention of Almighty God. We see expressed in 2 Peter 3:3-14 the biblical vision of the future, a future cleansed of evil by judgment and restored in love by the Lord Jesus Christ:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation! For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (NASB).

Humanism Bibliography

1.  Angeles, Peter A., Dictionary of Philosophy. NY. Harper and Row, Publishers, 1981.
2.  Edwards, Rem. B., Reason and Religion. NY Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1972.
3.  Flew, Antony, A Dictionary of Philosophy. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1982.
4.  Geisler, Norman, Is Man the Measure: An Evaluation of Contemporary Humanism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1982.
5.  Green, Michael, Man Alive. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968.
6.  Guiness, Os, The Dust of Death. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973.
7.  Horvath, Nicholas A., Philosophy. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1974.
8.  Kurtz, Paul W., The Humanist Alternative. London: Pemberton Press, 1973.
9.  ______________ed., Humanist Manifesto I and II. Buffalo, NY Prometheus Books, 1973.
10. Lamont, Corliss, Freedom of Choice Affirmed. NY New Horizon Publishers, 1967.
11._______________, The Independent Mind. NY New Horizon Publishers, 1951.
12. Maritain, Jacques, True Humanism. Westport, CT Greenwood Press, 1970.
14. 13. Pascal, Blaise, Pense’s No. 430. Trans. H. F. Stewart, NY Random House, n.d.
15. Purtill, Richard, C. S. Lewis’s Case for the Christian Faith. San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1981.
16. Runes, Dagobert D., ed., Dictionary of Philosophy. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams and Company, 1977.
17. Sahakian, William S., History of Philosophy. NY: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1968.
18. _____________, and Mabel L. Sahakian, Ideas of the Great Philosophers. NY: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1966.
19. Schaeffer, Francis, Death in the City. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1969.
20. Sire, James, The Universe Next Door. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976.
21. Stumpf, Samuel Enoch, Socrates to Sartre: A History of Philosophy. NY McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1966.
22. Young, Warren C., A Christian Approach to Philosophy. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954.


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