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Secular Ethics Theory and Practice

QUESTION: Secular Ethics – From Theory to Practice


The theoretical foundation of Secular Humanist ethics, therefore, is moral relativism based on a belief in evolutionary change. Now we will examine how theory translates into practice, especially in the area of human sexuality.

Earlier in this chapter we noted Kurtz’s contention that a code of ethics derived from a supernatural or religious base is repressive and immoral in that it “suppress[es] vital inclinations.” Kirkendall identifies some of these inclinations in A New Bill of Sexual Rights and Responsibilities as homosexuality, bisexuality, pre- and extra-marital sexual relations, and “genital association.”

Secular Humanists believe that homosexuality is a legitimate lifestyle because of scientific proof that some men are born homosexual. Alfred Kinsey concluded that homosexuality is biologically determined at birth. Pedophilia (man/boy sex) and incest may also be biologically determined according to Vern Bullough, historian of the homosexual movement.

Secular Ethics – Sex, Marriage, and Eugenics
The sexual revolution has been furthered by agencies such as Planned Parenthood, where three Humanists of the Year—Margaret Sanger, Mary Calderone, and Faye Wattleton—have served in key positions. One of its goals is to stop teenage pregnancy through education rather than to discourage teenage sexual activity. Planned Parenthood campaigns for easier access to condoms for teens and school-based health clinics “that provide contraceptives as part of general health care.” According to one staff member, one goal of Planned Parenthood is to help “young people obtain sex satisfaction before marriage. By sanctioning sex before marriage, we will prevent fear and guilt.”1

Corliss Lamont also calls for sex without guilt for those who are contemplating marriage. He advocates an experimental period of living together “for at least six months.” Lamont reasons, “Historically, a primary reason for the enormous importance given to genital faithfulness and unfaithfulness was the lack of reliable birth-control techniques. Now that those techniques, including abortion, are generally available, this importance has more and more diminished.”2 Thus in this view, scientific advances and legal precedent give a whole new look to marital fidelity or infidelity.

Another good example of theory translating into practice was Margaret Sanger’s involvement with the eugenics3 movement to create a master race. This illustrates how the ethics of Secular Humanism is enmeshed in the evolutionary concept of survival of the fittest. We should note that many of her fellow humanists distanced themselves from this project.


Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Lena Levine, “Psycho-sexual Development,” Planned Parenthood News (Summer 1953): 10.

2 Corliss Lamont, Voice in the Wilderness (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1974), 97.

3 See Edwin Black, War against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (New York, NY: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003) for details regarding Sanger’s eugenics connections. Also, see Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2007), 243f.

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