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Secular History and Who Shapes History?

QUESTION: Secular History – Who Shapes History?


Some Humanists believe that our social environment plays the greatest role in shaping history. Barnes writes, “History is a record of man’s development as conditioned by his social environment.”1 At first glance, this view seems consistent with the Secular Humanist worldview. Humanist psychology describes humans as inherently good animals driven to do evil by environmental stimuli. However, Humanism does not accept the conclusion that history is the story of our response to our environment over the years because this conclusion denies that we hold any power to control our destiny. Secular Humanists believe that we possess the free will to shape our environment and our history. Corliss Lamont explains, “Within certain limits prescribed by our earthly circumstances and by scientific law, individual human beings, entire nations, and mankind in general are free to choose the paths that they truly wish to follow. To a significant degree they are the molders of their own fate and hold in their own hands the shape of things to come.”2

Secular History – Humans are Responsible for Shaping History
Humanist Manifesto II also teaches that humanity is a dynamic force in history: “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.”3 Secular Humanists thus maintain both an optimistic view of history and a belief that humanity has some purpose.


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 Harry Elmer Barnes, Living in the Twentieth Century (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), 32.

2 Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism (New York, NY: Frederick Ungar, 1982), 282.

3 Humanist Manifesto II (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980), 16.

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