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Secular Politics and Ethics

QUESTION: Secular Politics – Ideologies and Ethics


Before the world can move beyond these two general recommendations (global disarmament and expansion of the UN), however, both nations and individuals will have to make ideological and ethical compromises. Humanist Manifesto II demands ideological compromise in the form of “international cooperation in culture, science, the arts, and technology across ideological borders. We must learn to live openly together or we shall perish together.”1

The need for compromise between ideologies is rooted in a Humanist definition of democracy as not only a form of government, but also an overall means of equalization. Proponents of specific ideologies perceive other ideologies as unequal (and inferior) to their own. Humanists believe this denial of equality creates tensions that cannot exist in a democratic world government. The fact that some ideologies are perceived as more right than others is contrary to the Secular Humanist definition of democracy.

Secular Politics – Role of Ethics in the New World Community
This idea can best be understood by exploring the Secular Humanist attitude toward the role of ethics in establishing the world community. Dreikurs believes that “the task of our generation [is] to explore the means by which we can reach agreement, the basis for co-operation between equals. No pressure or ‘being right’ will accomplish this.”2 It is better to agree to begin agreeing rather than continue arguing about which worldview is ethically right.

According to Secular Humanism, no ethical system holds all the answers, and no system is totally sinister—instead, we are asked to take a more egalitarian view of ideologies and their ethical systems. Since ideologies are continually evolving, we must simply embrace the newest, most highly developed ideology. Huxley puts it this way: “[M]ajor steps in the human phase of evolution are achieved by breakthroughs to new dominant patterns of mental organization, of knowledge, ideas and beliefs—ideological instead of physiological or biological organization.”3

Secular Humanists believe that their worldview is capable of promoting tolerance, compromise, and cooperation in a world community. Huxley says, “A world organization cannot be based on one of the competing theologies of the world but must, it seems, be based on some form of humanism...a world humanism...a scientific evolutionary humanism.”4

Francis Williams calls for us “to stop thinking politically as Capitalists, or Communists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, and think as Humanists...A world in which men have both hydrogen bombs and closed minds is altogether too dangerous.”5 In other words, world democracy will flourish only when all nations embrace Humanism.


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 Humanist Manifesto II (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980), 22.

2 Rudolf Dreikurs, “The Impact of Equality,” The Humanist (Sept./Oct. 1964): 146.

3 Julian Huxley, The Humanist Frame (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1961), 16.

4 Morris B. Storer, ed., Humanist Ethics (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980), 2.

5 Huxley, The Humanist Frame, 107.

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