Secular Theology -- Atheism
The theology of Secular Humanism is atheism. Paul Kurtz tells us plainly, “Humanism cannot in any fair sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the source and creator of the universe.”1
After thinking about religion and the supernatural for three years, Bertrand Russell abandoned the notion of God. He later admitted, “I believed in God until I was just eighteen.”2 Russell, one of Secular Humanism’s most famous international voices, maintained that the whole idea of God was a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms, and therefore concluded, “I am not a Christian...I do not believe in God and in immortality; and...I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant Him a very high degree of moral goodness.”3
While eighteen might seem a tender age to determine whether or not God exists, Miriam Allen deFord, an American Humanist, had already concluded by age thirteen that there was sufficient evidence for denying the existence of all gods. Furthermore, she was convinced that people possessed no soul and that immortality (life after death) was a hoax. “To put it bluntly and undiplomatically,” deFord says, “Humanism, in my viewpoint, must be atheistic or it is not Humanism as I understand it.”4
Corliss Lamont, author of The Philosophy of Humanism, insists that Humanism, “rejecting supernaturalism” and “seeking man’s fulfillment in the here and now of this world,” has a long honored tradition of atheism, beginning with Democritus in ancient Greece and Lucretius in ancient Rome and continuing through history to John Dewey and Bertrand Russell in the twentieth century.
Secular Theology – Theological Beliefs of Leading Humanists
Secular Theology (the theology of the Humanist) is surprisingly unshakeable in its dogmatic belief that the supernatural—including God, Satan, angels, demons, and souls—does not exist, a theology which is spelled out in all its certitude by various Humanist leaders.
Lamont believes that the fundamental principle of Humanism, which distinguishes it from all other worldviews, is that “Humanism...considers all forms of the supernatural as myth.”5 The supernatural—that is, anything outside nature—“does not exist.”6 Lamont says, “Humanism, “in its most accurate philosophical sense, implies a worldview in which Nature is everything, in which there is no supernatural.”7
Lamont asserts that “intellectually, there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost for philosophy by positing a supernatural Creator or First Cause behind the great material universe.”8 There is no place in the Humanist worldview for God and, insists Lamont, instead of the gods creating the cosmos, “the cosmos, in the individualized form of human beings giving rein to their imagination, created the gods.”9
Secular Theology – The Humanist Manifesto
Some years earlier than Lamont’s first edition of The Philosophy of Humanism (1949), many Humanists, including John Dewey and Roy Wood Sellars, published Humanist Manifesto I (1933). It described the universe as “self-existing and not created.” Further, the Manifesto declared, “the time has passed for theism....”10
Forty years after the 1933 Manifesto, the Humanists published Humanist Manifesto II and reiterated, “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.” Again, “...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.”11 Hundreds of Humanists signed this declaration of atheism, as did hundreds more the subsequent Humanist Manifesto 2000.
Bold atheism is proclaimed by every orthodox Humanist, including Paul Kurtz. Kurtz is the long-time editor of Free Inquiry, the quarterly magazine for skeptics and atheists. He declares, “Humanism cannot in any fair sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the source and creator of the universe. Christian Humanism would be possible only for those who are willing to admit that they are atheistic Humanists. It surely does not apply to God-intoxicated believers.”13
For Kurtz, “God himself is man deified.”14 Such theology, of course, is quite close to the Marxist point of view. In fact, Kurtz refers to Marx as “one of history’s great humanist thinkers.” Kurtz says Marx is a Humanist because “he rejects theistic religion and defends atheism.”15 British biologist and author Julian Huxley said, “I disbelieve in a personal God in any sense in which that phrase is ordinarily used.” He went on to say, “For my own part, the sense of spiritual relief which comes from rejecting the idea of God as a supernatural being is enormous.”16
American philosopher Harold H. Titus says that Humanism is a “religion without God,”17 adding, “Humanistic naturalists regard the universe as ‘self-existing and not created.’ They have abandoned all conceptions of a supernatural and all forms of cosmic support.”18
Secular Theology – Conclusion
When it comes to Secular Theology, it is of little importance whether the dethroning of God or the deification of man was Humanism’s first theological presupposition. The crux of their theology remains anti-God. This is the heart and soul of Secular Humanism: man setting himself up in place of God. Unfortunately for the Humanist, this theology often strips him of all sense of purpose. As Ernest Nagel explains, atheism “can offer no hope of personal immortality, no threats of divine chastisement, no promise of eternal recompense for injustices suffered, no blueprints to sure salvation... A tragic view of life is thus [an undeniable]...ingredient in atheistic thought.”19
Perhaps it was this “tragic view of life” that finally caught up to Antony Flew, one of Free Inquiry’s contributing editors. At 81 years of age Dr. Flew abandoned his atheism and joined the ranks of the theists (he claims some form of Deism20).
Richard Ostling describes his spiritual journey this way: “A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence and says so on a video. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or First Cause must have created the universe.”21
The important point is that science and reason drove Flew to this conclusion, not revelation or history. Secular Humanists continue to stress that science and reason will drive one from the Christian point of view of creation. Dr. Flew more than answers this claim. As it turns out, biology and science in general are not confining the supernatural to any dustbin of history, as Dewey claimed.22
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 Paul Kurtz, ed., The Humanist Alternative (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1973), 177.
2 Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn, The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1961), 40.
3 Ibid., 586.
4 Kurtz, The Humanist Alternative, 82.
5 Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism (New York, NY: Frederick Ungar, 1982), 145.
6 Ibid., 14.
7 Ibid., 22.
8 Ibid., 123.
9 Ibid., 145.
10 Humanist Manifesto I (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980), 8. Also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanist_Manifesto
11 Humanist Manifesto II (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1980), 16.
12 Isaac Asimov, “An Interview with Isaac Asimov,” Free Inquiry, (Spring 1982), no. 2, 9.
13 Kurtz, The Humanist Alternative, 178.
14 Paul Kurtz, The Fullness of Life (New York, NY: Horizon Press, 1974), 35–6.
16 Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation (New York, NY: Mentor, 1957), 32.
17 Harold H. Titus, “Humanistic Naturalism,” The Humanist (1954), no. 1, 33.
18 Ibid., 30.
19 Peter Angeles, ed., Critiques of God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1976), 17.
20 Deism is the belief that God exists and created the universe, but then vacated it for humanity to manage by itself without any external interference.
21 Richard Ostling, The Associated Press (December 9, 2004).
22 See Stephen C. Meyer, “The Origin of the Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, August 28, 2004; John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2003); Geoffrey Simmons, What Darwin Didn’t Know (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2004); Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge To Evolution (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1996).
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