Secular Humanism Essay

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Apologetics Application Paper: Secular Humanism

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. – The First Commandment

Thou shalt have no gods. – Secular Humanists

I. Introduction



Although the epigraphs above do not reflect the entire arguments in support of their respective oppositional positions, they do capture the essence of the specific argument between Christians and secular humanists concerning the centrality of religious beliefs for the human condition. Indeed, since time immemorial, humankind has sought spiritual solace, guidance and redemption but it has only been relatively recently that this fundamental worldview has been challenged by human secularism which holds that there is no god and that human beings possess the natural gifts to manage their affairs just fine, thank you. Human secularism gained significant impetus as a result of innovations in scientific and medical technologies that have further reinforced the notion that people can take care of themselves without a deity – benevolent or otherwise – watching over them.



[footnoteRef:2] Not surprisingly, the diametrically opposed views of Christianity and human secularism have been the source of significant controversy in recent years, with each school of thought vigorously defending their respective positions by citing relevant evidence and brooking no disagreements. Against this backdrop, developing a better understanding of these two worldviews has assumed new importance and relevance today. To this end, this paper provides a summary and evaluation of the human secularist worldview, followed by a corresponding evaluation and defense of Christianity. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning human secularism are provided in the paper’s conclusion. [2: Alan T. Price (2007, Spring), ‘Secular Humanism vs. Religion? The Liberal Democratic Education Tradition and the Battle over Vouchers in the USA.’ Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, p. 37.]

II. Summary of the secular humanist worldview



As the term connotes, the source of authority for the secularist humanist worldview is the individual human being, and the source of morality is judged by the consequence of individual actions based on experience and empirical observations. For example, one secular humanist concedes that, “It's true that secular humanism says the morality of actions should be judged by their consequences in this world. Secular humanists plead guilty as charged to these and many other claims that show the genuine and radical differences between humanism and revealed religion.”[footnoteRef:3] [3: Matt Cherry and Mollen Matsumuru (1997, Winter), “10 Myths about Secular Humanism.” Free Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 1, p. 26.]



While religious-minded individuals may have trouble accepting this strict reliance on human authority rather than a Supreme Being, secular humanists not only embrace the notion but publicize and celebrate it as well in an effort to dispel the numerous concomitant misconceptions that have emerged in response to the growth of the secular humanism movement. Indeed, some secular humanists argue that they have been targeted by the followers of various religious faiths as so many unrepentant apostates who are intent on attacking their belief systems. For example, Cherry emphasizes that, “There is often an attempt to demonize secular humanists. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. For many religious conservatives, secular humanism is that devil.”[footnoteRef:4] [4: Cherry and Matsumuru (1997), p. 26.]



Given the heated rhetoric that has characterized the debate in the past, many modern observers may have the wrong impression about the tenets of secular humanism. The Council for Secular Humanism simply defines this worldview as being “comprehensive, touching every aspect of life including issues of values, meaning, and identity [and] thus it is broader than atheism, which concerns only the nonexistence of god or the supernatural.
Important as that may be, there’s a lot more to life … and secular humanism addresses it.”[footnoteRef:5] Moreover, despite the arguments that are discussed further below, many secular humanists both resent and reject the notion that their worldview rises to the level of an organized religion. In fact, the distinction is sufficiently important to many secular humanists that a great deal of scholarship has been devoted to this specific issue.[footnoteRef:6] In this regard, the Council for Secular Humanism maintains that, “Secular humanism is nonreligious, espousing no belief in a realm or beings imagined to transcend ordinary experience.”[footnoteRef:7] [5: ‘What is secular humanism?’ (2018). Council for Secular Humanism. [online] https://secular humanism.org/index.php/3260, p. 4.] [6: Robert M. Price (2002, Summer), ‘Religious and Secular Humanism: What's the Difference?’ Free Inquiry, Vol. 22, No. 3, p. 47.] [7: ‘What is secular humanism?,’ p. 5.]



Other authorities, however, argue that the secular humanism worldview includes many, if not all, of the elements needed to qualify as a religion. The controversy over the definition of secular humanism as a religion, though, does not detract or affect its underlying beliefs which are firmly grounded in empirical observations and experience. For instance, Flynn maintains that, “Secular humanism propounds a rational ethics based on human experience.”[footnoteRef:8] The secular humanism worldview also includes a means for evaluating the ethnicity of choices that are made by people that are based on such experiential outcomes as guided by rationality and drawing on scientific principles and knowledge. In this regard, according to Flynn, “[Secular humanism] is consequentialist: ethical choices are judged by their results. Secular humanist ethics appeals [sic] to science, reason, and experience to justify its ethical principles.”[footnoteRef:9] [8: Tom Flynn (2017). ‘Secular humanism’s unique selling proposition.’ Council for Secular Humanism. < https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/13#6>.] [9: Flynn (2017), p. 5.]



Taken together, these attempts to provide some definitional clarity concerning secular humanism make it clear that proponents reject the worldviews held by those who believe in a higher power, but these attempts break down when it comes to the tenet of holding no belief in anything that “transcends ordinary experience.” In fact, it is reasonable to suggest that even the most ardent secular humanists have experienced events in their lives that transcend their ordinary experiences and which defy ready explanation, but this has not stopped secular humanists from trying. For example, the Council for Secular Humanism defends the worldview by suggesting that everyone is god and it is easy to understand the appeal of this type of proposition to people who are desperately searching for answers to the overarching questions in their lives. According to the Council, “As a secular lifestance, secular humanism incorporates the Enlightenment principle of individualism, which celebrates emancipating the individual from traditional controls by family, church, and state, increasingly empowering each of us to set the terms of his or her own life.”[footnoteRef:10] While this characterization serves to highlight the source of secular humanism’s moral authority, these observations also underscore its weaknesses as discussed further below. [10: ‘What is….....

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References
Cherry, Matt and Matsumuru, Mollen (1997, Winter), 10 Myths about Secular Humanism. Free Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 25-28.
Flynn, Tom (2017). Secular humanisms unique selling proposition. Council for Secular Humanism. [online] < https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/13#6>.
Noebel, David A. (1996, Fall), The Religion of Secular Humanism. Free Inquiry, Vol. 16, No. 4, p. 7.
What is secular humanism? (2018). Council for Secular Humanism. [online] https://secular humanism.org/index.php/3260.
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