Worldview Analysis of Secular Humanism

The following is a recent paper that I wrote on Secular Humanism for a class at Liberty.  Hope you enjoy it.

Worldview Analysis of Secular Humanism

By: Pastor Brian Chilton

The Christian theist is opposed by many worldviews.  While various religions and worldviews have been around since the early stages of human history, one such worldview has grown in prominence in recent times: secular humanism.  This paper will give a summary of secular humanism’s core beliefs, will give a critique of secular humanism, and will pose a method of sharing the gospel with a secular humanist.  Is secular humanism reasonable?  To answer the question, a summary of secular humanism must first be given.

Summary of Secular Humanism

Secular humanism is a worldview held by atheists and/or agnostics that promotes the human above all things.  SecularHumanism.org, a site devoted to secular humanism, defines secular humanism as the following:

Secular humanism is comprehensive, touching every aspect of life including issues of values, meaning, and identity…Secular humanism is nonreligious, espousing no belief in a realm or beings imagined to transcend ordinary experience…Secular humanism is philosophically naturalistic. It holds that nature (the world of everyday physical experience) is all there is…Secular humanism provides a cosmic outlook—a world-view in the broadest sense, grounding our lives in the context of our universe and relying on methods demonstrated by science…Secular humanists hold that ethics is consequential, to be judged by results.[1]

The secular humanist evaluates everything from the perspective of what is seen or what can be known by the senses.  Therefore, a belief for the secular humanist is brought forth not only by what can be experienced through the senses but also by that which is tested using scientific methodology.  Sam Harris, an atheist, defines “belief” in the following way, “The brain’s capacity to accept such propositions as true—as valid guides to behavior and emotion, as predictive of future outcomes, etc.—explains the transformative power of words.  There is a common term we use for this type of acceptance; we call it ‘belief.’[2]  So the secular humanist would have no room for God or for anything “supernatural” due to the heavy dependency upon the human sensory experience.  For this reason, the secular humanist defends evolution with the fire of a Christian evangelist.  As Geisler wrote, “Evolution is the secular humanist’s way to explain origins.  Either the universe and living things originated by means of the intervention of a supernatural Creator, or they evolved by purely naturalistic means.  Nontheists thus have no choice but to defend evolution.[3]  No worldview is free from critique.  Secular humanism contains several problems.  The next section will address two of the problems found in secular humanism.

Critiques of Secular Humanism

Secular humanism holds many glaring holes at the core of its philosophy.  Many pages could be written, but for the sake of space, this section will focus on two implosions or fatal flaws found at the core of secular humanist thinking: the implosion of causal relationships and the implosion of the humanist’s own morality.

Secular humanism implodes by causal relationships.  The scientific method is based on cause/effect relationships.  This is the crux of scientific research.  However, modern secular humanists, especially humanists’ associated with the New Atheism, seem to bypass the necessity of causal relationships when it comes to the origin of the universe.  Something must be eternal.  Either the universe is eternal or a transcendent God is eternal.

The secular humanist seems comfortable in espousing that the universe came from nothing.  Famed atheist Richard Dawkins wrote in the afterword of A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing, “Finally, and inevitably, the flat universe will further flatten into a nothingness that mirrors its beginning.[4]  This is problematic at its core.  How is it that the universe (something) can become nothing?  Furthermore, how is it that nothing can produce something?  Is the “nothing” that is presented actually be “something”?  If the “nothing” is “something,” then the “nothing” is not really “nothing” but “something.”  A thing cannot both exist and be non-existent at the same time.  A thing either is or is not but it cannot be both.  Therefore, an uncaused cause must exist.  The secular humanist would claim that the universe has always existed and has gone through an infinite regress of past events.

Logic shows that an infinite regress of past events is impossible in the natural sphere.  If this is impossible, then God’s existence is far more reasonable than it would be to espouse that the universe was a “nothing” turned “something.”  As Craig and Sinclair write, “When we use the word ‘exist,’ we mean ‘be instantiated in the mind-independent world’…Since an actual infinite cannot exist and an infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite, we may conclude that an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.  Therefore, since the temporal regress of events is finite, the universe began to exist.”[5]  Since there cannot be an infinite regress of past events and the beginning of the universe cannot be attributed to “nothingness,” the only logical cause of the universe and everything within it is an uncaused agent we know as God.  If humans can believe things from logic, which many humanists would agree, then belief in God is warranted, if not demanded, due to the necessity of an uncaused cause for all natural things.  But, secular humanism implodes on another front: its own morality.

Secular humanism promotes morality, but the humanist’s morality implodes as the humanist does not really possess a standard for morality.  The Humanist Manifesto II states, “Ethics stems from human need and interest.  To deny this distorts the whole basis of life.”[6]  If the humanist is correct, then humanity should become more moral over time and the humanist should be the most moral person of all.  However, this is not the case.  John Lennox eloquently writes, “…I would like to ask you also to imagine a world with no atheism.  No Stalin, no Mao, no Pol Pot, just to name the heads of the three officially atheistic states that were responsible for some of the worst mass crimes of the twentieth century.[7]  In addition, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot operated from what they considered to be their own needs and interests.  Therefore, the secular humanist has no standard for morality whatsoever because all morality becomes relative.  So, how would you share the gospel with a secular humanist?

Proposed Plan for Sharing the Gospel with the Secular Humanist

The secular humanist holds a high view of humanity and a low view of the supernatural.  The Christian theist, or evangelist, should approach the secular humanist differently than that of other worldviews.  In some respects, sharing the gospel with the secular humanist requires steps that adherents of other worldviews would not require.  Four steps should be used to reach the secular humanist beginning with objective truth.

The evangelist must first present to the secular humanist that objective truths exist.  Many secular humanists have fallen into relativistic thinking.  An easy way to present the flaws in relativist thinking is to show that relative statements are given objectively.  Therefore, even the relativist benefits from objectivity when promoting relative claims.  Once the evangelist lays out the logic and standards of objective truth; the Christian evangelist moves on to show the necessity of God’s existence.

The Christian evangelist would do well to know and present the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments for God’s existence.  The secular humanist should be shown that God’s existence is not only reasonable but also necessary to explain the existence of anything.  This step could take a considerable amount of time depending on the secular humanists’ level of opposition.  From here, the evangelist would move to God’s revelation given in the Bible.

The evangelist needs to show that God has given a personal revelation concerning Himself in the Bible.  The evangelist would do well to present archaeological evidences for the Bible and must be able to show the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Some secular humanists make assumptions against the Bible without research.  Lastly, the evangelist would present the person of Jesus Christ to the secular humanist.

The gospel message will be shared completely with the secular humanist as the evangelist presents the person of Jesus Christ.  At this stage, the legitimacy for the Bible and truth will be established.  Here, the evangelist shows the need for salvation and the message of salvation.  Since the secular humanist holds ethics in high regard, the evangelist should present the high ethical message given by Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

Secular humanism is not a reasonable worldview.  Secular humanism holds that morality is based upon the person and no other.  Yet, that relativist thinking leads to a vast array of logical inconsistencies which eventually ends with no establishment of moral reckoning.  Secular humanism holds to science as a means to know everything.  Yet, science cannot prove the need for science.  Also, the secular humanist must deny the very principle upon which the foundation of science is built, causal relationships, by denying the necessity of a first cause to all natural things.  The Christian theist would do well to present the need for objective truth, the necessity of God’s existence, the revelation of God given in the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ to the secular humanist.  While the secular humanist has built a foundation upon logical inconsistencies, the evangelist must remember that the secular humanist is foremost a soul in need of salvation.

Bibliography

American Humanist Association. 1973. “Ethics,” Humanist Manifesto II. http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II (accessed April 25, 2013).

 Council for Secular Humanism, “What Is Secular Humanism?” http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=what_is (accessed April 24, 2013).

Craig, William Lane, and James D. Sinclair, “The Kalaam Cosmological Argument,” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology ed. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 117.

Dawkins, Richard, Afterword to A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012), 188.

Geisler, Norman, “Humanism, Secular,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 342.

Harris, Sam, “Belief,” The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York, NY: Free Press, 2010), 115.

Lennox, John, “Is Atheism Poisonous,” Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Mark (Oxford, UK: Lion Publishers, 2011), 83.

 


[1] Council for Secular Humanism, “What Is Secular Humanism?,” http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=what_is (accessed April 24, 2013).

[2] Sam Harris, “Belief,” The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York, NY: Free Press, 2010), 115.

 [3] Norman Geisler, “Humanism, Secular,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 342.

[4] Richard Dawkins, afterword to A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012), 188.

[5] William Lane Craig and James D. Sinclair, “The Kalaam Cosmological Argument,” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology ed. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 117.

[6] American Humanist Association. 1973. “Ethics,” Humanist Manifesto II. http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II (accessed April 25, 2013).

[7] John Lennox, “Is Atheism Poisonous,” Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Mark (Oxford, UK: Lion Publishers, 2011), 83.

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