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Dehumanization: The Humanistic Agenda

The history of depraved man is the history of an unending quest for an ever more consistent humanism. From the ancient world empires - Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Rome - to the Italian Renaissance to the European Enlightenment to Romanticism and finally to today's "postmodernism," man's root sin is humanism - the desire to be his own god.

  • P. Andrew Sandlin
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Humanism has been around since Genesis 3. It is the belief that there is no God or, better yet, that man himself is a god. The temptation of the serpent to Eve was simple: If you establish your own moral standards, and act on them, you can be as God (Gen. 3:5). The history of depraved man is the history of an unending quest for an ever more consistent humanism. From the ancient world empires - Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Rome - to the Italian Renaissance to the European Enlightenment to Romanticism and finally to today's "postmodernism," man's root sin is humanism - the desire to be his own god.

The Humanist Manifesto

This false religion was given classic expression in A Humanist Manifesto I (1933) and II (1973). A Humanist Manifesto I, signed by such luminaries as John Dewey, expressed forthrightly:

Religious humanists [!] regard the universe as self-existing and not created.... Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values.... Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the light of the scientific spirit and method.... Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.... Man is at last becoming aware that he alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams, that he has within himself the power for its achievement.

Like its successor, A Humanist Manifesto I is a blatantly secular document and, thus, unlike some earlier humanisms, denies the existence of the supernatural. It does not, however, deny that it is religious. In fact, the authors of A Humanist Manifesto I trumpet:

While this age does owe a vast debt to the traditional religions, it is none the less obvious that any religion that could hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a major necessity for the present.

This is a secular humanism, and it is religious to the core. Its objective is not the abolition of religion, but the substitution of the orthodox, Biblical religion for the secular, humanistic religion. Secular humanism is a form of religious subversion.

Humanism places man at the center of the universe. Man exists for himself, not for God. The heinous sin of humanism is not in the exaltation of man - the Bible itself highly exalts man as God's creation (Ps. 8:4-9)- but in the exaltation of man apart from his subordination to his Creator. In doing this, humanism not only assaults God; it dehumanizes man. The highest possible exaltation of man is his place in subjection to God (1 Cor. 15:22-28). It just so happens that humanists detest this sort of exaltation, and posit quite another kind.

In fact, it is not man as such in whom humanists are interested, but man as they would like to (re)create him. All secular humanists are necessarily utopians (as exhibited clearly in the humanist manifestos), because the man of human history is the man as God describes him, not the ideal man who lives in the humanist's depraved imagination. Therefore, they must create this man. The actual historical humanity, that is, men as they live in time and history, are not "good specimens" of humanity; therefore, they must be excluded from the program to make room for The New Humanist Man.

The Dehumanization Advanced by Environmentalist Humanism

This is the crusade of many environmentalists. For instance, California Country (May/June 2001, p. 4) reports that, "Entire farms and communities that have survived since 1907 would be laid to waste" because federal regulators in the Klamath Project have diverted water from these farms to protect two species of sucker fish and the Coho Salmon. The author, Bill Pauli, declares:

No, not all the farmers and ranchers are going to go broke. But many are going to lose their land. Communities that depend on agriculture will shrivel and some will die.... Most of all we are talking about people - families that have farmed this land for generations. Many of the families were invited to homestead the land by the same government that now pushes them aside. Their dreams, their homes, their way of life gone in a bureaucratic instant.
The sad part is that unless sanity is restored, this is just a tiny omen of what is to come.

In late May, my family and I traveled into Klamath and observed the understandable hostility of the generous farming communities there to the federal government's utopian deprivation of water that guarantees the destruction of their livelihood. These families are simply grist for the mill of the Feds, who care nothing for actual humans, but only for certain ideological humans who will share their utopian fantasies. (See Mikhail Heller's telling work, Cogs in the Wheel: The Formation of Soviet Man.)

Secular humanists have often believed that the perfect man equires the perfect environment. The imperfect man, of course, the man of history, man made in God's image, is much less important than the animal species that inhabit man's environment; therefore, man and his livelihood are dispensable, while the animal species are not. The only humans that humanists really care about are "ideological humans," politicized humans, humans who fit easily into the utopian environment. Other humans simply get in the way and take up valuable space and air. Animals that fit in with the humanist ideology are more important than humans who do not. What begins with the enthronement of man and dethronement of God ends in the dethronement of man and the enthronement of the animals. In other words, dehumanization.

The Dehumanization Advanced by Consistent Humanism

The most consistent forms of secular humanism have been found in the radical Communist states of the twentieth century. The most radical of all was Pol Pot's Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge. In this asserted paradise of secular humanism, men who did not conform to the Khmer Rouge's pattern of the ideal man were considered as virtually nothing - nothing but animals. In fact, in the harrowing and impeccably documented work published by Harvard, The Black Book of Communism, edited by Stéphane Courtois, we read of Pol Pot's paradise:

The denial of all status to the dead was the natural consequence of the denial of the humanity of the living. "I am not a human being. I am an animal," one can read at the end of the confession by the former leader and minister Hu Nim. The implication was that a human life quite literally had no more value than that of a beast. People were killed for losing cattle and tortured to death for having struck a cow. Men were tied to plows and whipped mercilessly to be shown unworthy of the cow they were supposed to be looking after. Human life was worthless. (p. 605)

When man places humanity at the center of his universe by ousting and eliminating God, he does not foster humanitarianism, but horror. Again, what begins as the dethronement of God and enthronement of man ends with the enthronement of depraved sadists and the dehumanization of everybody else.

This is the twentieth-century legacy of secular humanism.

The Christian View of Man

The Christian view of man is radically different. Man is God's highest creation, made in God's image. He is God's representative, or vicegerent, in the earth, called to exercise responsible stewardship, or dominion, over the rest of God's creation (Gen. 1:28-30). Man fell into sin in his attempt to become a Good Humanist; but in His grace, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice and atonement for men's sins. All men are born into sin and condemnation (Rom. 5:12); but all who place their faith in Jesus Christ become God's children (Jn. 1:11-13). God the Father confers on them eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12). One of God's earliest commands to man His creature related to the violence of man against man (Gen. 9:5-6; cf. 4:1-15). Man's life must be protected from other men, because man is made in the image of God. This is the summit of Biblical humanitarianism, and it is distinctly theocentric (God-centered). In addition, a large majority of God's commands disclosed in Scripture are calculated to protect, in the words of the early American republic, man's life, liberty, and property.

Secular humanism has conferred on us a radically impersonal and dehumanized (and inhumane) world. The solution to this depressing evil is not loud clamor about "human rights" and "human dignity," but a return to Biblical faith: faith and hope in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, and obedience to God's Word, the Bible.

The hope for humanity is not humanity, but God.


  • P. Andrew Sandlin

P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author.  He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California.  He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation.  He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).

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