The conflict between Christianity and humanism all too often masquerades as a choice between what we believe, without evidence, and what we “know” from observation and experience. This is a false impression promoted by humanists and their allies in the schools and media.
The Humanist Manifesto II (see http://www.americanhumanist.org/about/manifesto2.html for full text and source of all quotations) is a key document for secular humanists. It has been signed by thousands of persons who are supposedly the brains of the human race, including Nobel Prize-winning scientists.
But is humanism really based on evidence? If we examine the “Preface” of the manifesto, we will find extravagant claims and assertions that actually run counter to the evidence. It is a faith statement by atheists and has nothing to do with anyone’s real-world observation and experience.
The difference between the Bible and the manifesto is that God will perform what humanists can only promise.
Problems, Problems …
The Preface of the 1973 document opens with an admission that humanists’ early hopes, voiced in 1933’s Manifesto I, were “far too optimistic.” It acknowledges that science has been put to evil uses and that the world’s governments, instead of getting better, have become more oppressive, more totalitarian, “even in democratic societies” — like Britain, where the prime minister has proposed to register every UK citizen on a DNA database (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/24/ndna24.xml), and Germany, where the government is forcibly dragging homeschooled children to the public schools and jailing their fathers (see http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=52603).
It’s not sane or rational to keep doing the same thing in hopes that the results will be different, this time; but that’s what the humanists recommend. After confessing how badly science and government failed to make the 20th century an earthly paradise, they insist that more science and more government will somehow do the trick in the 21st. But why should the results be any better this century?
We are not told why. Instead: “As we approach the 21st century … an affirmative and hopeful vision is needed. Faith, commensurate with advancing knowledge, is also necessary.”
Here we confront the central question: in whom shall we repose our faith, in God or in man? Christians say in God; humanists say in man.
Believing as we do that God is infallible, perfect in righteousness and love, it’s rational for us to put our trust in Him. How rational is it for humanists to put the same kind of trust in fallible, fallen man?
Rejection of God
Ye shall know them by their fruits … a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. —Matthew 7:16–17
The problem with Christianity is that Christians are very hard put to live up to it. We are a stubborn, stiff-necked people, always kicking against the goads no matter how it hurts. Who has ever gone wrong by obeying God’s commandments? What harm has the world sustained because people loved God with all their hearts and their neighbor as themselves?
But HM II calls “faith in the prayer-hearing God … an unproved and outmoded faith … harmful, diverting people with false hopes … Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.” Of course, HM II denies that there is any kind of life after death, so ultimately there is no survival.
When men do look to “other means,” the manifesto’s opening paragraph describes what happens. We already know. Two world wars and a host of smaller wars. The wisdom of Charles Darwin, who taught man to view himself as the product of blind chance and the world as an arena for the survival of the fittest. The wisdom of Margaret Sanger, founder of the abortion industry. Of John Dewey, who taught us to use our schools to subvert the family and build up the power of the state. A 20th-century world where the leading cause of death was violence inflicted by governments. Yes, we know them by their fruits.
No one can say the problems that our world has today are the results of obeying God’s laws. We consulted our own wisdom and made this mess ourselves. It is the result of disobedience to God.
Humanists hope to arrive at a “consensus … a set of common principles that can serve as a basis for united action … a design for a secular society on a planetary scale.”
Consensus on a planetary scale? Can anyone point to even one small town where such a consensus can be found? We find it only in the Bible, as in Jeremiah 24:7, “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”
Human nature will always defeat any attempt to find consensus without God. In any system of thought in which man himself is viewed as the ultimate authority, no man’s opinion can be more ultimate than another’s!
Dream On …
Humanists, in their manifesto, promise what they can never perform. Consider the goals listed in the Preface.
“Control our environment” — but Earth’s environment is largely affected by the behavior of the Sun, which is beyond our reach. Humanists also believe that the continents drift, clumping together, tearing apart, reconfiguring the flow of ocean currents. How do they propose to control that? With tugboats?
“Conquer poverty”? Our leaders have poured trillions of dollars into a “war on poverty,” yet constantly complain that poverty is still with us. Admitting that their efforts have failed, they can only recommend more of the same.
If by “poverty” we really mean economic inequality, then someone is always going to be in the bottom 20 percent — unless the government tries to level the field by radical, coercive redistribution of wealth, which we know from historical experience throttles economic growth and suppresses the creation of wealth.
As for reducing disease and extending the human lifespan, again, this has already been accomplished to a degree in the Western lands once known as Christendom. We have no more typhoid epidemics in our major cities, no smallpox, no Black Death. We do have AIDS, which we would not have if we obeyed God’s laws. But in countries where the people are saddled with tyrannical, corrupt governments, the ravages of disease are much more severe.
“Modify our behavior” — isn’t that the purpose of the Ten Commandments and all the teachings of the Bible? But humanists propose to sanctify humanity without the grace of God.
By what methods? When psychology fails, there’s always coercion, either by the threat of violence or economically, through punitive taxation, or tax benefits as rewards for good behavior. There’s also propaganda administered by public education and the media.
These succeed brilliantly in modifying behavior downward — out-of-wedlock births, sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse, suicide, etc., are all more common than they were a generation ago — but never upward. Why not? Because those who take on the job of sanctifying others are themselves unsanctified. They’re sinners, and just as fallible, just as ill-informed, as those whom they propose to sanctify. Physician, heal thyself!
“Alter the course of human evolution”? Heinrich Himmler and others have already tried this, selectively breeding and sterilizing or murdering their subjects in an effort to produce a Master Race through the “science” of eugenics. Now humanists propose to do it through genetic engineering and human cloning.
Whether such a thing is actually possible or not, the problem will always come down to someone, somewhere, tainted with Original Sin and operating under the influence of incomplete or inaccurate information, fears, and prejudices deciding how to alter evolution. That’s a problem that simply can’t be solved, even if you believe in evolution in the first place.
By contrast, God has promised to do all these things and more: to restore creation to its original purity and to regenerate mankind.
Christians do not eschew science. “The redeemed Christian is God’s vice-regent over the earth,” R. J. Rushdoony writes, “and science is one of man’s tools in establishing and furthering that dominion.” But Christians do not push science farther than it ought to go. “For science to overstep that role is to forsake science for magic. The purposes of modern science are increasingly those of magic, the exercise of total control,” Rushdoony says.
It’s no accident that the nations most averse to Christianity are those that have fallen farthest behind. Secular Europe is slipping backward where Christian Europe used to advance.
Is Reason Reasonable?
The wise use of technology, declares HM II, will “unlock vast new powers” — unspecified, of course. These will be harnessed by the humanists’ trump card: reason.
But what is “reason”? One man’s reason is another man’s folly, or worse. “Reason” supposes that “reasonable” persons, working from the same set of data, will reach the same conclusions. How often does that happen in the real world? If it did, there would be neither politics nor lawsuits.
Reason, the manifesto explains, boils down to “an ethical process” applicable to all mankind. And if you don’t subscribe to the government’s ethical process, there’s a cell in a gulag with your name on it.
The Bible already presents an ethical system that applies to all. Because this ethical system is handed down by God, it’s not negotiable, not subject to change, and really does apply to everyone. If God created us, it is logical for Him to define good and evil.
Any such system devised by man rests on man’s personal opinions and can only be as strong as the brute force, the money, or the public relations campaign behind it. Man-made ethical systems change as the power of their sponsors rises and falls.
Nevertheless, having achieved a global consensus through the application of reason and having set up a universal ethical system, the manifesto sweeps on to propose the creation of a global government. This is for “the fulfillment of the potential for growth in each human personality” for which “[o]nly a shared world and global measures will suffice.”
And so, micromanaged by a global government, each and every one of the world’s 6 billion people will achieve his full potential — whatever the global government decides that is. Meanwhile, back in the real world, this sort of thing has yet to be achieved in the smallest hamlet or the lowliest kibbutz.
How are all these humanist marvels to be achieved? Don’t ask. Put your blind faith in science and technology and in the wisdom of man without God, and all will be well.
But the Bible teaches us that “verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Ps. 39:5). If he were not, he’s had thousands of years to get his act together, and he certainly should have done so before now. You’d think one of his mighty empires would have proved permanent. Meanwhile, Western civilization based on Christianity dramatically outperformed the empires of the past. That it sags and staggers today is due to its abandonment of its Christian faith.
What has survived, and always will, is God’s Word. Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and Rome had thinkers as bright and as humanistic as the signers of Manifesto II. All are dust. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,” says our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 24:35).
The Humanist Manifesto II is a faith statement opposed to the Christian faith, in which man — sinful, fallible, and self-deluded — and the works of his hands are offered up as a replacement for God. Why we should continue to trust in man, after the tumults and atrocities of the last century, is not explained.
In the rest of this series, we’ll look at the sections of HM II on religion, ethics, the individual, democratic society, world community, and humanity as a whole. We will not find wisdom there, but only the self-destructive false reasoning of men who willingly divorce themselves from God.
 R. J. Rushdoony, The Mythology of Science (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1967, 2001 edition), 6.
- Lee Duigon
Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.
Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.