Although churchmen who profess “liberal religion” may call themselves humanists, it simply isn’t possible to be both a Christian and a humanist. No other document makes that clearer than The Humanist Manifesto II (for full text and source of quotations see http://www.americanhumanist.org/about/manifesto2.html).
In this article we’ll examine the sections of HMII dealing with humanists’ views on “Religion,” “Ethics,” and “The Individual.” We have to examine only six subsections, two per section; but they are densely packed with humanist ideology. Given that thousands of the world’s eminent humanists have signed this document, we are justified in taking it for an accurate statement of what humanists believe.
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. — 1 Corinthians 15:13–20
This is the Christian position, as stated by the Apostle Paul. It would be impossible to be more in conflict with it than are the manifesto’s statements on “Religion.”
Humanists see religion as “a disservice to the human species.” They set “science” as their standard: “Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence … We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural … As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.”
Of course, if God is our supreme authority, we cannot appeal to a higher authority to confirm His existence. For us there can be no higher authority. But for the humanist, the ultimate authority is “scientific evidence” — collected, identified, and interpreted by sinful, fallible, mortal men and their fallible, often-inaccurate procedures.
We believe we live because God created us to love Him, to serve and worship Him, to become His children by adoption. But humanists say, “[W]e can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species.”
These are faith statements, not testable under a higher standard of proof. If our god is the Lord, the humanists’ god is man and his science.
HMII’s alienation from God is total. After denying Him, the manifesto says, “Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful … [S]cience affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces.” We are a “biological organism transacting in a social and cultural contest.” And finally, “There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.”
If Christ be indeed risen from the dead, then it is the humanists’ preaching that is vain, and it is the humanists who are the most miserable of men, having rejected God’s gift of eternal life.
Why do they reject life and embrace death? They say it’s because religious belief distracts us from “self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.” This will certainly come as news to the countless Christians who have founded, labored in, and donated to hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, and a host of other charities. Where are the atheist charities? And who wants to die in a humanist hospice?
“We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience,” says the manifesto. “Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest.”
In other words, a “value” is only a value because someone says it is!
The pitfalls of this line of thought are obvious, but humanists insist that “[h]uman life has meaning because we create and develop our future.” Some more than others, we might add.
The Bible is packed with verses proclaiming God’s love, care, and concern for the weak, the powerless, those who have little or no opportunity to create and develop their future. In practice, humanists believe the state will do it for them. We are not encouraged by the historical performance of the state in this respect. We need not focus on statist outrages like Stalin’s manufactured famines, slavery, or catastrophic wars. The abject failures of ostensibly well-intentioned schemes like welfare, public education, and socialized medicine speak just as eloquently.
How do humanists decide what their values are? By “reason and intelligence” and “the controlled use of scientific methods.” How these will lead us to morality is not explained.
We detect in this portion of the manifesto a faint note of unease. “Reason should be balanced with compassion and empathy and the whole person fulfilled,” say the authors. Science must be allied with emotion, “for we believe in the cultivation of feeling and love.”
The Bible tells us that God is love: “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s love is intensely personal; but we have never seen much, if any, love flowing out of impersonal government institutions. How do humanists propose to harness “feeling and love”? What kind of love, what feelings? Given their contention that we are only biological organisms arising from brute material processes, how would they even define love? We are not told.
If humanists are uneasy about trying to balance science and emotion, they have an even harder task here.
“We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility,” says HMII. Christians speak of this in terms of liberty under the law and grace and sovereignty of God, “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). But HMII can only discuss it in terms of lifting restraints on sexual behavior.
Inveighing against “intolerant attitudes” and “puritanical cultures” that “unduly repress sexual conduct,” humanists say that “individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire.” They hail abortion and divorce, and the “many varieties of sexual exploration.”
At the same time, they claim to reject “exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression,” “mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity,” and “harming others or compelling them to do likewise.” Somehow they hope to provide “moral education for children and adults … developing awareness and sexual maturity.”
We are not told how these fine-sounding caveats are to be put into practice. In the real world, we encounter absurdities like the Vermont civil unions law, which disallows homosexual civil unions between close kin. And we see humanists restricting the “maximum individual autonomy” of those who disagree with them; for instance, Missouri State University has denied a degree to a social work student who, for religious reasons, refused to write a letter to the state legislature in support of homosexual adoptions (see http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/11/12006a.asp). We also see a world swept by epidemics of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
R. J. Rushdoony long ago saw the connection between sexual revolution and statist tyranny. Writing for California Farmer in 1975, he said:
“People welcome tyranny in the belief that their liberties are being increased.
“In only one direction is their freedom increased, however, and it is the ‘freedom’ to sin … It leads, not to the liberation, but to the enslavement of man and the disintegration of his society.”
Rejecting God and putting themselves in God’s place, the highest authority humanists can invoke is the state, the concrete form taken by their idolatry of man.
The Biblical vision of the state is one of limited government, and a clearly defined mission to enforce the law and protect its citizens from evildoers. The Biblical state is only one of four spheres of government — state, church, family, and the internal self-government of the individual — all under God, and all accountable to Him.
The humanist vision of the state, as we will discuss in subsequent articles, is unlimited, unrestrained, and accountable to no one. It is to the untrammeled state that the humanist looks to put his ideology into practice. The state is the ultimate creation of the humanist: he cannot go higher.
Can a Christian believe that his is one of many untrue religions that only hold humanity back? That man has no soul, no afterlife? That “values” are only valuable because someone says so? That sexual license, once granted, is a force that can be controlled by fine words and “moral education” by teachers who believe all ethics are “situational” and that there is no moral authority higher than whatever group of men is currently in power?
Moses told Israel, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God … And a curse, if ye will not obey” (Deut. 11:26–28).
Nothing has changed since then. To choose the path of humanism is to choose the curse. The humanists’ own manifesto convicts them.
 Rushdoony, California Farmer, 243:8 (Nov. 15, 1975), 19.
- 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.