The following post is offered in response to Ben Hoffman’s comments last week.
I think most observers of American society would agree that we are becoming more polarized. We are a nation divided. In fact, we are actually two very different nations sharing one geography, two nations enlivened by two very different moral and metaphysical visions. At this moment in our history two religious faiths are vying for the heart and soul of the United States. One is “anti-theist” atheism, the other is the faith of the founding fathers, theism, specifically Judeo-Christian theism. These two religious impulses lead inevitably to two very different kinds of societies.
One might call the Humanist Manifestos the atheist bible. The first of the three manifestos published in 1933, states the religious nature of Secular-Humanism:
The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have disrupted the old beliefs … In order that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned, desire to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our contemporary life demonstrate. [emphasis mine]
Note that they identify themselves as religious humanists. From there, the manifesto goes on to declare that Secular Humanists are atheistic in theology. Note the first three affirmations:
– FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
– SECOND: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.
– THIRD: Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected. [emphasis mine]
The eighth and ninth affirmations demonstrate the religious nature of atheists’ convictions:
– EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man’s life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist’s social passion.
– NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being. [emphasis mine]
This modern faith is to be propagated through public school classrooms. Self-confessed atheist John Dumphy, writing in the January/February 1983 edition of The Humanist magazine, said:
I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preacher, for they will be ministers of another servant, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subjects they teach regardless of the educational level – preschool daycare or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery and the new faith of humanism resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never realized Christian idea of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved. [emphasis mine]
Dumphy recognizes the religious nature of the struggle and sees the classroom as the place of proselytizing the new faith.
This divide of religious convictions leads to fundamental changes in principles and ultimately in governmental policies and in programs. On the level of principle we can see this worked out in the area of religious liberty and so-called “sexual liberty.” Rooted in creation is the concept of moral and religious freedom and the corresponding principle of human responsibility. Running through Judeo-Christian culture, the concept of religious freedom was enshrined in our founding documents as the First Amendment to the constitution. Derived from the secular humanist “moral” convictions is a newly minted concept of sexual liberty.
What happens when the founders’ concept of religious liberty and the modern “right” of “sexuality liberty” conflict? Georgetown law professor, Chai Feldblum, who was appointed by President Obama to lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes clear which principle will guide her in developing policies and programs:
Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.
Another example that goes to the root of these two nations is the question of who is to parent children. Evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins raises the fundamental question as to who has the right to parent children.
How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods? Isn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought out?
That Dawkins could imagine that parents regard children as “property,” rather than as human beings, is revealing. Yet this is to be expected when one begins from an atheistic and materialistic perspective. Everything is reduced to an object — children are property, women are sexualized, babies are “products of conception.”
In contrast, Judeo-Christian theism establishes the premise that the family is the fundamental institution and parents are responsible to raise and educate their children. A state founded on an atheistic moral philosophy recognizes no such right. Men and women may still have the right to pro-create, but not the right to parent.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg illustrated this profound division of two nations and one geography in an interview with Egyptian Al-Hayat TV on January30: “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” I suggest that her comments on the writing of constitutions were less about the year 2012 and more about fundamental difference in religious faith.
The different premises of atheist faith and Judeo-Christian faith will inescapably lead to two very different nations. We see a picture of this fundamental divide in the words of comedian and political activist Janeane Garofalo:
[W]hen I see the American flag, I go, ‘Oh my God, you’re insulting me.’ That you can have a gay parade on Christopher Street in New York, with naked men and women on a float cheering, ‘We’re here, we’re queer!’ — that’s what makes my heart swell. Not the flag, but a gay naked man or woman burning the flag. I get choked up with pride.
Moral relativism – ideological pluralism – has as its fundamental virtue, tolerance. This leads to two realities. First, it engenders moral anarchy in a society and will ultimately bring government tyranny to impose social order. When tolerance is the ultimate virtue, the only vice is belief in moral and metaphysical absolutes. This leads to the second reality, intolerance of those who believe in the possibility of truth. A kind of intellectual absolutism that denies the fundamental principles of reason, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech is the result. Moral relativism is the product of fundamentalist atheism and will lead in the near term to social anarchy and in the longer term to a repressive tyranny.
Judeo-Christian Theism, on the other hand, believes in moral and metaphysical absolutes. Rooted in this assumption is the understanding that men and women are created in the image of God and from this assumption comes one of the most profound political assertions of all times.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …
Freedom of speech, conscience, and religion are all the product of Judeo-Christian faith. Social historian Rodney Stark has put it very clearly in his book The Victory of Reason: “The modern world arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a ‘secular’ society – there have been none.”
– Darrow Miller
tERRI MCCOMBFebruary 13, 2012 - 9:12 am
As quoted above: “The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery and the new faith of humanism resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never realized Christian idea of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved. ”
It is tragic that the whole purpose of the humanist movement is to finally achieve what Chrisitians didn’t effectively achieve: the Biblical notion of “love thy neighbor”.
But–there’s hope! “IF my people (Christians) who are called by My name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I willhear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chron 7:14
disciplenationsFebruary 16, 2012 - 10:42 am
Terry, John Dumphy’s point that the church has failed to love their neighbor is a “red herring.” Have Christians always shown love to their neighbors and their enemies? Certainly not! But historically, the church has shown compassion to more people and demonstrated more love than most groups of people. Have we reached Christ’s standard for the church and what he has modeled? No, far from it. We have a long way to go. But, I think it can be shown historically that Christians have loved more than regimes established by Atheists.
And 2 Chron. 7:14 provides us with direction and hope.
– Darrow Miller
Stan BaldwinFebruary 13, 2012 - 11:06 am
If Christianity has not achieved “love your neighbor,” it’s a cinch humanism will do so even less. The humanist philosophy as outlined is as flawed as Communism, and for the same reasons. It counts on human virtue to achieve unselfish ends. To choose humanism over Christianity is to make Israel’s mistake: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
However, it still remains for Christians to fully live out the divine command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we need to show we drink from the spring, not invest ourselves in busting up leaky cisterns.
That being said, the article is confused. It talks as if humanism is new on the scene and as if it uniquely causes the present polarization in the United States. Neither is clearly true. Then it cites present spokespersons (Hawkins, Ginsburg) in a way that sounds more like ad hominen attacks than legitimate argument. Indeed, Hawkins seems to argue against viewing children as property of parents, not in favor of it.
disciplenationsFebruary 16, 2012 - 10:48 am
Stan, thank you for your comment. I certainly agree that if Christians have not achieved the high standard of loving their neighbors, humanism certainly will not. And we need to continue to drink from the spring which is Christ and seek to manifest his love in our broken world.
Humanism is not new. The European Enlightenment was largely man centered – humanism. The first of the three Humanist Manifestos was developed in the 1930s. So yes, humanism is not new on the scene.
Perhaps my comments on Richard Dawkins were not clear. He was arguing for children being property of the state. This has been the assumption of many Communist and Fascist atheist states. My point was different. Dawkins referred to children as property. The atheists’ assumption is that all things can be reduced to material things, and thus mere objects or property. For Dawkins, children are not precious image bearers of God, they are mere property. He prefers them to be property of the state rather than property of parents. That was the point I was trying to make.
– Darrow Miller
mcmeeshiFebruary 13, 2012 - 2:38 pm
Thanks for this great food for thought. I think there are certain ways where humanism can fit into, or relate to, the faith perspective. For example, the cooperative effort to promote social well-being in the here and now. To do achieve the common good, there must also be some agreed-upon universal moral code. I think Christians and humanists can come together on these things. However, as you mention, there are implied contradictions with moral relativism and tolerance, too.
On a side note, I am reminded of France where rather than freedom of religion, the movement is toward a freedom to never have religion “intrude” into public life. For example, one cannot wear a cross to work. The underlying premise is that a person’s core faith values could not affect the way they live out their life. As a person of faith, that is more or less insulting.
disciplenationsFebruary 16, 2012 - 10:43 am
If humanists are not consistent with their atheist assumptions, there is, as you say, plenty of room for us to engage together for the common good. But the more consistent they are with their assumptions, the less common ground we will share. Your comments about France are well said. And this pattern will manifest itself in any society that begins developing its principles and policies from an atheistic paradigm. The way I describe it is that fundamentalist atheists seek freedom from religion to replace the Judeo-Christian principle of freedom of religion.
– Darrow Miller
Scott CookeFebruary 15, 2012 - 3:37 am
2 chron 7:14 and Hosea 4:6 were two scriptures Vishal Mangalwadi touched on heavily when I saw him speak in Brisbane, Australia last year. We as christians have to stand up, the time will come for civil disobediance. To hear some of the comments you highlight in this article are so saddening, a stark reflection on how deep the roots of humanism have tunnelled. This very week in Australia the battle for Gay Marriage is again being played out in the Media and parliament. Darrow continue to shed light on the fight that we are in, your insights are greatly appreciated.
disciplenationsFebruary 16, 2012 - 10:46 am
Thank you for your encouraging words. Glad you were able to hear Vishal Mangalwadi. He is a remarkable man and a good friend. Others of the same “school of thought” are Rick and Nancy Pearcey and Landa Cope of the Old Testament Template. Given your interest in these things please be watching for my new book Emancipating the World: A Christian Response To Militant Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism. It will be released in May by YWAM Publishing.
– Darrow Miller