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Friday, February 22, 2013

What a fool believes, he sees! 2013, thy name is Secular Humanism

No, this is not a post on the Doobie Brothers.   They would be an interesting story, a band that began as a favorite of Northern California Biker Bars and segued into a cool rock/jazz/blues mode with Michael McDonald displacing Tom Johnston as the face of the group, then returned to their roots and eventually became more or less what they began as with a lot more fame and no doubt some nice royalty checks coming in.

I am not going to name the commenter who wrote a comment that was worth dissecting, because he is a thoughtful guy and I am not going to blame the sad state of American thought on him.  In fact, his comment gives me a prologue to an essay that is yet to come on political correctness and tyranny.  I've not decided what day to sit down and let it all out.  For now, let's just look into what Humanism is and where it came from.   It is decidedly NOT in any way a Christian invention.  A troll had said, "Fun fact-humanism is a Christian invention."  I said something like "Fun fact, humanism is an Atheist invention."

So here comes the comment.  His words in black, interspersed with my comments in this color.

Before we talk about who invented Humanism, I think we have to define it (correctly). In the simplest form, it comes from two assumptions:

First, that people should try to think about moral questions on their own. This stands in opposition to authoritarianism, which says that people should just blindly follow the moral code dictated to them by their betters.

I wonder how one decides who is their "better?"   Is it age?  Official title?  Parent?  Our Founding Fathers in the USA decided that they agreed with the concept that "All men are created equal."  They gave credit to the Creator.  So by that line of thinking, which is in fact the Biblical stance, no one is your "better."   Everyone has equal value.  That includes unborn infants and elderly folks and people with diseases.  That includes sociopaths and criminals, war heroes and sexual deviants, politicians and little children and missionaries.  It even includes radical Islamists and belligerent homosexuals and the most repugnant of so-called religious nuts like Westboro Baptists.   All people are created as equals. 

People can be elected to positions of authority in government or train to be in authority by the assignments of power by elected authority.   Military, police, civil defense workers, security guards and others in this group have authority in some ways.  They may even be called upon to ascertain how laws are applied, such as judges who rule on points of law.   But law and moral code are not synonymous.   Laws naturally flow FROM a moral code.

The statement that "First, that people should try to think about moral questions on their own?"  That is an opinion but not just an opinion, because it is loaded with the word, "should."   Because of the wording, the writer is actually making an authoritative statement which indicates he is either an authority himself or he is speaking from some authority or code that gives him the right to say the word.  What moral code is he standing on when he declares that anyone "should" do anything at all?

As a Christian, I stand on the moral code of the Bible that is often called the Judeo-Christian Ethic.  The United States of America built the Constitution based primarily on the Biblical code and it is historically true that the Bible is the basis for United States Law.   The Bible is from God and the authority of the Bible as the Word of God is the authority that the Founding Fathers saw as the normal moral code of civilized mankind.  They were not exclusionary at all, for they made sure that the United States would legally allow for all religions to be expressed and that freedom of speech would not be impeded other than for the common good.  To put it on a lower shelf, your freedom extends all the way to the tip of my nose and not one inch more or less.  Punch the air, go your way.  Punch the nose, go to jail.

What the commenter is stating is that there are no absolutes, so think for yourself.   If there ARE NO ABSOLUTES, then what he proclaims is as reasonable as pretty much any other statement, but actually if there are no absolutes then there is anarchy.   If a ship has no anchor, it cannot be safe in port during a storm.   If you do not hold the string of a kite, it is blown away and down by the wind.  If you do not have an airplane surrounding you at 35,000 feet, you are going to fall hard and be very dead.  Limitations are not bad, they are in fact necessary.  If I broke the glass on my fish tank, my fish would be free to flop around on the floor for a few minutes and then die.  A free society has laws that place limitations on some actions so that the majority of folks can live freely without threat of harm.  Laws are only ugly to those who wish to do wrong.  There is a right and a wrong.  The commenter begins by rejecting absolutes and this is certainly a bad start.

Second, that moral questions should be resolved by thinking about the well-being of all of humanity. This is in opposition to tribalism, which says that you should only think about the well-being of your particular culture or sub-culture, and ignore the consequences to outsiders.

False dichotomy!  Western civilization was built on the back of the Reformation, when mankind was freed from tyranny and given the ability to read and learn and achieve.  The ruling few were living large on the backs of peasants who were deliberately kept unschooled and poor.  The monarchies and the organized Catholic Church of that time were basically in cahoots and no wonder!  The elitists had it made and the rest of Europe was largely under their thumbs.  It was individual priests and scholars like Martin Luther and Roger Bacon who helped free man from institutional servitude, a process that took centuries to culminate in a modern and free Western World.    But even as we grew great in achievements and wealth and knowledge, we began to reject the foundation upon which it was all built.  Make no mistake, the Bible and the moral code of Christianity was the ladder that mankind has climbed to reach for the stars.  As we begin to chop at the ladder, we do so because we think we reached the heights by ourselves!   When the ladder is broken the fall will be disastrous!

Christianity is not related to tribalism.  In fact tribalism is one of the factors that is involved in nation building but is not actually associated with Christianity.  However, if tribalism is like either Humanism or Christianity, it is certainly more like Humanism.   

These are derived from the basic human characteristics of rationality and empathy, so they pre-date written history. (Even atheists have empathy, which I think should answer the questions you had about why an atheist would want her children to be happy.) In Western Civilization, the various Greek philosophers made the first recorded attempts to formalize these ideas. 

This is factually incorrect.   The Word of God preceded the Greeks by many centuries.  The Greek scholars were likely influenced by whatever remnants of Biblical thought they had in their possession.  Did you know that the little "g" god Jupiter aka Zeus was actually Japheth, the son of Noah?   The Greeks and Romans, much like the Norse peoples and many others, took their genealogical tables and converted them into a pantheon of gods.   

During the conquests of Alexander the Great, their writings got spread around Asia Minor and the Levant and merged with Archaic Judaism to form a bunch of philosophical systems, including proto-Christianity. The "Parable of the Good Samaritan" is one of the best early statements of the two Humanist ideals.

What a crock!  First of all, the oldest written remnants of ANYTHING we have found was from the Semitic people of the region of Israel, unless you credit some Chinese artifacts which may predate the Sumerians.   The early languages were cuneiform-style and this is true of Hebrew and Chinese and other old remnants and tablets that have been found.  The history of mankind is related in the Bible from the very first man and it is interesting that a tribe in China has a similar genealogy that has been found, also referring to Adam and Noah and Noah's three sons.   Studying the history of many cultures reveals that three sons are most often referenced.   This is even true of the Greeks and Romans.

The parable of the good Samaritan is told by Jesus Christ and it does not reflect Humanism at all, but Christian charity.  The Bible and the teachings of Christ were based on obedience to the Law and the idea that love is an action rather than a feeling.  Jesus made sure that all of Israel was told that they must live by the law but were incapable of doing so...therefore it was necessary to have continual offerings given to the priests from the days of old to the days of the Tabernacle until the last Temple was standing.  Jesus Christ declared Himself to be the Son of God and also the Lamb of God, the Last Sacrifice and the only way to relationship with God.   Jesus preached the Law to those under the Law so they could clearly see that they could not keep it.  He then offered Himself in our place to take the punishment and cleanse us from sins in the eyes of the Father God so that we could have peace with God and relationship with Him.

Those who do not comprehend the Bible are unwise to try to use it out of context.  The idea that Jesus taught Humanism is preposterous!

During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was adopted as the state religion, and was reinterpreted to fulfill the Authoritarian/Tribalist needs of the Empire. The Humanist elements were discarded, leading to the Dark Ages; a thousand years of heresy hunts and witch burnings and all-around bloody mayhem.

Well, we sure did shortcut a LOT of history here!  Constantine did indeed decide that Christianity would be the state religion and marched his armies through rivers to "baptize" them.  But you cannot order a man to become a Christian anymore than you can order a dog to become a cat.  The miracle is that a man can be changed into a saint aka born-again believer but nothing on the outside is apparently changed when that happens.  The change on the inside will be shown by a change in behavior and habits and attitude.   

We seem to have ignored things like the various invasions of Eastern warlike peoples like the Huns and Mongols, not to mention the attempt by warlike Islam to take over all of Europe and the Crusades that fought to drive the usurpers back and out of Europe.  In fact the jump from the time of Christ (about 33 AD) to the time of Gutenberg's press(1450 AD) and Luther's 95 theses (1522 AD) ignores most of the important markers of history in Europe.  Despite what your liberal teachers may have told you, the first thing printed and the Book most printed in human history and most responsible for human literacy and justice is The Bible.

When government took over (supposedly) Christianity it was soon nothing more than tyranny with a new face.  Someone in Rome could rename a statue of Jupiter and call it Peter.  Pagan holidays could be relabeled as Christian festivals.  In fact it was Humanism that was given full reign as people did what they thought they should in their own eyes.   Witch-hunts were rare and the Inquisition was, while evil, certainly overstated.  Just as the Wild West was not a continual parade of gunfights, the Middle Ages were not witch-hunts and rack-induced confessions but rather the simple human sins of greed and excess given official approval for the upper class.  Rulers were convinced that they inherited a right to rule "from God."  They then proceeded to usually do ungodly things with little to stop them from using their power to steal and rape and enslave the masses.

It was the theme of the Book of Judges and it was the theme of Europe in the Middle Ages.  Judges 21:25 states: " In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  During the time between the time of Christ and the Reformation we have many centuries that the commenter shoves into two sentences filled with an unsupported critique of long ages of changing times and nations and kings and popes and tribal chieftains and merchants and peasants and thieves.  How many generations of mankind are ignored with this flippant two-sentence summary of those ages, when slowly civilization began to thrust up through the soil of tyranny and thrust upwards towards the stars on the seeds of God's truths and watered by men of valor, reaching towards a Godly society in which men would all be regarded as equals?

So let us stop here and consider this Humanism which he exalts as such a high ideal.

humanism [ˈhjuːməˌnɪzəm]
1. (Philosophy) the denial of any power or moral value superior to that of humanity; the rejection of religion in favour of a belief in the advancement of humanity by its own efforts
2. (Philosophy) a philosophical position that stresses the autonomy of human reason in contradistinction to the authority of the Church
3. (Literary & Literary Critical Movements) (often capital) a cultural movement of the Renaissance, based on classical studies
4. interest in the welfare of people
humanist  n
humanistic  adj
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

What is this?  This mighty Humanism is actually a competing philosophy to Christianity, that exalts the wisdom of man above the wisdom of God.   It is a rejection of Christianity in fact.  The philosophy of Humanism depends upon human judgement and the wisdom of individual people to determine for themselves what is best.  It rejects absolutes.  Let's be clear here.   Humanism is selfishness first and foremost.  The vast majority of mankind, when called upon to determine what is best done, first sees what is best for themselves and then everybody else.   There is is nothing praiseworthy here!

The Humanism the commenter lifts up high is a canard, a puppet for the hand of Self.  Man puts himself on his own throne.   

But Humanism survived on the fringes of the Empire and the ideas were incorporated into Medieval Islam, which re-introduced them to Europe during the Crusades. This led to the Renaissance and eventually Modern Christianity.

Also completely wrong!   It was the printing press and the theses tacked to the door by Martin Luther and the men of God who established modern science, Bacon, Newton, Copernicus, Kelvin, these and those like them, who helped change society and lifted the peasant to the level of the merchant and eventually did away with the monarchy, other than in symbolic form.  The Renaissance was a lot of rich kids playing with toys, focused on art and music and parties.  The Reformation educated the masses and began what we call science. 
This isn't to say that all modern Christians are Humanists. Some are - Dr. Martin Luther King is the first example that comes to mind. But there's also a strong anti-Humanist faction; Fred Phelps is one of the noisier adherents of this world-view.

Again, Humanism is not what the commenter says it is.  Humanism says to do what you will.  Christianity calls upon mankind to love others and do good to them and for them.  Humanism is focused first on self.   Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican and a Baptist who was certainly not perfect but he was more Christian than Humanist in any case.   Fred Phelps is a fringe nut whose family is being led directly to Hell while pointing their fingers at others and getting publicity by trying to ruin military funerals.  They have their 15 minutes of fame and that is their reward.  They are no more Christian than is my kitchen chair.   No, they are less so, for my chair is not capable of sins and degradations and the Phelps clan freely do both continually.   So I suppose my chair is far more to be praised, for it at least does what it was meant to do.

All that said, Humanists are prone to the usual range of human failings. If a Humanist does something wrong, and you tell him, "You know, you're being a real jerk!" then it's certainly possible that he'll come up with some kind of lame rationalization for his behavior. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about him saying, "God ordered me to be a jerk!" as if that were an excuse for anything. 

Humanists are prone to sin.  All people are prone to sin.  Being a Humanist will not stop you from sinning and being selfish, it just gives your own particular lifestyle a patina of acceptability among your fellow Humanists.  

I will allow the Bible to have the last word.  Romans chapter 10 is excepted below.  It is apt, because it begins with a quick summary of the Humanist position and explains why it is deficient.  If you decide to become a law unto yourself and ignore God, you will be judged by the God you ignored and with Whom you disputed when you rejected His Son and the offered free gift of salvation.   The commenter sets up this so-called hero of the plot, Humanism, and glorifies it while failing to realize that Humanism is the problem rather than the solution.  Adam and Eve decided to defy God and choose to act in defiance to the one thing they were told would be forbidden.   Cain, deciding what should be right for himself, defied God and was not blessed, while the obedient Abel did follow God.  Cain killed him.  Humanism can smear lipstick on the pig, but the fact is that Humanism is selfishness in fancy clothes.  

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes...

...because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Anonymous said...

"False dichotomy!"

The false dichotomy is yours, by pretending that humanism and the Christian faith are mutually exclusive. They can overlap quite considerably.

radar said...

A Humanist might do something the Christian would do. In fact there is a great deal of actions most people do- brush their teeth, shower or bathe, drive on the correct side of the road, stop for little kids crossing the street, smile at a young couple in love, put money in the Salvation Army

Humanism and Christianity are based on two very different platforms. The Christian says that God has made the rules of behavior and is the ultimate authority on all moral matters. The Humanist says that man decides what is or is not moral or right in every situation.

So Christians have a set of absolutes given to them by the Creator of the Universe. The Humanist has a set of values he built for himself.

I was a stick-building carpenter once and I have seem many attempts by laymen to add onto or make major changes to a house. Without the fundamental knowledge of the basic principles of housebuiding, these guys will do ridiculous things! I have seen houses with extension cords for inside wiring. I have seen people use old clothing and newspapers for insulation! Guys have taken down weight-bearing walls to remodel a house and then wonder why the big crack in the ceiling is growing?

Humanists do not comprehend why God made the rules He made because they do not know man the way God does. Humanists also tend to put themselves first in every situation. The results are situational ethics with a selfish twist and also a failure for everyone to have a clear idea of what is acceptable and what is not.

The Humanist ideas that are changing the United State currently are ruining the nation. The Titanic hit an iceberg and the USA elected Barack Obama. Are we going to seal off corridors and fill the lifeboats with people and be smart, or are we going to going to be a history lesson for nations still to come? We can save the nation and just let some of the excess go to the bottom of the sea.

Humanism has given us Communism and Socialism and Fascism and I do not care for a one of them. Christianity gave us the United States of America...if we can keep it.

Anonymous said...

"Humanists do not comprehend why God made the rules He made because they do not know man the way God does."

If God made the rules and knew man so much better, we would have unchanging morality for humanity across recorded history. Instead, morality adapts and evolves, which is what we would expect in the case of morality being a man-made understanding of how best to live as a society.

"Humanism has given us Communism and Socialism and Fascism and I do not care for a one of them."

Strangely enough, this sentence makes sense of so much of your rants on this topic. You clearly haven't even taken the basic step of finding out what humanism actually is.

radar said...

Another Humanist runs away from the actual definition and accuses me of not understanding it.

Morality based on Biblical principles does NOT change. Morality based on situational ethics and popular opinion does change.

So often you guys claim that your philosophy is not understood, but that is a cop-out. I understand Humanism perfectly. I reject it. I have made it quite clear why I reject it. End of story.