On the vilification of secular humanists

First, an introduction. I’m Matt Foss, a new contributor here at Skeptic Freethought. I’m an atheist, secular humanist, and skeptic, just starting to get involved in the secular movement.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a handful of items appearing on my Google Alerts for “secular humanism” from Christian news sites and right-wing blogs. They all had a common theme: that secular humanism is the modern world’s greatest threat to the American Christian way of life. Take a look at these two articles in particular:

Secular Humanism is the Established State Religion” – an assertion that humanist values should be kept out of public schools per the Establishment Clause.

The Worldview War” – an absurd rant about how Muslims and secular humanists are working together to bring America to ruin.

You’ll notice that the second article references one Dr. David Noebel as a source of knowledge on the concept of “worldviews”. A quick Google search identifies him as the retiring president of Summit Ministries, an organization focused on apologetics for a world it believes has gotten over Christianity.

Paranoia over secular humanism is nothing new, of course; Christian fundamentalists have been trying for decades to block its “teachings” from public schools on the grounds that promoting skepticism, science, and human rights somehow amounts to religious indoctrination. The Religious Right has been getting more and more vocal as of late, however, and I’m concerned that this sort of anti-humanist diatribe will become a trend.

Why the fuss about humanists?

It might come as a shock to some that Christians would be so alarmed by a group of people who advocate respect and tolerance; wouldn’t they be more afraid of vitriolic, firebrand, capital-‘A’-Atheists than of someone who simply claims to be “good without God”? Aren’t so-called humanist doctrines really just the same ethical standards at the core of every free society?

Note: I in no way intend to take sides on the “tone wars” here, nor imply that “atheist” implies “firebrand” or that “humanist” implies “diplomat”. I’m referring to the connotation that the two words tend to have based on my personal experience in discussing them with religious believers.

After reading and thinking on this a while, I’ve realized why they are so afraid of humanists. It’s precisely because of the benign-sounding messages such as “Be good for goodness’ sake!” and “Millions are good without God.” It’s because, framed within a worldview in which a sly Devil seeks to trick gullible humans into abandoning faith for worldly concerns, a friendly and inviting godless philosophy is far more dangerous than an aggressive militant adversary.

As I understand it, these fundamentalists want atheism to be an empty, miserable state of mind for which they represent the ultimate cure. The idea of a worldview that emotionally, intellectually, and socially fulfills people without belief in their God negates the very purpose of their religion’s existence. In this respect, I don’t blame them for feeling threatened by humanism, and I won’t be so surprised in the future when fundamentalists react negatively to non-threatening billboards like the (vandalized) one pictured above.

  • http://www.jmyste.com/ John Myste

    You hear a lot more out of non-believers than you used to.
    In some circles it is now the believer who is stigmatized. I am sure the
    Church(es) recognize the threat. They have already more frequently tried to
    support Christianity with reason and science in response.

     

    Oddly enough, this is not the design Paul and the other
    Church Fathers intended.  They had a religion where God was made from
    nothing, thus indestructible; where faith was the evidence to prove His
    existence, not reason, so you could not challenge the existence of this completely
    ethereal Being. They offered love and happiness for those who believed and
    eternal agony for those who did not, thus circumventing the problem Machiavelli
    tried to address in The Prince, were he examined whether it is better for a
    leader to be loved or feared. They chose both.

    Christians cannot compete without their home field advantage: faith. They are
    venturing out into the world of science and religion, a place which they know not.
    They are abandoning the message of Paul to combat the growing movement of
    “reason.” However, reason has challenged them for more than 2000
    years, and to no avail. Thinkers have been unable to stunt Christianity’s
    growth, and would probably ultimately fail as they always have, but for the
    help of the Christians themselves. What we could not achieve, they will. Joining
    us on our rational battlefield, as the Apostle Paul restlessly watches his successful
    strategy ignored, will be their undoing.

  • http://www.jmyste.com/ John Myste

    You hear a lot more out of non-believers than you used to.
    In some circles it is now the believer who is stigmatized. I am sure the
    Church(es) recognize the threat. They have already more frequently tried to
    support Christianity with reason and science in response.

     

    Oddly enough, this is not the design Paul and the other
    Church Fathers intended.  They had a religion where God was made from
    nothing, thus indestructible; where faith was the evidence to prove His
    existence, not reason, so you could not challenge the existence of this completely
    ethereal Being. They offered love and happiness for those who believed and
    eternal agony for those who did not, thus circumventing the problem Machiavelli
    tried to address in The Prince, were he examined whether it is better for a
    leader to be loved or feared. They chose both.

    Christians cannot compete without their home field advantage: faith. They are
    venturing out into the world of science and religion, a place which they know not.
    They are abandoning the message of Paul to combat the growing movement of
    “reason.” However, reason has challenged them for more than 2000
    years, and to no avail. Thinkers have been unable to stunt Christianity’s
    growth, and would probably ultimately fail as they always have, but for the
    help of the Christians themselves. What we could not achieve, they will. Joining
    us on our rational battlefield, as the Apostle Paul restlessly watches his successful
    strategy ignored, will be their undoing.

  • http://www.MolecularFossils.com Dan!

    This is why I think student groups with a name like “Association of Happy Atheists!” is so great. You can’t misconstrue a name like that!

  • http://www.MolecularFossils.com Dan!

    This is why I think student groups with a name like “Association of Happy Atheists!” is so great. You can’t misconstrue a name like that!