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.