I have a news alert setup to let me know whenever something is published on-line about secular humanism. As you can imagine there are far more negative articles written about it than positive – which is okay. It’s also pretty easy to spot when someone hasn’t really done any research about secular humanism and just repeats false or misleading information. Usually such articles come from religious conservatives like the minister from Iowa Park Texas. I would say, if you plan on opposing secular humanism, at least do your homework.
Bill Lockwood, minister of Iowa Park Church of Christ, in Texas, had a post published on the website for the Wichita Falls Times Record News titled “Humanism’s threat growing”:
The website for the Council for Secular Humanism advertises that “nonreligion” is growing in the United States. Quoting a Financial Times/Harris Poll that identifies 27 percent of Americans as humanist in orientation, the council declares that it surpasses the largest “faith group,” Roman Catholicism, which registers as 26 percent of the population.
Whether the poll is accurate, it is clear that secular humanism has grown by leaps and bounds in western culture over the past two decades. Called “The New Atheism” in honor of authors such as Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and Stenger who are aggressively anti-Christian, humanism has permeated our culture via the university, the media and government. Some philosophers, who are revered in humanist circles, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Thomas J. Altizer have actually declared that “God is dead.”
Although Lockwood gets some of the bits right he draws a wildly false conclusion.
First of all secular humanism isn’t called “New Atheism”. That was a label given by the media to the authors such as Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens who got their books about atheism onto the bestsellers list. Secular Humanism is non-theistic but one doesn’t necessarily have to be an atheist to be a secular humanist and atheists aren’t automatically secular humanists.
The 27 percent Lockwood mentioned was in a poll but it was originally in a 2007 article written by Dr. Paul Kurtz, the late leader of the Council for Secular Humanism:
A recent Financial Times/Harris Poll that shows that, when asked if they believed in any form of God or supreme being, 14 percent of Americans said that they are agnostics (i.e., skeptical about the existence of God, though not atheists). Only 4 percent said that they are atheists; added to this, however, are another 6 percent who said “they would prefer not to say” and 3 percent who are “unsure.” These add up to 27 percent of the general population. Compare this to Roman Catholics, who at 26 percent represent the largest single belief group in the United States.
Another label used for that 27% is the “nones“. Not all of them are actually secular humanists or atheists.
Mr. Lockwood then mentions selective parts of the Humanist Manifestos (1934, 1973, and 2000) that mention non-theism. Those bits are correct because again the secular humanism philosophy is non-theistic. God, supernaturalism, and salvation are not needed to live our lives in the here and now. Secular humanism also doesn’t believe in life after death and that is why we focus on doing good today.
Lockwood then makes the first of his wild conclusions:
The manifesto’s 2000 update by the CSH also included the proposition that humans must work “increasingly with and through the new centers of power” like the United Nations, which might become a “transnational authority” and impose taxes to benefit underdeveloped nations.
In this whacked out context this is the classic religious right freak out about a “New World Order” with black helicopters dropping off United Nation Blue Helmets who would put you prison or make you a slave or whatever because you are a Christian.
In our rational reality, the bits Lockwood mentions, in context, come from this:
VIII. A New Global Agenda
Many of the high ideals that emerged following the Second World War, and that found expression in such instruments as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have waned through the world. If we are to influence the future of humankind, we will need to work increasingly with and through the new centers of power and influence to improve equity and stability, alleviate poverty, reduce conflict, and safeguard the environment.
IX. The Need for New Planetary Institutions
The urgent question in the twenty-first century is whether humankind can develop global institutions to address these problems. Many of the best remedies are those adopted on the local, national, and regional level by voluntary, private, and public efforts. One strategy is to seek solutions through free-market initiatives; another is to use international voluntary foundations and organizations for educational and social development. We believe, however, that there remains a need to develop new global institutions that will deal with the problems directly and will focus on the needs of humanity as a whole. These include the call for a bicameral legislature in the United Nations, with a World Parliament elected by the people, an income tax to help the underdeveloped countries, the end of the veto in the Security Council, an environmental agency, and a world court with powers of enforcement.
Removing the tin foil hats, Manifesto 2000 is talking about making the United Nations into a real world parliament to deal with our global sized problems. Right now the only part of the UN that has any kind of power is the Security Council which is controlled by the five largest powers.
Lockwood also mentioned the UN being made into a “transnational authority”. He made that up. Dr. Paul Kurtz added “transnational” to the CSH think tank Center of Inquiry. He liked to make up new words or give words unusual definitions (look up Eupraxsophy). Transnational in Kurtz’s case really means “international”. It plays into Lockwood’s paranoia but really means nothing more than having an authority that can act internationally.
Finally Lockwood writes:
Gospel sermons for the entire month of March at the Iowa Park church of Christ will focus upon the false and dangerous philosophy that has gained so much traction in the western world — secular humanism. “Be ready to give answer ” (2 Peter 3:15).
I will give Mr. Lockwood credit for calling secular humanism a philosophy but except for that we see what his agenda is – sermons speaking out against a philosophy that has a main goal of bettering the human condition and respecting the dignity and worth of all persons in the world community.
If it’s “false and dangerous” to respect the dignity and worth of all persons the then that is exactly what I want. Not Lockwood’s religion.