Religious conservatives have set Christianity in opposition to “secular humanism”, but is this appropriate? Is Christianity at odds with humanism? Are the godless allies of humanism?
Conservative Protestants have on occasion opposed liberal enlightened humanists, Calvinists have opposed Voltairians – for example read these furious attacks on Thomas Jefferson – but let us not forget all the misanthropic unbelievers and all the enlightened Christians.
The cluster of ideologies connected with atheism (positivism, scientism, materialism, reductionism) are deeply opposed to humanism. If you believe you are just a sack of chemicals and the universe which entraps you is ugly and chaotic and indifferent to your welfare, how can you justify humanism?
Let us consider the ways an atheist reductionist world view makes humanism and optimism and science impossible:
1) How can atheist reductionists explain perception?
Quote: Suppose sunlight is reflected from a red apple into the eye of a landscape painter. The sunlight passes through the lens of the eye and strikes the retina, a sheet of closely packed receptors—4.5 million cones and 90 million rods. Activated by the incoming sunlight, chemical changes occur in the rods and cones, which are then translated into electrical impulses that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Further electrical and chemical changes take place in the brain. In terms of physiology of seeing this description is complete; however, the sensation red has not entered into this scientific account of perception. The landscape painter experiences the red of the apple, not the myriad chemical and electrical changes that are necessary for seeing.
See also: Materialism subverts itself
2) How can reductionists explain abstract thought?
Quote: The difficulty is, conventional descriptions of material processes do not help much when we are trying to account for the abstract thought processes mediated by the brain.
Quote: So there is a kind of mismatch between concepts and ideas on the one hand, which are abstract and completely general, and on the other hand, physical symbols and other material representations, which are always concrete, specific, and individual.
In the end how can reductionists explain the mind or consciousness?
3) Can reductionists trust science?
Quote: Observations, essential to the empirical approach of science, were claimed by positivists to be brute facts which one could use to establish, evaluate, and compare the theories. However, W.O. Quine pointed out in his “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” that observations themselves are partly shaped by theory (“theory-laden”). What counts as an observation, how to construct an experiment, and what data you think your instruments are collecting—all require an interpretive theoretical framework. This realization does not deal a death-blow to the practice of science (as some post-modernists like to claim), but it does undermine the positivist claim that science rests entirely on facts, and is thus an indisputable foundation for knowledge.
Scientism demolishes science.
4) Can reductionists trust the mind?
Darwin: With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"
Quote: If (naturalistic) evolution is true, then our cognitive faculties will have resulted from blind mechanisms like natural selection, working on sources of genetic variation such as random genetic mutation. And the ultimate purpose or function (Churchland's 'chore') of our cognitive faculties, if indeed they have a purpose or function, will be survival - of individual, species, gene, or genotype. But then it is unlikely that they have the production of true beliefs as a function. So the probability of our faculties' being reliable, given naturalistic evolution, would be fairly low.
Quote: Then the problem is that clearly there will be any number of different patterns of belief and desire that would issue in the same action; and among those there will be many in which the beliefs are wildly false.
5) How can atheist reductionists explain freedom?
Noted atheist activist/warmonger Sam Harris has decided that free will does not exist, we are just “biochemical puppets”.
Quote: But the strange and wonderful thing about all organisms, and especially our species, is that mechanistic physical processes somehow give rise to phenomena that are not reducible to or determined by those physical processes.
What is left after so many human characteristics have been eliminated? Scientist John Polkinghorne has pointed out that materialist philosophers expect more attention to their works that "we would give to the scribblings of a mere automaton".
6) How can reductionists avoid despair?
Quote from Bertrand Russell: All the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system; and the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.
7) Atheist activist/psychopathic dictator V.I. Lenin attacked an opposing set of atheist reductionists.
Quote: We have seen that the starting point and the fundamental premise of the philosophy of empirio-criticism is subjective idealism. The world is our sensation—this is the fundamental premise… The absurdity of this philosophy lies in the fact that it leads to solipsism, to the recognition of the existence of the philosophising individual only.
Quote: And the immanentists quite legitimately drew direct and outspoken fideist conclusions from this Machian idea of the “metaphysical character” of natural-scientific materialism.
Atheist reductionists are like sailors out to improve their ship who jettison the engine and the steering wheel – setting their vessel adrift. Finally they tear up the hull and their Ship of Fools sinks.
Atheist reductionists imagine themselves heralds of a brave new aristocracy saturated with sweetness and light, ensconced in soaring alabaster towers, but all the reductionists accomplish is depriving their followers of Freedom, Truth, Thought, Mind, Science, and Hope as they descend into solipsism and darkness.
Honest, intelligent atheists admit that atheism represents a great loss. As philosopher Jerry Fodor puts it “if commonsense psychology were to collapse, that would be, beyond comparison, the greatest intellectual catastrophe in the history of our species …” Cheap atheist propagandists fail to acknowledge this disaster. They avert their eyes as their humanity is eliminated step by step. The worst atheist fanatics wish to ingratiate themselves with semi-divine tech tycoons & bankers (who find the continued existence of religious populations inconvenient). These aspiring toadies want only to serve billionaires by dehumanizing all the non-billionaires.
Humanism has been expelled by atheists and found refuge amongst Christians.
See also: The Folly of Scientism
Nito Gnoci (author) on July 20, 2020:
James A. Watkins, thanks for your remarks. If humanism = "Good without God" Christians should reject humanism. However, I think more benign forms of humanism exist.
Nito Gnoci (author) on July 19, 2020:
Eric Dierker, thanks for your comments.
James A Watkins from Chicago on July 18, 2020:
Thank you for your fine and thought-provoking article. I enjoyed reading it and I am totally on board with you in your points about Materialism, Scientism, Reductionism, Naturalism, and Free Will.
However, it so happens I am just finishing up my 4th book and it includes a chapter entitled: 'The Religion of Secular Humanism.' Allow me to quote from it, if you will:
The motto of Humanism is “Good without God.” The primary identifying characteristic of Humanism is its disbelief in God and disdain of any worldview with God in it.
Secular Humanism is a religion. The American Humanist Association has a religious tax exemption status approved by the federal government. Nine times, the Humanist Manifesto calls Humanism a new religion.
The Humanist magazine featured an article that boasted: "The battle for mankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom. The classroom must and will become the arena of conflict between the old and the new, the rotting corpse of Christianity and the new faith of Humanism."
Paul Kutz, a signatory of Humanist Manifesto II, wrote in its preface: "Humanism is a philosophical, religious, and moral point of view." Kutz calls for the establishment of humanist churches of atheism.
John J. Dunphy, writing in The Humanist, declared: "Humanist teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool, daycare, or large state university."
The religion of Secular Humanism indoctrinates our children into four big lies that undergird the rest of its worldview: 1) The progress of humankind is all because of Science and Christianity has worked against it all along. 2) Science has proven religious beliefs are false. 3) Educated people believe in science, not in the Christian faith. 4) Only science presents the whole of reality as it is.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 18, 2020:
Nicely laid out. But I do get the feeling that our concepts are different for instance solipsism to me is a starting point ala Descartes and Scientism to me is also a starting point of theory not fact.
It is like the concept of Einsteins relativity was regarded as fact by too many. He called it a theory.