The Religion of Secular Humanism

By Noebel, David A. | Free Inquiry, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

The Religion of Secular Humanism


Noebel, David A., Free Inquiry


Religion: (1.) A worldview i.e., any set of beliefs or system of thought that contains a theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, law and history. - Noebel (2.) "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others." - U.S. Supreme Court (1961) (3.) "Any system of beliefs, practices, ethical values . . . [e.g.], humanism as a religion." - Webster's New World Dictionary (4.) "A system of thought shared by a group that gives members an object of devotion [God, the state, man, nature], a code of ethics and a frame of reference relating individuals to their group and the universe." - Columbia Encyclopedia (5.) "Secularism . . . is the name for an ideology, a new closed worldview which functions very much like a new religion." - Harvey Cox (6.) "Over the years, men and women who embrace the philosophy or faith known as Humanism have contributed significantly toward improving the condition of life for all." - American Humanist Association (7.) "Pure religion . . . is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." - James (1:27)

Secular Humanism is a religion. It is a religion because it contains, as all worldviews contain, a theology. When Paul Kurtz says in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto that "no deity will save us, we must save ourselves" he speaks the language of religion. Salvation is a religious experience and concept. While the Christian worldview insists that God (or Jesus Christ) alone can save our souls (regeneration) and bodies (resurrection), the secular humanist worldview insists that reason and science can save humanity through progressive governmental and liberal educational programs.

It is a religion because it possesses and promotes a religious symbol - a fish with feet and the name Darwin enscribed. The religious symbol of the Christian worldview is either the cross or the fish with the name Jesus enscribed.

But even more specific is Kurtz's own declaration in his preface to the Humanist Manifestos I and II that, "Humanism is a philosophical, religious and moral point of view." FREE INQUIRY Senior Editor Gerald A. Larue says that humanism is, "a religion to meet the psychological needs of our time," and Edwin H. Wilson, the 1979 Humanist of the Year and former editor of The Humanist, says that, "Humanism in a naturalistic frame is validly a religion."

While I argue in Understanding The Times: The Religious Worldviews of Our Day and the Search for Truth that secular humanism is a comprehensive worldview that consists of a theology (atheism), philosophy (metaphysical naturalism), ethics (moral relativism), biology (spontaneous generation/evolution), psychology (self-actualization), sociology (feminism/homosexualism), law (positivism), politics (globalism), economics (socialism), and history (French Enlightenment II), Kurtz acknowledges the three main pillars of any worldview viz., theology, philosophy, and ethics.

One of the early voices of Secular Humanism was Charles Francis Potter. Potter signed the Humanist Manifesto (1933) along with John Dewey and Roy Wood Sellars. Potter was a Baptist minister for eleven years and a Unitarian minister for eleven more years before founding the first Humanist church in New York City in 1929. In Potter's 1930 book Humanism: A New Religion he states, "Humanism is not simply another denomination of Protestant Christianity; it is not a creed; nor is it a cult. It is a new type of religion altogether."

It is, as Roy Wood Sellars, author of the 1933 Humanist Manifesto, says, "A religion founded on realities in a religion coming of age." Sellars said this in his ground-breaking work Religion Coming of Age (1928).

Indeed, nearly all the early secular humanists admitted that secular humanism was a religion. …

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