Seidman, Barry F., Free Inquiry
Tim LaHaye is a Christian fundamentalist preacher and author. His Left Behind evangelistic horror novels (co-authored with Jerry B. Jenkins) are publishing's second best-selling fiction series, behind only the Harry Potter children's books. Mind Siege, cowritten with evangelist David A. Noebel, is LaHaye's newest nonfiction title.
LaHaye and Noebel claim American freedoms are endangered by today's onslaught of scientific knowledge and critical thought. They say ruthless "brainwashing" is perpetrated every day by arrogant scientists, self-serving educators, and social advocacy groups, and--most particularly--those whom LaHaye thinks worship the philosophy of secular humanism, which he calls a "religion." Didn't secular humanists win that battle twenty years ago? If Mind Siege has the kind of reach and impact its authors hope for, perhaps not.
LaHaye and Noebel open with a Dickensian vision of a near future in which secular humanism has taken over, launching American society on a downward spiral. A terrified father learns that public school teachers are indoctrinating his son in multiculturalism and multigender-based philosophies; a secular view of American history; the theory of evolution; quantum physics; and why kids ought to use all the condoms they can carry. A SWAT team chases praying students from school grounds. Biology students are "brainwashed" to believe that the human being is just another primate. If some of this were true, more power to the public schools! Of course, real-world public school students suffer from declining standards and a wholesale retreat from science, reason, and skeptical thought. Where LaHaye and Noebel take note of these trends, they welcome them. Their "battle for the mind" is real, but it is the side of reason, not that of conservative religion, that is losing ground.
Mind Siege complains that America's very intellect is dwindling beneath the secularist onslaught. This elegy for excellence might ring more true if the book were more carefully researched and assembled. Writing errors abound, of which an embarrassing passage that speaks of deprivation when depravity is clearly meant is only typical. Perhaps LaHaye and Noebel yearn to ingratiate themselves with that latter-day master of malapropism, George W. Bush.
A more substantive objection concerns the authors' derogatory critiques of secular humanism, a philosophy neither seems to have read much about. FREE INQUIRY founder Paul Kurtz is treated as America's living moral bogeyman. LaHaye and Noebel warn that Kurtz's "godless" ideal can only lead to amorality, yet never discuss the fully realized humanist code of ethics and moral behavior that inform Kurtz's voluminous writings. LaHaye and Noebel base their gross misinterpretation of secular humanism on an incomplete reading--and a dishonest analysis--of a handful of its texts. They call the three Humanist Manifestoes "the Bibles of humanism" and claim they are binding on every secular humanist. In fact, Humanist Manifesto (HM-I) (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (HM-II) (1976), and Humanist Manifesto 2000 (HM-2000) were each composed as documents for their time, and sometimes offer conflicting recommendations. …