Lesson 54- Secular Humanism
I ended my last program with John Lennons song, Imagine which is a musical blueprint for the type of world that the Secular Humanist foresee as a replacement for Christianity. At the end of this talk, I will to return to the lyrics of this song and analyze their meaning and implications. However, before doing that I would like to recap my brief outline of the historical development of Secular Humanism and add some additional information and insights.
I feel that I have to do this because people learn and remember best when they have a general backdrop or outline against which they can place their facts. If I were in a classroom, I could hand out a diagram or draw one on the board but, unfortunately, I am limited by radio to a verbal description. Therefore, I can only hope that my listeners are able to imagine the general outline that I am using.
For simplicity sake, it is convenient to divide the historical period that we are discussing into segments of 500 years. The first 500 years is the time of the Roman Empire, which existed between 1 A.D. and 500 A.D. During this time Christianity went from being a persecuted minority to being the official religion of the Empire. The second 500 years, between 500 and 1000 A.D. was called the Dark Age, because the German, and later the Nordic tribes were overrunning what was once the Roman Empire. During this period the Catholic Church worked feverishly to Christianize and civilize these barbarian tribes. The period was called the Dark Ages because survival rather than development was the major concern in Western Europe. It is also referred to as the Age of Faith because the Catholic Church was the dominant institution and its teachings and the Bible were the major sources for information. It was also during this 500-year period, that a new religion, named Islam, developed on the Arabian Peninsula through the preaching of Mohammed. The third 500 years period began after the Dark Ages ended when the Crusades, a series of religious wars between the Christian and Moslems which began in 1095 A.D., brought the Western European out of their isolation by bringing them into contact with the cultures of the East. As new products and ideas filtered into Europe through the returning soldiers, Europe entered a new historical period known as the Renaissance in which there was a rebirth of Art and Science. Another way of looking at this is that it was the rebirth of the interaction between the right and left hemispheres of our brains because the right lobe is the source of Art and the left is the source of Science and, since historians say that Art and Science are the two pillars of all civilizations, we could even say that it was the moment when Western Europe left the survival mode of the Dark Ages which could be symbolized as a circle and began its developmental mode, which could be symbolized as a line. In other words, development replaced existence.
Now, if I were to tell you in the year 1000 A.D., that these Western Europeans, who were emerging from the Dark Ages, would one day conquer and dominate most of the world, you would have laughed in my face. As civilizations went, they were less developed than the Arabs and, light years behind the arrogant Chinese who considered them to be barbarians who couldnt possible have anything that Chinese culture might want. Yet these European Christians became obsessed with finding ways to trade with them and as their interaction with other cultures increased, so did their technology and knowledge. Let me give you just one example of how this interaction with the Arabs laid the foundation for our current civilization.
Before their contact with the Muslim Arabs, the Western Europeans were using Roman Numerals which, if you think about it, makes sophisticated mathematical calculations almost impossible. For example, in Roman Numerals, add 23, which is XXIII, to 5, which is V. What is your answer? Or multiply 55, which is LV by 32, which is XXXII? Or divide 10, which is X, by 5, which is V? Do you see the problem?
The numbers that we use today are called Arabic Number because we got them from the Arabs, who probably got them from the Hindus. Without these numbers, our modern civilization, which is so dependent on mathematical computation, would never have been possible.
Anyway, the story of the rise of Western European civilization to dominance in the world is the story of the tortoise and the hare. The Western Europeans went linear in their outlook while the more advanced cultures, such as China, became contented with the levels they had reached, and began to circle. In other words, the Western Europeans adopted a linear left lobe attitude that saw reality as a progressive line that was moving towards some ultimate end, while the rest of the world adopted a right lobe, circular attitude which either denied progress or was content to maintain indefinitely the level they had reached. Thus, the European attitude was teleological or goal directed while the rest of the world was existential or existence directed. I cant emphasize enough the importance of these two different views of reality.
I believe that I mentioned in a previous program the question that if the finite, which is us, is chasing the infinite, which is God, when will it catch it? The answer, of course, is never. Therefore, the proper attitude for any finite being is linear because the quest for God is an eternal quest and one must have the attitude of constant progress. Thus, the biggest mistake that any person or civilization can make is to replace a linear view with a circular view.
The religious significance of this becomes clear when we consider that the Hindu religion and most of the ancient people viewed reality and history as a circle, while the Jews and Christian viewed it as a line. Thus, throughout most of history, the circle, which is the symbol for repetition, dominated the worldview of the people. Progress and/or change were seen either as impossible or very limited and, therefore, the ideal was for each generation to repeat the patterns of all previous generations. The Jews, on the other hand, viewed history as a line that was moving through repentance and reform towards a utopian goal, known as the Kingdom of God. And, Christians, who religiously are simply Jews who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, have adopted this same vision and thus have a worldview that sees history as moving from an Alpha to an Omega. Because of this, one of the units that I teach in my classes is called, The Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History. It is this view of history, which is related to the left lobe of our brains, that is the basis for the growth of science and technology in Western society.
Thus, when the Western Europeans, emerged from their circular, survival mode during the Dark Ages, and assumed the linear, development mode during the Renaissance, they were returning to the worldview that was most compatible with their religious beliefs. Once they entered this linear view, it was only a matter of time until they surpassed all other civilizations in terms of science and technology. This occurred because the Logos in the left hemisphere of their brain was answering the questions that they were asking and opening the doors upon which they were knocking. In other words, from a Christian perspective, it was Jesus who was leading them out of the Dark Ages and moving them towards the wonders and marvels of modern civilization. However, once anyone enters this linear mode of progressive change, there will always be conflicts between contending forces in society.
In my last program, I mentioned that in times of great change, which is what happened during the Renaissance, there are three major responses: the conservative, liberal, and moderate. The conservatives, being the guardians of the cultural immune system, resist all changes. The liberals, being the agents of change, want to discard everything old. The moderates, being the agents of organic growth, want to integrate, whatever is compatible between the old and the new. Thus, they tried to take the previous Age of Faith and integrate it with the new Age of Reason and the result was the Churchs position that God could be known through faith in the Bible and the teachings of the Church and also through reason by studying the natural laws of the universe.
During this Renaissance period, which we could roughly place between 1000 and 1500 A.D., new values and attitudes were developing. Ive already mentioned how the rediscovery of the art and science of the ancient Greeks and Romans, along with the rise of the merchant class, affected society and the Church. The scandalous behavior of the Medici popes, who were more interested in Art than in theology, eventually created the conditions which led to the Protestant Reformation, and the Protestant Reformation led to the disintegration of the Roman Catholic Church into thousands of different Protestant churches, each one claiming Biblical inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
As Christianity splintered into warring factions, the liberals or secular humanists, who had already rejected the Bible and their Christian heritage in favor of the philosophers of Greece and Rome, began to yearn for the overthrow of the existing Christian culture and a return to the pre-Christian Era. Their efforts came to a climax in the French Revolution of 1789 when the revolutionaries not only beheaded the king and queen but also tried to eliminate all Christian signs, symbols, and influences upon the culture. They wanted to create a utopian society based on the principle of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality.
In all honesty, it must be admitted that the Christians in general, and the Catholic Church in particular were only reaping what they had sown. The scandalous fighting and persecution among various Christian groups, the identification of Church officials with the rich and powerful, the intimate connection between religious and political objectives, these and other abuses provided the revolutionaries with convincing arguments that religion was part of the problem and not part of the solution. Thus, they wanted to create a secular state in which religion was either eliminate or greatly controlled by the political leaders. Having discovered their newfound power of reason, they became convinced that Human Reason, not God, would save them. Thus, they and those who followed them began to proclaim that there is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself.
In the name of equality, they wanted to eliminate all titles and ranks. Thus, during the French Revolution everyone was addressed as Citizen. Later, the Communist or Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia, which is a spin-off and continuation of the goals of the French Revolution, would seek the same objective by having everyone addressed as Comrade.
Thus, we can see that Communism, which is one of the forms of Secular Humanism, is a continuation of the aims and objectives of the French Revolution. Interestingly enough, it is also an extension of the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History because it sees history as developing towards the utopian goal of a classless society. Perhaps this is why many of the secular Jewish intellectuals in Europe were attracted to Communism and Socialism. Although they had given up being religious Jews and no longer believed in the coming of the Messiah, still they couldnt shake the traditional Jewish linear view of history. They still believed that through social reform, the world could become a better place. Therefore, it should not surprise us that organizations like the ACLU, which is one of the major arms of Secular Humanism, has a significant number of idealistic Jewish lawyers who are extremely talented in pushing the humanists agenda through the courts.
Sometimes I wonder if this is not just another example of how we are reaping what our ancestors sowed. When one considers the treatment of the Jews by the Christians throughout most of European history, it is not hard to understand why many of them might be inclined to reject Christian society and yearn to replace it with something else.
In many ways Communism sounds like Christianity without Christ. That is why some Christian have difficulty trying to sort out the aims and objective of Communism and those of Christianity.
For example, in Latin America, Catholic nuns and priest had to be chastised by the Pope because they were becoming involved in a movement called liberation theology which sought to address the problems of social justice which exists in many Latin American countries. The problem was that they were starting to assist Communist guerillas who for years had been trying to violently overthrow the existing governments. When the Pope visited Latin America, it was reported that he was approached by a young, idealistic priest who was involved in the struggle to alleviate the gap between the rich and the poor. He asked the Pope whether he approved of liberation theology. The Pope, it was reported, answered sharply, Which liberation theology? What the Pope was saying is that although the Church was concerned about the gap between the rich and the poor and encouraged its priests and nuns to work to alleviate it, they were not to become involved with the Communist in the violent overthrow of the government. For anyone interested in this topic, I recommend that you view the movie Romero.
Later, I will demonstrate that the problem is that although Christians often share the same goals as the Secular Humanists, we do not always agree with the means that they want to use to reach those goals. Its an issue of whether the ends justify the means.
Yet, it is hard sometimes to remain unsympathetic to their causes because they often are ones with which we agree. For example, I remember reading years ago an editorial in one of the local newspapers written by a reporter who had visited Cuba a few years after Fidel Castros Communist Revolution. He was complaining that since the advent of Castro, there were no more gambling casinos or houses of prostitution. Castro had closed down the casinos and had the prostitute retrained to perform other types of work. (It is interesting to note here, that Castro had been educated by the Jesuits, whose founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, had said, Pray like everything depended on God, and work like everything depended on you. We might want to compare this to the Secular Humanist statement There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself which could be restated as Since there is no God to whom we can pray, then it is all up to us. Here we have the fine distinction between Christianity and Secular Humanistic movements like Communism and why some of the students of the Jesuits lose their way by becoming social revolutionaries instead of Christian missionaries. Once we remove God from the equation, all limitations on our means are removed.) Anyway, let me return to my example.
Since, as a young sailor, I had visited Havana Cuba when it was under the control of the dictator Baptista, I had an idea of what this reporter was talking about. Havana was a playground for American tourists, criminals, and servicemen. However, I detected then the resentment of many of the Cubans who saw rich Yankees flooding into Cuba to practice the vices that were forbidden in the United States. Thus, due to their impoverished conditions, the Cuban people had to watch their daughters, and even mothers and wives, prostitute themselves to Americans in order to put bread on their table.
At that time, and while reading the article, I couldnt help wondering what we stood for. I thought that as a Christian nation we opposed prostitution and favored the education of females so that they could support themselves in a respectable way. Yet, here was a reporter who was complaining that the Communist regime was doing exactly that. Thus, even now, I sometimes find myself wondering why it is that Communists, who say they dont believe in God, act like they do. And, Capitalist, who say they do believe in God, act like they dont. If you want a puritanical society look to those controlled by the Communist not to those controlled by the Capitalist.
Yet, I am firmly convinced that Capitalism, rather than Communism, is the road to the Kingdom of God. No, let me restate that, I think, like the Church, that there are good points and bad points in both systems and that ultimately the real answer is a blending of their good points. In fact, Professor Billington, whom I quoted in my last talk, says that he believes that the secular humanist who inspired the French Revolution and, later, the Communist Revolutions, will lose in their cultural war with Christianity because the Christians will respond to the issues raised by the humanist by providing their own solutions.
For example, Karl Marx called for the overthrow of Capitalist society because of the oppression of the working class by the captains of industry or bourgeoisie. However, during the late 1800s and the early 1900s, labor leaders fought and won to establish labor unions that addressed the problem without a violent overthrow of the society. Marx and others complained about child labor in the mines and factories of England and the United States and urged a violent overthrow of the system. Reformers in both countries fought for child labor laws that now provide for the compulsory education of all children up until the age of sixteen. I could go on and show that each times the humanists raised an issue that they believed required the overthrow of Christian society, there arose reformers who responded with a solution that eliminated the need. This causes me to believe that sometimes God puts into the mouth of our opponents the things that we most need to hear. In other words, your enemies will tell you what your friends wont. How many Crisis Pregnancy Centers would there be if the other side hadnt raised the issue of abortion?
Thus, as I said before, the major difference between Secular Humanist, which comprises those who favor Communism and Socialism, and the Christian churches is not their ends but their means. For example, they want every child to be healthy, wealthy, and wise and so do we. So we agree about an end. However, the means that they want to use is to abort every child who is handicapped in any way, or who is being born into poverty, or who has any type of mental deficiency. For them what matters is the quality of life. We on the hand talk about the sanctity of life and argue that the ends dont justify the means. Along with people like Dr. Martin Luther King, we demand that both the ends and the means must be moral.
But, just exactly what is the type of world that these Secular Humanists seek. Well, since they imagine the pre-Christian world of Greece and Rome to be preferable to Christian civilization, by examining some of the characteristics of that world, we might be able to come up with some idea. So let me mention some of the characteristics of the pre-Christian world of ancient Greece and Rome:
First, it was a world of many gods and many religions in which the state took a super-tolerant view towards all of them so long as they didnt undermine the authority of the state. In fact, the only god that they demanded that everyone should worship was the emperor and it was the refusal of both the Jews and Christians that led to their persecution.
Second, it was a world based on hedonism in which, according to Eusebius, whatever led to pleasure was honored and glorified and whatever caused pain was dishonored and rejected.
Third, it was a world were the stars and planets, which were thought to control the lives of men and omens, which were right lobe ways of foretelling the future, were used by everyone, including emperors and generals, to determine how they should act in any given situation.
Fourth, it was a world in which abortion and infanticide was practiced to eliminate the weak and unwanted from the earth. The Roman father had a power called the Patria Protesta- the father protest- which gave him the right to accept or reject newborn children and even the right to execute grown children. I believe it was St. Ireaneas who wrote that Christians used to stand by the trash heaps outside the walls of Rome to gather up discarded infants who were still alive.
Fifth, it was a world in which sexual behavior of any kind was acceptable and encouraged. Dionysus in Greece and Bacchus in Rome were deities whose worshippers were involved in rites which included sexual orgies. The Greeks institutionalized homosexuality through their expectation that older men would have boy lovers and the Island of Lesbos, which is the basis for the word lesbian, was noted for its large number of gay females. Thus, we hear St. Paul and Eusebius claim that both women and men had given up their natural desire for members of the opposite sex and instead lusted after members of their own sex. Both also mention that sexual relations between brother and sisters and mother and son were also practiced.
Sixth, it was a world in which the Roman emperors kept the unemployed mob in Rome under control by providing free bread and circuses. In other words, state supported welfare and entertainment.
Seventh, it was a world in which art and entertainment, which peaked during a Golden Age, began to descend into the lower depths as the appetite of the mob for more bizarre and violent spectacles increased. Eventually, the Roman Coliseum became a place where mass murder became a form of entertainment.
Eighth it was a world in which Rome had to depend more and more on foreigners to defend and support it as their own population became less inclined to sacrifice for the common welfare. The population decreased drastically as Roman women were less inclined to take on the burden of children, preferring instead to use contraceptives and abortion.
Ninth, it was a world which was already dying on the inside when the barbarians gave it the final push. As Arnold Toynbee, the famous historian said, No great civilization was ever murdered; they all committed suicide. What he meant was that no one could have defeated them in their heyday but, when they were finally defeated it was because they were already dead on the inside. In other words, they no longer were willing to exert the negentropic effort to sustain or expand their civilization. Perhaps that is why the philosophy of hedonism seems to be the first sign of the internal decay that foretells of the coming collapse.
Finally, it was a world that, come to think of it, sounds an awful lot like our country today which seems to suggest that the Secular Humanists efforts to reestablish this world are proving to be effective. If nothing else, it shows that if even a small group of people share a vision that they are willing to work towards from one generation to the next, eventually it will become a reality. Thus, a vision of the world that began in 1789 with the French Revolution has gradually over the last two hundred years worked its way into the fabric of society to the point that the older vision of Christianity is now considered a has been. In fact, many Christians dont seem to be aware that this new vision is opposed to their own.
I ended my last program with John Lennons song Imagine which describes the vision of the kind of world that Secular Humanist imagine. What it describes is a utopian society in which religion will be abolished along with the ideas of heaven and hell or any continuation of life after death. People will live just for today in peace and harmony because everyone will understand that everything is a matter of personal opinion and therefore they will adopt a super-tolerant attitude based on Whos to say whats right or wrong? and its different strokes for different folks! In other words, Live and let live. The national boundaries that separate nations will be eliminated. Private property will be abolished and the government or some central authority will eliminate poverty by distributing everything equally. In other words, as Karl Marx had suggested, everyone will work according to his ability and receive according to his needs.
What Lennon is describing is a Secular Humanistic vision of the world that began with the French Revolution in 1789, in which the revolutionary leaders wanted to overthrow Christianity and replace it with a New World Order based on Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality.
I am always amazed when I see other people get teary-eyed while hearing this song without ever realizing what it is saying. Just recently, it was played over the intercom in my school for the purpose of inspiring the students, the majority of whom are Christians, to work for an international world based on peace and harmony. Afterwards when I pointed out to my students the philosophical foundation for the song and had them listen to the words more carefully, they were shocked to learn that they were being inspired to create a secular state in which their belief in God and their religion would be eliminated.
Thats what happens when people forget their own vision and are continually exposed to someone elses.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.