Why does secular humanism appeal?
Secularism in America is growing—fast. As secularism increases, the implications of secularism increases. For some it points towards a better society. For others it portends greater societal division and a turning away from traditional beliefs and foundations.
As a side note, for anyone interested in reading more about this matter, I invite you to read the article, “Why the Partisan Divide? The U.S. Is Becoming More Secular—and More Religious.”
To understand why secular humanism appeals to people, we need only to recognize the causes for secularism’s increase in strength and numbers. Here are a few possible reasons for the increase.
1. An intentional effort to increase secular humanism’s influence There is an intentional effort by secularists to influence and train a large part of Americans in secularist ideology. This is certainly nothing new. Nevertheless, the efforts of secularists have increased dramatically over the preceding decades and the fruit of their labor is coming to fruition. This training occurs within the halls of education, particularly at the institutions of higher education, but also in the formative years of education. But what is more influential and impactful is the media apparatus of television and mass media outlets. Let it suffice to make this point: at no time in American history has the secularist effort to spread their message been as widespread, as intense, and as successful. I realize I have already provided this quote made by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, yet it explicitly expresses the underlying goal of secularists that must be kept in mind: “The atheist realizes that there must not only be an acceptance of his right to hold his opinion, but that ultimately his is the job to turn his culture from religion.” Secular humanists are working to accomplish this goal.
2. The removal of absolute truth and external authority A second reason secularism in growing is the attractive notion that if external and absolute truth is removed from an individual’s life and thinking, there are no restrictions on how he or she lives. When an individual believes God does not exist there are no parameters for right and wrong (other than laws of the land); no restrictions for behavior except personal choice; and most importantly, no accountability for how a person lives. James Sire points this out by quoting Fyodor Dostoevsky, saying,
In the Brothers Karamazov (1880) Dostoevsky has Ivan Karamazov say that if God is dead everything is permitted. In other words, if there is no transcendent standard of the good, then there can ultimately be no way to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, and there can be no saints or sinners, no good or bad people (Sire, The Universe Next Door, p. 121).
And as I have mentioned, this removal of external authority over the life of an individual is a key component and appeal to secularist ideology.
3. The poor testimony of the American Church to society A third reason for the growth of secularism in the United States is the apparent foolery of Christianity. In fact, I would personally cite this as a primary culprit underlying much of secularist rejection of true religion—and with good reason. The failure of the American Christian church to be a light and example for truth and successful Christian living to our country is nothing short of breath taking. The aberrant teaching and antics of false Christian preachers and teachers, combined with professing Christians who falsely claim to represent Christ for numerous nefarious reasons, joined with the remarkable twisting and distortion of biblical truth has caused many to develop a disdain for Christianity that cannot be denied. These combined have provided ample ammunition for secularists to argue against the gospel.
With that said, the failure of the Christian church will ultimately not be an excuse for refusal to heed the warnings of God that are clearly delineated in Scripture. Nor will God simply overlook an individual’s refusal to believe in God and turn to him in repentance due to the misconduct of the members of the Christian church. As I have mentioned numerous times in this project, the enemy and avenger has worked tirelessly to erect barriers and place stones in the road of life which cause people to stumble, all while counterfeiting the truth. Though there be many doors that lead to dead ends (all decorated with promises of freedom, joy, meaning and purpose), there will still be a requirement for all to find the correct door—that door is Jesus Christ (John 10:7-18).
4. The natural inclination for people to be the final authority in their life Finally, while people are inherently religious, there also exists within us a desire to have ultimate authority over our lives. Even when we understand what God wants, we often choose our desires over what God prescribes and what is best for us. This may appear to be a contradiction but it is not. When there is a compelling argument to place one’s own authority above the authority of all else (including God—or namely God), as secular humanism does, many people will feel compelled to join the chorus and consider themselves the ultimate authority of truth and meaning. Secularism and atheism may well be the high water marks for such an argument.
Let’s now go on to discuss another question: "Is secular humanism a religion?"To next section Homepage