Secular Humanism

Population Explosion: A study in secular humanism

Secular humanism advertises their position as a life of hope and describes the humanist position as a belief that is worth living—referred to as “a unique selling proposition” in the Secular Humanist Declaration. Furthermore, secular humanists make significant statements about the inherent importance and priority of human beings. Let’s look at the Humanist Manifesto II for an indication of how secular humanists view humanity as of greatest importance.

At the present juncture of history, commitment to all humankind is the highest commitment of which we are capable; it transcends the narrow allegiances of church, state, party, class, or race in moving toward a wider vision of human potentiality. What more daring a goal for humankind than for each person to become, in ideal as well as practice, a citizen of a world community.

The fifth proposition of the Manifesto states human beings are the core and impetus of secular humanist values and “the preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value.” Whereas the seventh proposition elevates humans beings above even the guidelines and directives of society and belief in God: “People are more important than decalogues [Ten Commandments], rules, proscriptions, or regulations.”—a lofty position indeed.

In fact, according to secularists, the future looks bright and make the claim that “Countless millions of thoughtful persons have espoused secular humanist ideals, have lived significant lives, and have contributed to the building of a more humane and democratic world” (Secular Humanist Declaration).

And what of the thought of mankind needing the help of God? In keeping with the secularist’s outlook on anything pertaining to God, they have much to say. For example: “Secularism and humanism were eclipsed in Europe during the Dark Ages, when religious piety eroded humankind’s confidence in its own powers to solve human problems” (Secular Humanist Declaration). Secularists place all their hope in humanity's ability to resolve their problems. Not only so, but they turn from those who point out that mankind’s situation grows more precarious as we mortals work feverishly to resolve our increasingly difficult challenges. The Secular Humanist Declaration states: “We are nevertheless surrounded by doomsday prophets of disaster, always wishing to turn the clock back – they are anti science, anti freedom, anti human. In contrast, the secular humanistic outlook is basically melioristic, looking forward with hope rather than backward with despair.”

In fact, secular humanists are adamant that humanity can solve its problems. How do they propose this be done? “Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life” (Humanist Manifesto II).

Of course someone must lead humanity into changing mankind’s conduct and shape the bright future the secularists envision. Who do secular humanists claim are best to lead the way? Secular humanists of course! “...for the decades ahead call for dedicated, clear-minded men and women able to marshal the will, intelligence, and cooperative skills for shaping a desirable future. Humanism can provide the purpose and inspiration that so many seek; it can give personal meaning and significance to human life” (Humanist Manifesto II). And what do secular humanists call the world to work towards? What do secular humanists envision? A world-wide utopia. “We urge recognition of the common humanity of all people. We further urge the use of reason and compassion to produce the kind of world we want—a world in which peace, prosperity, freedom, and happiness are widely shared.”

But is this rosy picture secular humanists verbally paint as colorful as they suggest? Maybe not. The significant obstacles facing humanity are daunting to say the least.

Only one among the many challenges facing humanity is an increasing population. This matter is spectacular in its scope and far-reaching in its implications and regarded by secularists as a focal point to be resolved. How does secular humanism recommend to combat the matter?—the answer may surprise you.

If we return again to Tom Flynn, one of the American Humanist Association founding members and a national figure for secular humanism and editor of Free Inquiry magazine, we find that Flynn wrote an article on the population issue titled “Too Many People”. The article explains the problem of increased world population and offers a remedy.

In the article Flynn begins by outlining the significance of the issue. In fact, simply reading the article awakens the mind to the significant overpopulation confronting humanity. To begin, the world’s population is not simply growing beyond the capability of the earth’s resources to meet population needs—it has already surpassed it. Dwindling resources make continued growth unsustainable. And how many people are there? According to the World Population Clock(Worldometer), the world population quickly approaches 8 billion. Although I will leave it to you to read about the speed of the increase, suffice to say the numbers are increasing rapidly. Therefore, Flynn and others like him call for active measures not to simply plateau population numbers, but to dramatically reduce the world’s population. Flynn expresses his reasoning by saying, “Can the planet survive infinite population growth, if we only slow it down? Can today’s population be sustained indefinitely? If not, then demographic shrinkage is no nightmare scenario, but an economic and political puzzle whose solution could be humanity’s only hope (italics added).”

And what number does Flynn have in mind? He is clear on this matter as well (emphasis added): “...maybe five hundred million people is enough. Wherever the optimum lies, to my mind there is little question that there are too many people right now...It’s time to bring not only population control but population reduction back into public discussion.”

How does Flynn and the sources he cite propose to solve the population dilemma? Well, the obvious first implementation would be controlled human birth. But here lay a serious problem. Who would be the persons granted permission to have children? Would not the very small quotas available cause a political and societal structure where the privileged, the affluent, the politically and ideologically aligned only gain access? Would raffles for birthing children, labor-some bureaucratic processing, and taxation for having children be instituted? Would the government institute forced abortion for those who became pregnant without authorization? And what about forced sterilization for women and vasectomy for men? Would not such measures constitute the very oppression that secular humanists say religion and other archaic institutions and ideas cause?

And if population control does not achieve the target population goals? Would voluntary euthanasia be pursued? Would involuntary euthanasia be pursued? The scenario could go on and on. But it should be noted that the reduction secularists call for is so numerically high that extreme measures would be required. Flynn makes this very point, saying, “In my opinion, just slowing the pace of population growth is not enough. If we don’t reduce our numbers purposely, catastrophe may do it for us. If we don’t learn how to shrink our polities elegantly, it will occur inelegantly—and what horrors are veiled in that euphemism?”

So who will be the ones running the population reduction program? Who will decide who will be able to have children? Who will depart and who will remain? The secularists say they should. Tom Flynn says (emphasis added), “Yet secular humanists have important contributions to make to the population debate, not only in resisting opposition rooted in religious dogmatism but—dare I hope?—leading by example in our willingness to consider unconventional solutions. Clunky as this may sound, our planet needs us.”

I am forced to ask a question: Does it not sound like the proposal for population reduction will require leadership with an iron hand and instill in society a future according to their vision? Would such leadership not constitute the very dictatorial pressure and societal influence humanists demand freedom from? It certainly does. Rest assured, if humanists are to fully control society, their hopes will be fulfilled as described in the preface of the Humanist Manifesto: “The next century can be and should be the humanist century.”

Somehow this rhetoric does not correspond to the talk of human beings as the most important and vital focus of secular humanism. In fact, secular humanism advocates limiting if not destroying destroying the very people they say they work to emancipate from the burden and bondage of religious thought. Their selling proposition does not seem to hold the same promise as previously stated: “We urge recognition of the common humanity of all people. We further urge the use of reason and compassion to produce the kind of world we want—a world in which peace, prosperity, freedom, and happiness are widely shared.”

Let’s now turn to a biblical response to secular humanism.

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