The Secular Humanist Concept of Religious Skepticism

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The Secular Humanist Concept of Religious Skepticism

Secular Humanists pride themselves on religious skepticism.

From A Secular Humanist Declaration:

As Secular Humanists, we are generally skeptical about supernatural claims. We recognize the importance of religious experience; that experience that redirects and gives meaning to the lives of human beings. We deny, however, that such experiences have anything to do with the supernatural. We are doubtful of traditional views of God and divinity. . . . We find that traditional views of the existence of God either are meaningless, have not yet been demonstrated to be true, or are tyrannically exploitative. . . . [Secular Humanists] reject the idea that God has intervened miraculously in history or revealed himself to a chosen few, or that he can save or redeem sinners. They believe that men and women are free and are responsible for their own destinies and that they cannot look toward some transcendent Being for salvation. We reject the divinity of Jesus, the divine mission of Moses, Mohammed, and other latter-day prophets and saints of the various sects and denominations We do not accept as true the literal interpretation of the Old and New Testament, the Koran, or other allegedly sacred religious documents, however, important they may be as literature. . . . In spite of the fact that human beings have found religions to be uplifting and a source of solace, we do not find their theological claims to be true. Religions have made negative as well as positive contributions toward the development of human civilization. Although they have helped to build hospitals and schools and, at their best, have encouraged the spirit of love and charity, many have also caused human suffering by being intolerant of those who did not accept their dogmas or creeds. Some religions have been fanatical and repressive, narrowing human hopes, limiting aspirations, and precipitating religious wars and violence. While religions have no doubt offered comfort to the bereaved and dying by holding forth the promise of an immortal life, they have also aroused morbid fear and dread. We have found no convincing evidence that there is a separable “soul” or that it survives death (Kurtz, A Secular Humanist Declaration, 17-19).

From Humanist Manifest I:

“Humanism recognizes that man’s religious culture and civilization, as clearly depicted by anthropology and history, are the product of a gradual development due to his interaction with his natural environment and with his social heritage” (Humanist Manifesto I, Fourth). “We are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of ‘new thought’” (Humanist Manifest I, Sixth).

From Humanist Manifesto II:

We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human revelation, species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so. . . . We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race. Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the natural.

We appreciate the need to preserve the best ethical teachings in the religious traditions of humankind, many of which we share in common. But we reject those features of traditional religious morality that deny humans a full appreciation of their own potentialities and responsibilities. Traditional religions often offer solace to humans, but as often, they inhibit humans from heling themselves or experiencing their full potentialities. Such institutions, creeds, and rituals often impede the will to serve others. Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear rather than courage. (Humanist Manifest II, First).

Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices. Modern science discredits such historic concepts as the ‘ghost in the machine’ and the ‘separable soul.’ Rather science affirms that the human special is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces (Humanist Manifesto II).

There are two things we need to do tonight. First, we need to establish God’s existence. Second, we need to explore the philosophical problems in their thinking. We’ll explore the philosophical problems with the Humanists’ reasoning first, and then we’ll explore God’s existence.

Philosophical Problems in the Humanist Thinking

The Humanists claim that religion has done a great disservice to mankind.

Religions have made negative as well as positive contributions toward the development of human civilization. Although they have helped to build hospitals and schools and, at their best, have encouraged the spirit of love and charity, many have also caused human suffering by being intolerant of those who did not accept their dogmas or creeds. Some religions have ben fanatical and repressive, narrowing human hopes, limiting aspirations, and precipitating religious wars and violence (Kurtz, A Secular Humanist Declaration).

There is no doubt that religions have caused untold problems in the history of mankind. Because of the beliefs of some Islamic fanatics, some 3,000 of our fellow citizens were killed on September 11, 2001. Because of the beliefs of some Islamic and Christian fanatics, the Crusades cost many lives. Because of the beliefs of some, the Spanish Inquisition sought to impose beliefs on others.

However, neither Secular Humanists nor these fanatics whom I mentioned understood Scripture.

Jesus never advocated any type of suffering or violence. Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus resisted violence when his life was in jeopardy. When Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt 26:52-53). He could have stopped his crucifixion by force, but he chose not to do so, and he even healed one of those who had come to arrest him.

The apostles also taught that one should not take matters into his own hands. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Rom 12:17-19). “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy” (Heb 12:14).

Just because some have used religion to create an atmosphere of strife rather than peace does not negate Jesus’ teachings. The truthfulness of what Jesus taught does not depend on how well I obey his teachings, and since I’m a sinner, that’s good news. What Jesus taught is true whether or not I obey it.

What about the claim that placing divine law above human needs and interests does a disservice to mankind? Clearly, if you want to do whatever you choose, divine laws which tell you how to live and how to think are going to do a great disservice to you.

However, divine law services a great service. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27)—God understood that man needed rest, and thus he created the Sabbath, not to restrict man but for man’s own good. Law teaches what is right and wrong: “I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet’” (Rom 7:7). Divine commandments are necessary to retrain the actions of the evil: “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers” (1 Tim 1:9).

What about the claim that the beliefs in the existence of a supernatural “is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race?” Such is a blatant disregard for the Law of God—claiming that God is irrelevant allows individuals to ignore what God has said.

The Secular Humanists are by no means alone in their claims that God is irrelevant to modern life. How many times have you heard someone say about Scripture, “It’s too old to have any practical value in my life?” How may times have you maybe said yourself, “The Bible just doesn’t have all the answers I need?”

The truth is that Scripture does have all the answers we need in this life. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us” (2 Pet 1:3).

How relevant to life is Scripture? What if my neighbor wrongs me? Scripture tells me what to do (Matt 18:15-17). How should I treat my spouse? Scripture provides guidelines (Eph 5:22-33). Should I do 75 in a 65 zone? Scripture gives the answer (Rom 13:1).

What about the claim that, “Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the natural?” This is a terribly egotistical statement. What they say is, “We don’t have all knowledge, but we’re intelligent enough to know that there is no God. Whatever else we learn, we will never find God.” How can they be so certain? The only way the Secular Humanists could be certain there is no God was if they had all knowledge, something they themselves admit they lack.

Evidence for God’s Existence

What about man’s moral capacity?

Although some deny the existence of absolute morality, nearly every society has some moral standards which it considers unchangeable. For example, most all societies would consider murder to be morally wrong—at least murder just to be killing. But why should societies consider murder wrong if there’s not a moral absolute which makes the taking of life wrong? My dog doesn’t think anything of chasing a rabbit or a bird in hopes of killing it. Why should we view taking human life any differently if we haven’t been endowed with a moral compass?

What about a beginning of the universe? (See William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics for an excellent discussion of the cosmological argument.

There are really only two options for the universe’s existence: the universe began at a set point in time, or the universe is eternal. Did the universe have a beginning?

The amount of hydrogen in the cosmos requires a beginning (John Clayton, The Source).

Stars—including the sun—burn hydrogen; the sun is currently only about half-way through its lifecycle. What would happen if you filled your car up with gas and drove and drove and drove without filling the tank again? Similarly, stars cannot burn hydrogen forever, yet hydrogen is still the most abundant element in the universe. Thus, the universe couldn’t have been here forever, or there would be no hydrogen.

The second law of thermodynamics requires a beginning (Clayton, The Source).

The second law of thermodynamics says that in a closed system things go from an orderly state to a disordered state. In other words, things slow down. If you buy a brand new car, all shiny and perfect, what’s that car gong to look like in ten years. It’s not going to run as well, it’s going to rust, it’s going to deteriorate. yet, the car isn’t a closed system—you put gas in it, you change the oil, you buy new tires.

Likewise, from an atheistic standpoint the universe is a closed system (i.e., there’s nothing outside of it to act upon the cosmos). If that’s the case and the universe has existed forever, the universe should be totally dark, cold and devoid of all energy. Yet, that isn’t the case—although the universe is slowing down. From a Christian standpoint, of course, the universe is not a closed system—God is both outside and above the universe.

The Big Bang requires a beginning (Clayton, The Source).

In 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that light from distant galaxies appeared redder than it should have appeared; Hubble concluded that the light appears redder because the galaxies are moving away from the earth (Craig, Reasonable Faith). Hubble continued his investigation and discovered that not only is the universe expanding, but the cosmos is expanding the same in all directions. The logical conclusion is that if you go back far enough in time—probably about 15 billion years—you come to a point where there’s absolutely nothing. What you have scientifically demonstrated is creation from beginning!

But could the Big Bang have been the result of forces of things which have nothing to do with God? In other words, could the Big Bang have just happened?

Obviously, the atheist has no other alternative, and there are many who take that route. Yet when one examines the universe, he has difficulty in arriving at a conclusion other than that the universe was designed for the purpose of man’s existence (Clayton, The Source)

  • Our solar system is just the right position in the Milky Way galaxy for life to exist.
  • We are outside the central bulge of the galaxy.
  • If we were close to the center of the galaxy, the gravitational forces would be far too great for the solar system to exist.

The distance of the earth from the sun is absolutely critical to the existence of life (Clayton, The Source). The planet Venus is much like the Earth in many respects; however, that planet is closer to he sun and has a slow, backward rotation. This has caused a layer of sulfuric acid to cover the planet and the ground temperatures hover around 900 degrees. Water is also crucial to the survival of life. If we were any closer to the sun, all water would be vapor. If we were any further from the sun, all water would be ice. In either case, life would be impossible.

The earth’s tilt is also absolutely crucial to life’s existence (Clayton, The Source). The Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun when the Earth is furthest from the sun (our summer and titled away from the sun when the Earth is closest to the sun (our winter). Why is that significant? Most of the landmass on Earth is in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Southern Hemisphere is largely covered by water. Water absorbs and releases heat more slowly than land. Thus, as the earth is closest to the sun, most of the Earth’s water reflects the heat, and what isn’t reflected I transported to the colder Northern Hemisphere by way of the ocean currents. If this weren’t the case, winters would be much colder and summers would be much hotter.

The electric charge of the electron is crucial to life’s existence (Stephen Hawking, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time). If the electric charge of the electron were only slightly different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would have exploded; there would have been no life as we know it. About the electron’s electric charge, Stephen Hawking, one of the foremost theoretical physicists of our day said, “One can take this either as evidence of a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of laws of science or as support for the strong anthropic principle” (Hawking, The Illustrated Brief History of Time, 160-161). The anthropic principle says that the universe is the way it is so that life could develop.

The massive planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have huge gravitational forces which draw comets away from a collision with Earth (Clayton, The Source).


God has wondrously created this world so that we might inhabit it for his praise and worship.

Are you using your abilities to praise and worship God?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.

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