From the May/June 2019 issue of Discern Magazine

How Is Secular Humanism Changing Our World?

To those who don’t believe in God, biblical morality seems arbitrary and restrictive. Secular humanism seeks to find human solutions, presenting a mixture of good intentions with an underlying approach that allows what the Bible defines as evil.

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We live in an upside-down world. What was once deemed wrong is now acceptable or even considered good, and what was once right is increasingly viewed as wrong.

Consider some of the stories that have been in the news in recent years:

  • An Oregon bakery is fined $135,000 for refusing to make wedding cakes for lesbians.
  • A Florida boy is reprimanded by his teacher for reading his Bible during “free reading time.”
  • New York passes a law that could allow women to abort their babies as they’re exiting the womb.
  • A Pennsylvania school district permits transgender students to use bathroom facilities based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
  • An Air Force veteran is forcibly removed from a retirement ceremony for mentioning God in his speech.
  • In Britain, a lesbian couple prepares to “transition” their 5-year-old son into a daughter.

What’s particularly disturbing to Bible-believing Christians is that there are many people who actually see what’s happening as progress. They do not accept the authority of the Bible. They believe individuals should be free to live life as they choose, without having to consider what God says.

One term used to define this belief system is secular humanism.

Definitions and development of secular humanism

Those who espouse this ideology are doing their best to put a positive spin on it. They show their concern for the happiness and welfare of their fellow man. The problem is, they don’t believe in or want any guidance from a supreme being.

Humanist advocate Jim Herrick describes secular humanism as “a most human philosophy of life. Its emphasis is on the human, the here-and-now, the humane. … Humanists are atheists or agnostics and do not expect an afterlife. … Morality is social in origin. It comes from the way we have evolved and from our ability to see that there is a general benefit if we behave well towards each other” (Humanism: An Introduction, pp. 1-2).

Secular humanists believe mankind evolved with all the inherent abilities necessary to create a peaceful, well-functioning society. They believe that trust in a God who hears prayers and cares for people is superstitious and outmoded. They think that science and human reasoning have the real answers to the world’s problems.

Of course, not everyone who has been influenced by humanist ideas necessarily realizes all the ramifications of the humanist belief system. But the ones who are leading this movement certainly do. They are at war with God and doing everything they can to destroy His moral, ethical and spiritual standards.Of course, not everyone who has been influenced by humanist ideas necessarily realizes all the ramifications of the humanist belief system. But the ones who are leading this movement certainly do. They are at war with God and doing everything they can to destroy His moral, ethical and spiritual standards.

In one sense, humanism isn’t new. People have been turning their backs on God since the time of Adam and Eve. However, the secular humanist movement that we’re seeing today is a fairly modern development. It got its start in the 1930s and really took off amid the radical political and social change of the 1960s.

Since then, humanist ideology has been spreading like wildfire. It permeates virtually every aspect of contemporary society. It’s being promoted through our educational systems, news media, entertainment, advertising and governments. It is at the heart and core of today’s so-called culture wars.

The secular humanist agenda

Over the years, humanists have released a series of “manifestos” or declarations stating their beliefs and goals. The two most recent are the Humanist Manifesto III, which was published by the American Humanist Association in 2003, and the Humanist Manifesto 2000, which was published by the International Academy of Humanism. Previously, the Humanist Manifestos I and II were issued in 1933 and 1973, and A Secular Humanist Declaration was published in 1980.

Looking over these documents, certain objectives stand out as being top priorities for humanists. These include:

  • To advance the doctrine of evolution while diminishing the concept of God. Humanist Manifesto I describes the universe as “self-existing and not created,” and declares that man “has emerged as a result of a continuous process.” Humanist Manifesto II states, “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race.”

Humanists deny the existence of anything that isn’t made up of matter or can’t be proven by the scientific method. Since we can’t observe or measure the supernatural world, humanists conclude it doesn’t exist.

  • To replace biblical standards of conduct with human desires. Humanist Manifesto II states, “Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest.”

By denying the existence of God, humanists are also rejecting the existence of an absolute moral code that must be obeyed, thereby freeing them to make their own rules for how to live.

  • To keep religion out of politics and government. A Secular Humanist Declaration argues for a secular state that gives “no special consideration to any theological or religious systems.” Humanist Manifesto II states, “The separation of church and state and the separation of ideology and state are imperatives.”

Traditionally in the United States, many have taken the separation of church and state to mean that religious belief and practice should be protected from government interference. Secularists want this phrase interpreted to mean there should be no references to God in government venues and no public displays of faith.

  • To replace the traditional family with alternative lifestyles. Humanist Manifesto II declares that “the right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized.” Humanists are not concerned with keeping marriages and families intact. In fact, many go so far as to say traditional marriage and family arrangements are undesirable because they perpetuate the domination of women by men. In their eyes, open marriage, triads, same-sex marriage and cohabitation are all acceptable, and may even be better options than traditional marriage.

Humanist Manifesto II also states, “Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire.” Believing it is wrong to repress sexual desires drives some to accept unbiblical sexual practices like pornography, pedophilia, bestiality and homosexuality.

Other issues humanists promote include abortion, feminism, equal rights for homosexuals and transgenders, redistribution of wealth, and the legalization of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

They’re headed down a dangerous path. Isaiah 5:20-21 warns against being arrogant and contrary to God: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. … Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes.” Yet this describes the manner in which humanists operate.

The ramifications of secular humanism

We can see the results of their efforts all around us. Courtrooms and city halls have removed their plaques of the 10 Commandments. Public libraries display books like Heather Has Two Mommies and Atheism for Kids in the children’s section. Schools and universities indoctrinate students with evolution and alternative lifestyles.

If we dare watch a TV sitcom or movie, the characters portrayed are often gays or transgenders, spineless husbands, overbearing women, and Christians who are made out to be narrow-minded fools. The family structures presented are often divorcées with their kids, same-sex couples or adults of the opposite sex living together, instead of the traditional nuclear family. That’s what humanists want everyone to see as “normal.”

Where is all this leading? A society built on a secular belief system is doomed to destroy itself. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). While mankind was “wonderfully made” by God (Psalm 139:14), we do not have the innate wisdom to decide how to best live. Jeremiah 17:9 warns us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

Secular humanists can’t prevent wars, end crime, stop suffering, restore peace or build a better world. They can’t because they leave God out of the picture. We need God’s help, strength, guidance and direction if we are to succeed as a society. Only God can bring about a true solution to humanity’s problems (Proverbs 14:12).

Think through some of the basic tenets of humanism. If the basis for ethics revolves around what makes us happy or relieves our misery, then being dishonest, stealing, divorcing, having affairs, viewing pornography or undergoing abortions all become acceptable if that’s what it takes to satisfy these desires—even if we hurt someone else by doing so.

By rejecting God, secular humanists are left with no real meaning to life, no “big picture” to live for that goes beyond this present existence, and no reason to put the needs of others ahead of their own.By rejecting God, secular humanists are left with no real meaning to life, no “big picture” to live for that goes beyond this present existence, and no reason to put the needs of others ahead of their own. Their objective becomes solely to gratify the self as much as possible during this short physical life, which only leads to self-centeredness. Can any nation—or even any family—survive when everyone is just focused on himself or herself?

We must be on guard against the dangers of secular humanism

Ultimately, the driving force behind the spread of secular humanism is none other than Satan the devil. Just as Satan convinced Adam and Eve to make their own rules about right and wrong, we, too, can be duped by faulty thinking if we’re not on guard.

Satan is extremely clever and knows how to mix good with evil. That’s why certain issues advocated by humanists might sound good on the surface or even have some validity, but in reality be quite destructive. Peter admonishes us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We must understand the ramifications of humanist thinking so we don’t become deceived ourselves.

This isn’t just a matter of being aware of what’s wrong with issues like evolution and abortion. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to not rely on our own understanding and to acknowledge God in everything we say and do. Every decision we make in our daily lives can be influenced by secular humanist thinking—including routine matters like what to post on social media or what type of clothing to purchase. If we don’t look to God and His Word for guidance in these things, we are acting like we don’t think He exists.

God wants us to use our minds, to think and reason, but He doesn’t want us to do it apart from Him. We must avoid the human-centered approach to life and instead make God the center of our lives. That is the only way to true, lasting happiness—for ourselves and for all of mankind.

About the Author

Becky Sweat

Becky Sweat is a freelance author and a member of the Church of God.

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