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Humanism: Dangerous Modern Philosophy With an Ancient Origin

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Dangerous Modern Philosophy With an Ancient Origin

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Throughout human history those who have committed their lives to God have had to resist the influences of the society around them. Righteous Lot was vexed by the conduct of the ungodly people of Sodom. Daniel and his three friends had to resist the influences and standards of Babylon and Persia. First-century Christians had to reject Gnosticism, the sexually immoral lifestyle of Corinth, the intellectual vanity of the Greeks and the paganism of the Romans.

The same principle applies to Christians today. We also have to reject worldly values in favor of obeying God and learning to think as He thinks. As the people of God, we have to be on guard against wrong influences and values that continually bombard us with the purpose of separating us from God in our thinking and way of life. Revelation 18:4 tells us to come out of this world so we don't share its sins and receive its plagues.

Just as Paul reminded members in Corinth that they weren't ignorant of Satan's devices to deceive them (2 Corinthians 2:11), we need to be aware of philosophies that can deceive us today. The admonition "Be not deceived" is found throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 11:16; Luke 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 15:33; Galatians 6:7). This advice is critically important because Satan is extremely successful in his deceptions (Revelation 12:9) and is prophesied to continue being successful through the end of this age (Revelation 13:14).

One of today's most influential philosophies is that of modern humanism. This way of thinking is having a profound influence upon modern nations and peoples. This philosophy is at the heart and core of the cultural war taking place within the United States and many other Western nations. Although proponents of modern humanism point to a resurgence of interest and support in the last century, the underlying principles of humanism are really quite ancient.

Modern Humanism Defined

To better understand this philosophy, consider what Frederick Edwords, executive director of the American Humanist Association, wrote in an article titled "What Is Humanism?" for his association's Web site (www.jcn.com/humanism.html).

After summarizing literary humanism, Renaissance humanism, cultural humanism, philosophical humanism and Christian humanism, Edwords comes to modern humanism, the broad philosophy consisting of both secular humanism and religious humanism.

"Modern Humanism, also called Naturalistic Humanism, Scientific Humanism, Ethical Humanism and Democratic Humanism, is defined by one of its leading proponents, Corliss Lamont, as 'a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion.' Modern Humanism has a dual origin, both secular and religious, and these constitute its sub-categories.

"Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of 18th century enlightenment rationalism and 19th century freethought... Religious Humanism emerged out of Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and Universalism. Today, many Unitarian-Universalist congregations and all Ethical Culture societies describe themselves as humanist in the modern sense...

"Secular and Religious Humanists both share the same worldview and the same basic principles. This is made evident by the fact that both Secular and Religious Humanists were among the signers of Humanist Manifesto I in 1933 and Humanist Manifesto II in 1973. From the standpoint of philosophy alone, there is no difference between the two. It is only in the definition of religion and in the practice of the philosophy that Religious and Secular Humanists effectively disagree" (ibid.).

The Focus of Humanism

These philosophies are all focused on humans. Human beings—not God—are at the center of all this thinking. Within secular humanism, and even religious humanism to a lesser degree, anything dealing with the supernatural (including God, the Bible, angels, demons) isn't considered.

In general, secular humanists consider all religion to be superstitious thought that has held back the progress of humanity. "Secular Humanists maintain that there is so much in religion deserving of criticism that the good name of Humanism should not be tainted by connection with it. Secular Humanists often refer to Unitarian Universalists as 'Humanists not yet out of the church habit'" (ibid.).

As for the religious humanists such as the Unitarian Universalists, Edwords explains that "the definition of religion used by religious humanists is a functional one. Religion is that which serves the personal and social needs of a group of people sharing the same philosophical world view" (ibid.).

Secular humanism and religious humanism agree that people decide for themselves what their human needs are and design lifestyles in accordance with their wishes. Because all modern humanism promotes free thinking, unencumbered by any outside rules or influences, secular humanists grudgingly accept religious humanists who think they should have some type of religious activity—albeit designed by themselves to enhance their lives rather than necessarily based upon guidance from God or His Word.

Secular Humanism

While both branches of modern humanism, religious and secular, have had profound influences upon Western societies, the latter has received more attention and attained more success in both Europe and the United States in recent years.

According the Edwords, "The Secular Humanist tradition is a tradition of defiance, a tradition that dates back to ancient Greece. One can see, even in Greek mythology, Humanist themes that are rarely, if ever, manifested in the mythologies of other cultures. And they certainly have not been repeated by modern religions. The best example here is the character Prometheus.
"Prometheus stands out because he was idolized by ancient Greeks as the one who defied Zeus. He stole the fire of the gods and brought it down to earth. For this he was punished. And yet he continued his defiance amid his tortures. This is the root of the Humanist challenge to authority...

"Imagine how shocked a friend of mine was when I told her my view of 'God's moral standards.' I said, 'If there were such a god, and these were indeed his ideal moral principles, I would be tolerant. After all, God is entitled to his own opinions!'

"Only a Humanist is inclined to speak this way. Only a Humanist can suggest that, even if there be a god, it is OK to disagree with him, her, or it...

"Much of Human progress has been in defiance of religion or of the apparent natural order. When we deflect lightening or evacuate a town before a tornado strikes, we lessen the effects of so called 'acts of God.' When we land on the Moon we defy the Earth's gravitational pull. When we seek a solution to the AIDS crisis, we, according to Jerry Falwell, thwart 'God's punishment of homosexuals.'

"Politically, the defiance of religious and secular authority has led to democracy, human rights, and even the protection of the environment. Humanists make no apologies for this. Humanists twist no biblical doctrine to justify such actions. They recognize the Promethean defiance of their response and take pride in it. For this is part of the tradition" (ibid.).

Humanists are quite proud of their tradition of defiance of authority (including God's) and believe that their actions have made the world a better place to live. They believe their approach is more caring and considerate of people and that their way of thinking is superior to others.

Secular humanists proudly maintain that their philosophy is for the here and now as opposed to some supposed life after death. Most reject religious notions of sin, guilt, faith, authority, revelation and even God, which they consider to be arbitrary and superstitious. They believe in evolution—that man evolved upon the earth with all the abilities within himself for creating a peaceful, happy society.

They believe that we humans only have one life to live and that each person should be free to live it as he or she chooses. They are advocates of contemporary sexual values determined by humans themselves and support all modern ideas of humans rights including the right for a woman to have an abortion if she so chooses.

Secular humanists are proud of their advocacy for a secular state and wholeheartedly fight for the separation of church and state. They are proud of the "progress" they have brought to Europe and the United States in these areas. Above all, they relish the enlightenment that comes to people as they cast aside preconceived ideas and think for themselves (also see the British Humanist Association, www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/contentChapterView.asp?chapter=309).

The Origin of Humanism

While modern humanists point to Prometheus in Greek mythology as a hero in defiance of Zeus, the real origin of humans defying God and thinking for themselves goes back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Here Satan, represented by a snake, invited Eve to think for herself about whether to eat the fruit God had forbidden. He suggested that in making her own decision she would become like God—able to decide right and wrong for herself (Genesis 3:1-5).

Satan presented the underlying philosophy of self-determination to Eve as higher-level thinking—something positive and good for her to do. Satan invited Eve to cast away God's rules and to think for herself. Based upon Satan's sales pitch for humanism, Eve was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). She ate of the forbidden fruit and gave it to Adam, who did the same.

In making the decision to eat of the fruit, Eve reasoned that she didn't really have to obey God. Of course, the result of Adam and Eve's action was tragic for them (they lost access to the Tree of Life representing eternal life, Genesis 3:22-24) and tragic for all mankind thereafter (death came to all because of sin, Romans 5:12).

The Appeal of Humanism

The sales pitch for modern humanism is that this philosophy is the one for educated people who care about other human beings and who want to make this world a better place to live. Notice the following quotes from modern humanists:

"Humanists recognize that it is only when people feel free to think for themselves, using reason as their guide, that they are best capable of developing values that succeed in satisfying human needs and serving human interests"—Isaac Asimov, author and past president of the American Humanist Association.

"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death"—Albert Einstein, scientist, Nobel Prize winner in physics, originator of the theory of relativity.

"When we speak of equality, of women and men, of Blacks and Whites, of all the world's people, we are talking about humanism"—Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms. magazine, Humanist Pioneer awardee.

"Humanism, in all its simplicity, is the only genuine spirituality"—Albert Schweitzer, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all"—Linus Pauling, scientist, Humanist of the Year in 1961, Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954, Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 (www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/famous.html).

Secular humanism has been particularly successful in Western societies. According to pollster George Barna on Oct. 8, 2002, "most Americans believe 'truth can be discovered only through logic, human reasoning and personal experience.' A majority of Americans (54%) embraces this perspective, which is at odds with both the traditional Protestant belief that the Bible is the source of truth and the Catholic perspective that the Bible and papal authority convey truth" ("Americans Draw Theological Beliefs From Diverse Points of View," www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=122, emphasis added throughout).

In reflecting on the implications of this survey, Barna wrote, "Over the past 20 years we have seen the nation's theological views slowly become less aligned with the Bible. Americans still revere the Bible and like to think of themselves as Bible-believing people, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Christians have increasingly been adopting spiritual views that come from Islam, Wicca, secular humanism, the eastern religions and other sources.

"Because we remain a largely Bible-illiterate society, few are alarmed or even aware of the slide toward syncretism—a belief system that blindly combines beliefs from many different faith perspectives" (ibid.).

"Surveys on religious belief in Britain have found 30-40% (and 65% of young people) declaring themselves atheists or agnostics. A Home Office survey (2004) found almost 22% of no faith, and that religion played little part in the lives of most of those calling themselves Christians. Many people, even if they do not call themselves humanists, live their lives by the [humanist] principles outlined above, and many thousands use the services of the British Humanist Association every year; organised Humanism is the tip of a very large iceberg" (www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/contentChapterView.asp?chapter=309).

God on Modern Humanism

Although created by God with marvelous intricacy (David acknowledged that he was "wonderfully made," Psalm 139:14), we humans were not created with the inherent knowledge to adequately make every decision as to how we can best live. As the prophet Jeremiah explained, "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).

Ironically, the starting point for a better life—the full abundant life God wants each of us to enjoy (John 10:10)—is to acknowledge this important biblical truth that we don't have all the answers ourselves and that we need God's instruction.

When humans believe that there is no God and that they inherently have all the answers to life's questions, they are deceived. David wrote, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1). In denying that there is a God, humans, in essence, foolishly make themselves God.

In denying God, humans unwittingly open themselves up to faulty thinking. In writing to the Romans, Paul explained how such erroneous thinking develops: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:20-22).

In exchanging "the truth of God for the lie [that there was no God to explain to humans how to live]," humans then "worshiped and served the creature [themselves] rather than the Creator" (verse 25). This faulty thinking led to the acceptance of sexual immorality including homosexuality, hatred of God and the inability to properly discern good from evil (verses 26-31). Humanism thus ignores the lessons of millennia of history and human experience explained in the Bible.

None of us need follow the above recipe for disaster. Instead, we can choose to acknowledge God and His directions for happiness.

If you are being bombarded by modern humanism and are not sure what to believe, please order our free booklets Life's Ultimate Question: Does God Exist?, Is the Bible True? and What Is Your Destiny? All can be ordered, downloaded or read from our Web site at www.ucg.org/booklets. All will help you understand the implications of the choice between God and modern humanism.

God doesn't want anyone to be deceived. Remember this important advice: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8). UN

The United Nations at 60: Signs of Humanism's Failings

by Howard Davis

The United Nations: There is no greater place where the human potential for good and evil are represented every day, or where the brilliance and fundamental problems of human nature are demonstrated 24/7.

When I visited UN headquarters in June, one UN employee summed up its basic problem for me in an interview: "It's a great idea, but people are flawed."

Consider just a few of the United Nations' flaws:

• "The UN-sponsored Iraq oil-for-food scandal is probably the greatest financial rip-off in the history of the world," former U.S. State Department officer Jack Skruggs told me. He formerly worked for the U.S. ambassador to the UN.

The UN Security Council created the oil-for-food program in 1995 to provide humanitarian aid to Iraqi people suffering from sanctions imposed on Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. Under its terms, Iraq could sell crude oil through the UN and the proceeds would be carefully distributed for humanitarian food and aid back to the Iraqi people directly to ensure Saddam's dictatorship would not profit.

It now appears tens of billions of dollars may have been robbed from the people of Iraq when the proceeds of the oil went to personal bank accounts of many officials, companies and even billions to Saddam himself.

• There were a few periods when the UN was used to preserve or make peace, but many more when it was unable to prevent war or genocide.

Korea, the Six-Day War, Vietnam, Cambodia, Biafra, the Sudan, Rwanda, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Bosnia, the Angolan civil war, the ongoing war in the Republic of Congo and more were all examples of the inherent inability of humans to rule themselves peacefully.

• Other recent UN failings include the raping of women by UN peacekeepers in the Republic of Congo and several other hot spots in the world, the coddling of rogue regimes, the constant anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, and lavish administrative spending.

The UN's lofty ideals are among man's best attempts to bring peace and prosperity, but they turn out to just be tinkering with a human race that is profoundly flawed and a world system that is virulently blind in its selfishness. The United Nations can do nothing to alter these underlying problems. This is why divine intervention is necessary to fix the fundamentals.

—(Excerpted from articles submitted for the September/October Good News.)

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