From God Created Humanism: The Christian basis of secular values by Theo Hobson

This book argues that secularism though not Christian has stolen Christian ideas about progress being possible and the dignity of the human being from Christianity. It says that secular humanistic values make no sense without assuming there is a God. One such value is that humanism tries to give universal values - values for all people. The book can be summed up as, "Humanism is rooted in Christian morality – all ideas of equality, progress and social justice are derived from the Judeo-Christian myth." The idea is that humanist values are on stilts and they just think they have thrown the stilts away.

Christianity claims catholicity - that is that all truth comes from God and all truth is for all people. Thus even if humanists did take one or two ideas that is removing them from Christianity not adopting them. What do I mean? I mean the Christian principles are jigsaw pieces - parts of a whole and make up a worldview that is rather complex. The piece taken from the puzzle is not the puzzle but a piece.

Historically, Christianity absorbed the best of pagan philosophy and that is the real source of the teachings that humanists feel inspired by. Jesus never said we must study and learn from Aristotle or Socrates or Plato but that didn't stop the Church doing it. Every religion is a patchwork of different religions.

In brief, the allegation that morally minded-atheists or non-religious are stealing - even if unaware - is an insult. It is a fact that the Christian stress on caring for all people is asking you to first and foremost pray for all. It is not about the Church getting everybody to do something practical. Praying for all then is largely what universalised care for others entails. Atheists reject that rubbish totally.

If Christianity is man-made then its values are humanist and it is the one throwing away the stilts or using the wrong stilts. Humanist means man made and even idolatry is humanist. Secular humanists reject that kind of humanism. If Christianity is from God then humanists are stealing if they borrow from it and have religious inclinations they are not aware of or are pretending are not there.

I quote from the book and then I comment.

QUOTE: Secular humanism, despite being secular, is firmly rooted in Christianity. It's moral universalism is an adaptation, or mutation, of Christianity. Only if this paradox is acknowledged can we address our paralysing religious–secular split, and reaffirm our public creed. To claim that Christianity is the primary source of secular humanism might sound excessive. But where else did secular humanism get its optimistic moral vision, its idea that human beings ought to seek the well-being of all other human beings? Is this just the morality that comes naturally to all human societies, the evolved instinct for altruism perhaps? No – that sort of instinctive morality certainly exists, but it is frail, ambiguous: it might come naturally to protect an orphan of one’s own tribe, but it also seems to come naturally to see other tribes as enemies, and to treat their orphans with less care.

COMMENT: Rubbish. The Bible sees moral optimism as something that suits the next world not this one which is steeped in sin and influenced by Satan. Seeking what is best for all is a principle but in practice nobody does it. It is not doable. Jesus said nobody was good but God and wondered if there would be any loyalty to God left in the world when he would return. Christianity is not morally optimistic and says the world is bad which is why we have to do such hard work with God to avoid contamination.

The line that secular humanism is secular - secular means non-Christian or technically non-religionist - and can be firmly rooted in Christianity is bizarre. "Secular humanism, despite being secular, is firmly rooted in Christianity" makes no sense as you see from what happens when you change the wording. "Modern medicine, despite being scientific, is firmly rooted in folk magic".

Humanism is optimistic only in a cautious sense. We know that certain steps bring about not perfect but okay results. This is seen as human effort and devoid of a divine input.

QUOTE: Maybe a widening of morality comes with the development of rationality. But the morality of the brainy ancient Greeks was limited, hemmed in by fatalism, militarism, hierarchy, slavery (their rationality, as we’ll see, was intrinsically elitist). ‘Yes, but modern humanist thinkers overcame such limitations,’ says the atheist, ‘and discovered the great truth of human equality, of universal rights.’ OK, so how did that happen? When one bothers looking into the matter, one finds that these humanists were almost all Christians, or semi-Christian believers in a rational God – ‘deists’.

COMMENT: A lot of labelling going on here. Why should belief in a deist God - a God who makes but does not tamper with the universe he makes and thus cannot be prayed to be described as semi-Christian? Are we not calling it semi-Jewish? The core Christian idea about God is that he is involved so this God is far from the Christian one.

Christianity is an alleged development of Judaism so it is really Judaism we should be labelling this stuff with not Christianity.

QUOTE: Secular humanism very gradually emerged within Christian culture. Which means that the modern humanist principles of liberty and equality are rooted in Christianity. It does not come naturally to us to believe that we can move towards a world of ever-greater justice for all, that all lives are of equal worth, that oppression and discrimination must end. It comes far more naturally to us to see drastic inequality as inevitable, and distant others as inferior. ‘Maybe Christianity played a historical role in founding secular humanism,’ some might say, ‘but that’s all in the past.’ No: secular humanism has continued to be shaped by its Christian basis, in recent times. Two examples: in the mid twentieth century the ideal of universal human rights was launched by mostly Christian thinkers and statesmen. And a bit later, Christianity was central to the civil rights movement in the United States, with its vision of future harmony. Before that movement, secular humanism did not entail the urgent commitment to racial equality it now does. Am I saying that secular humanism is ‘really’ a form of Christianity without knowing it, maybe that it is the final expression of Christianity? No: it is something else, something distinct, but it has Christian roots. Christianity gave rise to a moral universalism that is in a sense more advanced than it – for secular moral universalism is capable of being more universalist, in that it overlooks religious difference in asserting fundamental human unity.

COMMENT: It is luck that made Christianity abandon the racism of its Old Testament. A truly anti-racist religion would not countenance even respecting such scriptures never mind making them holy and reading them during services as the word of God. Actually it did not abandon the racism - it just neglected it!

QUOTE: I am offering a new understanding of Christianity’s relationship to secular humanism. They are two halves of the same vision, two opposing sides of the same coin. In other words, the religion–secularism split is overcome when we understand secular humanism to be based in religion. And yet the vision must remain unsynthesized, dialectical. Instead of forging a stable new Christian-based secular humanism, we must accept the endless creative tension between Christianity and the fuller but thinner moral universalism it has produced. I am saying that we must affirm secular humanism with new vim, and I am also saying that secular humanism is not enough, that it is shallow and rather dishonest when severed from its religious roots. Is this a contradiction? No, it is a paradox. The moral-political tradition we inhabit is paradoxical: it is post-religious, yet incoherent when separated from its religious roots. Arguing for the Christian roots of secular humanism means challenging the conventional story of modernity, which goes something like this: secular humanism emerged when people gradually dared to question religion and to see that morality could exist without it, on both an individual and a cultural level – they thus discovered the true universal morality, compatible with rationality. What’s wrong with this story? It implies that this non-religious moral vision is natural, is just there, waiting to blossom forth once religion is replaced by rationalism. In reality, this universal humanism was shaped by the Christian centuries. Humanitarian ideals are not natural, nor are they rationally deducible; they are complex cultural traditions, brewed over centuries. And the main ingredient in this brewing was the story of God taking the side, even taking the form, of the powerless victim; and the promise that the humble shall be exalted, and the higher sort knocked from their glamorous perches. Only after centuries of this myth having a dominant cultural place did the idea of the equal worth of all human beings begin to seem axiomatic.

COMMENT: Christianity is even less morally coherent than secular humanism which also has its own coherence problems. How could religion which says a human person exists at conception with a right to life be called morally coherent? It is a core error. The errors of Christianity are nothing compared to the problems humanism has.

QUOTE ABOUT PROGRESS: 'Surely all cultures are evolving in this direction,’ some might say, ‘for at root all humans desire universal human flourishing. Once people can think clearly (which might mean attaining a certain level of material security), then surely their natural capacity for altruism will blossom.’ But this is not the case. Humans do not naturally desire universal human flourishing, rather the strength of their own tribe. Yes, some civilizations have developed versions of moral universalism, but these ideals have been frail and limited.

COMMENT: Why is he not including Christianity in this frail and limited universalist mix? Isn't turning the whole human race into the tribe just another form of tribalism? And Christianity does not embrace all people religiously - I mean most of the world is considered other for it is not baptised into God's so-called family.

Every tribe knows that other tribes need to be good and happy so that they will not touch it.

QUOTE: Only in the West did the humanist vision develop a robust concern for individual liberty – including the liberty to dissent from the dominant cultural creed.

COMMENT: Ignorant racist rubbish. History shows that Europe was no paragon of liberty and even today it persecutes in the name of liberty.

QUOTE: It is secular humanism that is strange and different. Our creed certainly does not come naturally. Therefore, surely, it is something to be nurtured, kept in shape, celebrated. But we hardly know how to name this public creed, let alone celebrate it. Am I suggesting that we should daily pat ourselves on the back for being so moral and civilized? Well done us for caring about the good of all humanity! In a sense, yes. I am indeed suggesting that there ought to be more reflection on the benign ideology that unites us, or at least provides our common denominator. As well as clashing over controversial policy details, we should affirm the basic principles that unite us. Look – we all affirm a vision of human flourishing; we want to see the rights of all people respected. Let’s be proud of this public creed! How naive this doubtless sounds. But maybe it is necessary to play the boy who comments on the emperor’s clothes; only in this case, it is necessary to point out that the emperor is not naked. We have a public ideology, worthy of pride, but are too busy bickering over secondary aspects of it to see this. What’s going on? Is secular humanism, like the sun, too bright to look at directly? Is there something about this public ideology that makes it so resistant to affirmation? Something that makes one feel a soppy mug for wanting to cheer it? I have no simple explanation for this deep-seated evasion, only a complicated one.

COMMENT: But humanists and religionists both say it takes effort to be good - it is not as natural as eating.  So secular humanism steals from an established faith, Christianity and now it is called strange? 

QUOTE: A possible place to start, I think, is by probing the idea that secular humanism is the natural creed of civilized human beings, for this idea is central to our reluctance to reflect on our creed. Why is this idea so pervasive, despite being so easy to disprove? The merest acquaintance with history and current affairs tells us that most cultures do not subscribe to secular humanism in a serious way (though perhaps most do now pay it lip service to placate the West). So why do we persist in supposing it to be somehow normal?

COMMENT: Religious toxicity is the real problem - it is why humanism is still so maligned and ignored.

QUOTE: Some might say: ‘The West supposing itself superior is the root of so much global evil. Look at Iraq in 2003: the USA and others assumed the right to stride in and liberate a people from dictatorship, but only made things worse.’ But there’s another way of looking at this. The error that the invaders made was assuming that liberal democracy would naturally bubble up when Iraqis were freed from dictatorship. In reality, liberal democracy needs a particular ideological tradition in place. In this case, the West, or some of it, overlooked the uniqueness of secular humanism. A more ‘arrogant’ approach – which holds that liberal democracy is unlikely to flourish in a state without a tradition of secular humanism – might have resulted in more caution. In other words, there is also a sort of arrogance in denying that our tradition is unique – it leads to an assumption that our values are natural. This is incoherent, for it is evidently not natural for people to espouse human rights. So there is a huge impulse to see secular humanism as just another manifestation of natural human benevolence, which comes naturally. And there is massive resistance to the alternative viewpoint, that it is a special tradition. Why is it so unpalatable to us to admit that our public ideology is a tradition?

COMMENT: If we need ideology so much that getting rid of religious ideology means replacing it with another ideology then though ideology is bad it can be a necessary evil. You would need the minimal ideology for the less ideology and the less ideological rules the better.

QUOTE ABOUT VALUES SUCH AS LOVE COMPASSION JUSTICE MERCY ETC: Where do the atheists suppose these values come from? Of course, they hotly deny that such morality is rooted in religion: how can something good come from something bad? Where then? The dominant answer is that morality is just a natural human thing: the moral faculty is part of what it means to be human. Secular humanism is therefore seen simply as a fully up-to-date expression of natural human morality. To rational agents, it is clear enough how to be good enough. There are two major problems with this. First, if morality were merely natural, it would be equally present in all human traditions everywhere, in all periods of history. There would perhaps be local variations, but there would surely be no long-standing cultural practices that could be called immoral. Also, it is hard to deny that human moral culture has almost always taken religious form – which makes it a bit absurd to present religion as a force for immorality. In other words, there is a contradiction between calling morality merely natural and claiming to represent a morally superior tradition that liberates us from the blockage of religion. The atheist wants it both ways: there is no special moral tradition, morality being natural; and yet the tradition that sees through religion has huge liberating power – in effect it’s our salvation. If morality were just natural, as natural to humans as the possession of skin, or farting, there would be no such thing as moralistic discourse, or ethics (the theory of morality). These incoherences are heightened – though superficially disguised – by the appeal that some of the most prominent atheists make to evolution. If evolution is the master key that explains the world to us, including the human world, then it must explain morality. In fact it very conspicuously fails to do so. Let’s explore this in relation to the most famous Darwinian atheist. Richard Dawkins made his name as an explainer of evolution, putting the emphasis on the gene as the agent of natural selection, or the survival of the fittest. As the title of his 1976 book The Selfish Gene suggests, he invested heavily in an anthropocentric metaphor, with a dark sci-fi aura: all individual creatures are the mere vehicles through which genes replicate themselves. Such a picture of the world would seem to reject traditional moral agency and affirm a form of determinism. But in fact Dawkins backed away from such a conclusion, and reaffirmed conventional humanist morality at the end of the book. We can and should defy our natures: ‘we, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators’. But how come we can? Why should we rebel? And, crucially, can this rebellion be understood in terms of evolution, or must we leave such science behind when it comes to morality and turn to other conceptual categories?

COMMENT: The notion that man is the image of God should suggest that morality is part of being human. It is strange to say that God teachings and instils the values when there is no proof that God has said he does this. A God filtered by man is making man the authority not God.

FINALLY - If there is no God and all is blind nature then there is no normal.  There can be no morality that belongs to anybody outside ourselves.  If we simply just choose to uphold what is called loving and fair it has nothing to do with God and is not intended to.  This is not the same love and justice that Christianity talks about.  It only looks like it.

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