Secular (in)Humanism

From Wikipedia: “Secular Humanism is a humanist philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and justice…”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Here’s the problem:

Secular humanism is an example of what has been called “cut-flower” morality. That is to say that it has grown out of a Western culture rooted in Christian principles and ethics, and it assumes that it can cut off and keep those attractive aspects while discarding all that bothersome baggage of Christianity itself.

If we look a little further into – oh, let’s call them the “articles of faith”, for convenience – of the Council for Secular Humanism, we see that:

“… religious experience … redirects and gives meaning to the lives of human beings. We deny, however, that such experiences have anything to do with the supernatural … We consider the universe to be … most effectively understood by scientific inquiry. We are always open to the discovery of new possibilities and phenomena in nature. However, we find that traditional views of the existence of God … are meaningless”

“Secular humanists may be agnostics, atheists, rationalists, or skeptics, but they find insufficient evidence for the claim that some divine purpose exists for the universe.”

So let’s break that down for what it’s really saying:

  • Religious experience gives meaning to our lives, but is not related to any spiritual reality and is in fact a meaningless illusion.
  • Furthermore, we accept any evidence and are open to any new possibility as long as it has no theological implications, because those are a priori defined as rubbish.

We’ll leave this hit-and-miss adherence to scientific rigour for another discussion. But it’s the morality that I really want to examine in this essay:

“… secularists deny that morality needs to be deduced from religious belief … we believe in the central importance of the value of human happiness here and now. We are opposed to absolutist morality, yet we maintain that objective standards emerge, and ethical values and principles may be discovered, in the course of ethical deliberation”

So, maximising human happiness is the ultimate goal, and while there is no “absolutist morality”, there are “objective standards”. It has been an ongoing (and notably unsuccessful) pet project of atheist philosophers for centuries to deduce a basis for objective morality apart from a theistic worldview, but let’s look at some specific examples. (Lest I be accused of cherry-picking particularly offensive statements made on an off day, I have included references to the relevant works if you would like to research them further).

Julian Huxley was the founding president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union in 1952, a broad umbrella organisation covering secular humanism, atheism, rationalism and the like. As well as being an extremely prominent secular humanist (and the first president of the British Humanist Association), he was a ground-breaking biologist in the field of evolutionary synthesis and the grandson of T. H. Huxley.

He was also a prominent member of the British Eugenics Society – indeed, was President of that institution from 1959-62. His view was that:

“The lowest strata are reproducing too fast. Therefore … they must not have too easy access to relief or hospital treatment lest the removal of the last check on natural selection should make it too easy for children to be produced or to survive; long unemployment should be a ground for sterilisation.” (Man in the modern world, 1947)

Another prominent voice among the secular humanists is Peter Singer, who is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and has held positions at the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the University of Oxford. In 2004 he was recognised as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies. As well as supporting bestiality “as long as it’s not abusive to the animal”, Singer believes that early-term abortion is morally acceptable, not because of any usual pro-choice arguments, but because killing a human being is not necessarily wrong:

“[The argument that a fetus is not alive] is a resort to a convenient fiction that turns an evidently living being into one that legally is not alive. Instead of accepting such fictions, we should recognise that the fact that a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being’s life.” (Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics, 1994)

He extends this line of thought further, arguing that killing an infant which the parents do not want is morally acceptable, as it would result in more happiness overall than allowing the child to live. (For the full discussion, see Practical Ethics, 1993 – it’s too depressing to quote extended passages).

I have chosen these passages for this essay, not because they are morally repulsive and I wish to score an emotional point, but because they are the logical outworkings of a secular humanist worldview when applied consistently to the field of morality by the leaders in the movement.

What I am even more concerned with is why we find these concepts repulsive. It is not our rationality which objects – I suggest rather that it is specifically our humanity that is repulsed by infanticide and eugenics.  And I assert that the logical product of secular “humanism” is a coldly rationalist shell with all traces of humanity removed.

Can the flower of our morality survive without the nourishing root of a Christian worldview? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, perhaps the finest commentator on the great Soviet experiment with institutional atheism in the 20th century, summarised his views thus:

“…if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

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Related posts:

Living a good and/or Christian life

Lumpy atheism

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44 thoughts on “Secular (in)Humanism

  1. There is nothing moral about the bible – in many places it encourages and praises those who have slaves, are brutal to children and women. The issue here is that the religious cherry pick what they regard as moral. If you believe that the bible is moral then you should abide by its teachings all of them. If you do not abide by them then you are using your free will to navigate a guideline. The trouble is the guideline that is proposed by the bible is so broad that it can be interpreted in almost any way to justify almost any self defined moral stance. For example if you personally hate homosexuals, you can find passages in the bible that justify this view.

    With regard to Huxley et al, I think you miss the point of his philosophy, Huxley merely points out that you can not base a well ordered and sustainable society on the endless preservation of humans. His observation is subtle (and harsh), but true – we have changed our natural environment so much that we have taken away many of the risks and natural disadvantages that prevented or shortened our mortality.

    For example:

    In 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis, realised that simple hand washing greatly increased the life expectancy of infants – who would have otherwise died.

    Quite simply every time we use modern science (central heating, electricity, clean water, abundant food, drugs etc) we are playing god – we are increasing the odds of our survival (weighting the dice in our favor). In the last 150 years our life expectancy has massively increased, and indeed the biggest benefactors are those people who would have died if they had been born in a natural environment with a physical or mental disability, and the elderly. How many disabled and elderly animals do you see in the wild (not many!), the reason why is that they have a disadvantage which puts them in danger of being prey or subjected to weakness and disease, resulting in early death (harsh but true – lions hunt weak animals, young old and wounded – because they are easier to catch).

    All that Huxley does is point this out – and suggests that it could be a problem for humanity – and when you really think about it he is right – there isn’t much room for traditional morals, in an over populated world, so perhaps preventing one from occurring is the correct moral stance to have.

    • I am at least glad that I did not mis-represent the secular humanist philosophy when I suggested that denying health care to poor people so that they die off more quickly and killing unwanted babies was the logical conclusion of that worldview.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • misunderstoodranter :
      How many disabled and elderly animals do you see in the wild (not many!) … Huxley … points this out …” and suggests we cull the same.

      ‘Nuff said! That totally justifies crime in my mind – on a large scale like the West and the modernising do and on a small scale like when people get burgled or mugged or have their savings run off with – why should the strong not take what they want?

      Pity secular (in)humanism doesn’t hold up in court 😉

      • Firstly – if you are going to quote me – quote me without your edits tagged onto the end.

        Second, I suggest that if you feel this way, you should surrender all of your goods – food, water clothes and technology – because the reason you have them is because others do not.

        Don’t forget that your entire economy is built up from money – the same money that is traded in arms, the same money that is used to pay for the health care you enjoy, and others can not afford to pay for. The clothes you wear are probably made by people who have literally nothing compared to you.

        So in answer to your question – natural selection is happening, it is happening right now to all of us. And some people the majority are the losers and some people minority (US westerners) are the short term winners.

        As a matter of fact natural selection does stand up in court – both academically, and socially – every judge in a democracy performs a cost benefit analysis and weighs up the pros and cons on society before sentencing or passing a judgement.

      • @misuderstoodranter:

        “I suggest that if you feel this way, you should surrender all of your goods – food, water clothes and technology – because the reason you have them is because others do not.”

        – An understandable impression, but incorrect. The most common misconception about economics is that it is zero-sum. But it’s not – adjusted for inflation, adjusted for cost of living, however you look at it, the vast majority of people in the world are healthier and materialy better off than they were 100 years ago. Yes, some have improved faster, but the majority of the world are winners compared to how they used to live.

        “Money” does not build anything. Money is simply a shorthand for value – but value that is derived from other things, be they houses or legal expertise or pop music.

      • I don’t believe I misunderstood what you were saying? And believe that my quote is fair. Do you feel otherwise? If so, how have I misread you?

    • I think your rant is based on a misunderstanding.
      Many times, particularly in the OT narratives with which you appear to take issue, things are simply narrated without either condemnation or approval. It is a mistake to simply assume then that what isn’t clearly condemned in a narrative is by default thus approved. The writers often assumed that the reader had enough understanding to realise, for example, that Lot’s daughters getting him drunk to commit incest was not moral. Without getting into specifics then, my initial feeling from what you wrote is that your probably not, in general, understanding the various pieces of biblical literature the way the writer expected his audience to understand it. And thus, because of such a ‘literalistic’ (as opposed to ‘literal’ which seeks to understand the meaning of the author and literary genre etc.) you perceive a proper hermenuetical and exegetical approach as merely cherry-picking. I could be mistaken though…

  2. Sentinel :I am at least glad that I did not mis-represent the secular humanist philosophy when I suggested that denying health care to poor people so that they die off more quickly and killing unwanted babies was the logical conclusion of that worldview.
    Thank you for your comment.

    Again, I think you misrepresent the view somewhat – which is a little dishonest. The difference here is free will and the application of sentimentality that prevents a stable and sustainable world.

    It is not possible to provide health care and food for everyone on the planet as it is – it will be much harder to do this if the population increases further. Huxley predicted this dilemma – during a time in history when everyone was walking around with rose tinted spectacles on. The other issue here is sentimentalist view that human life is more important than any other type of life – when in actual fact it is just as unimportant as any other type of life on the planet, as far nature is concerned we are nothing, the earth was here billions of years before we arrived and it will likely be here billions of years after.

    Huxley was a trouble maker – he liked to create controversy, he liked to write things that made people think; and I think much of what he said and wrote was driven by this motivation. I don’t think Huxley was condoning the culling of people as much as warning people that this might have to happen sometime in the future if we are to survive as a species.

    Personally, I don’t believe we will have to make the harsh decisions that Huxley predicted – I think science has the technology to prevent these issues through the application of genetics (providing food), and providing people with better health care (contraception, family planning and increasing the mortality rate of children) and education. But in order for this to happen – people have to stop their wishful thinking (‘god will save us’) and look at the reality of the situation that humanity faces. I think it is more likely that western society will become a utopian hell, more like the one described in Aldous Huxley’s ‘scientific parody’ Brave New World – but I think this a long way away, nevertheless the parallels between his writing (considering when he wrote it) and today’s media driven consumer society are startling – so maybe we are already there.

    In contrast, the Catholics do not help the world view, because they prefer ignorance relating to contraception, demonise genetics and force their exaggerated moral beliefs on to others with regard to euthanasia.

    They run hospitals for the poor without proper medical training, access to drugs, doctors and pain relief and basic sanitation – despite the fact that they are cash rich. I will add here – that Pope and Mother Teressa have both had the best medical care money can buy (that’s right you paid for it with those lovely gifts from the cathedral gift shop) – tell me where the morals are with this mentality? (there isn’t any – it is wrong and disgraceful).

    All of these things cause tremendous suffering across the world – and it is highly immoral that the Church propagates such opinions without looking at the data from organisations like the WHO and enrolling the help of medical experts to ensure that their missions are run in the best way possible – they have the money to do it – they choose not to!

    I for one, would gladly welcome legislation that would allow me to terminate my own life when I am ready – I see little point in burdening the state and relatives with my end of life illness and misery, and prolonging my suffering beyond what I can bear, and as long as the process is well monitored, audited and checked with safe guards it shouldn’t be anything for us to fear. It is not for the state or the church to decide what is right for me with my end of life decisions – that is my business.

    I would also like to see the proper teaching of sex education in schools – rather than the dusting that it gets. Such education should also raise the consciousness of teenagers to the media, including pornography and the manipulative way in which young girls (in particular) are materialized and perfected artificially for the sole purpose of selling magazines and videos. This may help prevent unwanted pregnancies, as it has done in northern European countries. It may also help society understand some of the ugly side to the modelling and porn industries, and it may educate young men into respecting women for what they are – human beings.

    When you take a world view – you have to do exactly that, you can’t dwell on the individual cases and use sentimental arguments to enact change – you have to look at the statistics and the cold hard economics of resourcing, population control, sustainability – you can pray for more food, if you could we wouldn’t have a problem with it, you can’t pray for more space or a bigger earth – it’s not going to happen – so you have to keep it real. Education is not provided by the state so that you can enjoy a life of reading, and have a good job – it is there to prevent society from falling apart – and this same is true of health care, social services, the police etc. The bonus is that it also increases our standard of living – but this is not the primary purpose.

    As for morals, the world has learnt lessons since Huxley’s time – we no longer regard homosexuals as dirty people, or blacks as a different species – we no longer allow slavery or think that it is a gentleman’s pass time to keep or trade other human beings. We no longer send thousands to their deaths on the battle field without care in the world as we did in WWI and WWII, and most of the secular modern world does not think it is acceptable to run death camps – this and all this is while the western world becomes less religious and more secular (church attendances are falling and have had a downward tend for decades).

    A few hundred years ago – the rich and powerful, who were also highly religious (some built their own churches and chapels in their homes) would have justified their slave workers by saying things like ‘I am doing gods work’ or ‘if god didn’t want me to do it he would stop me’ or worse – ‘god made them slaves, so I can drive them’.

    We now know better today in spite of religion, not because of it.

    • misunderstoodranter :
      It is not possible to provide health care and food for everyone on the planet as it is – it will be much harder to do this if the population increases further.

      Malthus predicted this over a century ago. He was wrong about population and food, but who knows? Conjecture can be fun.

      misunderstoodranter :
      In contrast, the Catholics do not help the world view … They run hospitals for the poor without proper medical training, access to drugs, doctors and pain relief and basic sanitation … it is highly immoral that the Church [doesn’t] ensure that their missions are run in the best way possible – they have the money to do it – they choose not to!

      Wait, I’m confused. so, not giving the poor healthcare at all and just letting them die is ok, because that will limit population growth, but if for some reason you do decide to help them, you should be castigated because you decided for yourself how best to give away your own time and money? You’ve got to help me out here.

      misunderstoodranter :
      I for one, would gladly welcome legislation that would allow me to terminate my own life when I am ready … It is not for the state or the church to decide what is right for me with my end of life decisions – that is my business.

      That, however, is not what I was referring to in my post at all. The real question is, would you be happy with someone else deciding that you were no longer useful and should be terminated?

  3. Western culture is rooted in Greek philosophy. It is from Greek philosophy that christianity appropriated its underlying physics and dualism. Let’s be clear about the order here: christianity is a part of Western civilization and not the other way around, which means it took about a dozen centuries longer than necessary to reveal why Greek physics and dualism were bunk. But, to be fair, he leaders of christianity have always taken many more centuries to recognize what’s is true than others who do not share the foundational principle that they begin all inquiries with the right answers first, which… oh by the way… these same leaders insist just so happen to be the morally correct starting answers, too. Don’t let that convenience bother you. Just believe…

    • tildeb :

      … christianity … means it took about a dozen centuries longer than necessary to reveal why Greek physics and dualism were bunk.

      Now there’s a statement based on conjecture rather than evidence.

      See, there’s an inconvenient problem with your proposed timeline of “civilisation”, which is that the established and documented Judeo-Christian worldview actually predates the Greek philosophers by several centuries.

      But don’t let that bother you. Just believe.

      • Guilty as charged. I have nothing but conjecture to suggest a dozen centuries… other than almost no advancement of knowledge occurred for about a dozen centuries. My bad.

        Are you seriously suggesting that Western civilization – our culture and language and music, our medicine, philosophies, and laws, our maths and sciences sciences and methods of discoveries are really based on Judaism?

      • tildeb :
        Are you seriously suggesting that Western civilization – our culture and language and music, our medicine, philosophies, and laws, our maths and sciences sciences and methods of discoveries are really based on Judaism?

        No. I am saying that the rapid advances in the sciences since the 16th century are rooted in an understanding of a Creator God, which understanding is based in Christianity. This is not merely my personal conjecture: it has been widely supported by philosophers of science for decades.

        The Christian worldview is rooted in ancient Judaic culture, hence my use of the term “Judeo-Christian” rather than “Judaism”.

      • Why should we believe the Christian-Judo timeline? It is wrong anyway – the timeline says the earth is 6,000 years old for a start.

        I have one name to say here Galileo Galilei – persecuted, threatened with death and torture, for his discoveries – I wonder if he felt that the Church was helping the understanding of the universe when he was being disciplined by the man in a funny hat?

      • misunderstoodranter :
        Why should we believe the Christian-Judo [sic] timeline? It is wrong anyway – the timeline says the earth is 6,000 years old for a start.

        Incorrect. It says nothing of the sort. I accept that it has been suggested by certain ultra-literalists that it should be interpreted that way, but it says nothing of the sort.

        misunderstoodranter :I have one name to say here Galileo Galilei …

        … and yet Galileo remained very committed to the Christian faith. He was harassed (a more accurate word that persecuted – he spent most of his time under house arrest, still working and publishing) for his appalling lack of tact more than anything else. Copernicus and Kepler, on the other hand (also both Christians) had excellent relationships with the Church. I’m really not sure how any of this applies to Secular Humanism, though.

  4. In the post, you sum up the secular humanist (SH) approach as follows: maximising human happiness is the ultimate goal, and while there is no “absolutist morality”, there are “objective standards”. It has been an ongoing (and notably unsuccessful) pet project of atheist philosophers for centuries to deduce a basis for objective morality apart from a theistic worldview.

    Now let’s look at what secular humanists say (from http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=values):

    Secular humanists believe human values should express a commitment to improve human welfare in this world. (Of course, human welfare is understood in the context of our interdependence upon the environment and other living things.) Ethical principles should be evaluated by their consequences for people, not by how well they conform to preconceived ideas of right and wrong.

    Secular humanism denies that meaning, values, and ethics are imposed from above. In that it echoes simple atheism. But secular humanism goes further, challenging humans to develop their own values. Secular humanism maintains that through a process of value inquiry, reflective men and women can reach rough agreement concerning values, and craft ethical systems that deliver desirable results under most circumstances.

    Is this the same? Or has what you presented been explained a little better?

    [section deleted – personal attack]

    Arguments for and against whether or not objective morality can be determined philosophically are actually moot. You’ve made a huge claim that needs justification first: you claim morality derives from religion! I call foul. I challenge you to prove this assertion first before wandering into the moral mine field of particular philosophers. After all, if we are going to judge what a philosopher like Huxley says about certain human issues, then it would very handy to have the divinely sanctioned theistic template of morality against which we can then honestly compare. [section deleted – personal attack]

    Why foul? Simple: I have (and you do, too) very good evidence that morality by necessity precedes religion and that you are grossly misrepresenting what SH stands for. Once we eliminate religion as the source for any kind of objective morality, then and only then can we figure out in this dialogue why you maintain that a commitment to improve human welfare in this world is so in-human, why you think a set of moral standards that considers consequences for people to be in-human, why you find it in-human to consider the possibility that by a process of value inquiry, reflective men and women can reach rough agreement concerning values, and craft ethical systems that deliver desirable results under most circumstances.

    [section deleted – personal attack]

    • tildeb :
      Is this the same? Or has what you presented been explained a little better?

      No, it’s pretty much the same. It was not my intention to deal with the entirety of the articles of faith: my point with that quote was to illustrate that SH claims that there are objective standards of value, but that these do not derive from God. I don’t think that misrepresents the SH statement.

      tildeb :
      I have (and you do, too) very good evidence that morality by necessity precedes religion …

      … no, I don’t. And if you have such “evidence”, I’m a little puzzled by why you haven’t included it rather than just throwing out a grand claim with no supporting evidence. Isn’t that a common charge by atheists against people of other religions?

  5. Sentinel :@misuderstoodranter:

    “I suggest that if you feel this way, you should surrender all of your goods – food, water clothes and technology – because the reason you have them is because others do not.”

    – An understandable impression, but incorrect. The most common misconception about economics is that it is zero-sum. But it’s not – adjusted for inflation, adjusted for cost of living, however you look at it, the vast majority of people in the world are healthier and materialy better off than they were 100 years ago. Yes, some have improved faster, but the majority of the world are winners compared to how they used to live.
    “Money” does not build anything. Money is simply a shorthand for value – but value that is derived from other things, be they houses or legal expertise or pop music.

    I am not talking about game theory – I am talking about reality. The reality is that there are people in the world who do without either because resources are allocated incorrectly, or they are destroyed, or demand outstrips supply.

    • I’m not talking about Game Theory either. I have lived most of my life in the Third World – I am well aware of the realities. The desperate economic conditions in Zimbabwe or Papua New Guinea are not simply due to all the wealth enjoyed by the First World nations being badly distributed.

      • When talk of ‘zero-sum’ that is exactly what you are talking about – game theory.

        The idea that the standard of living has improved for everyone globally is nonsense, there are many who’s standard of living is worse or has been worsened by poorly thought out strategies – many of which have been pushed by the Church – AIDS for a start, and over population via the lack of decent sex education and contraception… unless of course you think it is right that a Catholic virgins are the best people to educate children on sex?

        Surely it is better to prevent suffering than promote it?

        Unless of course you have a financial incentive to promote suffering, which of course the Church does have.

        The issue I have here is that the Church claims charity, and provides a very low standard charity, when it has the resources to do better, to do the honourable thing – they choose not to. There is nothing moral about increasing the population with the consequences of increasing human suffering. And there is nothing moral about letting people die in pain and suffering when you have the capability to help – it is disgraceful. At the same time the Church gets richer, claiming its charity and using the poor as a direct advertisement for funds.

      • misunderstoodranter :
        When talk of ‘zero-sum’ that is exactly what you are talking about – game theory.

        Again, incorrect. I’m referring specifically to your statement that there are necessarily winners and losers in an economy, whereas even the most cursory reading of economic theory tells us that in any free exchange of goods, both people win and wealth is created.

        misunderstoodranter :
        … AIDS for a start, and over population via the lack of decent sex education and contraception …

        MUR, I fear you speak of what you do not know. The AIDS pandemic in Africa (which accounts for the vast majority of AIDS sufferers) has virtually nothing to do with the contraception policies of the Catholic church. It has everything to do with deeply complex cultural and traditional issues which are completely unrelated to Christianity. Or, for that matter, to Secular Humanism.

        misunderstoodranter :
        the Church … [should] do the honourable thing

        What on Earth is “the honourable thing”? Honourable by whose standards? How is increased charity now the honourable thing, when by a Secular Humanist approach society should be less charitable so that the indigent die off more quickly?

  6. Sentinel :

    misunderstoodranter :It is not possible to provide health care and food for everyone on the planet as it is – it will be much harder to do this if the population increases further.

    Malthus predicted this over a century ago. He was wrong about population and food, but who knows? Conjecture can be fun.

    misunderstoodranter :In contrast, the Catholics do not help the world view … They run hospitals for the poor without proper medical training, access to drugs, doctors and pain relief and basic sanitation … it is highly immoral that the Church [doesn’t] ensure that their missions are run in the best way possible – they have the money to do it – they choose not to!

    Wait, I’m confused. so, not giving the poor healthcare at all and just letting them die is ok, because that will limit population growth, but if for some reason you do decide to help them, you should be castigated because you decided for yourself how best to give away your own time and money? You’ve got to help me out here.

    misunderstoodranter :I for one, would gladly welcome legislation that would allow me to terminate my own life when I am ready … It is not for the state or the church to decide what is right for me with my end of life decisions – that is my business.

    That, however, is not what I was referring to in my post at all. The real question is, would you be happy with someone else deciding that you were no longer useful and should be terminated?

    The point here is a moral one – how is it moral that the Church who is rich, can not help the poor with decent sanitation and health care. So you are saying that the Church does this on purpose to keep population under control? That’s twisted spin on the statement I have made.

    As for euthanasia – you didn’t read my post properly – I suggest you re-read it. The issue here is that the Church is deciding who should live and who should die. The Church controls the laws that govern my life, even though I don’t believe in in their fairy story, my preference is to have the choice, while I am able to make it, with the full understanding that if I am not able to make the choice, someone responsible will terminate my life on my written orders and conditions – which I regard a lot more civilised than thrashing out my last useless breaths in pain. This is my choice to make – not the Churches, and there are plenty of others who feel the same way. If people want to die in pain and prolong their life beyond that which is useful, burning up fuels and taking away medical care from others – then they can choose to do that if they want to…

    • misunderstoodranter :
      The point here is a moral one – how is it moral that the Church who is rich, can not help the poor with decent sanitation and health care.

      As answered in your other comment (with virtually identical content) – what moral standards are you claiming as absolute, and whence comes your perfect wisdom about the optimal distribution of the Church’s funds vis-a-vis maximal human happiness?

      misunderstoodranter :
      As for euthanasia – you didn’t read my post properly …

      No, I read it perfectly. You just sidestepped my point that the Secular Humanist claim is that other people should be able to determine whether you live or die. I was not referring to voluntary euthanasia, which is an entirely separate issue from infanticide.

  7. Sentinel :

    tildeb :Is this the same? Or has what you presented been explained a little better?

    No, it’s pretty much the same. It was not my intention to deal with the entirety of the articles of faith: my point with that quote was to illustrate that SH claims that there are objective standards of value, but that these do not derive from God. I don’t think that misrepresents the SH statement.

    tildeb :I have (and you do, too) very good evidence that morality by necessity precedes religion …

    … no, I don’t. And if you have such “evidence”, I’m a little puzzled by why you haven’t included it rather than just throwing out a grand claim with no supporting evidence. Isn’t that a common charge by atheists against people of other religions?

    Which god? Can this include any god? Or the Christian god?

  8. Sentinel :

    misunderstoodranter :Why should we believe the Christian-Judo [sic] timeline? It is wrong anyway – the timeline says the earth is 6,000 years old for a start.

    Incorrect. It says nothing of the sort. I accept that it has been suggested by certain ultra-literalists that it should be interpreted that way, but it says nothing of the sort.

    misunderstoodranter :I have one name to say here Galileo Galilei …

    … and yet Galileo remained very committed to the Christian faith. He was harassed (a more accurate word that persecuted – he spent most of his time under house arrest, still working and publishing) for his appalling lack of tact more than anything else. Copernicus and Kepler, on the other hand (also both Christians) had excellent relationships with the Church. I’m really not sure how any of this applies to Secular Humanism, though.

    Really, because when I talk to other Christian’s – how are devote – they state the age of the earth as defined in the bible as fact and would argue to they are blue in the face that you are wrong – so who is right?

    • “and yet Galileo remained very committed to the Christian faith.”

      Yup and I am sure you would make a very committed atheist, if I threatened to put a hot poker up your behind.

      The reason why this is linked to humanism, is that the Church has very poor track record of adopting ideas that have and to a better standard of living and understanding of the natural environment which we live in.

      [section deleted – inflammatory hate speech]

      There is nothing humanistic about the Church, the Church is concerned only with one thing – belief in god, because if people hold that belief they will accept that the Church has authority.

      • misunderstoodranter :
        Yup and I am sure you would make a very committed atheist, if I threatened to put a hot poker up your behind.

        By which you mean that Galileo didn’t actually believe everything that he said that he believed? On what evidence do you base that?

  9. Sentinel :@misuderstoodranter:

    “I suggest that if you feel this way, you should surrender all of your goods – food, water clothes and technology – because the reason you have them is because others do not.”

    – An understandable impression, but incorrect. The most common misconception about economics is that it is zero-sum. But it’s not – adjusted for inflation, adjusted for cost of living, however you look at it, the vast majority of people in the world are healthier and materialy better off than they were 100 years ago. Yes, some have improved faster, but the majority of the world are winners compared to how they used to live.
    “Money” does not build anything. Money is simply a shorthand for value – but value that is derived from other things, be they houses or legal expertise or pop music.

    Actually nothing has value – things are only worth what people will pay for them, which is determined by demand. But since we all demand subsistence then food has enormous value to those who have no means to procure it.

    This is where the Church falls down totally, over population increases demand of resources and resources are finite. Praying for a solution has not yielded a solution to this issue and based on past performance of prayer it is not likely too either. Does the Church suggest a solution to this ongoing humanitarian disaster – no. Could the Church divert money to help people build a better life, and redistribute wealth – yes, but does it – no.

    Why?

  10. Sentinel :

    misunderstoodranter :Yup and I am sure you would make a very committed atheist, if I threatened to put a hot poker up your behind.

    By which you mean that Galileo didn’t actually believe everything that he said that he believed? On what evidence do you base that?

    What I am saying is that the Church used torture and threatened him with torture to silence him – therefore I can not take the Church’s account on trust – the fact that you can just shows how you will side step awful atrocities in human rights to justify your belief, rather than questioning the Church’s moral stance with regard to the silencing and persecution of someone who had an idea and backed it up with observable evidence – that we all know now to be fact.

    You seem oblivious to this – like it doesn’t matter – or that it was trivial thing for the Church to have done – it wasn’t trivial then and it isn’t trivial now.

    [section deleted – off-topic rant]

    • I’m not justifying anything that the Church has done, and I’m not “taking the Church’s account on trust”, either. I’m merely questioning your implication that you have intimate knowledge Galileo’s deepest religious convictions.

      And yet again you bring up these complete fictions. Galileo publicly ridiculed and alienated his most powerful political supporters, and as a result suffered house arrest. He was not tortured. He continued to work and publish freely.

      Yes, the pope over-reacted to a personal insult, but your portrayal is grossly misleading.

  11. Sentinel :

    misunderstoodranter :When talk of ‘zero-sum’ that is exactly what you are talking about – game theory.

    Again, incorrect. I’m referring specifically to your statement that there are necessarily winners and losers in an economy, whereas even the most cursory reading of economic theory tells us that in any free exchange of goods, both people win and wealth is created.

    misunderstoodranter :… AIDS for a start, and over population via the lack of decent sex education and contraception …

    MUR, I fear you speak of what you do not know. The AIDS pandemic in Africa (which accounts for the vast majority of AIDS sufferers) has virtually nothing to do with the contraception policies of the Catholic church. It has everything to do with deeply complex cultural and traditional issues which are completely unrelated to Christianity. Or, for that matter, to Secular Humanism.

    misunderstoodranter :the Church … [should] do the honourable thing

    What on Earth is “the honourable thing”? Honourable by whose standards? How is increased charity now the honourable thing, when by a Secular Humanist approach society should be less charitable so that the indigent die off more quickly?

    I found the answer here: http://www.condoms4life.org/facts/condomPolicy.htm

    Even the religious can not agree amongst themselves – brilliant. And if Catholic policy does not have an impact on the AIDS epidemic, then why does this site even exist in the format that it does?

    There is obviously a division within the Church as usual.

    http://www.condoms4life.org/facts/lesserEvil.htm

    While I accept that AIDs can not be stopped through condom use alone – it is and remains a primary barrier to infection – and to frown upon it and misinform people regarding their use – as the Church clearly does, is irresponsible and contrary to common sense. The Church is putting faith values above health care practicalities, which is costing lives – and whether you believe that or not, there is certainly a lot of noise in the worlds media to suggest that Catholic Church is instrumental in peoples attitudes to infection prevention.

    Use a condom and go to hell. So better to get aids then – seems to be the message that is being passed around.

  12. Sentinel :I’m not justifying anything that the Church has done, and I’m not “taking the Church’s account on trust”, either. I’m merely questioning your implication that you have intimate knowledge Galileo’s deepest religious convictions.
    And yet again you bring up these complete fictions. Galileo publicly ridiculed and alienated his most powerful political supporters, and as a result suffered house arrest. He was not tortured. He continued to work and publish freely.
    Yes, the pope over-reacted to a personal insult, but your portrayal is grossly misleading.

    But not as misleading as saying that the sun goes around the earth. In addition, I think the threat of torture is almost as bad as torture itself – and was enough to stop a free thinker from articulating his view – to me this is horrendous situation to be in.

    As for causing offense – is not a valid excuse in my opinion to place someone under house arrest and restrict their movements because you disagree with them – but then it never surprises me how low the religious will stoop to defend their stories- twin towers anyone?

    • But not as misleading as saying that the sun goes around the earth.

      Well.. you have the prevailing Aristotelian view of the time to thank for that. To pretend that it was merely a doctrinal thing is misinformed.

  13. misunderstoodranter :“and yet Galileo remained very committed to the Christian faith.”
    Yup and I am sure you would make a very committed atheist, if I threatened to put a hot poker up your behind.
    The reason why this is linked to humanism, is that the Church has very poor track record of adopting ideas that have and to a better standard of living and understanding of the natural environment which we live in.[section deleted – inflammatory hate speech]
    There is nothing humanistic about the Church, the Church is concerned only with one thing – belief in god, because if people hold that belief they will accept that the Church has authority.

    I refuse to contribute to this blog anymore – if you censor my discussions. There are many things I find deeply offensive about religion far more offensive than anything an atheist has to say about religion itself.

    For example the fact that you place our morals on to a supernatural agent I find utterly offensive and repulsive.

    Since you can not see this – I will not be commenting on this blog at all… and interestingly, I find this a lot with religious sites… when you see something you do not like you chop it out… block it off…. this in itself is offensive.

    Shame on you.

    • misunderstoodranter :
      I refuse to contribute to this blog anymore – if you censor my discussions. There are many things I find deeply offensive about religion far more offensive than anything an atheist has to say about religion itself.

      I didn’t delete that paragraph because it was offensive to me personally, as I did because it was a personal diatribe against issues entirely unrelated to this post.

      I’m sure that you have major personal issues with the church, and you are welcome to publish them. But in this case they were written in a deliberately inflammatory way with no relevance to the subject under discussion.

      In the same way, articles that attack other writers rather than the issues would be edited or deleted. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask contributors to stay on topic and keep their comments civil.

  14. The Church’s issue with Galileo was not so much a theological one, but due to a pre-commitment to the prevailing Aristotelian view of the time. It wasn’t just the Church against him, it was the scientific establishment too.

    Really, because when I talk to other Christian’s – how are devote – they state the age of the earth as defined in the bible as fact and would argue to they are blue in the face that you are wrong – so who is right?

    Devotion is irrelevant.. if, as you say, the bible ‘defines’ the earth as 6000 years old, then you’ll have no trouble pointing us to the chapter and verse that says this. (of course, you won’t find it, because as has already been pointed out, such a conclusion is the result of a particular interpretation based on particular hermetical assumptions – ones that cannot necessarily be sustained in fact). It is rather ironic indeed that anti-theists and fundamentalists are bed-fellows when it comes to sharing and embracing this faulty hermeneutic.

    • Andrew :

      The Church’s issue with Galileo was not so much a theological one, but due to a pre-commitment to the prevailing Aristotelian view of the time. It wasn’t just the Church against him, it was the scientific establishment too.

      I think it may be time to start a series that I’ve been planning for a while: “Conflict” myths. Galileo, the Huxley/Wilberforce debate, even Bishop Ussher’s dating of 4004BC is actually less crazy when you understand his work against a backdrop assumption of an immutable Aristotelian worldview.

      Stay tuned… 🙂

  15. Andrew :
    It is rather ironic indeed that anti-theists and fundamentalists are bed-fellows when it comes to sharing and embracing this faulty hermeneutic.

    Agreed. Ignorance seems somewhat of a prerequisite among fundamentalists whether be of the religious or a-religious kind.

    😉

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