A Rebuttal to the Humanist Manifestos
3. The IndividualThe Following quote is taken from the Humanist Manifesto II:
"FIFTH: The preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value. Individuals should be encouraged to realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize personality. We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility. Although science can account for the causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of choice exist in human life and should be increased."
The Value of the Individual
I applaud the effort here to address the "dignity of the individual person," although humanism does not accept the fact that Christianity, properly manifested, also emphasizes individual dignity and maximizes the God-given creative talents of the individual. Christianity, in fact, takes the dignity of the individual further than humanism in that it insists that issues such as abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, pornography, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality have a lot to do with "human dignity", and that the defense of these behaviors is not consistent with the term "dignity". Let me make it clear that the labels of "hatemonger" and "bigot" are improperly applied to the Christian ideal when referring to our stance on such issues as homosexuality. The proper Christian view is not that homosexuals are evil people, but that homosexuality is simply morally wrong just as lust, jealousy, stealing, lying and cheating on one's spouse are morally wrong. On the same note, however, we as Christians also make a grave error when we categorize sins and turn ourselves into raving freaks over certain issues but not others. It is the tendency of Christians to overreact and turn certain molehills into mountains that causes humanists and other anti-Christian groups to deride the Christian ideal.
Our life ought to look like Christ's who, when confronted with a woman caught in the very act of adultery - a very serious crime in those days - did not condemn her but rather convicted her accusers, who had captured her with wrong motives. We would do well to realize that Jesus has set an example for us whereby we ought not be so busy condemning sinners that we lose sight of our mission to first share the message and love of Christ with the world. We certainly ought to take a stand against efforts to, for example, educate and encourage grade-school students regarding the acceptability of homosexuality, but we must not do it while crying "Pervert!" This, friends, is sin.
I also appreciate the importance of encouraging individuals to "realize their own creative talents and desires." As beings created in the image of God, and as Christians infused with the mind of Christ, we of all people ought to be supportive of and actively participating at the forefront of artistic and creative endeavors worldwide. Some of the greatest art and music ever created are centered around Christological and Ecclesiastical themes. But there is not enough of that Christian influence left in today's culture. Christians have indeed dropped the ball in the arena of the arts and creativity, a subject thoroughly and cogently addressed by Roy Hershberger in his book A Religion of Irrelevance.
Regarding the humanists' rejection of "all religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize personality", I fully agree. I think it may be safe to state that among the religious codes to which they refer, Christianity is probably one of the foremost, and of course with this I would disagree. From a Christian perspective, however, I too reject any such ideological codes which denigrate the value of human life and personality.
Regarding the desire for "maximum individual autonomy" and maximizing the "possibilities of individual freedom," we must be careful to realize - whether we are referring to the humanist ideal, the Christian ideal, or any other belief system - that too much freedom can be a dangerous thing:
There is a popular notion that expanding the sphere of liberty is always a net gain. That is, quite obviously, wrong. If it were true, our ultimate goal should be the elimination of all law and all the restraints imposed by social disapproval. That condition of moral anarchy seems to be one we are constantly approaching but can never finally reach.
Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, Robert H. Bork (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1996)
What we are talking about here is the liberal ideal, which venerates personal autonomy to dangerous proportions. This is not necessarily the political use of the word "liberal," but the social and ethical use of the word:
The perpetual notion of Liberalism was described by T.S. Elliot half a century ago: That liberalism may be a tendency towards something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature....It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather that towards something definite. What liberalism has constantly moved away from are the constraints on personal liberty imposed by religion, morality, law, family, and community...Liberalism moves, therefore, toward radical individualism and the corruption of standards that movement entails.
Ultimate personal freedom is not the Utopia humanists believe it to be. They temper their plea for "maximum individual autonomy" with the phrase "consonant with social responsibility," but it is clear that in the relativistic culture humanism encourages, the term "social responsibility" is meaningless, and must be defined however the individual decides it ought to be in that particular instance. Where you may approve of a particular person's display of maximum personal autonomy, I may find it a reprehensible and criminal act. How is judgment passed? How will the decision be made between my viewpoint and yours? Absolute freedom corrupts absolutely.
The Controversy of Sexuality
The following quote is taken from the Humanist Manifesto II:
"SIXTH: In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered "evil." Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy, sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity."
"...we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct." The difference between the humanist and Christian interpretations of sexual behavior center around their word "unduly." What a Christian may feel is a proper limit to certain sexual behaviors, a humanist may view as unduly repressive. While humanists believe that it is intolerance that represses sexual conduct, Christians believe that sexual conduct must be reigned in or we will pay the consequences as the base desires of human nature run rampant. We as Christians are called to denounce, rather than encourage, nonchalant sexual behavior which pollutes individuals and ruins lives. Our desire is not to unduly repress conduct, it is to repress conduct which is damaging to us as human creatures. God has not established a set of random laws merely to watch us squirm under the pressure of trying to keep them. His laws are for our own good and protection.
For example, it is easy to understand that the biblical mandate against sex outside of marriage prevents the emotional damage caused by cheating spouses, it prevents the disease that is spread through indiscriminate sex, it prevents the consequences of unexpected pregnancies and all the concomitant tumult. The biblical teaching against homosexuality helps avoid the spread of disease and the addictive behavior which accompanies homosexual activities. The biblical teaching concerning the sanctity of life from which Christians derive their opposition to abortion protects the lives of the unborn. In addition, it is now proven that women who have had abortions are much more likely to develop physical ailments such as breast cancer and are also subject to many other types of complications from the procedure, all of which are eliminated if we concur with the biblical view of the value of life and the need to protect it even within the womb.
I find it hard to reconcile the demand for maximum individual autonomy with the "right to...abortion." Modern science has proven that unborn babies are people - no one dares deny that anymore. The humanness of the unborn baby is especially evident in light of the "partial birth abortion" debate, in which a perfect human baby is almost completely delivered, then murdered with a stab to the brain. How can we maximize autonomy and personal rights if we are killing children before they have a chance to defend themselves? The rights of unborn babies are never brought into the argument. Abortion is the quintessence of the abuse of human rights, yet the humanist ideal - in order to remain consistent with their dogma - must allow the "right to abortion" to remain unchallenged. We have arrived at a turning point in our society whereby the life of an unborn baby, being recognized no longer as just a blob of tissue but as a genuine, cognitive human being - is nevertheless not as important as the inconvenience brought on by an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. This is perhaps one of the most glaring logical contradictions in the humanist ideal - to demand ultimate individual rights, then randomly kill human beings based on the inconvenience of their existence.
"Sexual behavior between consenting adults" falls short of the biblical standard of sex only with one's opposite sex marriage partner, as does the blank slate "individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire." As long as those desires are within biblical mandates, all is well. Unfortunately, the humanist definition is broader than that. This serves as an excellent example again of the faulty logic inherent in the humanist insistence on situational ethics and complete sexual freedom. There are those among us, including many non-Christians, who feel that these are very morally wrong ideals. In their plea for complete freedom, humanists apparently do not realize that by their own logic they are bound to acknowledge the views of biblical Christianity to be as legitimate as their own. We know, however, that although the primary humanist objective may be summed up in the word "tolerance," there is no tolerance for the Christian ideal. This is contradictory and therefore logically unacceptable.