Atheism, Humanism, and the Truth
Atheists often have a love/hate relationship with Jesus. They like some of the things he says over and against the basis upon which he makes those statements. They will often appeal to Jesus being a “good humanist,” like Neil Carter does in this post, over and against what he claimed about himself. The question is, is such an interpretation of Jesus meaningful? To answer that question, we need a meaningful definition of humanism.
Just attempting to define the term leads to a number of issues because humanism means so many different things depending upon how it’s used, but most likely, when we define it as an atheist might, we get close,
a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self–realization through reason
Most people who self-identify as humanists have never read the humanist manifestos and reasoned through them to their logical ends. Searching for it reveals that there are, in fact, three manifestos that have been written, with each newer iteration stripping away the inherent problems in the first, while not actually solving them.
The original Humanist Manifesto is, for lack of a better term, thoroughly pagan, beginning with the declaration:
Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
Savvy readers will immediately recognize that this assertion has largely been refuted by “Big Bang” cosmology and that it is merely aping the key attributes of God to a created thing. This reality, when it refuted the first premise, immediately undermines any following premises and conclusions from it. That’s the reason why it had to be replaced by the present manifesto, which begins with this curious statement,
Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.
My question, what observations, experiments, and rational analysis was conducted to come to that conclusion? What is its epistemic basis? It’s a statement of blind faith, assuming what it has yet to prove, namely that there’s any justification for that claim. Since any claim of knowledge, such as,
[Science] is the best method for determining this knowledge…
cannot be justified a priori, any claims that follow from it are self-refuting. When your philosophy cannot mount the bar it has set as foundational, it fails.
What surprises me most is that most atheists who identify themselves as (secular) humanists, who claim to be critical thinkers and rational, have often never read the manifestos or have thought through their beliefs. Too often they’re simply smuggling in basic Christian presuppositions into their worldview, proving what Scripture says about them: they know God exists, but they suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness and ingratitude. Secular humanism, epistemologically speaking, cannot hold the water.
But what of Jesus, and claims claims of being a “good humanist”?
The problem is that Jesus isn’t agreeing with them, rather their agreement is with him. They are agreeing with the incarnate God, demonstrating their dependence upon him to not only define what it is that they believe to be true, but to sustain it.