Thursday May 3rd is the National Day of Reason in the United States. The day is a secular celebration for humanists, atheists, and other secularists and freethinkers in response to the National Day of Prayer, that is unfortunately a legal holiday in the United States. This country has many issues from high unemployment to religious conservatives attacks on women’s rights. The government shouldn’t be holding national days of prayer, we need reason to help solve human problems.
In the decades I’ve been involved in the atheist and Humanist movements, I’ve seen many “inner-party” battles over policy, plans, and actions. Many atheists I know are very vocal to the point they piss off many of my Humanist friends. So-called strident atheists never bothered me because of simple points I keep in mind that lowers my threshold of annoyance. I wish more in the freethought community would keep these hints in mind.
An example of the infighting I’ve seen inside the freethought community can read in an essay by American Humanist Association President David Niose:
A few months back I entered the Humanist Vision contest sponsored by the American Humanist Association. The challenge was to create a “commercial” about Humanism and post it on YouTube. There was prize money involved and the goodwill of the Humanist movement.
My entry was based on a slideshow I am working on for my local Humanist group.
I didn’t win the top prizes but my entry did get Honorable Mention. That meant that not only was my entry shown at the AHA Conference in Portland, back in June, but that I also got a book from Humanist Press. The book I got was “Freethought Across the Centuries: Toward a New Age of Enlightenment” by Gerald A Larue.
I haven’t agreed with everything Larue has written in the past but the book is an interesting look at the history of Freethought.
Just announcing two new essays I wrote for the Central Ohio Humanist have now been posted to my iHumanism website. They deal with the practical application of the Humanist philosophy in one’s every day life.
I wanted to take the opportunity today to dispel a couple of persistent myths that is passed around as truth. I use a service that looks for certain keywords on various Internet pages expressing viewpoints.
One of the keywords I use is “secular humanism”.
I found an article on a “conservative” website that expressed once again the myth that secular humanists control everything.
The other myth I want to lay to rest is that Christians are 1. a minority in the US and 2. Persecuted for their beliefs.
Secular Humanism controls everything?
Here is the text in question:
While our troops try to win a world war launched by Islam, America’s Christians and Jews at home confront another religious every bit as ambitious and aggressive as Islam–secular humanism. These are the folks who wish to silence the churches, erase the Ten Commandments from the template of civilization, sexualize children, and abolish the family. In return, they offer us a new god–man. More specifically, liberal, elite man in all his implacable glory.
It does us little good to defeat Islam if we can’t defeat the immoralists, too. The only difference is that this war will be fought with ballots, not bullets.
We have an enormous amount of cleaning up to do. The humanists control higher education and the public schools; the mainstream news media and the entertainment industry; the judiciary and the Democratic Party; the scientific establishment, and even the liberal church denominations. They’ve been making inroads since the early Nineteenth Century, mostly without opposition. The roots of this poisonous tree run very deep.
The article is simply wrong on many points – ok all of them – and it does nothing except stoke fear mongering.
First the author has no idea what secular humanism is. In articles like that the writer typically uses the term for the bogey man effect just like conservative writers during the cold war used communism. They rarely define secular humanism and when they do they simply get it wrong. They also attribute “secular” behavior – like protecting the freedom of religion – as secular humanism when they disagree with the action.
I should know what secular humanism is since I AM a secular humanist. The Council of Secular Humanism has the following brief definition about what secular humanism is:
Secular humanists do not rely upon gods or other supernatural forces to solve their problems or provide guidance for their conduct. They rely instead upon the application of reason, the lessons of history, and personal experience to form an ethical/moral foundation and to create meaning in life. Secular humanists look to the methodology of science as the most reliable source of information about what is factual or true about the universe we all share, acknowledging that new discoveries will always alter and expand our understanding of it and perhaps change our approach to ethical issues as well.
Simply put, religion and God is not relevant to our beliefs and philosophy of life. It is our world view and nothing more. For a person to be a secular humanist they must agree with the text noted above.
For an argument to prove that secular humanists control the schools, the media, the Democratic Party, etc… then one MUST offer evidence that a majority of people who work in those area are in fact subscribe to secular humanism as defined above.
While it is possible it is not a fact and is not true. Why? Because the number of people who are secular humanists is too small to account for all the areas it is said we control.
In a survey of religious identification conducted in 2001 showed only approximately. 100,000 people identified themselves as Humanist or as Secular with no label listed as secular humanist. That’s 100,000 out of 208,000,000 people over the age of 18. If I had answered the survey I would have picked Humanist and on the survey that was 49,000 people.
When the legal system is used to disentangle government from religion, it does NOTHING to the believer and their beliefs. They can still pray, go to church, or follow the 10 Commandments. We just don’t want the government to be involved with religion and I am sure most Christians would agree.
Not all secular humanists are atheists nor are they all Democrats and if the writer would actually talk to secular humanists then he would know the truth.
Christians are persecuted?
Not in the United States.
The 1st Amendment prohibits that and when cases have come before the courts, religious rights are protected. For every case that removes the 10 Commandments from a court house there is a case that allows a religious group to meet in a school building as any other community group can.
Why do religious conservatives believe that they are a minority being persecuted?
In a study published in the US News and World Report had this as a possible explanation:
Evangelicals motivate each other by thinking of themselves, much as the first Christians did as an embattled minority, marginalized at best or persecuted at worst for their religious beliefs. While other Americans may not necessarily see them in this way, what is most important is that this is how evangelical Christians see themselves. And it is their shared profound dissatisfaction with aspects of the American mainstream that gives them cause to fight to be heard by the American mainstream.
While those issues I care about like gay rights, abortion, and separation of church and state doesn’t impose anything on a Christian, their actions in the opposite impose their beliefs on everyone. Who is really causing the ruin of America? It isn’t secular humanists, we are the persecuted minority.