The Cultural Religion of our Time: Secular Humanism

Everyone is religious, and religion is ultimate. Your belief system shapes everything about you. Often we think of someone who is religious as someone who is devout in a traditional religious faith – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc. But in thinking this way, we miss the fact that everyone is devoutly living out their religion, it’s just that especially here in the West there is a religion, a way of living and believing, in the world that is so common that many people miss it. Yet it is taught in almost every public school, it is on display in almost every TV show, and it is the operating world view people you meet every day.


This religion that has swept our land is termed “secular humanism”. Before we discuss what secular humanism is we need to note two reasons why it is vital that we discuss it. The first is that it is so prevalent today. I would argue that it is the number one believe system in America and the West today. Secondly, many people do not recognize secular humanism or its influence on their lives. If we are to call people to flee the idols of our age, we must help them to see their idols before they can ever flee them. Many people live and operate as a functional secular humanist yet would say, if asked, that they are non-religious, agnostic, or even Christian.


One more thing we should note before going further. Secular humanism is indeed religious. Religion deals with what one finds ultimate in their lives. You can call it worldview if you like, but everyone acts and lives according to principles of belief. Often times these tenants of faith may never be openly expressed, but they are their none the less.


We must not fall into the trap of thinking that there are some people who are religious and go to church or mass or synagogue or temple or the ol’ oak tree. Everyone worships something, there is no neutral when it comes to life. Humans are religious to their core, even when their religious values will not allow them to use such terms of themselves.


The religious nature of secular humanism comes to light when we examine some of the core values of a secular humanist compared with that of a Christian.



Biblical Christianity

Secular Humanism

God God is ultimate. God created all things out of nothing, including mankind. He transcends all that is, is holy and set apart, and perfect in all his attributes, yet He is immanent and relates personally with mankind. Man is ultimate. If God exists, he is an absentee land-lord, impersonal, and a vague fatherly figure who is very much like us (similar to the Roman deities).


Scripture The Bible is the Word of God. It is authoritative. God intends it to be understood and have meaning. The Bible is the work of men. It might tell us what ancient writers believed about God, but is not final or authoritative. Its meaning is open to be interpreted in light of what we value today.


Man Humankind was created perfect by God, but willfully chose to rebel and sin against Him. Since the original fall, all of mankind is born with a bent toward sin. Man is in need of redemption.


Mankind evolved into what they are today. People are naturally good, and should be encouraged and educated to reach their full potential.
Sin Sin is the rejection of God and His good laws. We are born with a sinful nature that alienates us from God and our fellow man. This sinful nature leads us to desire and commit sinful actions. No amount of good deeds can overcome the guilt of our sin. Because of our sin we are under the just judgment of God.


Sin is failure to conform to societal standards. Man does not have a sin nature, but instead only sins when they hurt someone else.


Jesus Jesus is the son of God in flesh, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and died to take the penalty for our sin and make us righteous before God. He rose on the third day and is now Lord and master of all. He has ultimate authority and we are accountable to Him.


Jesus is a good moral teacher, a good role model, and/or wise teacher. He will not judge us and he does not have claim on our lives today.
Salvation Mankind needs to be set free from sin and escape the guilt and condemnation we stand under because of our sin. In Christ we are set free from sin, forgiven, and are reconciled to God and our fellow man. Salvation is the betterment of society and ourselves. Salvation is brought through the pursuit of a “cause”. We rescue ourselves through our own actions and choices.


Consummation God will one day set all things right, rid the world of sin and the effects of sin, and make all things new and glorious. Our ultimate hope is to be forever with Him in a new heavens and new earth.


Mankind, despite its shortcomings, must ever work to better themselves and the world.



A few final reflections are in order. While this chart puts Biblical Christianity and secular humanism in stark contrast, there are of course gradations. In addition, as noted above, there are many who would have a favorable disposition toward Christian values or doctrines, but function and live in an essentially secular humanist way. Finally, while this chart lays out key differences between Biblical Christianity and secular humanism on foundational issues, these beliefs shape how one approaches life and issues more broadly. Perhaps in a coming post I will flesh this out further.



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