Charlie's Blog: The False Idol of Humanism

9.06.2016

The False Idol of Humanism

What I'm asking you to entertain is that there is nothing we need to believe on insufficient evidence in order to have deeply ethical and spiritual lives.
SAM HARRIS

Atheism is a negative. It is a claim about what you do not believe in. It is very difficult to build a worldview and an ethic of life based on a negative. So, some atheists like Isaac Asimov chose humanism as a positive to believe in. And what is humanism? There are many various and complex definitions, but I can sum them all up in one simple declarative sentence. Humanism is the belief that humanity can save itself. This belief is naive and foolish.

When I was an atheist, I never subscribed to humanism. I never declared myself to be a secular humanist. The reason for this stance was because I was never against the ethics and values of Christianity. I didn't believe that the promotion of atheism and Darwinian evolution in the schools would necessarily lead to good things. And I took no pleasure or glee in trying to divorce people from their religions. I knew that atheism produced problems that were not necessarily going to be solved automatically by the rejection of God and the embrace of reason. And why did I believe this? Basically, I spent my entire childhood under the shadow of thermonuclear annihilation from an empire of atheism. This is something that is hard to forget even when you become an atheist.


But I was an atheist, and this presented a problem to me. How does one live without the belief in God and the moral code of Christianity to guide you? The person who best captured this problem was Jean Paul Sartre who declared, "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.It is up to you to give [life] a meaning." I agreed with Sartre. It was up to me to decide how to live. I would have to create my own values and come to grips with the absolute freedom that atheism gave me. But that is when I immediately soured on Sartre because Jean Paul Sartre was an advocate and an apologist for Stalinist Communism. Sartre subscribed to the dictum that in order to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs. Basically, this belief is the one that in order to create something new you must destroy something old. In the case of Stalin, the eggs were the lives of millions of people who weren't in line with the program.


I could not understand how Sartre the existentialist could sign off on the atrocities of a mass murderer like Josef Stalin. His nemesis, Albert Camus, could not either. Camus, like Sartre, was a Communist, but he defected from that camp when the bodies started to pile up. I found in Camus something admirable. He embraced the existential freedom Sartre had declared, but he decided that this freedom should be used to pursue goodness. As Camus declared, "Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better."

If atheism could produce a saint, Albert Camus would come closest. But Camus was no saint. He just believed that you shouldn't go around killing people even if you had the freedom and the power to do it. Camus said that it was the job of thinking people to not be on the side of the executioners. My opinion of Camus was that he was like myself. He could not believe in God, but he wanted to believe in God. As he wrote in one of his notebooks, "I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist."

Sartre delighted in the death of God while Camus seemed to mourn it. Perhaps the best book Camus ever wrote was The Plague which asked a fundamental question. Can an atheist be a saint? In the book, a doctor tries to save a city from the plague that has afflicted it. The man is heroic and selflessly gives himself to save people from the disease. But the man does not believe in God. My interpretation of the story is that the doctor was Camus himself, and the plague was the proliferation of bad ideas in the world. The doctor was powerless in his fight, but he did fight against human suffering and death knowing it was a battle he would never win. He did this all without belief in God, religion, or ideology.



I am indebted to Camus for keeping me from becoming a monster when I was an atheist. My perspective is that Nietzsche gave license to the Nazis, and Sartre gave license to the Stalinists because he was a Frenchman who could never be a Nazi after World War II. Either way, both of these guys became monsters in my thinking. Camus showed me that becoming a monster was not an automatic thing. One could choose to do better.

The problem with Camus is that he backed away from being a monster and settled on being a scoundrel instead. His adulterous affairs with numerous women are legendary. As I said, the man was not a saint. He simply didn't believe in killing people.

Camus was the reason that people called me a "nice atheist." I wasn't a nice person at all, but I suppose I was nicer than other atheists. Where other atheists would fight to pry religion from the hearts of others, I thought people should be left alone to believe things that brought them some level of comfort in this miserable world. As long as they didn't hurt anyone, I didn't care. This was how I drifted into libertarianism.

Libertarianism is essentially the Silver Rule turned into a political philosophy. The Silver Rule states that you should not do unto others what you would not want them to do to you. Basically, you shouldn't hurt people when it came to life, liberty, and property. It seems like a fair rule though limited. I never hesitated to assault people's feelings, character, and the like. And when I wanted to beat the crap out of somebody, I would try and provoke them to violence, so I could beat them into a bloody puddle without violating my conscience. This became my infamous "Way of the Snake." Don't tread on me. Yet, I really wanted somebody to step on me in the worst way.


The fact that people did not see me as evil then is mainly because their moral lens has been clouded by their own distance from the Christian faith. I was an atheist with a very dumbed down and EZ moral code that I managed to follow because it asked very little of me. I didn't hurt anybody unless they deserved it.

The thing that never gets said is where both Camus and I got this sense of morality. Camus was raised a Catholic. He became an atheist, but he retained a conscience. Similarly, I had been a Protestant Christian until the age of 30 when I decided I could not believe in God anymore. But one cannot be a Christian for 30 years, and it not leave an indelible mark on your thinking. The morality of Camus and myself was a thing stolen from Christianity. It was deformed by atheism, but there is no denying its origin.

I am of the opinion that one cannot be good without God. Humans cannot save themselves. They will either fashion a belief system that is evil and turn them into monsters. Or, they will steal from Christianity and settle on being scoundrels. But atheists can never become saints. And this is where we deal with the false idol of humanism.

Secular humanism believes that reason and the scientific method are all that are needed to promote and establish a flourishing and happy society based on altruism, democratic values, distributive justice, and the like. The people that actually accept and promote this sort of thinking are incredibly misinformed and stupid. I actually used to meet with and debate with these people at a regular meeting of atheists and freethinkers. How can I describe these people? They are the sort of people who subscribe to a Star Trek vision of the world. They are long on science and science fiction optimism but know next to nothing about history or philosophy. They are naive nerds. The most vivid example of one of these naive nerds is science fiction writer Isaac Asimov:


Now, I like science fiction. It is entertaining. But the key thing to remember is that it is not science. It is fiction. Unfortunately, secular humanists try to make it into prophecy. The ultimate science fiction expression of secular humanism is found in the world created by Gene Roddenberry in Star Trek. Here is a description from the British Humanist Association:
Gene Roddenberry, creator and executive producer of the television series Star Trek, believed that: human beings can solve problems through reason and co-operation; that there is no need to turn to superstition or religion for help; that human understanding and intelligence will help us to develop and progress; and that the universe is a natural wonder waiting to be explored and understood.   This philosophy shines through the many adventures in Star Trek.
That sounds just peachy. Basically, the Starship Enterprise is the science fiction equivalent of the Tower of Babel. Everybody is on the same page with the reason and humanism thing. I have yet to see the episode where the crew mutinies on Kirk or Picard. It is all sweetness and light on board the Enterprise. The bad guys are always external, and they are always irrational and unreasonable. Somehow, reason always comes to save the day. What never gets addressed is this. What happens when everyone is not on the same humanist page? What then?


It is easy to get to the truth when you dispense with fiction and cut to reality. The science fiction show about a utopian future where reason prevails was created by people who could barely get along with each other. On screen, it was paradise. Off screen, it was like any other place. Humanists are supposed to be reality based people, but they are actually pushing a new religion detached from reality. The fact that Roddenberry saw himself as the visionary of this new humanist religion is telling.

The reason the tower of Babel fell is because the builders lost unity when the languages were confounded. The point of the story is that this is the reason humanity cannot and will not ever save itself. They can't agree. "Reason" is offered as some sort of commonality that will unify the human race. If Star Trek were more true to life, the biggest obstacle they would have to surmount each week would be the inability of everyone to agree on the best course of action and the moral failings of various crew members. I would love to see the episode where they can't get to warp factor 9 because Scotty is laid out drunk from too much scotch, or Kirk endangers the crew to fornicate with some green alien princess.

The problem for humanism is the same problem as the builders of the tower of Babel had. How do you get everyone on the same humanist page? And what do you do with the ones who will not comply? The answer is obvious. You start breaking eggs. To build a new society based on new thinking, you have to eradicate the old thinking and kill off the old thinkers. This is when you break out the guillotine.


Asimov, Roddenberry, and other humanists are amnesiacs when it comes to history. They forget that the French Revolution was based upon the very values they espouse--reason, secularism, fraternity of humanity, etc. Christianity was rejected in favor this new religion of enlightened humanism. The result was a lot of bloodshed and death and the rise of despotism in the form of Napoleon Bonaparte. And their ignorance of philosophy shows their inability to appreciate the problems a world without God presents. At least the existentialists were free of the foolish optimism of these thickheaded humanists.

For humanism to flourish, you would have to kill every last human being remaining. This makes humanism a self-defeating proposition. I knew this before I ever became Catholic which is why I preferred the individualism of libertarianism over the collective aspirations of humanism. Individualism is also a false idol along with humanism, but it does not require human sacrifice.

Secular humanism is science fiction. It doesn't work. It denies reality, and it is not reasonable in the least. Humanity cannot and will not save itself. You cannot have a deeply ethical or spiritual life without God. Some secular minded people acknowledge the flaws in their thinking which is why "multiculturalism" and "tolerance" have become a thing. They suggest building a utopia on differing viewpoints and opinions. The influx of murdering Muslims into the secular superstate of Europe should show the foolishness of that idea. Secular humanists need to abandon ship and accept reality. Theirs is a new and false religion that denies reality. And that is not reasonable.