Wednesday 3 February 2021

The False Allure of Humanism

The belief system that most people adopt today, either deliberately or more often just through absorbing the general assumptions about life, is humanism, the moral philosophy of which is encapsulated in the golden rule of do as you would be done by. This drives our current obsession with egalitarianism. It even underlies the panicked measures taken to contain Covid-19. But beneath its attractive looking exterior, humanism is an incoherent belief system and little more than a dressed-up version of nihilism.

The humanist does not believe in God* but he does believe in this abstraction of 'humanity'. Setting aside whether there is such a thing as humanity or whether there are just human beings, I would point out that humanity without a divine maker who has given it its own spiritual life and freedom is nothing more than an assemblage of atoms driven by mechanical forces. To talk of love or goodness in these terms is ludicrous. You are not real and neither am I. There is no centre to your being and you cannot in any meaningful way actually matter. You are nothing. Human beings only have any kind of integrity to their being if they have spiritual integrity. Without God we are empty vessels with no authentic individuality. 

What humanism does is borrow or steal ideas which can only have any substance in a spiritual universe and apply them to itself. This cannot work because what gives these ideas reality in the first place is being denied. It is like trying to climb while denying the fact of height. Individuality, freedom, love have no meaning in a purely material universe and to pretend otherwise is blatant self-deception.

This matters. You cannot say that as long as we accept individuality, freedom and love, it doesn't matter if we don't acknowledge where they come from. If you don't acknowledge their source you put yourself at opposition with the things themselves which become shadows of their true selves. You are living in a world of fakes and make-believe. You are an imposter, a thief. If individuality, freedom and love only exist because of God then to construct a world and a philosophy and a mode of being that denies God but tries to retain these things is to live a lie. A denier of God has no reason to care for anything because there is nothing except him and he isn't real in any meaningful sense not to mention the fact that he won't last long in any sense at all.

When it comes down to it, the humanist replaces God with self so that self eventually becomes God. This is why today a man can become a woman or thinks he can. I make my own reality. I am God. There is no absolute truth. I can be what I want to be.

When the real Christ is abandoned a false Christ arises, in the realm of ideas at first but maybe eventually in reality. This false Christ will be a humanitarian or, at least, he will appear as one. But his humanitarianism will be an end in itself not part of an over-riding approach to God. He may talk of God but his God will have to fit into the general materialistic attitude with our life in this world seen as primary. He will talk of progress, improvement, development but all these things relate to making the same thing better or apparently better. The spiritual path is not about improvement but transcendence. It does not look to make better men but new men who may be formed from the old men but are more properly described as transformed. Humanism keeps us in profound spiritual darkness because it can never liberate us from the merely human.

* Some in the modern world do believe in God or think they do but their approach to the spiritual is conditioned by the worldly, the complete reverse of which should be the case. That is why I say they think they believe in God. The general trend of their thought shows they don't really. Judge them by their fruits.


John Fitzgerald said...

Yes. It's interesting how both Vladimir Solovyev in the late 19th century ('Three Tales of the Antichrist') and EF Benson in the early 20th ('Lord of the World') picked up on this idea of the coming Antichrist as a great philanthropist and humanist. Humanism is a contradiction in itself as it denies that which makes us most human - and which, at the end of the day, keeps us human - our belief in something greater than the human, ie the Divine.

It does indeed want to make us gods but in a very different way - an inverted way, if you like - to the classical Christian concept of divinisation or Theosis.

So it's a thumbs down for humanism from me!

William Wildblood said...

People are not generally deceived by naked evil but they can easily be deceived by a false good especially if they lack discernment and allow empathy to descend into a sentimentality in which feelings take priority over facts.

It is very true that what gives a human being its dignity and worth is the fact that it can become greater than the mere human.

Bruce Charlton said...

I was a humanist for most of my life; but in me (as generally) it tended constantly to devolve from a concern with the well-being ('flourishing' was a buzz word, stolen from Aristotle) of 'humanity' to a concern with myself.

Because there was no basis for being concerned with humanity - which I only knew about through unreliable secondhand sources, and anyway who can be sure what people really think? Who can balance one person's well-being with or against another's?

Humanists, as a group, seem to support whatever makes people happy over the short term - sexual revolution, abortion, euthanasia; and secondarily the label serves as a kind of elite club for intellectuals of a certain type - leftist, but with a libertarian flavour.

The lesson I *eventually* drew (took several decades...) was the same as you describe. If you cut-off humanity and make that detached abstraction your priority, it becomes incoherent - hence easily twisted to expedience, and manipulated.

William Wildblood said...

I wrote this post as if one could logically work out the incoherence of humanism and probably you can but really it comes down in the end as usual to intuition. An intellectual grasp is never enough.

The other thing is that individuality, freedom, love and the good are all deformed if one denies their spiritual background. You may accept them but they become qualitatively different and vastly inferior things.

Adil said...

I'm glad you keep pushing at this issue, since the only way to address it healthily is from a higher spiritual perspective. The problem with the nihilism that undergirds humanism is that it reverses the healthy religious sense of eternity, and therefore not becoming too preoccupied with this life, to a spiritually sick attitude which projects the permanency of Being onto becoming, and then tries to hold on to it. Therefore, it is a form of running away from God, but instead weaving the spiderweb of Satan. I believe Satan is still building hell, and the battle is between those who want to drag this earth down lower in a state of suspension, and those who want to 'release' it to heaven by giving themselves to God. You can only save the world by dying to it. Kali Yuga ends when you want it to.

William Wildblood said...

Great comment, Adil. The trouble is people simply don't think through their assumptions about life to their conclusions which is for the atheist, the materialist and the humanist that nothing means anything. There's a gaping void underneath it all which you just can't cover up forever though my goodness we try.

Adil said...

Yes, I mean it's impossible to build a long lasting society like that. That's why such views are fundamentally individualistic. While materialism is true at one ontological level, it by no means accounts for the full picture. It seems in our age life has become a social question rather than a spiritual concern. If there is no meaning beyond the human gaze perhaps that is a logical conclusion. We all just happen to be on an existential holiday on a giant rock floating through space.

Christopher Berc Yeniver said...

Ideas and thinking and ideologies are the safeboxes where men believe they can store bits and pieces of their lives while excusing themselves from ever participating in life. To a man who can not laugh at his own shame, life will forever be out of reach. One needs to bear the humor in suffering the fear of not braving the ends for new beginnings.