Secular Humanism vs Christianity: An Analysis

1112 words | 4 page(s)

As societies have matured over time from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the technologically advanced civilizations of today, there have been an immeasurable amount of differing religious beliefs. Pantheism has slowly given way to the common Monotheistic views of recent history, and has pervasively perpetuated every corner of the Earth. As individuals began evoking fewer entities in their rituals and prayers, the number of gods in each worldview dwindled to create an “omnipotent and omniscient” singularity; one incorporeal “true god” at the center of all existence. However, as some individuals recognize themselves as the autonomous agents of their own lives, exclusively responsible for their triumphs and pitfalls, religion has begun to decay as their worldview (Engelke, 2014).

Although belief in a fantastical supernatural entity is shown to still be incredibly popular, even in the scientific and Information Age of today, non-religion, or secularism, is spreading rapidly. One such sect of this non-religious movement is that secular humanism, which rejects supernatural dogmatic pseudoscience in favor of human rationality and innate ethics. Although secular humanism and Christianity, the most popular Abrahamic monotheistic religion, are seen with stark polarity, there are also numerous common foundational themes between the two perspectives. Therefore, an analysis of the basal elements of each worldview are pivotal to understanding the affiliation and antagonism that exists between them.

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The main concept that seems to present the greatest divergence between secular humanism and Christianity is in the question of the origins and end of life. At the foundation of this question lies the difference in where all subsequent judgments of what constitutes each different perspective exists. Firstly, secular humanism posits that the universe, a naturally-occurring anomaly, is the result of the Big Bang, devoid of any creator. Secular humanists see all of existence as the happenstance aggregation of chemical reactions, which exploded into the ever-expanding universe where everything else, including humanity, was subsequently created. Contrastingly, Christianity views its god as the everlasting and supreme creator of everything, where the entire universe was established just for humans on Earth by sheer will in 7 days (Halverson, 1992).

Although incredibly different in the thoughts on the cradle of life, these worldviews have a common denominator in that everything came from seemingly nothing. Where there is life, there must be death in the case of mortal humanity, and each perspective has incredibly different views on what happens when it all ends. Secular humanism sees consciousness as incapable of outliving our corporeal existence, rendering life after death impossible. Christianity, however, promises eternal life in heaven or hell (Halverson, 1992). The only way a secular humanist believes that humans can obtain immortality is by leaving an impression on this world through the works that are conducted while still alive.

Secular humanism and Christianity have mostly differences in concern to the meaning of life, but also have some similarities. To a secular humanist, existence is predominantly devoid of an overarching meaning, and serves as a vehicle for whatever each individual makes of it (Engelke, 2014; Kitcher, 2011). To a humanist, humans exist merely by chance, life is what you make it, and we are here to help our fellow inhabitants of Earth. Essentially, secular humanism sees being human as exercising rationality in which each individual does the best they can in being a decent person. Additionally, they view humans as an evolutionary advancement from animals because we can exercise conscious thought and self-awareness.

However, humans are just another species of animal, not particularly more important than any other, aside from being the peak of advancement observed as of yet (Halverson, 1992). Christianity, on the other hand, sees all of life as serving the will of their god. Although Christianity sees individuals as able to exercise free will and autonomy, this will must be exercised within the constraints of what is viewed as acceptable as outlined in Biblical interpretations in order to be deemed a worthy existence. For them, everything is done in an incredibly reward-based system of beliefs in which all actions will have a consequence or benefit. Furthermore, humans are the “children” of their god, superior to animals, which are lower creations made mostly for their personal use (Halverson, 1992). However, secular humanism and Christianity alike see the purpose of life and being human as doing the best one can with the time they are given in this life, regardless of what might happen after death.

On the issue of morality, there are some major differences between secular humanism and Christianity, but at the foundation of each is a striking resemblance. Secular humanists base their moral code on socially constructed views of what is considered right or wrong on a cultural basis. They view morality as having no absolute truth or standard in which to follow, and should be exercised in relation to the context of the individual (Halverson, 1992). Secular humanists do good deeds without the promise of eternal reward and exercise free will without the fear of divine consequence. To many, this stance is regarded as a more ultimate form of morality, more akin to altruism, in that it is not a reliance on what the individual can get in return for their life. Adversely, Christianity views morality as a concrete absolute set forth by their god via the Bible. There is an absolute moral code to follow and deviation from this code results in eternal damnation (Halverson, 1992). Christians, though, can still seek divine forgiveness and eternal grandeur through prayer and giving of one’s life to their god, even if it is on their death bed. However, at the basis of both of these worldviews is the presumptive ideal that humanity should be exercised in the pursuit of helping fellow individuals, regardless of what may or may not happen to you after death.

Humans, in their various forms and beliefs, are biologically pattern seeking social creatures. Whether one ascribes to a religion which worships a god or god-like entity, or have a lack thereof, humans tend to seek fellowship with other individuals who share their views. As all Monotheistic religions have a foundationally identical lore and conception of what this life is for, these worldviews share a very common theme in serving their masters. Secular humanism can be seen by some as akin to religion, just lacking such a label, in that there are like-minded individuals pursuing their passions and advancing the direction of their lives within the world (Engelke, 2014; Kitcher, 2011). The main difference, aside from the reliance on empirical scientific evidence and methodology in place of psychic vampirism, is that there is no god to secular humanists above oneself. However, at its core, secular humanism often stems from a predominantly Christian upbringing, making it difficult to separate the foundations of one from another.

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