The Words of the Carlson Family

Hello Humanists

Paul Carlson
December, 2001

Part One

This month we begin a two-part article about the beliefs and practices of humanism. In my view, the differences between Christian denominations are relatively minor. The clash between Christianity and Islam is far more serious, but the two faiths have more in common than many people care to admit.

Even the yawning chasm between monotheism and paganism pales in comparison with one other cultural divide. In the future, the crucial debate will be between those who believe in God and those who oppose that belief. (I'll address paganism and the New Age movement in an upcoming article.)

The Divide

Marxism may have failed, but that was just one quirky version of atheist thought. In past UNews articles I have appealed to atheists, and mentioned humanism. This article is an appeal to card-carrying Humanists, plus information for believers who have encountered them, or soon will.

Why the concern? Humanists don't just privately doubt, or simply not believe. They actively denigrate the beliefs of others. They claim that the universe is entirely material, and that any belief in the spiritual or supernatural is at best a pleasant delusion, and at worst a dangerous fanaticism.

In practice, this opposition ranges from clear, logical arguments to childish, ignorant mockery. Increasingly, they are launching headline-making laws, new institutional policies, and significant court battles.

At times the clash has become quite personal. After the Sept. 11th tragedies, a humanist leader publicly complained of "all this talk about God and prayer." In recent years, Humanist leader Paul Kurtz and Christian author Timothy LaHaye have been slamming each other in their books-by name.


In the past, when faced with a big challenge, traditional leaders often responded by ignoring, or even trying to silence, their rivals. It's a cowardly and ultimately ineffective strategy. (Think: Galileo vs. the Inquisition.) Here, let's follow the analytical method used by our own VOC and CAUSA movements. But if I stoop to a few cheap shots, then so be it.

First, let's address the basic difference in worldviews. The two sides cannot even agree on what they can fairly discuss. Humanists always 'state their case' as a fundamental contrast between belief (blind faith) and reason (scientific evidence). The more charitable among them will say, "It's fine if you want to believe that," but with a pitying tone.

They will bristle, and go on the attack, if any believer claims to have evidence or logic to back him up. Believers know that's silly; that God made everything, including the world, our intelligent selves, and the scientific rules we study things by.

Humanists have complete confidence in 'reason' and 'science.' In most areas of life, this boils down to relying on themselves. But let's take them at their word. Science itself has some limits.

For example, one cannot do experiments upon astronomical objects, nor observe the multi-million year process of evolution. In both cases we can only see the results, and that from a considerable distance. Scientists are unable to create life, much less intelligence. (These things may yet occur.)

There are also basic flaws in the scientific method. Gödel's Theorem states that mathematics cannot prove itself true; that one must always seek another, larger source of truth. Authors Jones and Wilson put it thusly: "In 1931, the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics, there would always be some propositions that couldn't be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms of that mathematical branch itself. You might be able to prove every conceivable statement about numbers within a system by going outside the system in order to come up with new rules an axioms, but by doing so you'll only create a larger system with its own unprovable statements."

This concept was expanded by computing pioneer Alan Turing, with his famous Halting Problem. In essence, a computer cannot always know when a given problem is unsolvable, or when to stop trying to figure it out. A popular example involves a donkey caught between two identical piles of hay. Unable to decide which pile to approach, a literal-minded donkey would starve!

As with the Vulcans of popular fiction, logic cannot really give motive, much less meaning, to one's life.

Straw Men

Humanists rarely attack such beliefs as the Buddha's Eightfold Path. They reserve their ire for Christianity, and do their best to shred the Bible and popular American beliefs.

There are endless 'proofs' for and against the existence of God, which alone would fill an entire bookshelf. However, few are convincing. In my opinion, no one has ever done it better than C.S. Lewis (in his Mere Christianity), and our own Principle of Creation.

Most humanists display a basic ignorance of theology. Most of their essays poke at concepts such as 'predetermination' and the 'existence of evil,' which theologians have already tackled. But if mainstream Christian doctrines are lacking, chances are that the Principle has already provided a decisive answer.

One tongue-in-cheek attack on the Biblical 'Noah's rainbow' story was especially silly. (It presumed that rainbows would not have existed before that time.) Rather than joining in a rich discussion, humanists are usually content to set up straw men.


I'd like to offer the humanists a few helpful suggestions. You see, despite some impressive scholarship, their organizations have a tiny membership. (Dare I say, a lack of converts?)

Surveys reveal that there are millions of non-religious Americans, and humanists wonder aloud why those people aren't flocking to their banner. With their vast self-assurance, and their multiple claims of superiority, it puzzles them to no end...

There may be several reasons for this lack. For starters, humanists preach a flexible 'ethics' carefully divorced from the Ten Commandments. They claim that "morality was hijacked by religion" at some point in ancient history. Who had it before is not exactly made clear.

Some prominent humanists are homosexuals who, not satisfied with modern-day tolerance, seek to weaken and defeat traditional morality. Up to and including the very concept of right and wrong. Thus, it seems clear, to take pressure off their own lives, and to assuage any guilt they might now incur. This matters to people.

Normally, vigorous internal debate is healthy for organizations. The humanists have Nat Hentoff, an atheistic leftist, who makes some profound arguments in favor of prenatal life, and against abortion. (Read his columns on the subject.)

However, they also honor Prof. Peter Singer, who advocates the infanticide of "low quality" babies up to about a month old. Even for treatable conditions such as hemophilia! And who draws the line? That part looks good on paper, but fallible humans will always be making those decisions. Without a universal morality in effect, people understand that this 'line' would get pushed all over the place.

Seeing themselves as consisting only of bodies, humanists focus on theirs to excess. Who else, when holding scholarly conferences on varied subjects, always include workshops about sex? Apparently that's the utmost-if not the only-happiness they can find in life. Most people find that a pity.

Humanists, like most Americans, have strong opinions about politics. Because they're viscerally opposed to the so-called Religious Right, they've wed themselves to the political Left. Despite their brain power, they illogically support liberal politicians, including venal and demagogic ones. They even backed Al Gore, who (according to his own book) is of the anti-scientific Naturalist mold.

I hope this gives everyone some food for thought. Next month we'll continue with Part Two.

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