Secular Humanism Is Not for Families

It falls to the Christian apologist to address secular humanism because it “is a viewpoint that competes against Christianity…. It rejects the existence of a personal God who created the world, revealed Himself in history, and came in the person of Jesus Christ to save the world” (Webber, 1982, p. 16). In 1937, D. Luther Evans noted that “humanism is very much alive” (17[3]:264), and the increasingly secular nature of society causes his words to ring with new veracity (see Hill, 1947, 53[2]:125).

Ed Buckner, writing for the Council for Secular Humanism, asserted that “secular humanist morality” is “pro-family” (2003). This reflects a portion of the International Academy of Humanism’s A Declaration of Interdependence:

Parents have the responsibility to bring up their children and provide them with food, shelter, love, education, and cultural enrichment. Children have concomitant duties to discharge in regard to their parents, to love, honor, and support them, and to help care for them when they are sick or elderly. Two individuals who have freely entered into marriage or cohabitation have duties to each other so long as the relationship is viable. Moral devotion does not depend solely on blood-ties, but extends to those with whom one has developed ties of friendship (1988, Section 3).

Secularism also acknowledges the need for other social responsibilities:

Similarly, we also have moral responsibilities to others in the smaller communities in which we have everyday relationships: teacher and student, shopkeeper and customer, doctor and patient, factory worker and consumer, and so on. There are also duties and obligations that we as citizens have to the towns and nation-states in which we live and work (Section 3).

In Kurtz’s Humanist Manifesto 2000, we read similar language: “No doubt each person already recognizes multiple responsibilities relative to his or her social context: persons have responsibilities to family, friends, the community, city, state, or nation in which they reside” (p. 35).

Are these statements representative of the actual, logical fruits of secularism, or merely a veneer to make secularism more appealing? Are these ideals of special obligation to family (and, in turn, community) consistent with the overall thrust and many particulars of secular humanism?

Break from Secularist Tradition

The recent statements on secularism’s supposed family values break with previous landmark statements of the movement. Secular humanism has been openly antagonistic toward family-oriented values since at least 1973, although the logical implications of even the earlier secular humanism are anti-family (see Humanist Manifesto I, 1933). Perhaps specific anti-family messages were absent from the first Manifesto because the document was meant to be a general charter (with specifically religious overtones) of secular humanism. Secularists may have thought anti-family messages were too distasteful to the public in 1933. By 1973, however, humanists were ready to deal with the sexual revolution by providing a more detailed explication of their devious purposes. The second Manifesto illustrates this:

In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized…. [N]either do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered “evil”….[A] civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire (1973, Section 6).

A secularist claims the right to do, essentially, anything he pleases. With a commitment to irresponsible sexuality rather than familial responsibility, however, the second Manifesto logically militates against the propagation of humanity via the family structure. Fittingly, the second Manifesto contains only passing reference to the traditional family—only to show that it needs democratizing (Section 8; cf. Kurtz, 2000, p. 57). On the other hand, the second Manifesto proposes a world community for the entire “human family” (Section 12, emp. added; Section 13).

Family vs. Self

In his 1978 Harvard University address, Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned about a “destructive and irresponsible freedom” in the West. “Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence.” Secular humanism, lacking Christian regulation, places society in precisely that predicament. Secularists cannot escape the conflict between its overarching priority on individual rights and the ideals of familial commitment. “[T]he individual must experience a full range of civil liberties in all societies. This includes a recognition of an individual’s right to die with dignity, euthanasia, and the right to suicide” (Humanist Manifesto II, 1973, Section 7, emp. added). “Humanists believe that the right to…abortion, and divorce should be recognized” (Section 6; cf. Kurtz, 2000, p. 47). The arguments for advocates of euthanasia and abortion are encroachments on the inherent value of human life and therefore are destructive to human life and potential families (see Colley, 2007b; Harrub, 2002).

Coupling this with the humanists’ favored right to “the control of one’s own body…sexual preference and orientation,” and “reproductive freedom” (A Declaration…, 1988), we infer the clearly implied message: It does not matter what you do concerning your own family, as long as you recognize the whole world as your family, and avoid telling someone else what to do; your responsibility is to fulfill your own sexual passions with indiscriminate abandon.

Wendy Kaminer, writing for the Council for Secular Humanism, alleged that traditional religion is responsible for the high divorce rate in the “Bible-belt” (2001). However, research has shown that other factors, such as marriage at younger ages in certain areas, contribute to failed marriages (see Stanton, 2007). Adherence to biblical principles could not possibly cause divorce (see Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:9), but secular humanism allows for the dissolution of families via divorce whenever a marriage partner perceives that his marriage has caused inconvenience (A Declaration…, 1988, Section 3). Because secular humanism reflects what we may label “selfist” ideals, psychologist Paul C. Vitz’s comments on the practical fruits of selfism are pertinent:

It is certainly no accident that many case histories in selfist literature are people in conflict with their spouses or families over some self-defined goal. With monotonous regularity the selfist literature sides with those values that encourage divorce, breaking up, dissolution of marital or family ties. All of this is done in the name of growth, autonomy, and “continuing the flux” (1977, p. 83).

Extensive research by Elizabeth Marquardt, a scholar with the Institute for American Values, argues persuasively that there is no such thing as a “good” divorce, because children of divorce suffer psychologically and emotionally (2006). But then again, the second Manifesto prescribes care for children only to the degree that it seeks to indoctrinate them with the religion of secularism (see “Favorable Climate…,” 2000).

Family values are inconsistent with statements such as this: “[I]ndividuals should not be unduly restrained, restricted, or prohibited from exercising a wide range of personal choices. This includes…freedom to pursue one’s own lifestyle, so long as one does not prevent others from exercising their rights” (Kurtz, 2000, p. 47). Children need the near-constant attention of their parents, but what if the parents happen to be secular humanists who have their own agenda? Not to mention pre-born children who need care rather than destruction.

Where in secular humanism’s alleged “pro-family” stance might we fit the promotion of homosexuality (e.g., Kurtz, 2000, p. 48; Humanist Manifesto II, 1973, Section 6)? According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sinful practice (Romans 1:22-29; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; cf. Miller and Harrub, 2004). And, while biblical evidence against homosexuality would not faze a thoroughgoing secularist, it would seem that, because homosexuality also causes serious health risks and prohibits procreation (see Byrd, 2006), humanists would stand against homosexuality in the name of preserving human life and creating new families. Obviously, they do not.

Secular humanism, dedicated to the whim of individual humans, is antithetical to family values, regardless of the occasional lip-service humanists give to familial obligations. Webber summarized the issue:

The secular humanists…always seem to stand on the side of human freedom. They defend the right of the mother to abort her child; the right of the pornographer to promote and sell his smut; the right of homosexuals to teach their way of life in schools as a “neutral” option so students can make their own choices; and they campaign for the right to show X-rated movies, as well as the right to treat delicate sexual matters in a free and open way on TV, in the classroom, and in the theater. The danger of the secularist point of view is that it promotes a sick, narcissistic society in which no one thinks in terms of anything but “my” rights (1982, p. 49).

Secular humanists have lost sight of the need for balance between individual rights and personal responsibility.

Family vs. State

Shadia B. Drury wrote for the Council for Secular Humanism: “[C]onservatives are nostalgic for traditional societies in which the individual was buffered from the terrifying power of the state by ‘intermediate institutions’ such as the family and the church” (2007). Her implication is that, where the state is empowered by the majority of humans, it should possess unlimited authority over the family and even may (probably should!) eradicate the religious establishment. In effect, the state may impose its standard of truth, justice, and virtue as long as the majority has elected the decision-making officials.

The logical, practical fruit of humanism is tyranny. The 13th affirmation of the first Manifesto reveals that humanists are the sole regulators of “[t]he intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life…” (1933). The 14th affirmation gives insight concerning how this revolution might be accomplished: “The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted” (1933). Waggoner wrote: “The purpose and program of humanism is to evaluate, transform, control, and direct all associations and institutions. The state is the means by which such is accomplished—however, whenever, wherever, and in whatever areas the state may choose” (1988).

Secular humanism’s deference to the state has serious implications for families. If a government determines that families should be limited to two children, a position some are advocating for England’s families, then citizens would have a moral responsibility to comply (Vidal, 2007). China already imposes a one-child limit on its families (see Mcelroy, 2001). And, since the government has declared abortion legal in America, its citizens should support abortion rights fully. When a government determines to present all elementary school students with specifically atheistic indoctrination, then parents need to accept gratefully the new curriculum. If a government outlaws Christianity, then Christian families would be obligated to abandon their religion instantly, with no regrets. After all, the 1980 Declaration unveils democracy as the humanists’ vehicle for expunging theistic religion from society, and establishing humanism as the world religion. Examples of actual and potential governmental encroachments on families could be multiplied, and each would be consistent with the logical fruits of secular humanism.


Other than opportune popular consensus and perhaps “sentimental appeal to human experience,” secular humanism has no logical basis for calling human beings to care for one another in families, because each person is responsible only to fulfill his own self-determined purposes. As secular humanism positioned itself against the sanctity of life and traditional, biblical theism (see Colley, 2007a; Colley, 2007b), it proclaimed itself logically antithetical to the traditional, biblical family structure. It seeks to replace the family with the individual, as the basic unit of society. Quite simply, secular humanism offers no particular respect to nuclear families and their extended families, because social responsibility is not to one’s family, but to the whole world. Tragically, secular humanism’s values are destructive to everyone in the world who adopts them.

Secular humanism is an atheistic form of humanism. Has the time “passed for theism” (Humanist Manifesto I, 1933)? In 1982, Eternity published “A Christian Humanist Manifesto,” in which the authors attempted to give a Christian assessment of the value and purposes of humanity in response to secular humanism. In it, we read of the values that undergird the traditional family:

In contrast to secular humanism, therefore, Christian humanism does not hesitate to speak of absolute truth, goodness, beauty, love, morality, the sanctity of life, duty, fidelity, hope, and immortality. These are not empty religious sentiments, but the natural language of those who know even if partially, of their creation and redemption by a loving God.

This ideology is suited perfectly for families, because it stems from the One Who instituted marriage and the family in the long ago. He, not man, is the measure of all things.


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