Creationist Wisdom #125: Secular Humanism

WE present to you, dear reader, a letter-to-the-editor titled Atheists’ view not realistic, which appears in the Anderson Independent-Mail of Anderson, South Carolina. We’ll copy most of today’s letter, omitting the writer’s name and city, adding some bold for emphasis and our Curmudgeonly commentary between the paragraphs. Here we go:

The worldview of atheism is secular humanism.

We keep encountering references that belief, so we had to look it up. Wikipedia leads off by saying that secular humanism is “a humanist philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making.”

That’s all we know at this point, but it doesn’t sound very menacing. In fact, it sounds like Thomas Jefferson’s belief system. Let’s read on:

In 1957, two secular humanist organizations were defined by a U.S. court as religious organizations and granted tax-exempt status.

That probably refers to two separate decisions in two separate courts. The first is Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda — a state court case dealing with California’s real estate taxes. The appellate court decided that the Fellowship’s meeting house was entitled to an exemption from city and county property taxes because its activities were analogous to those of a church. The letter-writer claims that the organization was defined as a religious organization. That’s not at all true.

The other 1957 case to which the letter-writer refers is probably Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia. It’s another real estate tax-exemption case, with the same result as the California case.

The reason creationists are obsessed with such decisions — aside from the perceived insult of sharing their valuable tax-exempt status with the ungodly — goes something like this:

[Creationist mode begins.] If atheist organizations can enjoy the same tax-free status as churches, why then — by golly — they’re churches too! And that means if any of their gull-durned atheistic science is taught in public schools, then — by golly, by gum — that violates the separation of church and state. So if the atheists get to teach their godless science, then — by cracky — we can teach creationism! [Creationist mode ends.]

That’s the “reasoning” they go through. Isn’t creationism fun?

Your Curmudgeon’s response is twofold: First, the public schools are in the business of teaching science, and creationism doesn’t qualify. Period. It’s imbecilic to argue that a group’s municipal tax-exemption is decisive as to whether that group’s beliefs are scientific or theocratic. Second, either all property should be taxed or none should be. Period. All property benefits from police and fire protection. The roads provide access to all property. So we say let them all pay — or none, which is even better. If, however, politicians pander to churches and give them a tax break, then … well, they’re going to be stuck with attempting to justify their favoritism by making arcane theocratic distinctions between the way various organizations use their properties. It’s silly stuff.

But enough of that. Let’s continue with today’s letter:

To ask taxpaying citizens who believe in a creator to tolerate censorship of their views in a public school is unreasonable. When schools want to speculate on the origin of existence, if teachings on intelligent design and creationism are excluded, I don’t call it an education.

Okay, that’s what the letter-writer thinks. Here’s more:

No atheist is all knowing, therefore there is much he doesn’t know.

Oooooooh! That was good. Any more like that?

For an atheist to arbitrarily decide there is no creator might be what he wants, but is it realistic?

Huh? Is Noah’s Ark realistic? Never mind — let’s just move along:

No scientist has ever produced or observed something from nothing or life from non-life, nor disproved the laws of thermodynamics. Since there is something and there is life and it is orderly and extremely complex, to believe this all accidentally evolved from nothing is a bizarre leap of faith.

Aaaargh!! On with the letter:

If an atheist conforms to the mores of society because he believes it to be in his own self-interest, it does not make him moral.

Whaaaa? Self-interest is immoral? Anyway, here’s the end of the letter:

The test of his morality will be when society becomes destructive of human life in whatever stage of growth or he is put in a position of power. How will he react?

[Writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.]

There you are, dear reader. If you can figure this one out, we salute you.

Update: See Creationist Wisdom #128: Secular Humanism 2.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #125: Secular Humanism

  1. seanwillsalt

    No atheist is all knowing, therefore there is much he doesn’t know.

    *slaps self on forehead*

    Wow, I’ve never thought of that before! I can’t believe I thought all atheists were omniscient for so many years…I guess atheism is dead now.

    Seriously, do people think these things through at all before they write them?

  2. It all goes back to Plato.

    In Republic, Plato offers a critique of social-contract theory in a thought-experiment called “the Ring of Gyges.” He argues that if we think of morality as based entirely on adherence to convention as a result of self-interest, then people will cease to act morally if they think they can get away with doing so. Plato goes on to argue in Republic that morality is the health of the soul, and that the soul is healthy only if it has the right kind of orientation towards things that are intrinsically, rather than instrumentally, valuable. (That’s where all the business about the Forms comes in.)

    Now, the thing about social-contract theory is that it assumes that all parties to the contract are approximately equal in power (that is, although some are stronger, others are smarter, etc. so it all balances out). It’s because no one can prevail in the war of all against all that rational self-interest motivates the formation of contracts and the transfer of some rights to the sovereign (or to the legislature). If there are vast differences in power, then — if one is motivated solely by rational self-interest — one will not feel compelled to act morally. And the letter-writer assumes that rational self-interest is the only basis an atheist can have for acting morally.

    It seems to me that anti-atheists assume that atheists are all Hobbesians, and it seems never to occur to them that an atheist could be a Lockean or even a Kantian. They set up a false dichotomy between Hobbes and Aquinas, not recognizing the immense variety of alternatives — most of which fall under the umbrella of “The Enlightenment.”

  3. Carl Sachs says:

    It seems to me that anti-atheists assume that atheists are all Hobbesians …

    They imagine that the only behavior in one’s self-interest is thievery — a debased outlook indeed. But it’s in everyone’s self-interest to live in a society where there are no thieves, and no one violates the rights of anyone else. The few who think otherwise should be locked up.

  4. “If an atheist conforms to the mores of society because he believes it to be in his own self-interest, it does not make him moral. ”

    The counter is of course, if a theist conforms to the mores of society because he thinks an invisible sky person is going to do bad things to them when they are dead, it does not make him moral either. Its a little frightening to think of all the mass murdering psychopaths theists that say they are held in check by a rather flimsy and inconsistent belief system.

  5. No atheist is all knowing, therefore there is much he doesn’t know.

    The author appears to be quoting deleted dialogue from an early screenplay for the character “the Sphinx” from the film Mystery Men…..

  6. That’s all we know at this point, but it doesn’t sound very menacing. In fact, it sounds like Thomas Jefferson’s belief system.

    There you go! He’s that hippie Marxist liberal that that the Texas SBOE so wisely trimmed out of portions of the social studies curriculum!

  7. Curmy,
    While I appreciate your efforts to expose Cretards for the idiots they are, a much greater assault on liberty is going on in Washington right now.

  8. The Gadfly says:

    … a much greater assault on liberty is going on in Washington right now.

    I know. According to Fox’s website, the House claims 212 out of 216 votes needed. Nothing I can do about it except watch the Republic go down the drain.

  9. “…a much greater assault on liberty…”?
    Sigh. BS. That our republic in action. That is how it works.

  10. “…a much greater assault on liberty…”?
    Sigh. BS. That is our republic in action. That is how it works.

    And a social conservative would say that the same thing about the Texas SBOE fracas.

  11. “And a social conservative would say that the same thing about the Texas SBOE fracas.”

    Also nonetheless true. So is our reaction to it.

  12. “And a social conservative would say that the same thing about the Texas SBOE fracas.”

    Also nonetheless true. So is our reaction to it.

    The other issues are not my area of expertise, but I would argue that some of the board’s actions contravene the First Amendment with respect to the Lemon Test, specifically where evolution education and the “Christian Nation” revisionism come into play.

  13. Carl Sachs says:

    And a social conservative would say that the same thing about the Texas SBOE fracas.

    Yes, and the SBOE and Congress are both ignoring their oath to uphold the Constitution (which they don’t understand anyway).

  14. retiredsciguy

    To all above arguing about Congress and the health care bill — I don’t know if it represents the end of the republic, a great assault on liberty, or just business as usual. What I do know is that not one of our representives or senators can honestly say they understand everything in the 2,700-odd pages of the bill, nor the consequences of its passage.

    How about a constitutional amendment that would require each representative and senator to pass a multiple-choice test on each bill before they are allowed to cast their vote?

    Sure would simplify every bill’s language!

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    I’ve a better one:

    No person shall serve more than two terms in the House of Representatives. No person shall serve more than one term in the Senate.

    Entrenched incumbency is, I think, the problem. Take care of that and the rest will follow.

    It will still be possible to make a career in politics, but not at the national level, except for people of extraordinary ability.