Note: The following is a paper I wrote for a writing class at Texas A&M in 1986. I got a decent grade on the paper and then sent a copy to my friend Robert (Eddie) Shearer who responded in kind and kicked off the lengthy exchange that will follow.
Major Argument Paper
Since I came to college three years ago, I have been exposed to a wide variety of old and new ideas. One such idea that I have heard upon occasion is that modern science and technology are upon the verge of knowing all the answers to everything: that mankind no longer needs to look to a superior being or God for answers and can basically be his own God. God had simply been invented by ancient man to make up for his ignorance and now that science explains all things we can cast God aside. This is what I assume to be a definition of a belief called secular humanism. It is this belief that I will try to refute in this paper.
I called secular humanism a belief because I feel that it takes a certain amount of faith to believe in secular humanism the same as it takes faith to believe in God. I will use the term faith as an antonym for doubt. No person can have faith in all things and neither can doubt or deny all things. Having faith in or believing in one thing requires a denial of or doubting of something else. Usually this means doubting the opposite of what you believe in. My prime example of this is that a person who believes in God as the creator at the same time denies the atheistic idea of no creator. Likewise, an atheist who is denying God as the creator is putting his faith in the idea of no creator. When a person denies God, he is leaving a large empty space in his faith. Since he cannot deny everything, he must find something to put his faith into. A simple faith in the non-existence of God is not enough to fill the void. In the case of secular humanism, a large amount of faith has been placed in science.
Science was originally intended to be the study of God's creation and for many scientists today that is still the case. (Frost, 1962). Science was the means to finding the answer, but for secular humanists science has become the answer. Albert Einstein felt that science and religion should go hand in hand when he said "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." (Mead, p.367).
George Washington had similar ideas when he said "Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other." (Mead, p.374). I think that there are two points to be made here. First is that blind faith is not good and should be accompanied with reason and second is that science requires a certain amount of faith to be believable.
C.S. Lewis in his book The Joyful Christian talks about how his argument against God could not hold up against his own personal scrutinazation. His argument was that there was no God because the world was so cruel and unjust. He then wondered that if this was so, where had he got his idea of just and unjust? A man doesn't call a line crooked, he reasoned, unless he has some sense of what a straight line looks like. If the whole show is bad from A to Z, how does he who is part of the show find himself in such violent reaction to it all? A man feels wet, he reasoned, when thrown into water because he is not a water animal while a fish would not feel wet. Another analogy that he uses is that if the whole universe has no meaning we should not have found out that it has no meaning, just as if there was no light in the universe and thus no creatures with eyes, we should never know that it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. (Lewis, 1977). C.S. Lewis, who for many years was an atheist, became one of the leading Christian apologists of his time. A similar switch had taken place with the apostle Paul in the New Testament. Lewis' decision had been made using reason as well as faith. Blind faith is faith that is not supported with reason. At the same time, I would argue that there is such a thing as blind reason, or reason that is not supported by faith in something. That is just as bad.
A person who thinks that they can reason everything out without having faith in something has probably not thought about it enough. Immanuel Kant, famous philosopher and author of Critique of Reason, said "There is a limit where the intellect fails and breaks down, and this limist is where the questions concerning God and free will and immortality arise." (Mead, p.134). Also in this line of thought is Sir Francis Bacon who said "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds to religion." (Mead, p.10). My point is that reason without faith is just as inadequate as faith without reason.
As I said earlier, secular humanists try to fill the gap left in their faith from a denial of God by placing all their faith in science. Though I have a great respect for science and feel that it is a good thing, I think it falls far short of explaining all things. Today, science can tell you how almost everything is but it cannot tell you why. I believe that why is an important question. If there is no reason whey then how is it we have the ability to contemplate why? Today science can oversimplify everything into forces and energy. There are four distinct types of forces and energy can exist in the pure form or as matter, but basically that is it. We have taken this basic stuff and given it names (gravity, magnetism, strong force, weak force, energy, etc.) and can tell how it will work under certain circumstances but we still do not know the why. Not knowing why this basic stuff works means that we cannot explain why about a lot of things; for example, we really cannot explain why it rains unless we know why gravity works. Science by itself is inadequate in filling the gap left by a denial of God.
Is it more reasonable to have faith in science or faith in God? What are the consequences of a complete faith in science? That man is mortal? That life is meaningless? That ethics and morals are only around for convenience sake. That your goal in life should be to try and make yourself as deliriously happy as possible because once you die it is all over. That trying to make other people happy is a waste of time unless it directly affects you. That in the end it really doesn't matter how you spend your life, whether you are a millionaire or a mass murderer doesn't make any difference. That you are an incredibly insignificant fluke of nature. That the whole world could blow up the day after you die and it wouldn't matter to you one way or the other.
Friedrich Nietzsche thought this concept all the way through and established his philosophy of nihilism shortly before he had a mental breakdown. (Kung, 1981). It is a dreary and hopeless philosophy that doesn't make very much sense. It basically tries to deny all things and fails to answer the question why.
Sir Francis Bacon felt that without God man is not worth much. "They that deny a God destroy man's nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature." (Mead, p.456).
Bacon is not alone in his opinion, Napoleon Bonaparte said "You think you are too intelligent to believe in God. I am not like you. Not everyone who wishes to be is an atheist." (Mead, p.437). Voltaire thought that "Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent people." (Mead, p.13). Going back to the need to have faith in something, H.G. Wells said "The religion of the atheist has a God-shaped blank at its heart." (Mead, p. 13).
The modern humanist must look back and wonder at all the great men of the past who were duped into believing in God. He must sit back with satisfaction and think that he is much smarter than they for he has found that the answer to all things is that there is no answer. If he is really satisfied with that then God help him.
Frost, S.F., Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, New York, 1962.
Kung, Hans, Does God Exist?, Vintage Books, New York, 1981.
Lewis, C.S., The Joyful Christian, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York, 1977.
Mead, Frank S., ed. The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, Fleming H. Revell Co., New Jersey, 1975.