Fifty Shades of Humanism

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The Times Leader — a newspaper from the Northeastern Pennsylvania area — frequently contains letters to the editor from local readers who expostulate about what they consider to be the evils of homosexuality, abortion, healthcare, President Obama, gay marriage, and much more while insisting that the main problem in the United States is godlessness.

One of today’s letters to the editor, “Immorality unraveling our traditional values,” is quite a treat. Letter writer Walter Camier insists that a “disregard for morality” and a “nation no longer guided by the Ten Commandments and the moral law, but rather by the whims and edicts of socialists and liberal humanists” is “breaking down America.”

Among Camier’s other grievances are “Fifty Shades of Grey” being a New York Times bestseller, cannibalistic acts, sexting, students “seek[ing] approval in the wrong places from their classmates and teachers,” and seemingly rampant sexual abuse in schools.

While “Fifty Shades of Grey” might indeed be responsible for, as Camier says, “society unraveling,” he takes some time to address humanism. He writes,

Humanism strives to impose on mankind a human type and style of life opposed to the hierarchical order that God established. It seeks to level society and make it as dissimilar to God as possible. While creating laws that promote and support immorality and the erosion of our constitutional rights, these humanists are slowly watering down our culture and traditional values. And if we don’t stem the tide soon, it will lead to the total evaporation of the America we once knew.

Might a moral system in which God establishes moral truths ensure a good society?

Many fans of philosophy are aware of a short dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro which contains one of the best challenges to an ethics established by God. Translated to modern terms, the question posed in the dialogue is as follows: is an action moral because God endorses it or is an action moral because it is endorsed by God?

If an action is moral because God endorses it, it appears to be the case that morality is arbitrary because God could endorse any sort of action such as killing babies for fun. Since killing babies for fun is not a moral action — and an all-loving being may not endorse an immoral action — there appears to be an external standard which determines whether an action is moral.

Humanists, without dabbling in philosophy, may also challenge the so-called moral authority of God as displayed in the Bible (or other religious texsts). Surely an all-loving being — just for starters — would not be responsible for flooding the earth, commanding people to murder, and establishing rules for slavery.

Concerning matters of morality, humans are left to determine — although particular matters may be difficult — what is right and wrong through careful reasoning and reflection. Humans have made a great deal of progress contrary to standards set forth in the Bible. Many religious believers, when reading the Bible, ‘bring their own morality’ to the text determining which passages are moral thereby demonstrating that what is said in the Bible is not the final word on morality.

Messages that are said to be from God — especially when they contain immoral recommendations — seem to be quite unconvincing of any divine authorship. The Dutch metal band Epica, in their song “Cry for the Moon,” has a great lyric to close this post,

Don’t try to convince me with messages from God. You accuse us of sins committed by yourselves. It’s easy to condemn without looking in the mirror. Behind the scenes opens reality.


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