JULY 4, 2020
It may serve all of us well if we know that “humanism” originated not as a religion of its own but as a brake on religious zealotry.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, when most of the European population accepted one religious creed or another, European intellectuals (Humanists) fashioned limits on religion that intelligent religious leaders eventually accepted, i.e., that religious claims are subject to limits, and the “limits” are the “Natural Law.” The Humanists, many of them religiously observant themselves, argued that religious excesses (witch burnings, torture, pogroms, forced conversions and the like) were inimical to a serious sense of justice and humanity, that all religious claims are subject to them, and that activity that violates them is illicit.
Not all Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and others accepted those limits. Some refuse to accept them today, but most believers of the three great world religions do accept them.
For a legion of reasons that this random comment cannot explain or even grasp, 21 First Century Americans are not nearly as religiously committed as their European forebears. In fact, among today’s intellectuals (the Moderns and those aligned with them) serious religious commitment is anti-intellectual and suspect. Yet, Modernism has its catechism of beliefs (economic fairness, global warming, race consciousness being three).
One sees, moreover, among these Moderns, especially when they support those who take to the streets with varying measures of violence, an unwillingness to allow natural law to limit their claims. In fact, contrary to the Humanist tradition, Moderns see Natural Law itself as a religious device to limit efforts to achieve human freedom.
Today, sadly, many see the Humanists’ efforts to impose the Natural Law on religions, as a product of religious beliefs and, therefore, a matter of private ordering and not a matter for limiting social behavior. This might be a good time to see more folks committing them selves to Humanism