Historical Roots of Secular Humanism

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Roots of Secular Humanism |  What are the roots of secular humanism? Where do they come from and why should they matter to Christians? Listen as Father David explains the roots and how this humanism has entered the lives of those even in the church. | #podcast #christianpodcast #christiantruth @secularhumanism #CatholicPodcastHistorical Roots of Secular Humanism ~ Episode 35

What are the roots of secular humanism? Where do they come from and why should they matter to Christians? Listen as Father David explains the roots and how this humanism has entered the lives of those even in the church.

The stress and process of the current pandemic place many unexpected challenges in our lives that are not always easy to handle. Shutting down of churches, government mandates, confusing reports, fear of infection, and lastly our own personal faith responses to name just a few. We did not just arrive at this cultural dilemma recently; this societal breakdown has been coming for some time. What are some of the significant movements that have contributed to our current “state of affairs”?

Roots of Secular Humanism

What are the roots of Secular Humanism? It begins in Europe.

In Europe, in the 17th and 18th centuries, a major movement emerged entitled the Enlightenment. This social event happened in strong reaction against the mandates, prescriptions, and controls of Christian belief systems, especially Catholicism. For some academic professionals, this was an honest attempt to search for the truth beyond the rules and regulations of current society. Acting against the societal faith norms in control, it eventually led to an abandonment of essential established ways of life producing a complicated ferment against the peaceful balance of the age. In short, it consisted of an aggressive attempt to separate the principles and values of humanism from their Christian foundations. This movement emphasized a purely scientific and rational approach to human realities and the truths of life.

The Enlightenment held and promoted an exclusive approach to truth that did away with biblical revelation, supernatural beliefs, the Ten Commandments, and no need for God to live a moral, meaningful, truth-filled way of life. If God remained in the picture He was pushed off to the outer margins of existence. Of course, the Church soundly resisted this movement, sometimes violently. This movement impacted all the domains of human reality. Specifically, in the French Revolution, its aggressive momentum ignited the fire of violent rebellion against the Catholic Church. Bishops, Priests, religious, and many laypeople were brutely put to death. Even though several Popes and Church leaders proclaimed their errors this philosophy of life caught on significantly affecting the thinking and lifestyle of Europeans, and by the way made major inroads in the emerging way of life of many Americans.

The European brand of the Enlightenment influential among the French tended to fuel the thinking and ideals of the Foundering Fathers of our Country, along with the ideas of Deism. The beginnings of the American ideals, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were encouraged by France who supported the Founding Fathers in their efforts to be free from English domination. The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France. Benjamin Franklin made frequent lengthy visits to France. He was very comfortable with the more modern view of an enlightened life and personally espoused those principles in his lifestyle. Many of our Fathers really held the belief system of Deism, which is the core of the Unitarian faith. This religion holds to faith in unity in the One God, however, we are left to develop a humanistic spiritual or religious way of life without any or very little demands on the individual. One is pretty much free to carve out a good and moral life stance by humanistic efforts alone while placing our efforts in deciding our own truth about life or one’s self enlightened humanism. Thus, the principles and values of the Enlightenment and Deism infiltrated the spirit and reasoning of our Nation.

Over a relativity short period of time, the spirit, principles, and values of enlightened human liberalism captured the social atmosphere, the thinking, and development of “the American Dream.” Wealth, and attitudes of comfort, affluence, scientific advancement, social, and economic control infused and infiltrated the American way of life. Over the last seventy years, these accepted and promoted realities have nurtured and matured in our society expanding and deepening among the peoples of our Country. All the while infiltrating the minds, hearts, and relationships of our citizens and our young people and subtlety producing a new religious or spiritual humanism called secularism humanism.

Secular Humanism is a world view and way of life. It believes God is not necessary to be moral. As a spiritual state of being it presumes that human beings are capable of being ethical or moral without being religious or believing in a deity. Along with this is an understanding and conviction that secular humanism is a way of life that continually adapts searching for truth through science and human experience and various philosophies. It consists of a world view that is primarily concerned with the promotion of human welfare in this world. Secular humanism denies the subordination of human dignity and happiness to supernatural realities. It would reject religious faith and hold distrust in absolutes when they are religiously proposed, rejecting moral absolutes in any form. Our moral sense of which concluded in a blind alley leading to mental confusion. Secular humanism would lead to moral relativism, ethical bankruptcy, and religious indifference.

In the later part of the 19th Century, secular humanism emerged in the world and specifically in the Church as a movement entitled Modernism. It was a strong effort to liberalize the “tight” laws, principles, and practices of Catholic life. The Popes of the time engaged in an aggressive effort to eliminate its influence from Catholic life. Pius X took a fearful shut down approach to this invasive cultural influence. Leo XIII who followed him in the Papacy was more open to defeat this cultural disintegration by opening the doors to evaluation, study, and constructive adaptation. This approach encouraged an intellectual reassessment of scripture, liturgical development, and a review of pastoral theological considerations. This was an honest attempt to curtail the negative effects of the Enlightenment and its brainchild modernistic secular humanism. Some would say that this effort would unintentionally open the door for its advancement in the 20th Century and its 21st Century maturation. For example, a case where a prominent official publicly referring to the grace of God while supporting and promoting the practice of abortion and the enterprises of Planned Parenthood.

Roots of Secular Humanism started long ago.

Years of study and planning transpired before Pope John XXIII announced the opening of Vatican II in 1961, which concluded in 1965. The Documents of the Council are a sound presentation of teaching designed to move the Church into a fresh authentic adaption of the Church in the modern world. The aftermath in the Church a major struggle. Pope Paul the VI did his best to steer the ship in a positive and fruitful direction, but the inroads of the Enlightenment and Modernism caused controversies so that this positive effort would not be the case. Eventually, confusion, reaction, and misrepresentations emerged, which we still suffer from today with even an increased intensity. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI firmly promoted a “hermeneutic of continuity” as a standard for the implementation of the authentic traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is committed to the teaching and values of Vatican Council II. His approach appears to be on an emphasis to adapt the Council’s teaching to the areas in the Church and world where human life is taking place, and where justices are ignored, and the poor suffer the consequences. Therefore, without compromising authentic traditional Catholic teaching he attempts to move the Church where human life is happening. In this regard, he appears to be a supporter of meaningful and just socialism. Obviously, this approach is not going down well with some members of the Church led by some members of the hierarchy. This opposition has become an intense battle that has reached the position of a new scandal. It has become a complicated mess. This battle has some relationship to society’s struggle and adherence to the pseudo-spirituality and religiosity of contemporary secular humanism. Pope Francis’s hesitation to present clear Catholic moral teaching, especially in the areas of sexuality and family life is very upsetting to some sincere members of the Catholic Church. This concern needs significant attention.

May we ourselves do a life review to discern if we have been influenced, adopted, or caved into some aspects of the religion and spirituality of secular humanism; even if we unintentionally ingested these discordant values to some degree into the ambient, environment, or culture of our American life.


  1. Ruthayn Tickerhoof says

    The Catholic Church should always uphold it’s doctrines. However, we are all sinners and will never be perfect. In the scriptures, Jesus forgave sinners but confronted the self righteous. In the end we will all answer for how we loved.

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