Saturday, September 20, 2014

The humanist delusion: denying the cat

People often maintain that atheists are necessarily going to be humanists. Atheist Luke Muehlhauser disagrees, but his complaint seems to be about the implied speciesism. 

I have a different kind of issue. I think that, historically, when people cease to believe in God, they often come to accept a kind of unjustified confidence in humans and human nature. The best example I can think of is Marx. Marx somehow thought that, in a godless world, the"dialectic of matter" would lead naturally, without divine interference, to the human race evolving a perfect classless and stateless society. It was like a replacement for the Christian Kingdom of God, but with no God to bring it in. 

Or let's look at Humanist Manifesto II, which supposedly was the chastened replacement for the original Humanist Manifesto, after Hitler and Stalin had wreaked enormous damage on the world. But in that Manifesto they wrote: 

TWELFTH: We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world community in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world law and a world order based upon transnational federal government.  (Italics mine) This would appreciate cultural pluralism and diversity. It would not exclude pride in national origins and accomplishments nor the handling of regional problems on a regional basis. Human progress, however, can no longer be achieved by focusing on one section of the world, Western or Eastern, developed or underdeveloped. For the first time in human history, no part of humankind can be isolated from any other. Each person's future is in some way linked to all. We thus reaffirm a commitment to the building of world community, at the same time recognizing that this commits us to some hard choices.

And that would mean the advent to TRS, the Transnational Revenue Service, to fund the transnational federal government? Good luck with that!

This kind of humanistic gullibility deserves the Strait answer: 

I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
From my front porch you can see the sea.
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
If you'll buy that, I'll throw the golden gate in free.

If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.
-- G.K Chesterton, Orthodoxy

4 comments:

B. Prokop said...

I know of a (quite pretty) song by John Lennon they can play in the background while reciting their manifesto.

Dan Gillson said...

" I think that, historically, when people cease to believe in God, they often come to accept a kind of unjustified confidence in humans and human nature. The best example I can think of is Marx. Marx somehow thought that, in a godless world, the"dialectic of matter" would lead naturally, without divine interference, to the human race evolving a perfect classless and stateless society. It was like a replacement for the Christian Kingdom of God, but with no God to bring it in." ... You're forgetting about a historical philosophy which was decisively atheistic and anti-humanistic. The philosophies of Nietzsche, Sartre, and Foucault were all incredibly mistrustful of humanism. Your philosophical history ignores important minority voices.

Ilíon said...

Chesterton: "If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

I take "denying the cat" to mean denying that there is something morally untoward about a man feeling exquisite happiness in skinning a cat (presumably while it is still alive). In that light, it seems to me that "the atheist" *also* denies the cat. For, after all, how can there be anything morally untoward about a man feeling exquisite happiness in skinning a (living) cat if that man has no transcendent moral obligations in the first place?

Ilíon said...

"People often maintain that atheists are necessarily going to be humanists. Atheist Luke Muehlhauser disagrees, but his complaint seems to be about the implied speciesism."

The funny thing about humanism is that it started as a revolt against the "indignity" of the Judeo-Christian conception of man as created in the image of God and being "a little lower than the angels", and ends with a revolt against the very concept that humans have any inherent dignity. So, from being "a little lower than the angels", we made out to be "quite a bit lower than the animals".