Friday, January 16, 2009

Is Secular Humanism a Religion

Or the lack of a religion?


Jim Jordan said...

It's a religion.

Preston said...

A lack of religion; of course, that doesn't mean that there can't be dogmatic secular humanists. Calling secular humanism a religion is just a common rhetorical tool to undermine the secular humanist's criticisms of religion.

Russ said...

Hi Victor,
This is really not relevant to your post topic, but I wanted to inform you of a chess related item of note. Your "chess blog" seems to have so little activity that I venture to make note of it here.

The founder of the Lansing Chess Club, in Lansing, MI, "Van" Vandenburg, died recently at the age of 104. He founded the club in 1944 so those coming home from the war would have something to do. Van served as the club president until he was 96 and continued to support the club activities financially until his death.

If you are interested, more can be read on the Lansing State Journal site at

Russ said...

Regarding your post topic, "Is Secular Humanism a Religion," could you, Victor Reppert the philosopher, please put all of us potential commenters on the same page by providing a detailed unambiguous definition of "religion." For expediency's sake please give us the same precise definition which is, no doubt, employed by philosophers and theologians everywhere, due solely to the fact that it avoids any and all confusion owing to "religion" meaning different things to different people.

Thank you,


RichardBarnes said...

Secular humanism is a philosophical point of view. It becomes a religion anytime anyone at all puts its principles into practice. Whether or not individuals practice secular humanism is without doubt. Whether it is formally practiced as a religion by some is probably also without doubt. That one values the principles of secular humanism and puts them into practice in one's own daily life doesn't necessarily mean one is a member of an official secular humanist religion. I suspect individuals do the same with secular humanism that they do in any other philosophy put into practice - they may be religious about their beliefs, however, they may be hit and miss in their actual participation in a formalized religion. In general, and especially in the United States, people love their privacy and their liberty to choose their own way. Institutionalized philosophies inevitably become dictatorial. I cannot immediately see that happening among secular humanists but, I hold to my previous statement which is why I reject formalized secular humanism in favor of adherence to its principles on my own terms.

In my mind, that is the only authentic sort of religion - one borne of one's own experiences, beliefs, values, goals - tailor-made to them and continually evolving. Philosophies and their practices must be individually designed else they become cookie-cutter which ignores the essential truth that every individual is different from every other and, in any event, their experiences cannot be precisely had or duplicated by others. Unless your philosophy and associated practices are chosen BY you, they are someone else's and thus not ideally suited to you personally. Your public religion can, at times, be quite different from your REAL religion. I believe this is why there are decent people in incredibly erroneous and illogical religions and very bad people who nonetheless profess philosophies and practices that make a good deal of sense.

Is secular humanism a religion? The best answer is, it can be, but don't look for one specific set of practices to call "secular humanism" across the board. None such exists ... not even in traditional religions. That belief is an illusion. Individuals can practice similar religions, however, no two individuals practice the SAME religion. That's quite impossible.