Friday, May 03, 2019

Is Secular Humanism a Religion?

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist professor Jerry Coyne likes to say that science disproves religion, and he hates those who say that some religious beliefs are compatible with facts and science. For example:
In general I like the articles in Quillette: they’re generally left-wing but also critical of the Left’s excesses — a theme that has led some misguided ideologues to call the site “alt-right.” But this time the editors screwed up ...
1.) “The first is the belief in invisible or hidden beings, worlds and processes — like God, heaven, miracles, reincarnation, and the soul. All these are unverifiable, or unseen and unseeable, except by mystics under special and generally unrepeatable conditions. Since absence of evidence is not, logically, evidence of absence, these features of religion are neither true nor false, but simply unprovable. They have no implications for action, hence no bearing on legal matters.” ...

2.) “The second element are claims about the real world: every religion, especially in its primordial version, makes claims that are essentially scientific — assertions of fact that are potentially verifiable. ...

3.) “The third property of a religion are its rules for action — prohibitions and requirements — its morality. ... Secular humanism lacks any reference to the supernatural and defers matters of fact to science. But it is as rich in moral rules, in dogma, as any religion.
That reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould’s weaselly reconciliation between science and religion in his book Rocks of Ages. In that book, Gould’s NOMA Hypothesis was that science is about finding the facts of the universe, while religion’s bailiwick is meaning, morals, and values. ... Gould was wrong, and so is Staddon. Why did the editors of Quillette publish this odiferous serving of tripe?
Coyne accepts this definition of religion, but it is largely a Christian view, as it is based heavily on beliefs.

Beliefs are not so important in Judaism and Islam. People are born as Jews or Moslems, and that is what they are, regardless of their beliefs.

Moslems get killed if they leave the religion. Coyne is Jewish by heritage, and therefore identifies with Jews somewhat, but he does follow any of the Judaism theological beliefs.

Coyne does not even believe in free will. If he did, he would probably be a Trump supporter. But he has an innate visceral rejection of Trump.

Theologians are usually able to explain their beliefs, even if they rely partially or wholly on revelation. Today's leftist secular humanists are extremely dogmatic in their beliefs, and have no better explanations.

Quilette has published Coyne's rebuttal:
First, the diversity of morality among secular humanists is far wider than that of followers of a given religion: beyond adherence to the Golden Rule, secular humanists vary dramatically in what they consider moral. ...

Further, much of a religion’s morality, as Maarten Boudry and I argued, derives directly or indirectly from its supernatural claims. ...

Finally, unlike secular morality, religious morality largely comes from interpreting what is God’s will—sometimes in the problematic “divine command theory” stating that whatever God says is good is good. In contrast, the morality of secular humanists derives from rational consideration about how we ought to act—principles based largely on reason but ultimately grounded on a secular preference (i.e., “I prefer a society in which individuals do what maximizes well-being.”). Once consequentialist preferences like this one are established, empirical study, aka science, can then help us decide how to act.
I dispute these arguments. Christians are more or less evenly divided between right-wingers and left-wingers. But those who call themselves secular humanists are overwhelmingly leftist.

The secular humanists may say that they are maximizing well-being and following empiricial study, but I really doubt that there are any empirical studies showing that secular humanists maximize well-being any more than Christians.

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