Could atheism be anti-humanistic?
Yesterday ScottinOH wrote a comment asking, among other things, about the love of God. He wrote,
Jesus’s short-term self-sacrifice (and God the Father’s short-term sacrifice of His Son) is only laudable in the sense that a mob boss or an abuser “sacrifices” something in order to convince himself not to blow up a business or hit his wife. The whole game is about God’s/Jesus’s self-interest.
Now in answer to that, I could ask Scott, “Do you really see God that way?” But I know the answer to that already. He’s stated his position, confidently and clearly. I have another question for him: “Do you really see Christians that way?”
Which way is that, you wonder? Let me put Scott’s statement in a broader context, and I think you’ll see what I’m getting at.
For centuries upon centuries, Christians have worshiped God for his love, they have written about his love, they have studied and philosophized about his love, and they have quoted from the Bible, God is love. All these many years, they’ve pointed to the Cross of Christ as the chief example of God’s love.
They’ve had it all wrong. All of them. From the beginning.
For all their study, their philosophizing, and their devotion, none of them realized what’s clear to me: “The whole game is about God’s/Jesus’s self interest.” God is no more loving than a mob boss or a spouse abuser.
You see, Scott’s statement—as confident as he is in it, and as black-and-white as he communicates it—isn’t just about God and Jesus, it’s about Christians down through the centuries. He seems quite sure we’ve all gotten it wrong: millions upon millions of us have gotten it wrong. We’ve been fooled. In fact, we’re fairly idiotic: billions of us, actually in the world today and in times past, including many of the greatest philosophers, scientists, novelists, poets, musicians, and artists who have ever lived. For all the attention we’ve given to it, we’ve never even noticed that where we thought God’s love was most genuinely demonstrated, that’s where it was most obviously a sham.
So Scott, I ask you now, Do you really see Christians that way?
I’ve heard this kind of thing from other atheists on other topics including shellfish and stonings. I hope Scott will answer and speak for himself. Meanwhile, though, I want to enlarge the context around the issue, to explore the question I raised at the beginning: could atheism be anti-humanistic?
I don’t know how many atheists would describe themselves as humanists. I know the contemporary humanist movement is overwhelmingly atheistic, but I’m not sure it works the same the other way around. I don’t know about Scott’s views on humanism, specifically. I’m not even sure Scott would call himself an atheist, but he has at least opened the door for me to raise a broader question.
Humanism wasn’t always the secular movement it is today. There was a time when it was chiefly marked by its love and respect for humanity, culture, and learning, especially that which came out of the classical age of Greece and Rome. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), the “Prince of the Humanists,” was a priest who never wavered in his belief in God and in Christ, and who employed his classical learning in the production of a Greek New Testament. This humanism was neither anti-Christian nor pro-atheism.
Scott’s position seems anti-humanist in those terms. You see, either he is unaware of the long, deep, rich heritage of Christian discourse on the love of God at the Cross, which is to deny ages of human scholarship; or else he considers vast, vast numbers of his fellow human beings to be total and completely moronic for not seeing what’s obvious to him—even though we’ve been gazing at it, collectively, for centuries.
I’m not just speaking of Scott, but also of those who think they can find plain, obvious idiocy in Christianity. To hold that position is either to be careless or ignorant about the old knowledge, or else to hold an astonishingly negative view of billions of one’s fellow human beings.
Isn’t that anti-humanistic of them? If not, then how should we view it otherwise?
(For those who want to know, I have a direct answer to Scott’s view of God and the Cross in my free ebook What is Christianity?.)