U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Is Secular Humanism a Religion?

Most historians who study the modern Christian Right discuss, to some extent, how religious conservatives replaced the communist Great Satan with another bogeyman, “Secular Humanism,” a phrase common to the religious right lexicon from the 1970s on. For example, Daniel K. Williams, in his new book, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right, dedicates a sub-section of his chapter on the “Culture Wars in the Carter Years” to “Concerns about ‘Secular Humanism’ in Education.” Williams notes that religious conservatives did not focus on humanism when it first organized in 1941 under the auspices of John Dewey’s American Humanist Association (although, as I show in my book, they certainly focused their ire on Dewey’s educational philosophy). Williams continues: “Yet when social conservatives became concerned about changes in school curricula in the late 1960s, they decided that objectionable programs such as sex education and values clarification classes might be an attempt by the National Education Association and, in the words of conservative Catholic journalist John Steinbacher, John Dewey’s ‘coterie of sycophantic followers’ to ‘make good little Humanists out of the kids’.”

But despite such cursory attention to the problem of secular humanism, historians rarely take religious conservative thought about secular humanism very seriously. In other words, what we need is an intellectual history of the Christian Right’s critique of secular humanism. We need this because such a critique has formed the intellectual basis and legal strategy of the Christian Right’s struggles over public education since the 1970s. We need this because doing justice to the Christian Right’s argument allows us to better understand the movement. And we need this because, as I will seek to make clear in my conclusion, the Christian Right’s critique of secular humanism obliquely reveals a major blind spot of contemporary progressive education.

Influenced by the 1970s writings of Francis Schaeffer, Rousas John Rushdoony, and Tim LaHaye, the Christian Right argued that the public schools were in violation of the First Amendment because the schools established an official religion: secular humanism. Yep, that’s right, they contended secular humanism, though atheistic, evinced all the traits of a religion and thus the public schools, awash in secular humanism, violated the religious freedom of Christians. Secularists considered this ironic, to say the least, given that the so-called Lemon test put the concepts “secular” and “religious” in direct opposition to one another in that for a statute to be deemed constitutional it must have a secular purpose and its principal effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.

Nevertheless, the argument that secular humanism was a religion, and that its dominion over the public school curriculum was a violation of the First Amendment, guided conservative legal attempts to remove evolution from biology classrooms or, at least, have it taught alongside some form of creationism (including, recently, intelligent design). Occasionally, the Christian Right found sympathetic judges on this matter, such as Brevard Hand, a federal judge in Alabama who ruled against state schools in a 1987 decision, writing that the secular humanist “omission” of religion “does affect a person’s ability to develop religious beliefs and exercise that religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.” But Hand’s logic was overruled and, generally speaking, the courts have yet to grant legitimacy to this argument. For example, in another 1987 case, Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court found that a Louisiana law requiring teachers of evolution to give equal time to creationism was unconstitutional because its sole purpose was to “advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind.” Obviously, to make this argument the Court did not conceptualize evolution, which the Christian Right considers integral to secular humanism, as religious doctrine.

But, just because the courts have yet to take the Christian Right seriously when it claims secular humanism is a religion does not mean intellectual historians should do likewise. LaHaye, now famous for authoring the best-selling premillennial dispensationalist Left Behind series, wrote a three-part “Battle” series in the late 1970s and early 1980s that gave his readers a framework for understanding secular humanism. LaHaye dedicated the third book in the series, The Battle for the Public Schools: Humanism’s Threat to our Children (1983) (which arrived quickly on the heels of The Battle for the Mind and The Battle for the Family), to those parents concerned about the decline of the public schools, especially “the growing army within that group who realize that secular humanism, the religious doctrine of our public schools, has brought on this decline.” LaHaye coined the awkward phrase “humanist educrats,” a reference to “the elite heads of many teachers colleges, administrators, and many superintendents and principals who are determined to jam atheistic, amoral humanism, with its socialist world view, into the minds, of our nation’s children and youth, kindergarten through college.” Like so many before and since, he blamed the apparently all-powerful John Dewey. “Dewey made the teaching of humanism exclusive by getting traditional religion and its values expelled from the public schools.” The expulsion of Christianity from the schools, and its replacement by secular humanism, was, for LaHaye, “the origin of rampant drugs, sex, violence, and self-indulgence in our schools, which are not conducive to the learning process.”

LaHaye listed all of the traits that he thought defined a religion, and argued that secular humanism, “the official doctrine of public education,” displayed all of them:

1. A well-defined Bible or “Scriptures”
2. A stated doctrine or dogma
3. An object of worship
4. A priesthood
5. Missionaries
6. Seminaries
7. Temples
8. An established life-style
9. A support base
10. Its roots are grounded in ancient religions
11. Recognition by the Supreme Court as a religion
12. Vigorous opposition to theistic religion
13. A world view
14. Open acknowledgement of its position

Now, I don’t buy the argument that “secular humanism” qualifies as a religion by those standards, or any other set. But, the Christian Right had valid reasons to believe that the nation’s public schools no longer represented their moral vision. The Supreme Court enshrined secularism (if not secular humanism) in the schools with a series of landmark cases, most famously the Engel v. Vitale decision that declared school prayer unconstitutional in 1962. (Stay tuned for an upcoming roundtable at this blog on David Sehat’s new book The Myth of American Religious Freedom, a discussion which will no doubt deal with some of these issues.) Curriculum trends were just as distressing. Though progressive educators since Dewey had desired that schools teach skepticism of established institutions, including organized religion, few teachers actively challenged local norms, especially religious orthodoxies. But this changed in the 1960s. In English classes, teachers increasingly assigned works by minority and women authors that complicated traditional canons. In social studies, students were challenged to clarify their own values, independent of those instilled by their parents. In science, teachers slowly overcame the century-long taboo against teaching evolution. And in health classes, honest discussions of sex came to replace moral exhortations.

A popular anthropology curriculum created for elementary students by psychologist Jerome Bruner in the early 1970s—MACOS, or, “Man: A Course of Study”—exemplified this liberalization of the curriculum. During a MACOS unit students examined the Netsilik Eskimo culture, including their practice of killing the elderly, in order to understand, yet not judge, cultural difference. Such relativism became the norm. The single, authoritative account of American history increasingly gave way to an approach that accentuated multiple perspectives. This was highlighted by a 1991 New York state report, “One Nation, Many Peoples,” that deemphasized assimilation by affirming “a right to cultural diversity” that the authors argued must be reflected in the curriculum. In short, God and Country gave way to something else, call it “secular humanism” if you like, although “multiculturalism” works better.

This is not to say that such liberalization or secularization or multiculturalization took hold everywhere or at all times. In some parts of the country, for example, the traditional patriotic historical narrative has never given way to social “history from the bottom” or a curriculum that deemphasizes American exceptionalism. Not all Americans get acquainted with evolution in school. Some biology teachers in Kansas no doubt still adhere to the 1999 state board of education decision to remove evolution as one of the five unifying themes in the science classroom. Perhaps more importantly, at least since the 1983 A Nation at Risk report, neoconservative educators like William Bennett, Lynne Cheney, Chester Finn, and (until her recent intellectual u-turn) Diane Ravitch, have sought to implement standardization in order to reverse progressive educational trends in place since the 1960s. But, such facts notwithstanding, generally speaking, the way our children learn is much different than it used to be, much more liberal or progressive or multicultural or even secular humanist.

This then leads me to my conclusion: The conservative critique of secular humanist schools should make clear that, like all curriculums, the contemporary school curriculum, despite its implied cultural relativism, proves to be more tolerant of some cultural positions than others. This is normal and good. I think education should be intolerant of some positions. In my perfect world, I would have schools inculcate socialistic values and be prejudiced against values inimical to them.

I contend that the progressive educational establishment is dishonest about their project. A 1987 report put out by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, entitled “Religion in the Curriculum,” found that “references to religion have all but been excised from the public school curriculum.” Progressive educators should come out and say, forcefully, that religion is not welcome in the public schools because it contradicts the values children need to learn to become tolerant citizens in a multicultural society. If they don’t believe this to be their project, and most probably don’t, then there needs to be serious reflection about why religion is hardly taught in the schools, given how important it continues to be in our political culture. Religion is progressive education’s blind spot. Why isn’t it taught about? Is it too controversial? Should something so important be so taboo?

21 Thoughts on this Post

  1. If I understand you right, you are arguing basically that progressive educators should be more honest about their secular, anti-religious (rather than religiously neutral) agenda. The US school system should, indeed, self-consciously encourage students to grow up into adults who do not orient their moral universe around an organized religious practice?

    We do not, yet, in the US, have the kinds of problems that the French are now generating for themselves by insisting on a secularism that in fact covers for racism. Although I sympathize with the basic values for which you seem to be arguing, I think it is very important to remember that there are more than two participants in this conversation. Should we strengthen, or attempt to break down, walls between private religious schools (Catholic ones? Serving mostly Hispanic communities?, to shift the terms away from Protestant fundamentalists) and public ones? Put this a different way, should the public school system encourage the creation of a separate system of education for the actively religious?

  2. Eric: No, I’m not calling on schools to indoctrinate students with anti-religious secularism. I’m saying that schools, perhaps unintentionally, already do this to some degree by ignoring religion altogether, and thus should be honest about that. Or alternatively, schools should teach about religion, since studies show religion is hardly taught at all in public schools, including Christianity, which is pretty amazing given the history of the US. I would argue that schools ignore religion because it’s too controversial, or because educators don’t understand the legal issues. The Clinton administration sent a letter to all the nation’s public school principals in an attempt to clarify that though it’s unconstitutional to teach religion, it’s not illegal to teach about religion in, say, a social studies classroom. I call this progressive education’s blindspot because it exhorts students to think critically and teachers to “teach the controversy,” yet schools do neither in regards to religion.

  3. Good post, Andrew. I do have a complicating thought, though. The mid-twentieth century U.S. Supreme Court actually did consider secular humanism as functionally a religion in order to broaden the protection of the religion clauses of the First Amendment for the religious as well as the irreligious. Does that change your argument at all?

  4. Perhaps, David. Could you be more specific? I would argue that the courts have treated secular humanism as functionally non-religious in dealing with Christian Right challenges since the 1970s. For example, in 1986, a federal district court allowed some East Tennessee children to be excused from a reading class because their parents found evidence of “secular humanism” in the books being used. The school board challenged this ruling, arguing that if parents were allowed to withhold their children from any part of the curriculum that offended them, schools would settle for the least common denominator—education that was objectionable to no one. A federal appeals court reversed the ruling, having found no proof “that any plaintiff student was ever called upon to affirm or deny a religious belief.” The question, then–did the books in question represent secular humanism? Probably, but secular humanism is so vaguely defined in relation to any canon, which is why I argue in the post that it should not be considered a religion. Functionally, the courts agreed with me in this instance (and several others, especially related to the teaching of evolution).

  5. Hi Andrew, In United States v. Seeger (1965), the Court expanded the notion of religious freedom to include political, sociological, and philosophical reasons for being a conscientious objector. I talk about this in my book on page 251. From the book: “In explaining its reasoning, the Court drew upon the assumption that all departures from the norm of Christian belief had to be explained in terms of a functional equivalency. When a person’s objection was ‘sincere and meaningful’ and when the belief assumed an importance “in the life of the possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God,’ then the Court declared that person qualified for an exemption from the draft.” As the Court has become more conservative (with the addition of more conservative members), it has backpedaled from the argument that irreligion or organized secular humanism qualify for religious freedom protection. But I see Seeger as the culmination of a longer line of reasoning that began in the 1940s (I talk about those developments variously in chapters 10 and 11).

  6. Thanks, David. I look forward to discussing these issues when we hold the roundtable on your book–which should take place in about a month. (FYI to readers: Daniel K. Williams, author of “God’s Own Party,” mentioned in this post, will review David’s book to kick-start the roundtable.) In the meantime, from my vantage point of looking at court cases involving schools, I don’t see any instances of the courts upholding secular humanism as a religion, and in contrast, the courts have consistently ruled that creationism is religious doctrine, and thus unconstitutional.

  7. The problem is that the religions that most ardently want religion taught in school are the religions that operate under an epistemology that is incompatible with the rationalistic framework our schools are trying to inculcate. These religions would not be satisfied with a neutral overview or social scientific analysis of their beliefs or values. That would just relativize them. What they really want is for the schools to adopt their religious epistemologies– to subordinate all rational thought to their a priori truth claims. If they can’t have that, then they’re probably better off not having their views discussed in school at all– a compromise that is perfectly acceptable to secular humanists.

  8. Well, there are many problems. I think what Andrew is getting at here is the biggest problem of all: an unwillingness to acknowledge our epistemological commitments. It is patently silly to call secular humanism a religion in the way that Tim LaHaye et. al. would do, but it is sensible to recognize that the “rationalistic framework our schools are trying to inculcate” is built on some (mostly admirable, in my view) axiomatic assumptions and epistemological commitments, and these assumptions are in some ways hostile to “religion.” I would suggest that the absence of competent teaching ABOUT religion in the public schools testifies to this problematic state of denial.

    Here’s another problem: so few people seem able to approach religion as a subject of rational inquiry in a way that at least soft-pedals polemics. It boggles the mind that we can imagine anyone is educated in the humanities or social sciences who has not studied the role of religion in human cultures. Religion has been vitally important to most of the people in most of the world for most of history. But it is the thing that we don’t — we can’t — competently discuss in the classroom.

    I’m not saying you or I can’t competently discuss it. But I think it takes a certain way of seeing the world or being in the world to walk students through this subject in a way which invites them to conceptualize other frames of reference, other epistemologies, besides their own. As we know to our chagrin, pedagogical authority can be wielded in all kinds of ways which have nothing to do with good pedagogy.

  9. Markham and Lohr’s _A World Religions Reader_ (published by Wiley-Blackwell), one of the most widely used primary source readers for world religion survey courses, concludes with a chapter on secular humanism. The use of the argument that secular humanism functions as a religion to ban evolution may be ridiculous, but defining “religion” is more tricky than it may first appear. A canon is not necessary for a “religion,” but then again, neither is a belief in god/s, and Richard Dawkins is far more aggressive in his proselytizing than most evangelicals I know.

  10. Is the problem you have with religion because you have to experience what owners are doing in “your” sphere of existence, or that religion exists in the first place. Any philosophy – whether it qualifies as religious or not – must espouse a consistent groundwork that applies to every facet of one’s life. This is true of the non-religious philosophies as well as the religious philosophies, which we shorten the name of to “religion”.

    If we choose to adopt the position that religion is a subset of the myriad philosophical systems in the world, the Secularism IS a religion just as much as Pastafarianism, Druidism, Wicca, Shamanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, Theism, Deism, Catholicism, Protestantism, etc…

    What we are battling here is NOT “religion” vs “non-religion”, but between various philosophies. Chris states in his comment “What they really want is for the schools to adopt their religious epistemologies– to subordinate all rational thought to their a priori truth claims.” In making this statement, he misses the central point of Christianity. (“Go forth and make disciples” – go and find people who are *willing* to learn.) There are intelligent Christians and intelligent anti-theists, as well as unintelligent Christians and unintelligent anti-theists. There is disservice on both sides when one is not knowledgeable of the other’s talking points.

    As far as “a priori truth claims” – secular humanism has them as well. Let’s start with a materialistic origin to the universe. The anti-theist simply claims this to be true because they deny the existence of the metaphysical – which is itself a metaphysical claim. “We can’t conclusively prove there’s anything ‘outside’ the universe, so God can’t be there.” It’s a somewhat-rational leap if one discounts what one can’t prove empirically.

  11. But does science know 95% of everything in the universe? What about 80%? 50%? 25%? 10%? 5%? Even if mankind’s cumulative scientific knowledge encompasses 100% of the universe – it has no *capacity* to determine what (if anything) exists “outside” the universe. It would be akin to the paint on the canvas somehow experiencing the additional 1-1/2 dimensions we humans are capable of experiencing. The paint is 2 dimensional, and static in space-time. It does not have the *capability* to perceive the passage of time, nor the third dimension (beyond the thickness of paint on the canvas). Humanity is similarly limited. What a shame we can’t experience more than the 3-1/2 dimensions (out of 10) we normally do in space-time. (Bi-directional in: Length; Width; Depth; uni-directional in time = 3-1/2 dimensions. The other dimensions are “curled” to 10^-43cm and can only be inferred mathematically. But we “know” they are there even though we can’t DIRECTLY EXPERIENCE THEM!)

    Stephen Hawking’s latest “bombshell to Christianity” which states God didn’t create the universe, PRESUMES the existence of the: Laws of Gravity; Laws of Thermodynamics; Laws of Entropy/Decay; Space/Time to operate in; material generated *post* Big Bang; etc… He presumes *a priori* those elements and laws exist with no explanation of what happened “before” the Big Bang that “caused” the Big Bang.

    (I know there is no “before” the Big Bang, because space/time was created at the 1st instant of the singularity, so there couldn’t *really* be a “before” the Big Bang. But how can nothing explode without external stimulus to create the universe. Simple logic dictates there *must* *be* *something* “outside” the existence of this universe. And as such, humanity (in my opinion) will never have the scientific capability to discern what it is in a scientific sense. Just an opinion, but so was E=MC squared until Einstein proved it mathematically.)

    So those of us that hold to a religious philosophical system (in my case, Christianity) and those of you that embrace a “scientific” (or anti-theist)philosophical system are at an impasse…

  12. We say: The Universe and all life therein was created by The Intelligent Designer, who exists “outside” the Universe, yet is still capable of interacting with His Creation. Hence the accounts of miracles. No we don’t have empirical, demonstrable, scientific proof that can be repeated and tested and quantified. But we hold it’s true nonetheless. No I don’t expect you to believe it because we do, but If you honestly look at the facts we believe you will come to embrace this Truth.

    You say: The Universe and all life therein was spontaneously created in a random occurrence of vast magnitude that we can’t really understand. We know it happened, but we don’t know how. “Miracles” are a non-starter because they can’t be independently verified, nor falsified. No we don’t have empirical, demonstrable, scientific proof that can be repeated and tested and quantified. But we hold it’s true nonetheless. I don’t expect you to believe it because we do, but If you honestly look at the facts we believe you will come to embrace this Truth.

    I have attempted to compare these two philosophies as fairly and as evenly as possible… (to the best of my knowledge – science has not been able to create a universe in the laboratory, given that it’s nature would concede the capability for our observation as the newly created universe would have to “exist” in a dimensionality somewhat different from our own.) I think we can agree there have been attempts from both camps to vilify the other argument in a juvenile attempt to “dumb down” the other philosophy. Let’s agree not to do that.

    Both of the above listed philosophical systems “suffer” from the same detriment: a lack of “hard”, empirical “proof”. Mine is called “religion” and yours is called “science”. Why? I don’t want mine to be called “science”, it isn’t, nor should it be. But why is your’s *not* called “religion”?

  13. Both our philosophies ask questions of the “universe”. (Granted, of a differing type.) Both of us receive answers. (Also of a differing type.) Both of us seek to share what we have learned. Both of us meet with mixed results when we do. Both of us belong to very large societies that exalt in praise in what we have learned. Both of us scoff at the thought that our ideas could ever be wrong. Both of us cling to our philosophies in every aspect of life – or at least we’re supposed to.

    But there is a simple anecdotal piece of “evidence” that I don’t find conclusive, but I do find provocative. When two people meet each other after an extremely long absence, We have a tendency to say “My how time has flown by! I can’t believe it’s been so long!” Why such a focus on the passage of time? Why should we regard it as so important? It would be like the fish commenting how wet the water is. This would be ridiculous unless the fish were not meant to be an aquatic animal. What can this tell us about humanity? Why else would the passage of time take us by surprise?

    Perhaps humanity is meant to be eternal in the Biblical sense. Not “eternity = lots and lots of time”, but “eternity = not bound to space/time”. Just as Christ is. Just as God is. Just as Adam and Eve were before The Fall, and were kept from the Tree of Eternal Life – not as a punishment, but as protection – to keep them from living eternally in a Fallen state.

    But I have no “proof” that you would find adequate. But tell me… What “evidence” would it take for you to believe? Is there some point you would concede that my philosophy is correct and yours is incomplete? Is there?

  14. Craig G.: Science is as much about theory and prediction as it is about observation. At least, that’s been the case since even before Hume tried to reverse course by contending that only the empirically observable could be proven true. Weird for someone making the unprovable, unobservable, rather fantastical claim for an intelligent designer to be resorting to Hume’s logic.

    In any case, this fight was not the point of my post. I don’t really care if “secular humanism” is deemed a religion or not. I care that historians understand why it is deemed a religion by conservative evangelicals, and to this degree, your comments are helpful. I guess.

  15. Andrew, in their way I think these comments are helpful. They point up the perils of trying to discuss religion as a social/cultural/historical phenomenon either in a public forum or a public school classroom. The talking-points here (especially in the third of Craig G’s post) are taken right out of C.S. Lewis’s apologetic works. (His, for example, is the felicitous image of a fish being aware of its immersion in water.)

    Now, I have enjoyed reading Lewis, and I don’t mind the occasional foray into apologetics, or a discussion of the axiomatic assumptions of our mutual (or mutually exclusive) epistemologies. But clearly that isn’t what was at issue here. The tendency to make that the issue — a tendency shared, I might add, by “proselytizing atheists” as well as proselytizing Christians — is what torpedoes the study of religion in the K-12 classroom, and in many a university classroom too.

  16. You’re no doubt right about that LD. But I still think it’s worth trying to teach about religion, even if it helps educators clarify their own epistemological orientations. Thanks for your always insightful comments.

  17. Andrew: I’ve met a few too many “materialist eliminativists” advocating Hume’s position in my experience. I suppose I “went off” a bit out of habit… Sorry ’bout that.

    I think the basic reason why Christians (and “evangelicals” in particular) see Secularism as a religion is because both religious and non-religious philosophies (or “world-views”) are, when you boil it down, “simply” means to answer the great questions of life. As such, the only real differences are whether one allows the metaphysical in the equation, and what that metaphysical points to. If we call one a “religion”, why limit the description?

    In my opinion, science can answer many of the “How?” questions but falls woefully adequate in answering “Why?”.

  18. Craig: I agree with you that science will probably never answer the “why” question. But most of the scientists I know, and “secular humanists” for that matter (although few people refer to themselves as such), are pretty much fine with that. To you, this might seem like a void that can only be filled by nihilism, but I personally find meaning in life without supposing ultimate meaning. And this is why secular humanism does not operate like a religion in the sense that Christianity is a religion.

  19. I suppose if “religion” doesn’t depend on how many supernatural beings are the focus of said philosophy (there are “religions” with no gods, “religions” with 1 god, and “religions” with many gods) then any personal belief (whether couched in terms of “religion”, “world view”, “philosophical belief”, etc…) can also be called “religious”. It would just be a “religion” without a deity, whether it operated as a religion or not.

    To be certain, there are people in the world that the “why” questions just don’t’ resonate. I am not one of those people. But to leave a known question unanswered leaves two options: A) Pretend the question does not exist. (There is no meaning); and B) Pretend the question is unimportant. (We can’t know the answer and I’m OK with that.) Neither of these avenues satisfied, hence my passing interest in philosophy.

    If the individual parts of the whole have meaning, then the whole must have meaning as well. Otherwise one negates the meaning of the individual components. Just my view…

    Fun discussion, by the way.

  20. Aside from the issue that LD pointed out regarding fundamental epistemological commitments (which surely goes a long way in explaining the exclusion of religion from contemporary education), there has to be more. I don’t see why the establishment would be so coy in coming to terms with its treatment of religion if it were simply a matter of coming clean on the fact that it doesn’t have the same list of axioms or a priori judgments as biblical literalists.

    I think that a helpful way of complementing the epistemic issue is by noting that the right seems to be calling out the secularist fiction that “contemporary progressive education” operates within a value-neutral framework, simply teaching the “facts.” This is a tempting fiction, due both to its simplicity and the fact that high profile cases of “secularism vs. religion” in education seemingly fit this construal pretty neatly, e.g. evolution vs. creationism, sexual education, etc. The right’s critique is revealing because, if taken seriously, it should force the establishment to come clean on the fact that it excludes religion from education for the sake of an alternative normative framework rather than due to a commitment to value-neutrality. Some of the background value judgments it makes might be that preventing teen pregnancy is more important than extolling the virtues of abstinence, minorities and previously under-appreciated communities should be recognized and their struggles and contributions honored, even at the expense of the cultural hegemony of whites, males, heterosexuals, etc… Part of the difficulty in recognizing these background value judgments is that they seem like common sense to most of us.

    And here it seems that secularism does have reason to be wary of confronting the right’s critique head on. According to the narrative it tells itself, “secularism” and “humanism” are simply what you get when you cut out all the dogmatic religious nonsense. “Secular humanism” has avoided coming to terms with itself as an alternative construal of constitutive goods largely by pretending that it is simply what we are left with when scientific method is rigorously applied. I agree that “secular humanism” is not a religion, but it is increasingly functioning as an alternative to religion, not simply a compendium of value-neutral facts about empirical reality.

  21. Hello,
    Just hoping to get the court decision that overruled Brevard Hand’s decision as you mentioned. I wasn’t aware that it had been overruled. I understand that the 11th Circuit Court reversed the order banning a bunch of textbooks, but the ruling never addressed the issue of Secular Humanism, as to whether it is a religion or not. The decision actually seemed to be considering Secular Humanism to be a religion, but that the textbooks in question were not promoting the religion in their opinion. Perhaps there is another court decision somewhere that I’m not aware of that overruled the Judge Hand’s ruling that for the purposes of the 1st Amendment, Secular Humanism is a religion. I am interested to know of the ruling and if you would let me know, I’d be grateful for your help.

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