Secular Humanism

Worldview in Question: Testing Secular Humanism


Rampantly proliferating throughout academia, metaphysical naturalism presents a significant challenge to Christianity, as the mainstream culture blindly embraces naturalistic assumptions under the authority of science.1 Consequently, American society increasingly identifies traditional religions as outdated and culturally irrelevant, sparking an escalation of interest in secular humanism. This paper will outline the secular humanist worldview, demonstrating the substantial failures that emerge during philosophical testing, while simultaneously establishing Christianity as a categorically superior worldview.

Summarizing the Secular Humanist Worldview

Analytically testing a worldview begins with punctiliously outlining the system’s comprehensive understanding of reality, detailing the framework’s indispensable answers to questions of theology, metaphysics, ontology, axiology, epistemology, and anthropology (among others).2 Since brevity precludes an exhaustive examination of the secular humanist worldview, this investigation will constrain the topics of consideration to: (1) ultimate reality (i.e., theology and metaphysics), (2) epistemology, (3) moral values (an axiology subcategory), and (4) the fundamental source of authority.3

Ultimate Reality

Maintaining a naturalistic philosophy, secular humanism is vehemently atheistic, denying the existence of any immaterial entities or supernatural forces. Accordingly, the material universe, and associated natural laws, comprehensively encompass all reality.4 Elucidating this understanding, Corliss Lamont comments, “Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics or attitude toward the universe that considers all forms of the supernatural as myth; and that regards Nature as the totality of being and as a constantly changing system of matter and energy which exists independently of any mind or consciousness.”5


Affirming the existence of objective truth, secular humanists hold to a strict scientism, insisting that genuine knowledge is only obtainable through scientific investigation.6 Exemplifying this conviction, the Council for Secular Humanism asserts, “Knowledge gained without appeal to the natural world, and without impartial review by multiple observers, is unreliable.”7

Moral Values

Supporting the Enlightenment ideology of libertarian individualism, secular humanists hold a pragmatic, utilitarian view of morality, insisting a process of development occurs by implementing an ethical ideology and observing its results within the greater society.8 Emphasizing this principle, A. C. Grayling writes, “The only genuinely practical way to get a good society is through communal morality, that is, a conception—arrived at by debate and reflection in our best mood of tolerant good sense—of how as a society we can order our affairs in the direction of fairness and decency.”9 Consequently, morality is arbitrary, and ethical frameworks are merely social constructs that remain relative to the epoch, geographical location, situation, and the like.

The Fundamental Source of Authority

Excluding the presence of a supreme being, humans—representing the most evolved creatures in existence—receive exaltation to the echelon of supreme authority. Amalgamating secular humanism’s epistemological and anthropological views unambiguously propels scientists to the position of ultimate authority, since genuine knowledge is only possible through scientific investigation, and morality is a product of sociological study and technical education.

Evaluation of Secular Humanism

After articulating the worldview’s basic framework, one can subsequently commence analytic testing. Although numerous criteria exist for philosophical testing of a worldview, this examination will evaluate secular humanism on the basis of (1) internal logical consistency,10 (2) coherence, (3) factual adequacy, and (4) existential viability,11 demonstrating its fundamental failure in each category.12

Internal Logical Consistency and Coherence

Secular humanism’s epistemological views are inherently self-contradictory, as scientism fails to achieve its aforementioned criteria for authentic knowledge. Affirming scientism requires one to maintain an a prior postulation regarding the acquisition of knowledge, rather than obtaining the conviction through observation, experimentation, or rational analysis—a fundamental requirement of scientism. Consequently, since the epistemological foundation of scientism is not a posteriori, it falsifies itself and is unambiguously inconsistent. Moreover, scientism undermines the fundamental assumptions of investigative methodologies because science presupposes the existence of a theory-independent external domain, the uniformity of natural laws and forces, the existence of objective truth, the reliability of sense perception and rational faculties, the laws of logic, and the truthfulness of mathematics to function.13

Expounding upon this concept, philosopher Walter Terence Stace comments,

All the sciences take quite for granted certain principles and facts which are, for them, ultimate. . . . [For example] every science, except the purely mathematical sciences, assumes the truth of the law of causation. Every student of logic knows that this is the ultimate canon of the sciences, the foundation of them all. If we did not believe in the truth of the law of causation, namely, that everything which has a beginning has a cause, and that in the same circumstances the same things invariably happen, all the sciences would at once crumble to dust. In every scientific investigation, this truth is assumed. . . . But how do we know the truth of this law of causation itself? Science does not consider the question. It traces its assertions back to this law, but goes no further. Its fundamental canon it takes for granted.14

Accordingly, apart from being self-refuting, scientism eradicates any underpinning for scientific exploration, emasculating the central component of the humanist worldview.

Similarly, the relativistic axiology of humanism encounters the same logical inconsistencies and coherence failures as scientism. First, relativism denies the existence of absolute claims, while simultaneously presenting an absolute claim concerning the nonexistence of objective reality, thus falsifying itself in the process. Secondly, humanists exemplify the incoherent nature of their worldview by actively advocating for social justice, civil liberties, LGBTQ rights, and general acceptance of all viewpoints, while simultaneously condemning views they consider “bigoted,” “prejudice,” or “intolerant.”15 Unfortunately, under a subjective ethical framework, none of these moral terms have any objective meaning, and the humanist forfeits any prerogative to pronounce ethical judgments.

Underscoring the self-refuting nature of humanist claims, Francis Beckwith and Greg Koukl pose the question, “If there are no moral absolutes, why be tolerant at all? Why not force my morality on others if it’s in my self-interest and my personal ethics allow it?”16 By precluding the existence of absolutes, the moral relativist “implies that each person is morally infallible and that individuals can never have a genuine moral disagreement.”17 Consistently applying this concept would result in utter chaos, rather than cultural acceptance of all people, effectually eroding the fundamental basis for human rights or any legislative system, thereby rendering subjectivism logically untenable. Ergo, the subjective axiology of secular humanism proves internally inconsistent and ultimately incoherent, which is sufficient to render the worldview false.

Prudently scrutinizing the epistemological and axiological propositions of secular humanism, one quickly ascertains both are internally inconsistent and comprehensively incoherent, demonstrating the fundamental unintelligibility within essential doctrines of secular humanism, thereby rendering the worldview false.

Factual Adequacy

Confirming individual worldview propositions remains an imperative aspect of adjudicating its overall reliability, and factual adequacy testing intends to ascertain if a worldview corresponds with empirical dimensions of reality (i.e., well-established historical an empirical data). Although naturalistic philosophies can account for many facets of the material universe, it vehemently denies the existence of non-material entities, and is therefore unable to account for immaterial aspects of reality, including (but not limited to) human rationality, the laws of logic, mathematics, and the existence of objective morality.18 Paramount consideration must be given to the topic of consciousness since naturalism remains unable to explain the existence of this vital facet of the human experience.19 Furthermore, materialistic accounts cannot justify the dependability of cognitive abilities emerging from fortuitous chemical reactions, as physicalism proclaims.20

Responding to W. Graham in 1881, Charles Darwin appears to grapple with these logical ramifications of naturalist theory, writing,

You have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?21

Conveying the philosophical conundrum that results from his physicalistic propositions, Darwin’s letter demonstrates the disturbing implications of maintaining an atheistic view of anthropology consistently.  Elucidating this principle further, L. Russ Bush considers the possibility of human freedom and the acquisition of objective knowledge under a naturalistic framework, commenting,

The modern [naturalistic] worldview allows no objectivity because it defines the mind simply as an effect of the [evolutionary] process. The mind is thus controlled by the process. It is not free in the traditional sense of the term. . . . Mankind is necessarily a part of the process. We look at the process from within. We are not, then, objective observers at all. . . . If man is wholly a product of the natural process, at what point does he transcend the process? If he does not transcend it, and if he has no transcendent source of information, then his knowledge can never be objectively justified.22

Therefore, it seems the naturalistic framework fails in explanatory power and scope, unable to account for the immaterial aspects of reality and fundamental facets of the human experience, while simultaneously precluding any justification for cognitive reliability or the attainment of objective information.

Existential Viability

Eliminating God and any anticipation of immortality, atheistic systems inevitably deprive life of any ultimate significance, value, or purpose.23 Although secular humanism seeks to establish a purpose for life by advocating a common goal of societal improvement, it is nevertheless arbitrary—void of any objective foundation. Intellectually honest naturalists acknowledge this as an inherent implication of evolutionary theory, as the late William Provine professes, “There are no gods, [and] no purposive forces of any kind. [There is] no life after death; when I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be completely dead. . . . There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans either.”24 Subsequently, value, purpose, and meaning become hollow terms, and each person arbitrarily creates a definition of each based on her psychological predilection.25 Attempting to affirm these propositions consistently results in blatant contradictions and proves unlivable (in both internal and external senses). In fact, humanist efforts to improve society by defending civil liberties are an ostensible demonstration of their innate understanding of human value and significance, serving as recognition of an objective moral framework that remains unjustifiable within an atheistic system. Therefore, secular humanism fails the existential viability test.

The Christian Alternative

Alternatively, the Christian worldview26 affirms the existence of a tripersonal, monotheistic God who possess the attributes of aseity, eternality, infinity, omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability, omniscience, holiness, righteousness, goodness, and truth.27 Existing as the only necessary substance, God remains the ontological cause of all contingent entities by creating the heavens (i.e., incorporeal aspects of reality) and the material universe (i.e., material aspects of reality) ex nihilo. Accordingly, God remains distinct from His creation, yet He actively preserves and governs the existence and systematic operation of the universe via His omniscience, omnipotence, and omniscience. Creating humanity in His image, God endows humans with rational faculties, free will, and moral agency—proving both the means and moral responsibility to discern objective facts regarding reality.

Ergo, the Christian worldview affirms the existence of objective truth, declaring that genuine knowledge is obtainable through general and special revelation, thus providing an anthropological context and epistemological description that is logically consistent and corresponds with empirical data. Identifying God as the ultimate reality, Christianity affirms Him as the superlative source of rationality, truth, authority, and morality, recognizing the existence of absolute, objective, self-evident, and transcendent moral values, which receive foundation from God’s perfect and immutable moral character. Dissimilar to naturalistic alternatives, the Christian worldview provides an internally consistent, logically coherent, framework, capable of enduring the scrutiny of objective testing without encountering falsification. Moreover, the Christian worldview is both externally and internally livable and can account for well-established historical and empirical evidence, denoting its categorical superiority over secular humanism.

Defending the Christian Worldview

Nevertheless, recognizing the falsifiability of Christian contentions, critics routinely attempt to repudiate essential elements of Christian doctrine.28 Although the transience of this essay prohibits an exhaustive articulation and examination of arguments against Christianity, two noteworthy challenges require consideration: (1) the problem of evil, and (2) the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.

The Problem of Evil

Challenging the Christian worldview on the basis of logical inconsistency, the problem of evil29 postulates an inherent contradiction between the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent God, in light of the existence and prolongation of suffering (i.e., natural and moral evils).30 However, the Christian worldview provides a viable response to this objection, recognizing humanity’s misuse of their free will is the antecedent cause of evil. Endowing humans with free will is a benevolent action, yet, it establishes the possibility of rebellion. Hence, one can formulate the three propositions as follows: (1) an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God created the universe, (2) God creates a good world in which evil is possible and became actual, and He maintains a virtuous reason for doing so—mainly the preservation of human freedom, (3) therefore, the world contains evil.31

Clarifying the philosophical basis of this notion, Alvin Plantinga argues,

An essence E suffers from transworld depravity if and only if for every world W such that E contains the properties is significantly free in W and always does what is right in W, there is an action A and a maximal world segment S′ such that (1) S′ includes E’s being instantiated and E’s instantiation’s being free with respect to A and A’s being morally significant for E’s instantiation, (2) S′ is included in W but includes neither E’s instantiation’s performing A nor E’s instantiation’s refraining from A and (3) if S′ were actual, then the instantiation of E would have gone wrong with respect to A. . . . If an essence E suffers from transworld depravity, then it was not within God’s power to actualize a possible world W such that E contains the properties is significantly free in W and always does what is right in W. Hence it was not within God’s power to create a world in which E is instantiated and in which its instantiation is significantly free but always does what is right.32

Since moral agency and free will are virtuous properties, and a deterministic system (necessitating moral integrity) would preclude humans from enjoying such capabilities, it seems untenable to postulate a possible world in which human freedom exists, and everyone always makes righteous decisions. Moreover, the problem of evil requires objective morality to remain a legitimate problem. Consequently, remonstrations from evil inherently contend for the existence of God (cf. the moral argument), and the atheist must either (1) deny the existence of evil, thereby abandoning any objections against the existence of God from evil, or (2) must affirm the existence of evil, thereby undercutting the relativistic nature of the naturalistic worldview by recognizing an objective moral guideline.33 Denying the existence of evil appears intellectually dishonest and is inconsistent with our moral experience. Therefore, it seems the Christian worldview provides an adequate explanation for the existence of objective evil and concurrently provides the necessary foundation for absolute morality.

The Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection

Recognizing the resurrection is the linchpin of the Christian faith, opponents routinely challenge the veracity of historical evidence supporting the event. Nonetheless, credentialed scholars recognize the historical value of New Testament documents, granting specific facts as virtually indisputable. Thus, the majority of critical scholars acknowledge (1) Jesus’ death by crucifixion, (2) His burial in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, (3) discovery of the empty tomb, and (4) postmortem appearances of Jesus (although critical scholars staunchly denounce the possibility of an actual resurrection).34 Moreover, it is important to recognize the transformative power of Jesus’ postmortem appearances, as New Testament documents record the cowardice, unbelief, and dejection of the disciples before, and immediately following, the crucifixion, yet, upon encountering the resurrected Jesus, the disciples became bold, prominent leaders of the early church, even in the midst of persecution. Exemplifying this point, Pinchas Lapide eloquently remarks, “If the defeated and depressed group of disciples overnight could change into a victorious movement of faith, based only on autosuggestion or self-deception—without a fundamental faith experience—then this would be a much greater miracle than the resurrection itself.”35

Acknowledging these data points, atheists often offer alternative naturalistic hypotheses (e.g., the hallucination hypothesis, the swoon theory, and various conspiracy theories); however, all of these alternate narratives fail in explanatory power and scope, unable to account for all of the historical data. Accordingly, the traditional narrative of an authentic resurrection remains the only interpretation capable of accounting for all of the historical evidence, while simultaneously remaining coherent and consistent, and without requiring an ad hoc readjustment.


Submitting the secular humanist worldview to philosophical testing reveals a framework of incongruous components, resulting in internal inconsistencies, logical incoherence, and a failure to represent reality accurately. Dissimilarly, the Christian worldview is internally consistent and demonstrably endures the scrutiny of philosophical analysis, proving categorically superior to secular humanism in every respect. Although opponents levy considerable challenges against Christianity, the worldview can provide a logical response to reasonable objections, demonstrating its ability to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

  1. For additional information regarding this cultural trend, see Gabe Bullard, “The World's Newest Major Religion: No Religion,” National Geographic, April 22, 2016,
  2. Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 20-28; Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 73-75.
  3. Secular humanism is a variation of the naturalistic worldview, which is outlined in more detail in Worldview in Question: Outlining the Naturalistic Worldview.
  4. For the purposes of this investigation, the terms materialism, naturalism, and physicalism are synonymous for expressing this viewpoint, and no qualification between metaphysical (or ontological) naturalism and epistemological (or methodological) naturalism is employed. For additional information regarding this distinction, see David Papineau, “Naturalism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, September 15, 2015,
  5. Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, Eighth Edition (Amherst, NY: Humanist Press, 1997), 13.
  6. For further interaction with the subject of scientism, see Tom Sorell, Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science (New York, NY: Routledge, 1991).
  7. “What is Secular Humanism?” The Council for Secular Humanism, accessed September 11, 2017,
  8. “A Secular Humanist Declaration,” Council for Secular Humanism, accessed September 11, 2017,; “Humanist Manifesto I,” American Humanist Association, Accessed September 11, 2017,; “Humanist Manifesto II,” American Humanist Association, Accessed September 11, 2017,; “Humanist Manifesto III,” American Humanist Association, Accessed September 11, 2017,; Paul Kurtz, “Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism,” The Council for Secular Humanism, Accessed September 11, 2017,
  9. A. C. Grayling, Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), 6.
  10. Internal consistency testing determines if essential or constitutive elements of the worldview exist in harmony. The internal consistency of a worldview’s essential elements serves as a necessary but not sufficient condition to establish a worldview as rational and accurate, as the framework may be internally consistent, yet fail to correspond with reality. However, internal inconsistency is sufficient to establish a worldview false. Coherence testing determines if essential propositions of a worldview are rationally interrelated. Worldview coherence is necessary, but it is not sufficient to establish the truthfulness of a worldview; however, incoherence is sufficient to render a worldview false.
  11. Focusing upon the inner reality of human persons, the existential viability test identifies if a worldview is internally livable (i.e., affirmation of the worldview can be maintained without resulting in philosophical hypocrisy).
  12. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, 52-60; Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test, 32-37.
  13. Michael J. Wilkins, and J.P. Moreland, Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 9. Also, see Austin L. Hughes, “The Folly of Scientism,” The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society, no. 37 (2012): 32-50; Nicholas Rescher, The Limits of Science: Revised Edition (Pennsylvania, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999), 247.
  14. W.T. Stace, A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London: Macmillan and Co., 1920), 3-7.
  15. “Key Issues,” American Humanist Association, accessed September 11, 2017,; Roy Speckhardt, “Some Arguments Just Don’t Have Two Sides,” Huffington Post, February 07, 2013,
  16. Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 69.
  17. Lewis Vaughn, Doing Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues, Third Edition (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012),
  18. As previously mentioned, scientific investigation and naturalistic philosophy presupposes human rationality, mathematics, and the laws of logic a prior, without offering an explanation for their existence. Additionally, there are strong philosophical arguments for the existence of objective morality, and while this topic remains outside the scope of this investigation, the self-refuting nature of moral relativism provides strong evidence in support of the antithesis.
  19. Charles Taliaferro, “Naturalism and the Mind,” in Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, eds., William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (New York, NY: Routledge, 2001), 133-155; J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae, Body and Soul (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000).
  20. For further consideration concerning the philosophical implications of naturalistic theory, see Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011); and R. Scott Smith, Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality: Testing Religious Truth-claims (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012).
  21. Francis Darwin, ed., The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter, Volume 1 (New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1887), 285.
  22. L. Russ Bush, The Advancement, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2003), 49; 58-59.
  23. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, Revised Edition (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 1994), 58-64.
  24. William Provine, and Phillip E. Johnson, “Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy?” (video of a debate between William Provine and Phillip E. Johnson, Stanford University, April 30, 1994), posted January 28, 2013,
  25. Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in Why I Am Not a Christian, ed., Paul Edwards (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 107; “Knowledge, Ethics, Value and Meaning,” International Humanist and Ethical Union, accessed September 11, 2017,
  26. A more detailed explanation of the Christian worldview can be found in Worldview in Question: Outlining the Christian Worldview.
  27. Brevity excludes presentation of a cumulative case in support of Christian theological suppositions; however, one should note the existence of sound deductive philosophical arguments and cogent inductive empirical arguments for the existence of God (e.g., the ontological argument, the Kalām cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and the moral argument). For a detailed account of these arguments, see J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017), 457-509.
  28. It is important to understand that falsifiability is an indication of a viable worldview, and claims that cannot be investigated, evaluated, or critiqued, carry minuscule rational weight. Cf. Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test, 35.
  29. Apprehensions from evil are complex and multifaceted, and it is important to distinguish between the religious and the theological/philosophical problem of evil (since each requires a different response), while also recognizing the difference between natural and moral evil. Focusing on objective worldview testing, this section will address the theological/philosophical problem of evil. For further distinction between these terms, see John S. Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 21; John S. Feinberg, “Evil, Problem of,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 413-415; Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology: Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 385.
  30. J. L. Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence,” Mind 64, no. 254 (1955): 200-201.
  31. Ronald H. Nash, Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 189; Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, 631.
  32. Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977), 52-53.
  33. For more on the moral argument, see William Lane Craig. “The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality,” Reasonable Faith, accessed September 11, 2017, the-indispensability-of-theological-meta-ethical-foundations-for-morality/; Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, 330-363.
  34. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, 539-550; Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2004), 48-80; Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010), 302-373; 461-463; Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017), 261-275.
  35. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002), 126.
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