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Cults and World Religions

Secular Religions



Man is the measure of all things.
Protagoras
Greek Philosopher 137

This title is a bit of a misnomer. In a sense, by definition, there are no secular religions, because by their definitions, these groups do not believe in religion. Remember the definition of religion from chapter 1?

Religion is “that aspect of one’s experience in which he attempts to live harmoniously with the power or powers he believes are controlling the world.” 138

But, pluralism speaks to moral systems and improvement of the individual. Under pluralism, and most other definitions, religion is any system designed to develop and improve the morals and social structure of a given society or segment of society. That is, religion is whatever a man is deeply concerned with. Since the those striving for moral improvement of the society belief in some power controlling the world, man, by their own definition, pluralism becomes a religion, regardless of the path they follow.

We looked at many of these “religions” briefly in our introduction. We will not spend much time on them here either, but it is important to understand that these world views constitute a religion under the general definition. The practioners of the world views have a religion, even if they call it something else.

So, consider the following suggested religions:

Atheism is not a religion or a complete ethical system. It is simply the lack of a belief that deity, in the form of one or more supernatural gods or goddesses, exists. The word is coined from the Greek, “theos,” meaning God, and the anti-prefix “a,” which makes the word a negative, thus, against God or no God. Plato defined two types of atheists, those who are sincerely convinced God does not exist, and those who are sincerely convinced there is no place for God in this world. In our general time, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who fought the Supreme Court case to have prayer removed from the schools, is the best known atheist.

Agnosticism is also not a religion or complete ethical system. It is simply a belief that we cannot prove the existence or the non-existence of deity; (i.e. of one or more gods, one or more goddesses, or combinations of the above). Many Agnostics believe that we cannot know anything about deity or deities at the present time, but that this could conceivably change in the future. Voltaire, Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin, and Bertrand Russell are well known agnostics. Huxley coined the term in, fact. He took the Greek word gnosis, which we now means knowledge. He add the Greek prefix “a” to the word, making it a negative, thus, “no knowledge.” Agnostics appear to fit into three categories:

What is important about these two views is that the picture of God and religion held by the atheist and the agnostic create large presuppositions against which the holder creates his world views. This leads to moving some other entity or power into a position of god-ship. In other words, holding one of these two views about God makes it easier to adopt a philosophical world view which ignores God.

Humanism is a philosophy which, in most cases, embraces Agnosticism or Atheistic belief about the non-existence of a deity. But it goes further to create ethical systems based upon reason and logic. It regards humanity as the measure of all things and had its founding in the rationalistic movements of the 17th and 18th centuries. This group values knowledge based on reason and hard evidence rather than on faith. Humans are supreme under this system and the concept of a personal God is rejected. This results in the belief that full responsibility for the future of the world, its political systems, its ecology, etc. rests with humans. There is no God in heaven to intervene in a disaster. In general, humanists value freedom of inquiry, expression and action, and have a history of combating bigotry, hatred, discrimination, intolerance and censorship. Ethically, they are generally very liberal, supporting “movements” such as homosexuality, abortion, and assisted suicide. Modern humanists include Isaac Asimov, Albert Einstein, feminist activitist Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, Jonas Sulk, Julian Huxley, and Bertrand Russell.

Barna Research believes that as much as 7% of the U.S. population falls into these three groups. That would amount to more than 14 or 15 million people, making this group larger than the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jewish, or Muslim. 139

Consider the modern world and the wide range of world causes. Most are based upon some variation of humanism or rationalism mixed with the lack of fear of God. This leads to the adoption of evolution, ecological issues, animal rights, self-rights, and the like, as world views which govern one’s way of life. In reality, these world views mix with other philosophies and, perhaps, more properly should be classified with New Age. But humanism, Marxism, skepticism, and the like, are religions of the secular society.

Modern humanism is governed by two writing manifestos, the first appearing in 1933 and the second in 1973. The points of Humanist Manifesto II are listed at the end of this chapter.

As indicated, there are other secular religions.

Skepticism is the philosophy of those who believe that real knowledge is not attainable. If this is so, then judgment should be suspended about matters of truth. Does this sound familiar? How about rephrasing that last to say that since matters of truth cannot be measured, any truth will do, even if it is contrary to what we would call an absolute truth? Skepticism has been hanging around for centuries in one form or another and it is important to develop an understanding of whether your antagonist is an atheist, a skeptic, or an agnostic. They all use the same terms, but give them different meanings. Descaretes (1596-1650) and David Hume (1711-1776) are two of the great skeptics of the more recent times.

Marxism and communism are another world view which substitutes as a religion. Marxism is not just about economics and politics. It is a world view intent on explaining life. That is why Marxist and communist countries are atheist at heart. This world view is against religions, the individual is lost in favor of a classless society, and economics becomes the instrument of the state.

The other secular world view is that of existentialism. Existentialism is not a philosophy in its own right, but rather is a collection of widely different revolts against traditional philosophy. As such, the definitions of existentialism differ based upon who is providing the definition. Bochenski provides six themes as the basis of existentialism. 140

Kierkegaard and Hegel fall into the category of existentialists along with Paul Tillich.

Notice that in many instances, a person can fall under more than one category within the confines of these world views. Bertrand Russell is seen, for example, as both a humanist and an agnostic. The real point of looking at these faith systems is to note how they have been, and are being used, to shape the future of religion. Just as liberalism invaded Christianity, those who do not believe in Christianity or God will, ultimately, follow the same general path as the liberals, the neo-liberals, and those coming after them. Pluralism will ultimately reign in the form of a future version of what we now call New Age.

For those who do not want to believe in a God, Satan has a pathway ready to accommodate them. All roads, according to these various belief systems, will lead to “salvation.” Only, they misunderstand the definition of salvation.

Matthew 7:13
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

 

Humanist Manifesto II

141

Footnotes:
137. Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, San Bernardino, California: Campus Crusade for Christ published by Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1983, 459.
138. Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, 11.
139. http://www.religioustolerance.org/at_ag_hu.htm citing "Atheists and Agnostics Infiltrating Christian Churches," 1999-OCT-15, at: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=2
140. Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, 481.
141. Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, 463ff. Drafted by Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson, the actual Manifesto is considerably longer than the annotations given here.

 

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