Darwinian theory’s coupled with early Humanist writings heavily influenced the famous Karl Marx. Marx personally described his philosophy as humanist and defended ‘real humanism’ as the logical basis of communism.1 Although humanism was present in Marx’s work, his larger contribution was the secularization of society. When the Communist Manifesto2 is read side by side with the Humanist Manifestos it is clear that many of the goals overlap, even though the methods employed may vary; namely, the desire to establish a society free of the sacred, revelation, and religion. Even though Secular Humanists still present this idea as if it is one of validity and worth, a discerning student of history will remember that it has been tried, and unimaginable brutality was the result.
The 1900s saw the birth certificate of Secular Humanism in 1933,3 Not long after, the world witnessed the rampant use of utilitarian executions under Marxist-inspired governments. Building on the foundation of a growing secularization, Marxist-inspired governments killed more than a 100 million people in the last century alone. Pure humanism would probably decry, object, and shun these mass murders. None-the-less the budding field of secular focused Naturalism and Humanism were used to pave the way for mass murder on a scale never before seen in the world.
Although proper Humanism does not prescribe this type of killing, mass murder is a logical conclusion, of humanism’s utilitarian purposes. This is particularly the case when the brand of humanism is secular. Humanism forbids murder, but only on an arbitrary basis, not because of any given concrete reasoning. In forbidding mass murder, the Secular Humanist creates an arbitrarily rule that springs from seemingly nothing. In fact, the prohibition on murder has often been violated in the name of human flourishing and progress, seminal humanist ideas. When humanism is secular, there is no moral accountability to a power that is higher, because the secular bent rejects that a higher power exists. Humanism does not hold a large enough sword to deter opportunistic power brokers.
Not only is humanism too weak to stop the strong in their thirst for power, but there is a moral conundrum at play within this broken worldview. The Humanist Manifesto III says, “ethics are derived from human needs and interest.” This makes human ethics susceptible to the will of anyone able to justify an action in pursuit of a “human need” or “interest.” If a desire for resources, comfort, or wealth can be defined as a “human need or interest,” then all the wars in the history of the world could be easily justified.
Marxist-inspired governments planned to usher in a Utopian society; a heaven on earth, and it was apparently a cause which justified mass killings. It has been reenacted over and over in the regimes of the former Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, Cambodia, Bulgaria, East Germany, Romania, Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Hungary. The conclusion seems clear; that secularization has resulted in mass murder too many times for humanity to take another chance. None-the-less Secular Humanism continues to present a Utopian dream of secularization.
The Humanist Manifesto III says, “we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.”4 However, who should administer that distribution? How about, Mao Zedong, Stalin, Pol Pot5 or any of the other historical mass murders who embraced secularization. They were pursuing what could be called a “secular ideal” when they enacted unthinkable campaigns of destruction and genocide. Each of these individuals and their administrations were convinced that they were bringing a kind of utopia to their slice of the world. On a utilitarian humanistic basis, it could be said that they were justified in doing what he did, as long as they can say it was an attempt at, “…distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life”6
1 Fraser, Ian, and Lawrence. Wilde. The Marx Dictionary. London ; New York: Continuum, 2011: 115
2 Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, Samuel Moore, [from old catalog, and Arnold Petersen. The Communist Manifesto. New York: New York Labor News co., 1893.
3 Secular Humanist Manifesto I
4 American Humanist Association. “Humanist Manifesto III: Humanism and its Aspirations.” Humanist 71, no. 4 (2011): 39-39.
5 The claim is not that these men were professing Humanists, but that they were pursuing goals that are similar to humanist goals.
6 Humanist Manifesto III