Humanism is not by default a bad thing. There have been, in the past, positive humanists. This positive humanism sought to lift mankind up through higher principles, culture, and beauty. Most importantly, positive humanism never viewed humanity as the end-all. Humanity was striving towards something sublime, something that is greater than man. An excellent example of positive humanism exists in a group known to history as the “Byzantine humanists.” There existed a clear understanding of beauty, of which humanity partook and even strove to guard (but it was still exterior to humanity; humanity was not the source). I will not unravel this point at the moment, because that is not my goal at present. I simply wish to note that there have been manifestations of positive humanism.
The humanism of the modern world is not in the stream of the above mentioned positive humanism. In a strictly modern sense, humanism is negative. In fact, it is not an understatement to say that it is a de-humanism, or as Alexander Solzhenitsyn puts its, “despiritualized humanism.” I will be using humanism in its impoverished and pejorative modern sense.
Since roughly the French Revolution on, humanists have been endlessly claiming that they will establish a semi-paradisiacal (if not outright) state on earth. I mention the French Revolution because it is one of the first radical applications of humanism. A basic study shows it was a bloodbath: totalitarian brutality and oppression that masqueraded as “Republic and freedom.” (A brief study of the slaughter at Vendee, with roughly 300,000 peasants brutally murdered, shows the true face of modern humanism). Even the American Revelation was motivated by the prevalent and growing humanist currents of the 1700’s. True, it was not as radical in nature as the French, but it nonetheless was a governmental experiment based on humanist philosophy (although it was willing to retain a stronger “Christian” influence, as opposed to the French Revolution).
Humanism developed on strictly materialistic terms. Materialism is probably a more accurate term. Humanism has always been more than willing to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people for the sake of material gain and ideology. In reality, it is not interested in the well-being of humanity.
A bedrock confession of humanism is that people must be “free” from religion and religious responsibility. Somehow in doing so, humanity will finally be released and enabled to truly prosper (progress).
Liberal humanism, which professes that all ideas are equal and should be given an equal chance and voice, eventually is run over by radical humanism. The “Liberals” of our day are not classical liberals. They have a very narrow ideology to which they conform. Karl Marx, a radical humanist, aptly observed that, “Communism is naturalized humanism.”
Solzhenitsyn commenting on this statement says, (It) turned out not to be entirely senseless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under communist regimes reach the stage of antireligious dictatorships; concentration on social structures with a seemingly scientific approach. This is typical of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century and of Marxism. Not by coincidence all of communism’s meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness.
Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism; radicalism had to surrender to socialism; and socialism could never resist communism.
Every path of Humanism, no matter how rosy the start, leads to the dark alley of brutality and inhumanity. “Humanism” is only fancy doublespeak. The earnest application of Humanism in history has led to the loss of true humanity. Genocides are a hallmark feature. “Enemies” are systematically de-humanized; for in doing so they are so much easier to liquidate. Why? This question should be foremost in our minds, why was the Twentieth Century, the century of “progress” the bloodiest century in the history of humanity? And why does it seem like we are dead set on keeping pace with it in the Twenty-First? Because we are still fed the lie that secular Humanism and Progress will save us. And despite the glaring and ruthless evidence, the “enlightened” world is still set on advancing upon these principles. Few ask the question because the answer reveals the savage beast of Humanism that has been destroying our world. Even more disturbing is the fact that numerous people desire the beast.
Please spare us the hell of your humanism. Spare us the slavery of your “freedom.”
“Fire, blood, death are needed to preserve Liberty!” “Instruments of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed!” Although these were slogans from the French Revolution, they could be those of any Humanist Revolution. As Christians we must understand this fundamental point: Humanistic “Liberty” holds Traditional Christianity to be its greatest enemy. Christianity stands in the way of man crowning himself as god. Who were the Vendee victims of the “enlightened” French Revolution? Christians. Of the Communist Revolutions? Christians. Who are being slaughtered in the Middle East as the “Progressive” West turns a blind eye in mass? Christians. Maybe ISIS is only doing what the Humanist wish they could do to “backward” Christians. ISIS and Humanism have this much in common: they are both more than willing to spill Christian blood. (This is not intended to diminish others who also suffered, but to highlight that the main victims were Christians).
The current Revolution, traipsing about under guises like womyn’s or sexual rights, that is plaguing our world has as its foundation the same basic principles of past Humanistic Revolutions. It is built on the same bloody foundations. Its true goal is not to free people “sexually” or give women “reproductive rights” (doublespeak for the ability to kill unborn children) but to assault its old “foe:” Christianity. The “instrument of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed!” This is a dogma of Humanism. Currently, it is only verbal intimidation, or lawsuits, that are employed to “smash” any resistance (in the USA). History tells us that it never stops there. Although Humanism has become more subtle and sophisticated in its approach, nonetheless the underlying principles are always at work. Humanism cannot tolerate any God but itself. (Maybe modern Humanism will not be as willing to bloody its hands directly? But it will still find means to assault its foe.)
True Christianity has a very clear revelation of what it means to be Human. We find our humanity in as much as we live according to our Creator’s ways. True Humanity flows from God. But we want to be our own gods. Not much changes in some sense. Humanity detached from God descends to a state of barbaric inhumanity, we commit atrocities that defy comprehension. The centuries of “Progress” (a philosophical idea) and “Revolution” have made a violent and chaotic world. The fruit is evident. It is time that Humanism is held accountable for its bloodbaths of destruction; its constant lies that promise better things but which constantly and consistently bring only turmoil and death. It smiles meekly as its hands drip with the blood of untold millions. The more its principles are applied the more our world will continue to descend into darkness.
As Orthodox, we may well remember the saying of Elder Ignatius of Harbin, “What was started in Russia will be completed in the West.” I hope that we see the writing on the wall, repent, and regain our true Humanity. It is only found in Christ the God-Man.
About the author
Husband, father, and Priest.
Schooling: Kharkov State University (Ukraine); Brownsville School of Ministry; St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.).
Author and illustrator of St. Patrick, Enlightener of the Irish Lands (Conciliar Press, out of print) and illustrator of The Life of St. Brigid (authored by Jane G. Meyer).
Proprietor and writer at the Inkless Pen Blog, at which, based on the foundation of the teachings of Orthodox Christianity, a wide variety of topics are addressed. Fr. Zechariah has translated some works by St. Dimitry of Rostov and New Hieromartyr Seraphim (Zvesdensky), these translations are also available on his blog.