The Higher Religions (1996)
Emmett F. Fields
I must take issue with Dr. Paul Kurtz and Free Inquiry magazine (Fall 1996) in concluding that Humanism is not a religion. If there were religious liberty in America the question of the religious status of Humanism, and the other Higher Religions, would be simply a matter of personal or academic interest. But as we do not have religious liberty in America the question of religious status becomes one of great legal and political importance. The Government will not establish a religion unless the religion meets certain vague and unconstitutional "guidelines," and pleases the Government agent(s) responsible for approving religions for Government establishment.
Those religions the Government establishes are called "churches," and those religions the Government refuses to establish are not considered religions. The method is as old as priestcraft, and as effective as the Holy Inquisition. For establishment purposes the Government refuses to consider "non-religion" to be a religion, in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court has said that non-religion has the same rights as religion.
EPPERSON v. ARKANSAS. 1968.
"Government in our democracy, state and national, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of no-religion; and may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion."
The United States Government is not "neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice" -- it establishes and it discriminates. The Higher Religions cannot hope to successfully compete with the Government established lower religions, therefore the Higher Religions must be recognized as religions and must demand an equal establishment. The alternative is for the U.S. Government to be forced to stop establishing religions and made to abide by the Constitution. This writer has a Case pending in Federal Court that challenges to right of the United States Government to establish religions.
The errors of reason in the Free Inquiry discussion would seem to support the Government's contention that the Higher Religions are not religions at all.
Free Inquiry makes the assumption that reasonable religious views cannot be religious. Dr. Kurtz illustrates this mistake in his example: "If Miss Jones rejects belief in God, never goes to Mass, and claims she is an atheist, is she also "religious?"." Dr. Kurtz asserts that she is not religious -- Dr. Kurtz is wrong! Certainly she is religious, she has found a higher, grander and truer religion than the one she left behind. If Miss Jones had simply stopped going to Mass because it was too much trouble, retained her belief in the god assumption because, like most Americans, she had been indoctrinated to believe the existence of a god is a question of fact and not of faith; then, perhaps, it might be said that Miss Jones was "non-religious."
As most Atheists (always with a capital "A") know, it requires a great deal of courageous thought and personal anguish for one to escape the induced obsessional neurosis that passes for religious conviction. To say that a person who has investigated, thought, suffered and raised his or her religious views above the lower religions becomes "non-religious" is ridiculous.
All Humanists, Atheists, etc., know that the negative sounding "non-religious" is an improper term that has been applied to those of us who have found a higher and grander religion than a mere dogmatic or "supernatural" belief. And it must be pointed out that there is a great difference between Humanism as a Higher Religion, and Religious Humanism. The one indicates a belief system that has escaped all ritual and dogma, while the other indicates that many of these lower traits remain.
Dr. Kurtz said he used to believe Humanism was a religion, but that he has now changed his mind. What was the cause of this great change of mind? From reading the several articles that debated the question of religious status it seems that this change was brought about more by a political misunderstanding than by any religious considerations.
The argument seems to be that if Humanism is not a religion it is permissible to teach Evolution in the schools. And if Humanism is a religion that fact would, somehow, affect what is taught in science classrooms, and cause the destruction of public education by the enactment of school voucher systems. How absurd!
Just what is this presumed religious entanglement with science? Science is a thing apart, it is the servant of neither the lesser, nor of the higher religions. Science has nothing to do with religion. Science and religion are different species of things, they neither mate nor live in the same house.
If a modern religion finds that science has the best answers to certain questions of religious importance, and adapts those scientific truths as part of its religious outlook, that does not, in the least, entangle science and religion. Science goes on its merry way of finding facts and cares nothing about those religions that agree, or disagree, with its empirical findings. Why then, should there be any objection to teaching scientific facts and theries in schools simply because some religions have had the good sense to adapt certain scientific facts into their religious belief system?
Science becomes corrupted and entangled with religion only when a powerful and unscrupulous religious force presumes to forcefully pervert science with dogmatic religious assumptions. One example of such religious perversion of science is "Scientific Creationism." Such corrupted science is not science at all, but simply dishonest religion.
In the Free Inquiry debate Mr. David A. Noebel rightly states that Humanism is a religion, then he makes the amazing statement that; "The religion of Secular Humanism is the only worldview allowed in the public schools. All other competing worldviews have been declared illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court and effectively eliminated bit by bit -- 1962 (prayer), 1963 (the Bible), 1980 (Ten Commandments), and 1987 (God)."
All the things that were removed from the Public Schools were sectarian religious views of the Christian belief. Christians should be ashamed for having forced their beliefs into our public schools and upon non-Christian children -- the Higher Religions do not do that.
And "worldview" Mr. Noebel? We do not send our children to school to learn someone's "worldview;" yours, mine or any. We send children to school, and pay great amounts for College, to EDUCATE our children. Schools are to teach what mankind knows, not what this or that "worldview" might believe. The lesser religions are so powerful that the facts of history, science, philosophy, etc., that disprove, or seem to disprove, their religious assumptions are simply not taught, or taught in such a way that they seem not to contradict the ancient mistakes. We do not need more money to make our schools better, we need less "worldview."
If we are to judge what is and what is not religion we must ask if Christianity and other lower religions are really religions. If a religious system has lost its myths and fables to the advance of science and human knowledge, is it still a religion? Or is it simply an entrenched power structure that corrupts science, changes historic facts, retards human progress and interferes in world affairs for its own survival, power, and profit? Is there a troubled spot in the world today that is not caused by a difference of religion -- a conflict between the various sects and factions within, or among, the lower religions?
The Higher Religions, such as Humanism, are in every way religions because they address every aspect of the religion problem. The very first clause of the First Amendment clearly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . ." In law that part of the First Amendment is known as the Establishment Clause; and the remainder of the statement; "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" is known as the Free Exercise Clause. The Supreme Court has said that the Establishment Clause is absolute.
ZORACH v. CLAUSON; 1952.
"There cannot be the slightest doubt that the First Amendment reflects the philosophy that Church and State should be separated. And so far as interference with the "free exercise" of religion and an "establishment" of religion are concerned, the separation must be complete and unequivocal. The First Amendment within the scope of its coverage permits no exception; the prohibition is absolute."
While the Constitution clearly states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, the United States Government has enacted and enforces rules that establish preferred religions, and discriminates against those religions the Government refuses to establish. Government establishment of any religion(s) is a flagrant affront to the Establishment Clause.
For establishment purposes the U.S. Government pretends the Higher Religions are not religions at all, and thus cannot share the special benefits and immunities showered upon the lower religions through Government establishment and favors. Government establishment of the lower religions has preserved dead religions and allowed them to become religio/political powers that are a great danger to this nation. Therefore what is, and what is not, a religion is no longer a simple academic question, it has broad political ramifications and threatens the very foundations of the United States as a free Nation and as a world leader.