Humanism for the greater part of last century was fused with hopeful anticipation of creating a world in which self-serving, hedonistic lifestyles could be pursued with impunity.
Blocking man’s freedom to indulge at will his base passions, for sex, self-gratification, self-will, independence, irresponsibility and the like, were impositions that came from God, family, society and nature.
God, as the Bible reveals Him, is a perfect moral being who created man and thus to whom man is morally accountable. Every act, thought and word of man is therefore brought under moral constraint, frustrating selfish desire and irresponsible and immoral pursuit of self-will.
Family, as child and sibling in our parental home and then as spouse and parent in our own home, causes us to be imposed upon by the expectations, demands, personality and responses of our family members. Selfish actions cause us to come into conflict with those closest to us and to receive disapproval from and cause hurt to those we are most closely bonded to emotionally. We also suffer the indignity of being judged, accused and otherwise imposed upon by parent, sibling, spouse and child.
Society at large also has its order, which in the western world has been built upon Christian principles of morality. Society demands that we act responsibly and it acts as an extension of God’s authority over our lives, penalising us for certain actions that are deemed criminal.
Nature also provides cruel punishments for various indulgences, such as addiction to the drugs men use and sexually transmitted diseases which blight free sexual activity. Sexuality is also blighted by unwanted pregnancies. Overeating results in obesity. Over-indulgence in alcohol results in drunkenness and addiction. Indulging laziness results in loss of income. And so it goes.
Science to the Rescue
By midway through the twentieth century science had emerged as the hopeful saviour of humanism’s frustrated desire. Science offered both philosophical and practical solutions to humanism’s obstacles.
From the 1880’s publication and propagation of Darwin’s version of the Theory of Evolution promised a scientific explanation for the origins of man, and therefore allowed the god-rejecting conscience to reject fear of God’s moral judgment for man’s immoral selfishness.
Advances in hygiene and medicine progressively promised cures for mankind’s ills, and gave rise to the hope that those dreaded consequences of sexual exploits would also be conquered by medical science.
Education had proved itself able to elevate primitive and seemingly backward people into modern living standards and to embrace modern educated values. Thus education and enlightenment promised to be the source of continued elevation of mankind into an even more idealised state.
Psychological ideas promised power to alter man’s thinking and alleviate such things as guilt, shame, conscience and so on.
Marxist ideas of revolutionary overthrow of what exists to make way for what is better were widely disseminated.
Social and religious ideas, including the concept of marriage, were progressively accused of being mere products of primitive thinking in an evolutionary setting. The educated classes began to see that god, family, society and nature could be tamed and thus man liberated to indulge previously sinful and criminal behaviour.
It is interesting, then, to see that the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s was the humanist ‘love-child’, expressing the revolutionary spirit of Marx, disregard for God, family and societal standards, and unbridled indulgence of desire, especially for sex, drugs and irresponsible living.
However the humanist hope was soon to crumble.
Darwinian ideas of evolution continued to prove unsubstantiated and eventually unscientific, and were abandoned in pursuit of better hopeful explanations for man’s arrival without a Creator God.
Medical science has not continued to deliver great leaps in human health, and old, once-conquered diseases still hover on the edges of society, with newer, terrifying pandemic possibilities popping up from time to time.
Education has staggered to a halt. All of the pursuit of knowledge has done nothing to alleviate human suffering, social pain, depression, hopelessness, suicide and the many other social ills that enlightenment should have done away with. The educated are no happier nor more free and liberated than the ignorant.
Psychology failed to provide the keys to unlocking human happiness or removing human pain. Instead a plethora of unproven psychological ideas has swamped western society and myriad gurus of the mind have competed for their share of the market. Meanwhile a greater percentage of the population resorts to medication than ever before.
As for revolution it has proven powerless. Those who dived into liberation gained nothing but temporary indulgence, which they have to live with for the rest of their lives. The moral, emotional, relational and personal entanglements, pains, frustrations, regrets and bitterness are the same as ever, and those who were part of the revolution carry the greater pain and suffering in consequence.
What a Waste of Time
God was not dethroned by man’s defiance. Nature was not disempowered by man’s confidence. Morality was not remoulded by man’s insistence. Nothing has changed.
Man is inherently selfish and inclined to rebel against his Creator. That is as it has always been. God has placed us in a moral universe and that has not changed. Man’s mind is puny and vain, and that has not changed. Humility before God is wonderful, liberating and empowering, and that has not changed.
The humanist hope has crumbled.
But man’s hope in God is as strong and wonderful as ever.
Hope in God. That is the end of the matter.