Secular Humanist Violence Fails to Suppress Theism

Extract from "In Defense of Eupraxophy" Paul Kurtz Humanism Today 1991

The late Paul Kurtz was a Professor of Philosophy, SUNY, Buffalo, NY. President of Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH).

Dr. Kurtz is the Father of Secular Humanism and author of many of its manifestos. He became disillusioned with communism the most common Humanist belief system. Even after the horrors of the Soviet regime were exposed he still saw the problem as theism but not human nature. Dr. Kurtz has attempted to reform Humanism's authoritarian tendencies - it was applied wrong in his view, not that it was broken to begin with.

What is troubling to me and I leave this to the reader to decide is his concern is more about the damage the Marxism-Humanist religion has done to the image of Humanism and its failure to suppress religion than the fact Humanism has led to violence and terror since its birth during the French Revolution.

Dr. Kurtz illustrates that Humanism since 1991 and the fall of Humanist Marxism must redefine itself and be more marketable to a mass audience. That evolution is what I call today Leftism which is a separate essay.

The rest I leave to Dr. Kurtz a nice well-meaning but in my opinion a blind fool. L. Loflin

Unbelievers today are disturbed by the patent failure in many countries to enlist mass support for the humanist/rationalist/freethought outlook.

It is dismaying that religiosity still seems to grow and that the devastating critiques of religious claims so boldly presented historically have often been forgotten.

Indeed, every generation seems to need to rewage the wars of the past, and no matter how many intellectual victories there are, in one sense, very little progress seems to be made, at least in building secular institutions...

Failure of the Atheist-Freethought Movement

I submit that one of the great failures of the atheist and freethought movement may be attributed to the fact that it was largely cerebral and cognitive in function.

Heir to the enlightenment, to the new methods of thinking developed in philosophy, and to the application of scientific method and technology to the world, many freethinkers thought that if only they could define a scientific/philosophical outlook, that would be sufficient.

Webmaster note: because Dr. Kurtz touches on the French Enlightenment we need to very clear what he means by "individual freedom" and "democracy" - he is referring to this in collectivist' terms of the positive "freedom" of Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx, not individual liberty or individual rights. To quote:

In its political form, positive freedom has often been thought of as necessarily achieved through a collectivity. Perhaps the clearest case is that of Rousseau's theory of freedom, according to which individual freedom is achieved through participation in the process whereby one's community exercises collective control over its own affairs in accordance with the 'general will'. Put in the simplest terms, one might say that a democratic society is a free society because it is a self-determined society, and that a member of that society is free to the extent that he or she participates in its democratic process.


All collectivist' belief systems always crush individual liberty. Back to Dr. Kurtz.

If they (the Marxist' Humanists) could only destroy the chains of illusion and the myths of unreason that persisted, they believed that humankind would be emancipated from theistic dogmas and they would breathe the free air of a naturalistic/materialistic outlook.

But in that basic premise they have failed -- for if we have learned anything in the last century, it is that atheism, scientific naturalism, and materialism are not sufficient.

Atheism is merely a negative critique of the idea of God. Atheists say that they find insufficient evidence or proofs for the existence of God; therefore they reject the belief in deity.

Some may choose to describe themselves as non-theists, others as agnostics, but all reject the claim that God exists.

Further, atheism, per se, does not determine any moral outlook or life stance: one can be an atheist and a Stalinist; one can be an atheist and a fascist; an atheist and a democrat.

Failure of Attempts to Suppress Religion

Institutionalized, dogmatic atheism has failed in the Soviet Union and the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. For a long time it was difficult to get reliable information about the level of religious belief and unbelief in these countries.

The Soviet Union for over 70 years defended atheism as part of the official ideology of Marxism; and there have been massive efforts to promulgate and propagandize for atheism. Indeed, for a long period of time, brutal programs of suppression were applied by Lenin, Stalin, and their successors.

In the Soviet Union Churches were closed; priests, mullahs, and rabbis were sent to concentration camps; the publication of religious documents, freedom of conscience, and religious education were all forbidden.

Great efforts were made to enlist the young into atheism and to provide alternative secular ceremonies and symbols to attract unbelievers. The full tale is only now being told.

On a visit to the Soviet Union recently and in a dialogue with atheists at the Institute for Scientific Atheism at the Academy of Social Sciences in Moscow, we learned that many atheists in the Soviet Union now concede that they have failed to develop a mass movement, and that there are great animosities not only towards the regime, which is viewed as an oppressor, but also towards atheism.

The lesson here is that it is perilous to attempt to suppress religion by force. During the French Revolution the churches were closed and burned and priests and nuns were harassed, yet within a short period of time they were restored.

Webmaster note: What Dr. Kurtz avoids here is the earlier atheist/Enlightenment during the French Revolution was also a blood bath. The rationalist' Reign of Terror led to the deaths of perhaps 200,000 people. Marxism is really strike two for Humanist' terror that began in France under the Jacobins. This "alternative secular ceremonies and symbols" was also attempted at that time.

The same litany of events seem to be occurring in the Soviet Union, where churches are now being opened, religious seminaries are coming into being, and a new wave of religiosity seems to be sweeping that country.

One can ask this question, as I have asked in many studies that I have engaged in: Is there a transcendental temptation, so deep within the human breast, so powerful in impulse, that it is difficult or indeed virtually impossible to suppress it?

We know that in many Western countries religion seems to be very strong--but there religion is aligned with economic and social structures and is encouraged or supported by the political authorities.

This was not the case in Communist countries, where there were negative efforts by the power structure to stamp out or to repress religion.

Yet in spite of that it persisted. I have speculated as to whether or not there is something biological, indeed perhaps even socio-biological, whether there is even a spiritual/metaphysical "gene."

I have come to the conclusion that there is not, for the simple reason that it is absent in a significant minority of people--most of the readers of this journal, for example and that therefore under certain conditions the transcendental temptation will not express itself.

But the transcendental temptation is so strong that unless functional substitutes are found for it, one cannot deviate from it.

See Part 2 Failure of Marxism-Leninism Substitute Humanist Religion