Why Religion Is Awkward For Secular Humanists
Alister McGrath makes a brilliant point that I’d never thought of in The Great Mystery: The very existence of religion is rather problematic for secular humanists.
Secular humanists will often blame God—or as they’d see it, the belief that there is a god—for the ills and evils in the world. They also view God as a fictional creation, arising from the minds of humans. But put these two beliefs together and you’ve got a problem: the idea ‘of God and religion as human fabrications leads to the conclusion not that religion corrupts an innocent humanity, but that corrupt human beings create a religion that is just as evil and degenerate as they are’ (p.166).
So secular humanists get caught in a rather uncomfortable position. The more they criticise religion as the root of all our problems, the more they admit that humanity is actually the root of all our problems, and that isn’t a conclusion that they tend to be too keen on. Criticism of religion is really criticism of humanity.
McGrath drives the point home rather effectively by slightly rewording Dawkins’ famous description of God:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction, created by equally unpleasant human beings who were jealous and proud of it; who were petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freaks; who were vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleansers; who were misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bullies; and who created their gods in their own image.
The reality of course is quite different. When the Bible is understood carefully, the God of the Old (and New) Testaments is not the sort of God that would be created by flawed and sinful humans (hence why he contrasts so starkly with the gods of other religions). The God of the Bible is far better than anything we could ever come up with.