Citizen, class warrior, Florida school board gunman…and good humanist
By Selwyn Duke
In the film The Devil's Advocate, Satan poses as a powerful attorney bent on undermining man through the law. When he finally reveals himself to the main character toward the movie's end, he delivers a self-adulatory monologue during which he proudly states, "I'm a fan of man. I'm a humanist. Maybe the last humanist."
Speaking of devilish actions, by now most Americans have heard of Clay Duke (no relation!), the gunman who opened fire at a Panama City, Florida, school board meeting last Tuesday. We know that he was upset about his wife's dismissal from a district job and that he wanted to exact revenge on those he deemed responsible. We also know that no innocents were harmed and the only fatality was Duke himself, who, after being wounded by a brave security guard, died by his own hand.
What few know, however, is Duke revealed that he had the philosophical foundation of what we today call "leftism": On his Facebook page, he listed his religion as "Humanism."
Before I explore the meat of the matter, there's something I must mention. Some will roll their eyes and call the above fact irrelevant, but what would the left's reaction be if Duke had listed his religion as "Catholic," "Evangelical" or, better yet, if he had expressed an affinity for the Tea Party? If the last thing, the media would have had an orgiastic propaganda feeding frenzy.
The reality is, though, that claiming oneself a humanist is usually far more significant than a traditional religious identification. After all, people may be born of Catholic or Jewish parents and, therefore, identify themselves in that manner even if they have no faith. Hardly anyone, however — and especially not 56-year-old Southern boys — is born into "humanism." When you thus identify yourself, it indicates that the designation reflects what your beliefs truly are.
And what are humanist beliefs? In our time, humanism has become almost synonymous with atheism; it rejects religion and, consequently, any moral standard above man. Thus, moral relativism — the idea that what we call right and wrong are a function of man's opinion — is one of its corollaries.
Now, the reality of relativism is that it's simply a pseudo-intellectual way of saying there is no right or wrong. Many atheists, or humanists, try to deny this, but it is one of those rarest of things that can actually be called "philosophical fact." After all, if man is the author of what we call "right and wrong," how is it any different from taste? As I wrote in my 2002 essay "The Nature of Right and Wrong":
This applies to all moral principles, of course; it is the corner into which atheists paint themselves. I call it The Atheist's Box.
And it's one from which there is no escape.
That is, except by acknowledging the divine — for if morality is real, it must have a source. The Source.
The only other alternative is the sociopath route: claiming right and wrong are just an illusion and that the credo "If it feels good, do it" is as good a guide as anything else. After all, to accept modern humanism's relativism is to render humanism irrelevant. For if "morality" is "values" and values are tastes, on what credible basis can you advance humanism's priorities? Why should we believe that human advancement or dignity is important? Who is to say? Hey, don't impose your values on me, you intolerant humanist! This is why any relativism-based conception of virtue — or, as the atheists would say, "value system" (Do you know the difference between virtues and values, Chris, Richard and Bill? Bueller? Bueller?) — collapses upon itself. To put it paradoxically, if humanism is true, humanism is false.
The problem with the relativistic folly of humanism, atheism, existentialism — call it what you will (some isms are a pseudo-intellectual effort to escape The Atheist's Box, but they're all getting a bit stale) — is not just that it's a virus causing the crash of a poorly written philosophical program. It's that it causes the crash of civilization. For we could say that it discredits its isms, but remember that it discredits everything and nothing — and justifies everything. After all, rape, kill, steal, spend the nation into oblivion or, maybe, shoot up a school-board meeting? Hey, why not? It's whatever works for you, dude. And a whatever-works-for-you-dude civilization is not long for this world.
At this point, atheists may pull a Hitchens and point to all the evil, real and imagined, perpetrated by Christians. But they miss the point: You can disagree with Christianity's conception of moral reality, but at least it has one. Thus, for a Christian to commit mindless violence, he must violate his world view's prescriptions and proscriptions. All an atheist has to do is note that his world view has none.
While still a teen, the budding serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer said to his parents, "If there's no God, why can't I just make up my own rules?" How is it that a man who lived the stuff of horror films understood the implications of atheism better than "scholars" such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins? The answer lies not in superior intellect, but in superior intellectual honesty. He simply had scraped away the pretense and explored the boundless universe of atheism to its fullest. And this is expressed in an encapsulation of what Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov believed: If there is no God, everything is permitted.
So, yes, I certainly could believe that the Devil is a humanist. Unfortunately, he is far from the last.