…is very nearly out. It’s called God Created Humanism: the Christian Basis of Secular Values. Here’s the shiny cover – and a taste of some high-profile praise:
I wrote this for the SPCK catalogue:
This book has been brewing in my head for a long time. Sometimes it takes a long time to simplify a big idea.
The core argument is a pretty basic, familiar one in the history of ideas, but for some reason it doesn’t really leave the seminar table – it should be common currency for all intelligent people.
The argument is this. In modern times, religious ideas and feelings are translated into secular terms. Nothing comes from nothing. So socialism for example does not fall from the sky – it comes from centuries of Jewish and Christian thought about divine justice overcoming human greed. And rationalism, when it’s an evangelical cause that thinks it can liberate us – is adapting Protestant ideas about liberating us from superstition. And human rights builds on the humanism taught by Christianity over many centuries. It’s an insight that emerges with Nietzsche – atheist liberals are still serving Christian morality.
This sort of argument is familiar to lots of academics, but it hasn’t really broken through to mainstream thought. Partly that’s because atheist and agnostic thinkers don’t want to explore the religious roots of their humanist assumptions. On one level they know it – but it doesn’t suit them to focus on it.
So it gradually occurred to me that this is the key to Christian apologetics – to showing agnostics why religion should be taken seriously. In a nutshell, our basic common creed, of secular humanism, is rooted in Christianity. If that’s not a strong argument for Christianity, I don’t know what is.
You might have thought this line of argument was very popular with Christians, but most Christian thinkers don’t want to affirm secular humanism too much – they are wary of seeming wet liberals, sell-outs. They want to paint secular humanism as a dubious thing, an alluring threat. They want to be brave tough defenders of orthodoxy.
I’m challenging this – we Christians should affirm secular humanism as the right public ideology. But we should also explain that religion is needed – that secular humanism is too thin on its own, it doesn’t tell us why we should respect human rights and so on.
So my main challenge is to agnostic humanists – look again at your basic moral assumptions – they come from a vision that is not rational, sensible but absolute, perfectionist, and religious.