Blog – Christian Counseling
Guy Ascherman, MA, LMFT, LPCC, Life Coach
Part 8 of 10
Humanism is the Philosophical Foundation of Secular Psychology. In psychology, the term “humanism” is widely accepted as an altruistic and noble approach to other human beings; the unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. Therapists, as a whole, feel called to improve the life experiences of their clients. Their unselfish devotion to the welfare of others is a great goal and purpose of therapist’s calling and of their profession.
Paradoxically, as therapists find meaning for their own lives in reaching outside of themselves to meet the needs of others, they then direct their clients to find answers for themselves by looking inward; how inconsistent and tragic. This paradox identifies professional confusion and requires a greater understanding of humanism and its goals. Humanism itself is a contradiction within itself and will always lead to confusion. Individual psychological health needs to resolve confusion.
The post-modern view of psychology has deep roots in the philosophy of humanism (below). Humanistic psychology expanded upon the philosophy of humanism throughout the 1970s and the 1980s and continues expanding today. The humanistic philosophy’s impact upon psychology is understood in three major areas:
1) It offers a new set of values for approaching an understanding of human nature and the human condition.
2) It offers an expanded horizon of methods of inquiry in the study of human behavior.
3) It offers a broader range of more effective methods in the professional practice of psychotherapy.
A further assumption is then added – people are basically good, and have an innate need to make themselves and the world better. The humanistic approach emphasizes the personal worth of the individual, the centrality of human values, and the creative, active nature of human beings… each person, in different ways, seeks to grow psychologically and continuously enhance themselves.
Two things come to mind as I read this (reference below). One, the focus is on self. In contrast, therapists find their meaning in helping others. Why direct clients to find meaning in self?
Two, there is no baseline to defining “good,” “better,” “worth,” or “nature” in these typical humanistic statements, leaving individuals to discover their “own truth.” Relativism, or the absence of absolutes, leaves society completely without direction. The absence of absolutes leaves society, and individuals, without any understanding of what is good, better, worth, right or wrong.
According to Humanism, the goal for humans is:
“…self-actualization, which is about psychological growth, fulfillment and satisfaction in life… how self-actualization can be achieved. … The term self-actualization … is about psychological growth, fulfillment and satisfaction in life. … the enhancement of self.”
Again, as the therapist finds their own value in reaching out to others, they instruct others towards the “enhancement of self” by looking inward, against their own personal motivations. Therapists should be directing clients towards a sense of belonging to something greater than self, a purpose and meaning to life, that turns outward and upward, not inward. Therapists do not, for the most part, practice what they teach.
The Broader Goals of the Philosophy of Humanism
Humanistic psychology must be interpreted within the broader understanding of humanistic philosophy, as philosophy and psychology are undeniably connected. Humanists approach individual psychological health within the broader framework of societal values, whatever they are.
The dictionary defines Humanism as:
- the denial of any power or moral value superior to that of humanity; the rejection of religion in favor of a belief in the advancement of humanity by its own efforts
- a philosophical position that stresses the autonomy of human reason in contradistinction to the authority of the Church [Lord]
In a nutshell, humanism is about the advancement of the human race with a distorted view of who human beings are apart from their Creator, what their problems are (see previous blog on the human condition), and how people improve their psychological health.
I want to “cut to the chase.” What does humanism officially teach and advocate?
Here are some excerpts from the Humanist Manifesto II that highlight, not just a disregard for traditional values, but a goal of eliminating them.
As in Humanist Manifesto I, Humanists still believe…
“… that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to live and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism, based on mere affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.
“The next century can be and should be the humanistic century.
” … we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.
[By whose definition of a “meaningful life?”]
“Traditional moral codes and newer irrational cults both fail to meet the pressing needs of today and tomorrow. False “theologies of hope” and messianic ideologies, substituting new dogmas for old, cannot cope with existing world realities.
“We need to … build constructive social and moral values.
[Who decides what is moral?]
“Humanism can provide the purpose and inspiration that so many seek; it can give personal meaning and significance to human life.
[How is this different from and superior to religion?]
“…naturalistic humanism includes “scientific,” “ethical,” “democratic,” “religious,” and “Marxist” humanism. Free thought, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, deism, rationalism, ethical culture, and liberal religion all claim to be heir to the humanist tradition.
“Humanism is an ethical process [whose ethics?] through which we all can move, above and beyond the divisive particulars, heroic personalities, dogmatic creeds, and ritual customs of past religions or their mere negation.
“We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence [materialistic evolution]; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so. … We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race. As non theists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.”
“Some humanists believe we should reinterpret traditional religions and reinvest them with meanings appropriate to the current situation. … We need, instead, radically new human purposes and goals.
“… we reject those features of traditional religious morality that deny humans a full appreciation of their own potentialities and responsibilities. Traditional religions often offer solace to humans, but, as often, they inhibit humans from helping themselves or experiencing their full potentialities.
“… we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
“Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.
“… There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body. We continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others in our culture.
“Traditional religions are surely not the only obstacles to human progress. Other ideologies also impede human advance.”
Concluding thoughts – Humanists (liberal thinkers) who promote ideas of tolerance are the least of the tolerant, evidenced by the above quotes. Humanists feel superior to others and see a need to silence those who disagree. Humanists feel a sense of superior morals, intellect, purpose, and tolerance, while showing they despise those who disagree with them, and offer nothing but their own self-centered view of right and wrong. Theirs is a religion too. Their lack of understanding the human condition and a need for a moral baseline leaves humanity in a vast wasteland without any direction out, for both society and the individual.
People seeking therapy (as well as societies) need foundations, purpose, and meaning to their lives. They need an authority outside of themselves. They have already experimented with being an authority unto themselves and it didn’t work.