Philosopher Roger Scruton lambasts the new humanists
Here. From American Spectator. Scruton laments the passing of his parents’ style of humanism, and attacks the “new humanism” of Dawkins and the BHA.
“Like so many modern ideologies, the new humanism seeks to define itself through what it is against rather than what it is for. It is for nothing, or at any rate for nothing in particular.”
The new humanism “seems to have no consciousness of what is clearly announced between the lines of the text [ON THE ATHEIST BUSES], namely that there are no ideals higher than pleasure.”
The BHA’s “publications imply that there is only one thing that stands between man and his happiness, and that is the belief in God. “
Bit of “straw man” going on here? I know many humanists but I am not sure I know of any that believe (i) “there are no ideals higher than pleasure” and (ii) “only one thing stands between man and his happiness, and that is the belief in God”. I don’t believe either.
Surely the message “clearly announced” by the bus posters is not that there is “no higher ideal than pleasure”, but rather: “Don’t allow, as so many do, belief in God and his divine plan to blight your life (through endless recriminations about your sexuality, about a “woman’s role”, etc.). Contrary to what most religions tell you, this is the only life you have – so make the most of it!”
Scruton is, of course, a gifted philosopher well-versed in the careful reading of texts and weighing of evidence. It’s odd he should be so sloppy here. I’d ask him: (a) where is his evidence that BHA texts commonly “imply” (ii), and (b) does he really believe the atheist bus posters “clearly announce” that there is “no ideal higher than pleasure”?
I guess one moral we should extract from this piece is – we humanists need to to be extremely careful how we phrase things. If there’s the even slightest chance a comment could be interpreted as promoting unbridled hedonism, etc., you can be sure that’s exactly how it will be interpreted!
But is there some truth to the suggestion that new humanists are not “for” anything in particular?