3-17-87 Tuesday. A federal district judge in Alabama recently ruled that secular humanism is a religion and that several schoolbooks in use in Alabama are products of that religion. This, he said, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, so he ordered the books removed from the curriculum. Most interesting, to me, is the claim that secular humanism is a religion. Religious groups have been making this claim for many years now, and with good reason. The Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion. By insisting that secular humanism is a religion, these groups put it on a par with their own religions and show that the state has established one religion and not others. But the claim that secular humanism is a religion is absurd. If anything, it is the absence of religion! A religion, among other things, postulates the existence of a supreme being and perhaps an afterlife. [Actually, there are atheistic religions, such as Jainism.] It sets out a moral code to be followed by adherents and contains ritual, social activity, and prayer. These are core characteristics of religion. But secular humanism contains none of them. As I say, it’s a negative doctrine, not a positive doctrine. It will be interesting to see how the [United States] Court of Appeals and ultimately the [United States] Supreme Court handle this case. I suspect that the lower-court ruling will be reversed.
To show you how much I dawdle at unimportant things, it was not until 1:41 P.M. that I finished revising my charity manuscript [“Duties, Rights, and Charity”], eating, reading the newspaper [The Arizona Republic], and drafting journal entries. Terry Mallory also called me this morning, so that cut an hour out of my day. By the time I got around to my [preliminary-exam] reading, it was early afternoon. Terry and I argued about the usual things, but spent a good deal of time on immigration policy. Terry thinks of himself as radical and rebellious, but he is a conservative at heart. He opposes unrestricted immigration into this country on grounds that it will lower our standard of living. “Where are we going to put all these people?” he asks. This, I said, assumes the very evil that I oppose: nationalism. Terry thinks in nationalistic terms, or in terms of “us” and “them.” I finally got him to admit that in the tradeoff between our standard of living and the standard of living of those who would come here, he favors our standard of living. It was an interesting discussion. I’m sure that most people in this country think like Terry. They are first and foremost nationalists, and only secondarily concerned with human need.