Homo Deus and the worship of man

Recovering Genesis is crucial1


Published: 19 September 2019 (GMT+10)
Israeli historian and author, Yuval Noah Harari

Ever since Eve was beguiled by the serpent in the Garden of Eden,2 people have continued to fall for Satan’s seductive words, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The particular temptation may vary but the ploy is always the same: we are urged to be as gods, masters of our own destiny.3

This is the very marrow of secular humanism, the worldview of today’s movers and shakers in education, the news media and entertainment industries. Some, like Israeli historian and author Yuval Noah Harari, happily preach it:

“Humanism has taught us that something can be bad only if it causes somebody to feel bad. Murder is wrong not because some god said, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Rather, murder is wrong because it causes terrible suffering to the victim, to his family members, and to his friends and acquaintances. Theft is wrong not because some ancient text says, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ Rather, theft is wrong because when you lose your property, you feel bad about it. And if an action does not cause anyone to feel bad, there can be nothing wrong with it.”4

There is a lot that is wrong with these arguments. For one thing, God-deniers have no logical case for their assertion that hurting people’s feelings or causing suffering is wrong. It is a case of sawing off the branch you’re sitting on. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and other dictators had no compunction in these matters and each had a secular worldview similar to Harari’s. The key point, however, is that he explicitly rejects Scripture’s moral teaching. But more than that, he brazenly elevates man in the place of God:

“The humanist religion worships humanity, and expects humanity to play the part that God played in Christianity and Islam.”5

Accordingly, his above-quoted book is titled Homo Deus (‘Man-God’). Such is the inevitable fruit of a worldview undergirded by the secular origins myth of evolution. Man as God’s image-bearer, thus answerable to Him, is replaced with man as a soul-less biological entity, just one of the humanistic deceits bedeviling academia today. Unsurprisingly, Harari shamelessly borrows his ‘moral principles’ not from Islam but Christianity—indeed Jesus Himself (see Matthew 7:12). Tragically, however, such shameless peddling of humanism ‘hits the spot’ for many in our self-obsessed, self-gratification culture.6 How, then, should Christians respond?

Morality without history?

Can we jettison Genesis as history (Adam as our ancestor) but keep its spiritual and theological teaching, as most theistic evolutionists claim? Certainly not.7 In any case, the arbitrary idea that God created moral human beings by ‘ensouling’ a select pair of humanoid animals impresses few non-Christians, who reject such neo-Christian philosophy as crass and irrelevant. And no wonder because it is a message that is alien both to the Bible and to evolutionary theory. Harari insists:

“Darwin has deprived us of our souls. If you really understand the theory of evolution, you understand that there is no soul.”8

And this means that notions of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are meaningless for morality is what we make it to be. People who ‘play the part of God’ are only concerned with whether or not an action feels right and doesn’t negatively impact others.9 Rejecting the Bible, they reject their Creator’s teaching about sin and judgement (Hebrews 9:27) as a pernicious delusion that threatens their autonomy.10

Advocates of theistic evolution, since they also deny mankind’s supernatural creation and subsequent Fall, often ‘confess’ that the Bible errs scientifically. But such compromise is wholly impotent against the tide of evolutionary humanism, something that is not lost on Harari:

“ … in many countries around the world, including the USA and the UK, witnesses in courts put their hand on the bible when swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s ironic that they swear to tell the truth on a book brimming with so many fictions, myths and errors.”11

Society may be spiraling down into greater moral decadence but praise God, there is a remedy!

Bible to the rescue

It is crucial that we recover the relevance of Genesis and repent of any compromise (or apathy) on these issues. Humanistic indoctrination has greater currency now than ever before. Where churched young people are ill-prepared to counter these deceits, it is little wonder that they believe Christianity is irrelevant. American author Natasha Crain notes that:

  1. They come to see belief in God as an emotional crutch and reject the Bible as a reliable source about reality.
  2. They see their parents’ belief in God as a motive for modifying behaviour, rather than seeing Him as their loving Creator.
  3. They fail properly to understand how faith and historical science connect.
  4. They are not given the chance to develop critical thinking.
  5. They come to believe that their parents, pastors and other spiritual influencers can’t answer the secular challenges.12

Her assessment is spot on and the antidote equally obvious. Uphold the Bible and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). We must ground all our thinking in Scripture and teach others to do the same, making full use of biblical and scientific apologetics information (e.g. Creation magazine). Our best efforts are otherwise doomed to fail. The very apposite words of American theologian J Gresham Machen desperately need to be heeded today:

“We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.”13

References and notes

  1. This article was first published in CreationExtra, CMI-UK/Europe, March 2019. Return to text.
  2. See 2 Corinthians 11:3. Return to text.
  3. This is to idolise self, contravening Exodus 20:3. Return to text.
  4. Harari, Y.N., Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow, Vintage (Penguin Random House), UK, pp. 263–264, 2017. Return to text.
  5. Ref. 4, p. 259. Return to text.
  6. By June 2018, Harari’s Sapiens and Homo Deus had together sold 12 million copies. Return to text.
  7. See why in chapter 6 of Philip Bell, Evolution and the Christian Faith, Day One Publications, 2018, pp. 118–144. Return to text.
  8. Ref. 4. pp. 120–121. Return to text.
  9. But even this is arbitrary: Why is murder morally ‘wrong’ if humans are not God’s image bearers? Return to text.
  10. In other words, their self-appointed right to set their own laws. Return to text.
  11. Ref. 4, p. 203. Return to text.
  12. These points are modified after: Crain, N., 5 terrible reasons your kids may think they can outgrow Christianity, christianmomthoughts.com, 28 August 2018. Return to text.
  13. Machen, J. G., What is Christianity, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 162, 1951. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Richard P.
To Mark T, please notice that the earlier correspondent (Robert R) did not claim that atheists belong in jail. He pointed out that IF murder and theft are wrong only because they make people feel bad, THEN thieves and murderers are jailed for no other reason than making people feel bad, and THEREFORE since the atheists themselves make him feel bad, by their own reasoning they also should be in jail. It was a reductio ad absurdum of Harari's argument: everybody does things that make somebody feel bad: does that mean we should all be in jail?
Mark T.
I'm an agnostic humanist who believes in evolution but have an open mind and read the posts daily from CMI. I have seen many great arguments on these posts but feel this is one of the weakest yet has provided the most feedback.
The first quote was stated to be 'full of flawx' but none were stated. Then it was charged that this was the same argument used by military dictators.
How can a quote that people should rely on their own instincts that cause no harm to others be others be compared to people who murdered millions for power and greed?
In the comments it was stated that atheists belong in jail and suicide bombers are against God. Come on guys.
Philip Bell
The words "full of flaws" which you put in quote marks do not appear in the text of my article, rather: "There is a lot that is wrong with these arguments." But it's not correct to say that "none were stated" for the very next sentence gives an example: "For one thing, God-deniers have no logical case for their assertion that hurting people’s feelings or causing suffering is wrong. It is a case of sawing off the branch you’re sitting on." I did not state that Harari's "argument [was] used by military dictators" (please re-read what I wrote), rather that their beliefs and gross actions put the lie to Harari's claim!
Did you read the three article links (one for 'Hitler', one for 'Stalin' and a third for 'Pol Pot and other dictators')? Those articles provide ample evidence for what was wrong with Harari's statement, "if an action does not cause anyone to feel bad, there can be nothing wrong with it", for those wicked men and their followers committed mass atrocities (causing pain, misery, harm and death--and lots of bad feeling!) while they themselves believed their actions were 'right' and 'justified'. So, with respect, I think you misunderstood what I was saying; we do encourage readers to delve deeper in (hence the linked articles) so that they understand the matters in hand more fully.
Frank G.
Typically, atheist reasoning only makes sense to someone if they avoid actually thinking about its implications.

And dismissing the Bible as "fictions, myths and errors" only sounds convincing to someone who hasn't actually learned much of anything about it.
Aaron I.
Every atheist explanation I’ve heard for right and wrong essentially boils down to this: “It’s commence sense”, “We don’t kill because we don’t want to be killed in return”, “We invented morality so that we could work together and thrive.”

Okay, even if we grant those things to be true, what about suicide bombers? They could care less about what happens to them, as long as they take out as many innocent people as they can. Then what? If there’s no post-death judgement and they couldn’t care less about even themselves, then what? What could possibly stop them? “Don’t do it cause it hurts other people” is absolutely powerless in a situation like that.

I suppose in a last ditch effort the atheist would call foul on that and argue that it’s an “appeal to emotion”. I beg to differ. I find it quite logical. Even if atheism can “explain” morality doesn’t mean it’s a good explanation.
Mark Z.
“And if an action does not cause anyone to feel bad, there can be nothing wrong with it.”

The deceiver does not make the victim feel bad when the deceiver has their belief.

Serving a desire and seeking things to say for support is a way to speaking empty words. Jesus teaches “we speak of what we know”.
Don W.
“something is only bad if it makes you or others feel bad”! What if what I do or believe doesn’t make me feel bad yet you feel bad about what I did or believe? Who is correct? Where then is the standard? Do we now fight, make war on one another to see who will be right ? What nonsense!! Moral compass is not based on feelings but rather what has been placed within humanity by its Creator. Law has been given to humanity to verify what He has already placed within us ( the scriptures) to guide us. Feelings can be corrupted and can’t be relied upon; they are at best fickle! Jesus came (God in the flesh) to fulfill the law that he originally gave. He is the only standard that we can use as a measure for what is right or wrong because of His perfect, blameless, sinless life. We as humans are flawed because of our decision in the garden to rebel against our creator, therefore we cannot be the standard that we can measure what is right or wrong!!
Chuck R.
Humanist thinking has long been a central belief in a popular church.
They teach that man has been gifted with a special ability to discern what God desires; that they have a special authority to decide on what is the correct worship of God and that they alone are the path to heaven, all contrary to Gen. 6:5, Isa 64:6 and Rom. 3:10-12, and it has lead them into doctrines that clearly contradict the Bible.
Mark P.
An ironic example how not making people “feel bad” is hard to apply consistently even in simple situations: a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem writes about humanist religion and “…the part that God played in Christianity and Islam” but leaves out the part that God played in Judaism.
Eileen T.
Well said Philip - Jesus asked if He would find faith on the earth when He comes? The world is in desperate need of the true Gospel (as it always has been of course), but so many Christians have been kept in the nursery, fed with milk only and never weaned onto the meat of God’s word to equip them to give answers to every man who asks a reason for their faith.
Dan B.
The very title of Harari's book is ultra-naive. In the light of human history which his other book claims to master, why isn't he afraid of Homo Diabolus? He should read [C.S.] Lewis' "That Hideous Strength" or similar. And despite quoting the Bible he obviously doesn't know much about it or the evidence for it.
Robert R.
“Humanism has taught us that something can be bad only if it causes somebody to feel bad..."

Atheism makes me feel bad, so therefore atheism is bad. If murder and theft make people go to jail because someone feels bad, then atheists should go to jail.
Martyn M.
CS Lewis in his essay "On Ethics" would agree with Yuval Noah Harari that we do not need Christianity to tell us that Murder and theft are wrong. The morals in the Bible are not new and unique, but are in general, universally known and understood to be good. The weakness in Humanism is that, robbing us of God, it gives us very little motivation to stick to what we know is good, and as Phillip Bell writes, no reason to account for it.
Geoff C. W.
"... to play the part that God played in Christianity ..." Past tense? Have I been exterminated? Not so, last I checked.
“Humanism has taught us that something can be bad only if it causes somebody to feel bad." Hey, Mr Harari, your book and you humanistic ideas make me feel bad. Does that count? Or are you the judge, and you say your book and your ideas are OK?
“Darwin has deprived us of our souls. If you really understand the theory of evolution, you understand that there is no soul.” Don't you mean, "If you really understand the 'theory' of evolution, AND if it's correct, you understand that there is no soul"?
"It’s ironic that they swear to tell the truth on a book brimming with so many fictions, myths and errors.” The only thing ironic about swearing on the Bible is that the Bible tells us not to swear on anything!
At least he called humanism a religion. He got that right.
Henri D.
All that this person has done is to put into more words what a large majority of people believe today. It might not even be a structured belief for most of them, but it is the way they lead their lives instinctively - fallen man in sin. In fact, so did I, before I collided with a Man on a cross on a hill near Jerusalem. We all know that, sadly, narrow is the Way and few will go on it - the "stragglers" are the ones we shall drag to safety through the grace of the Holy Spirit. May our Lord grant us peace in this sin-beleaguered world as we run the race. Thank you CMI for your work.

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