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Humanism: neither healthy, nor humane

Britain’s National Health Service appoints first humanist head chaplain



The UK Humanist Society have secured a ‘victory’ in appointing their very first humanist to head the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team in the National Health Service (NHS) and they want more humanist chaplains to follow. Lindsay van Dijk,1 originally from Holland, is the new head of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust chaplaincy team. She is leading a team of ministers from the Church of England, Baptist and evangelical denominations, along with twenty-four volunteers from a range of other faiths.

But since when did humanism become a privileged religion that justifies its place at the head of Christianity and other faiths? Previously, we have witnessed the duplicity of the atheist claim to non–religion when it suits them.

What is a good life?

A recent BBC report gives van Dijk free rein to express her viewpoint on various issues. She states that humanists, “do not believe in a higher power, or a ‘god’, but … do believe in leading a good life right now”.2 She does not state how or from where she derives her definition of ‘good’. What exactly is a ‘good life’, and by what standard does she measure it? Her own personal ethical view? Where does that come from? If, as humanists assert, there is no Supreme Being, there is no ultimate standard by which ‘truth’ and ‘goodness’ can be measured. The logical conclusion of humanism (which she fails to admit in her BBC monologue) is that people like her have set themselves up as the ultimate arbiters of truth and goodness. Without the God of the Bible as the ultimate source of Christian ethics, moral relativism is the only possible outcome.

Moral relativism and pastoral care?

In a recent radio interview about her NHS chaplaincy appointment, van Dijk states, “… humanists accept that the current life that we live is our only life, so we don’t so much bother about an afterlife, or thinking that there’s something after we pass away and therefore we have to make meaning and purpose for ourselves in the one life that we have”.3 This is nihilism plain and simple— which is condemned in Scripture (see Ecclesiastes 8:15; Isaiah 22:13, Luke 12:18–20 and 1 Corinthians 15:32, where Paul adds that such thinking results from not believing in the resurrection).

Van Dijk discusses her chosen career path and how she “got heavily involved” with Humanists UK (HUK). She was, “very intrigued about how brilliantly they set up the humanist pastoral care service there and really wanted to put [her] two cents in as well”.3 The interviewer asked how a humanist works alongside “Church of England, Baptist, [and] evangelical denominations”, when their “two worlds collide” and when they “don’t have a shared belief. … How has it gone down with them?”3 She said she had detected “no collisions of world-views”, citing the fact that most of their pastoral care was practically orientated. Also, patients could be referred to chaplains of other faiths if they asked.

The interviewer pressed van Dijk further by asking, “So is that what you do? You don’t get on to the tricky subject of, ‘Is there, or isn’t there a God?’ until you know where that person is coming from, and then you can direct them to the person they need to speak to?” Van Dijk’s reply reveals her completely materialistic, reductionist view of spirituality: “It’s mostly … about [asking] ‘what does this mean to you?’ If somebody really wants to speak about an afterlife, of course they can speak to me about that … as well, but if it comes to specifically the rituals, such as praying, I don’t feel authentic in providing prayer—as that’s not part of my belief. We can sit alongside the bed, if somebody prays and, of course … offer that moment of silence, and then ask for someone [else] who can actually provide a specific ritual …”3

Earlier in the interview, van Dijk defined ‘spirituality’ (for a humanist who does not “believe in any God”) as being “broad” but, “not reserved to just people of faith… It’s something that takes us outside of our everyday existence and it’s an experience which you can become wholly absorbed in, such as, for instance, meditation, or a deeply affecting piece of music, or a moment where you have a very beautiful human connection… Spirituality is what facilitates human flourishing.”3

It is clear that van Dijk has to borrow heavily from the biblical world-view in order to plug the gaps in her own completely vacuous world-view. The logical implication of evolution clearly is nihilism. This was ably summed up by Professor Richard Dawkins in his now-infamous quote, “The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”4 If van Dijk wants to be consistent with her world-view, she should be quoting Dawkins to those on their deathbeds—but that may not prove too popular with the patients or her NHS colleagues!

Humanists UK: where is their humanity?

A charitable organisation which promotes Humanism and aims to represent "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs" in the United Kingdom

But what of van Dijk‘s links with HUK—what do they stand for? Well, they promote a yearly Darwin Day every 12th February, and hope this will become a national holiday in honour of their hero.5 Under their website’s Schools and Education section they gloat that their ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign “has also had a string of victories, including evolution being added to the new primary National Curriculum in England, the fact that Free Schools now have to teach evolution, and the fact that state schools are banned from teaching pseudoscience such as creationism”; they see this as a cause for great celebration.6 In their targeting of schools they stand against ‘anti-abortion’ groups having access to pupils, seek further liberalisation of sex education in schools to increasingly younger pupils, and a call for a complete end to faith schools of all types.7

HUK campaigns also include an alarming push for assisted suicide. They state, “We have long supported attempts to legalise assisted dying, assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia across the UK”.8 In their campaign to further liberalise the abortion laws they say, “We oppose any changes to the law that seek to restrict access to abortion, such as imposing compulsory ‘counselling’, or introduce further obstacles to later abortion, or outlaw abortion on the basis of doctrine, rather than on evidence.”9

Regarding the use of ‘human tissue’ for scientific research, their campaign states, “Humanists UK lobbied on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, to bust the myths about the Act spread by some religious groups and set out our position on a range of issues including: the sex selection of embryos; [and] the use of inter-species embryos for scientific research…” (my emphasis).10 Yes, that really does mean mixing human and animal life; the HUK campaign pledges make for some truly shocking reading!

HUK campaigns for ‘human rights and equality’ includes, “an end to religious privilege in marriage laws, through the legalisation of humanist and same-sex marriage across the UK”.11

HUK was at the forefront in seeking to abolish the blasphemy laws in the UK and spearhead the laws’ further liberalisation: “Although the blasphemy laws have gone, many religious groups are stepping up their campaigns to have books or artworks they disagree with banned or censored—Humanists UK will be working to oppose such attempts whenever we hear of them, and to uphold freedom of speech”.12 UKH’s astounding statement is utterly hypocritical when we consider that Christian and other groups want the right to disagree with abortion and euthanasia, and to affirm traditional marriage. HUK seeks to ban them from having this right and opposes everything they stand for. And yet HUK want the freedom to blaspheme and offend people of faith. In fact, they worked hard to overturn British Law that had put curbs on people’s verbal behaviour. For the HUK it’s a case of ‘heads we win, tails you lose’.

HUK was also behind the £150,000 atheist bus campaign which ran the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, on London buses. They state on their campaign page: “People who do not believe in gods or other supernatural things, do not usually believe in life after death. Humanists believe that death is the end of our personal existence, that we have only one life and must make the most of it—as Robert Ingersoll, a nineteenth century American humanist said, ‘The time to be happy is now!’”13

Holland and the horrors of inhuman humanism

Through Van Dijk’s recent appointment by the NHS, her native country has effectively exported its brand of highly toxic, liberal humanism. While there are many active Christians in the country, the Netherlands is helping to lead Europe in a relativistic, moralistic charge away from the ultimate standards of God and His Word, particularly in the liberalisation of the euthanasia laws in Holland in 2002. Dutch medics involved in ‘assisted suicide’ are responsible for a staggering 4.5% of hospital deaths (as officially measured in 2015), a truly horrific statistic which is set to rise even further.14

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesLilianne-Ploumen
Lilianne Ploumen on 2nd April 2015 in The Hague

Consider, too, the Dutch government’s lead in financially countering the impact of US President Trump's (2017) plan to stop foreign aid to organisations supporting abortion. Dutch Trade and Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen stated, “Access to sexual and reproductive health, particularly family planning, remains critical to women’s empowerment, improving gender equality and reducing maternal and child mortality.”15 By ‘family planning’, Ploumen means abortion, which is the murder of children in the womb for the sake of convenience. Yet, in her twisted world-view abortion can “reduce… child mortality”; perverse logic indeed.

When a nation casts off the restraint of God’s Law, they feel free to define what ‘good’ means for them (Judges 21:25). The answer to abortion is in Genesis, specifically Genesis 1:27, which clearly teaches that humans are made in the image of God, and are therefore of infinite worth. But if humans are merely evolved animals, as per the humanist position, what is wrong with killing unborn children?

With these things in mind, employing a humanist to head up an NHS Trust pastoral team does not bode well. I am not suggesting that van Dijk necessarily agrees with all the vileness of Dutch humanism, or would seek to promote those things in her role. But what I am saying is that the world-view she is sharing with others is capable of manifesting these types of horrors, and more. Humanists UK has hailed van Dijk’s appointment as a “positive reflection of the growing inclusivity of NHS trusts in their approach to providing religious, spiritual, and pastoral care”.16

But when it comes to ‘inclusivity’ for religious, spiritual, and pastoral care of patients, the British National Health service has a poor track record indeed and must be judged according to the back-drop of recent historical legal cases against Christians. Some may remember the 2009 case of the NHS nurse (Shirley Chaplin) sacked for refusing to remove a small cross which she hung discretely from her neck.17 Or the 2008 case of Caroline Petrie, who was suspended for offering to pray for one of her patients.18 Or what of the 2018 case of Sarah Kuteh, a Christian nurse, who was fired for talking to patients about her faith and occasionally offering prayer, while helping them prepare for surgery—even though it was in her job remit to ask about patients’ faith, as part of a pre-assessment questionnaire.19

Call to prayer

The rise of atheism and secular humanism in public life—in the UK and elsewhere—is a constant source of sorrow for Bible-believing Christians. This latest appointment should give further cause for concern. There is nothing truly humane about humanism. The societal fruits of secular humanism are evident to all with eyes to see. Evolutionary roots are bearing their fruits in society at large and humanism’s destructive influence is only set to spread further and deeper. Christians need to pray for those working in public life—including the good Christian nurses, medical doctors and chaplains—who are still being a quiet influence for good, even when under much secular pressure to conform.

It is also important to pray for Christian leaders, that they might boldly stand against the tide of immorality that is sweeping away the last vestiges of Christianity in the West. Only by a radical return to the authority of God’s Word—particularly with Genesis as the basis for all ethics—can the Church stem the ever-increasing flow of godlessness in society. That is why creation.com exists, part of CMI’s vital ministry to inform, support and equip the Church for the fight. Christians, keep praying!

Published: 18 September 2018

References and notes

  1. Van Dijk holds Batchelor’s and Master’s degrees and is studying towards a doctoral degree within ‘humanist pastoral care’. Return to text.
  2. The first humanist lead chaplain in the NHS, bbc.co.uk/news, 19 August 2018; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  3. Lindsay van Dijk becomes first humanist NHS head of pastoral care, youtu.be/xj2YhLX614k, 11 May 2018; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  4. Dawkins, R., River out of Eden, Weidenfeld and Nicolswi, Chapter 4, 1995. Return to text.
  5. Anon, Darwin Day, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  6. Anon, Schools and education, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  7. Anon, PSHE and sex and relationships education, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  8. Anon, Assisted dying, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  9. Anon, Abortion and sexual-and-reproductive-rights, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  10. Anon, Human tissues and remains, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  11. Anon, Marriage laws, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  12. Anon, Abolition of English and Welsh blasphemy laws, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  13. Anon, Atheist bus campaign, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  14. Anon, Euthanasia deaths becoming common in Netherlands, cbsnews.com; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  15. Winsor, B., The Netherlands ‘counters’ Trump with international abortion fund, sbs.com.au; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  16. Anon, First humanist head of an NHS Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team, humanism.org.uk; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  17. The same NHS Trust (Exeter), while sacking her, simultaneously allowed other faiths free expression. This included the wearing of head scarves on the wards by Muslim nurses, despite the obvious breach of uniform policy which was cited against Mrs. Chaplin. See: Anon, Christian nurse in confirmation cross suspension to file claim for discrimination, christianconcern.com; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  18. The patient in question was not offended, nor had she made any complaint against Mrs. Petrie. Rather, it was reported by a fellow nurse, resulting in Mrs. Petrie’s suspension without pay by her employer, the North Somerset Primary Care Trust. See: Anon, Praying patients should not be grounds for NHS disciplinary action, doctors say, christianconcern.com; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  19. Mrs. Kuteh was at the Darent Valley Hospital, Kent NHS Trust. See: Anon, Christian nurse sacked for talking about faith with patients, christianconcern.com; accessed 29 August 2018. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Is Human Life Special?
by Gary Bates and Lita Cosner Sanders
US $4.00
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
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