A Deductive System

The ideal form of a science is a deductive system. Like Euclid’s geometry. You start with a small number of definitions and axioms (postulates), and then you deduce all the other propositions (theorems) of the system from these axioms. The best kind of deductive system would be one in which all propositions in the system are deduced from a single axiom.

I think we can do something like this with the American cultural belief system often called secular humanism; or called, when considered as a political belief system, ultra-liberalism or progressivism. That’s what I propose to do here. I will attempt to deduce all the beliefs of secular humanism (progressivism, ultra-liberalism) from a single axiom, the axiom of personal freedom. I confess ahead of time that not all the deductions will be logically watertight; I am no Euclid. But they’ll be fairly tight.

 1. Freedom: The best of all things is personal liberty. In an ideal world, everybody would have as much of this as possible. The only limit to personal liberty would be harm to others; that is, we should be morally free to do whatever we like provided we do no harm to others.

2. Sexual freedom: follows logically from generic freedom. So long as we do no harm to unwilling others, two (or more) consenting adults should be free to perform any sexual act they like.

3. Free contraception:  If we are to have a cultural regime of sexual freedom, society, acting through government, will have to provide us with free-of-charge contraceptives to assure that unwanted pregnancies won’t result.

4. Free abortion: Since contraception, even when provided free of charge, won’t always work, abortion also will have to be provided free of charge. A regime of sexual freedom is impractical without abortion. (If it is objected to abortion that it does do harm to other – namely, it kills the unborn baby – we must deny that the unborn baby is a human being.)

5. Homosexuality: It makes no sense to allow sexual freedom to heterosexual persons without also allowing it to homosexual persons.

6. Same-sex marriage: If homosexual intercourse is morally allowable, same-sex marriage must also be morally and legally allowable.

7. Polygamy: If same-sex marriage is allowable, how can polygamy – whether in the form of polygyny, polyandry, or group marriage – be banned?

8. Polyamory: If polygamy is allowed, how can polyamory, its informal cousin, be banned?

9. Adult incest:  If we have a regime of sexual freedom, there can be no objection to incestuous relations between adult brothers and sisters (or homosexual relations between adult brothers or between adult sisters) or between parents and adult children – provided precautions are taken to prevent the birth of babies resulting from these relations.

10. Bestiality: Provided no harm is done to the animal in question, there can be no objection to sex between a human and an animal. If it is objected that this would be wrong because the animal is incapable of giving consent, it can be answered that we kill animals for food without first getting their consent. If we can kill a pig without consent, why can’t we have sex with a non-consenting pig?

11. Anti-violence: If freedom is the ultimate value, the repression of freedom is the ultimate disvalue. And of all the ways of repressing freedom, the most extreme is the use of violence. Hence, secular humanists have an intense abhorrence of violence.

12. Anti-capital punishment:  This is wrong because it is violent.

13. Anti-guns: Guns are instruments of violence, hence the fewer of them in existence the better.

14. Anti-war: War is violent. Therefore. . .

15. Anti-military: The purpose of the military is to make war. Therefore. . .

16. Pro-peace: Peace is the opposite of war.

17. Pro-diplomacy: When it comes to handling disagreements among nations, diplomacy is the alternative to war. Therefore, let us negotiate.

18. Anti-racism: Racism either takes the form of violence or tends toward violence.

19. Suspicion of police: Police are legally allowed to use guns and other forms of violence. Further, police have a reputation for using violence against blacks.

20. Suspicion of very rich people: They are greedy, and their greed leads them to take money away from non-rich people, which restricts the freedom of the latter. The rich, therefore, need to pay much more in taxes and have their industries heavily regulated.

21. Atheism: If God exists, and if we think of God as a lawgiver (the usual way of thinking of God), then God restricts our freedom by giving us laws. To be totally free, we must get rid of God.

22. Anti-Christianity: If there is no God, then Christianity is a false or invalid religion.  But since Christianity has been, in one form or another (usually a Protestant form), the kind of religion that has been dominant in America from the beginning, a fight against religion must particularly focus on Christianity.

23. A new God: Getting rid of God leaves us with a psychological vacuum. For we have always believed that there is some great power in existence that will cause the triumph of the good. But if God is no longer that power, what will it be? The state – that is, the federal government – is the most plausible candidate.

24. Growing the state: The more all-powerful the state is, and the more all-knowing it is, the more believable it is as an earthly God. And so the federal government must be given more and more power, and it must be enabled to capture more and more information about everything, including individual persons.

25. The omnicompetent state: The federal government, being God-like, can guarantee and enlarge our liberty. Therefore the state can solve all problems, can eliminate all obstacles to our freedom: poverty, ignorance, disease, racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, hunger, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, global warming, etc.

To all of which, we might add: Boomerang. Alas, the relentless pursuit of absolute freedom ends up in something like totalitarianism.

David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Three Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.