Humanism and the Death of God: Searching for the Good After Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche (Oxford University Press, 2017)


“For anyone committed to secular humanism, it remains disquieting, as Ronald Osborn insists, how difficult it is to defend notions of human dignity, inviolable rights, and basic equality without the religious imaginary thanks to which they all came to the world. After demonstrating how some of the most famous philosophical naturalists – Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche – left essential values unjustified, Osborn intrepidly recalls how important Christianity in particular has been to the assertion of modern human rights. This book is finely wrought for both believers and skeptics alike.”

Samuel Moyn, Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law, Harvard University

“The topic of Osborn’s book is familiar: does secular naturalism have the resources required for the endurance of humanist values and for commitment to human rights? Osborn’s treatment of the topic is anything but familiar. He conducts his case for a negative answer to the question by engaging in a probing analysis of Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche. The analyses of these three great figures are original, deep, and balanced. The overall argument is compelling, never overstated. The breadth of literature brought into the discussion is amazing. The writing is superb.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University

“The argument is simple, clearly written, broadly documented, and conceptually careful:  the naturalism that converts scientific method into metaphysics cannot provide a theoretically cogent and compelling basis for our commitment to human rights, the dignity of every person, and equality. The case is often made in the words of Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche themselves. The retelling from the ‘slave revolt in morality’, retold from a biblical perspective, is stunning.”

Merold Westphal, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Fordham University

“Motivated by his concern for human dignity, Ronald Osborn offers a compelling, carefully argued, and engagingly written critique of naturalism. While the author’s Christian convictions are evident throughout, this splendid work is emphatically not an apology for Christianity. The book thus should appeal to anyone who is concerned about human rights and the central role religion plays for sustaining human dignity, rights, and humane practices.”

Jens Zimmermann, Professor of Humanities and Canada Research Chair for Interpretation, Religion, and Culture, Trinity Western University

“This is a powerful, indeed brilliant book. It is, in sharp contrast to most academic books, a pleasure to read.  Osborn argues that some widely-held humanistic values, including belief in human rights and the inherent dignity and value of human persons as persons, are imperiled by anti-religious forms of naturalism. What makes the argument powerful is that the case is made through an exploration of the thinking of some of the thinkers most influential on anti-religious forms of naturalism: Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche. Osborn has a deep knowledge of the primary texts of these thinkers, but also a wide knowledge of the ways their work has been received. He gives a fair and honest treatment of how liberal thinkers have attempted to appropriate their works in ways that can support humanistic values. However, he argues, very convincingly in the cases of Marx and Nietzsche in particular, that these interpretations are sanitized accounts that do not do full justice to the main thrusts of the views. The case of Darwin is more subtle. Osborn recognizes Darwin’s own ambivalence and anxiety about the impact of his thought. In no way does he attack Darwin’s view as a scientific theory, but he does show that the reception of Darwin’s thought, if it does not undermine humanistic values, offers no way to support those values.”

C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University

“A probing, thoughtful, and highly engaging reflection on the crisis of secular modernity that Charles Taylor identified as its lack of the moral resources it needs to realize its own ideals of universal justice and benevolence.”

Bruce K. Ward, Professor and Chair of the Joint Department of Religious Studies, Laurentian University