If you haven’t yet, read this, or this post won’t make sense.
‘Secularism’ was coined by British atheist George Holyoake in 1851. ‘Atheism’ evoked opposition, and therefore hindered the promotion of the godless worldview, and so Holyoake coined the term ‘secularism’. Atheists later adopted ‘secular humanism’ for the same reasons; it sounds much nicer than ‘atheism’.
From Creation Magazine, Vol. 37 No. 1 2015
Actually, the word has its origins in the 1300s, meaning at the time “living in the world, not belonging to a religious order“. So Holyoake’s use of the term was not de novo. Let’s also not forget that he was persecuted, imprisoned for his views, and this was Britain, not some backwater. I find it rich that a Creationist in an article arguing that Christianity is under siege from the evil atheists glosses over this fact.
Atheists didn’t adopt ‘secular humanism’ because it sounds nicer. Believe it or not, the word atheist is like the word African or European – very wide. Within the group of people who are convinced of the non-existence of gods, you find a massive variety of views on other matters. Some of their number are convinced of the merits of humanism, but there again you have a very wide field. There are Christian humanists, and Muslim humanists, and Jewish humanists.
In fact, I can think of an example Creationists may relate to. If I refer to you as a Christian, that lumps you together in a group with Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox Christians, Mormons (I think), and so on. So you are often more specific: you’ll call yourself an evangelical Christian, or a True Christian.
To say you are a secular humanist is not being sinister, or devious, or evil. It’s being specific.