Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Calvin N. Smith


Since the Renaissance, the unclearly defined movement known as "Humanism" has been a part of society. However, it is only recently that the movement itself has caused significant controversy. What is responsible for this sudden outbreak of humanism hysteria? Is it even to be classified as a problem? To many, especially the Catholic church and many fundamentalist groups, it presents an overt threat.

A vital area of controversy centers around education and the fight between a religious-based curriculum and the more recent secular studies. The issues, it appears, are often obscured by the rhetoric. Indeed, Karl Wallace sees rhetoric as "determining opinion or fact on any question of public doubt" (1954, p. 127), but the basic problem is a lack of agreed-upon terms so the issues can be rationally resolved.

In this treatise, the reach of humanism and its rhetoric into the schools was examined. As Donald Clark notes in Rhetoric in the Middle Ages (1957), rhetoric can serve to teach morals and ethics. As will be shown, this concept is one of the main battlegrounds between humanism and conservative Christianity.

An examination of the Humanist Manifesto II, in terms of Weaver's analysis, revealed the clash of "god terms" and "devil terms" in a distinctly secular document.

Finally, an examination of the rhetoric involved provides insight into the basic ideology and purposes of humanists and their opponents. Examination of anti-humanist rhetoric helped define elements of humanism. Richard Weaver's method of rhetorical analysis was used to diagnose the arguments of both sides to provide a more comprehensive picture of the rhetorical clashes between the two groups.