Posted by: amharmon | May 11, 2009

Christian Atheists…

Hey everyone, I thought I would take the time to discuss  a bit of my presentation topic from last week.  I focused my papar on it, but with the presentation and the editing I had to leave out many key points that could have possibly made the topic a bit more understandable. 🙂 Sorry guys!  Overall, the attempt of my paper was to make parallels of the Christian Atheist movement with that of the New Atheists and discuss why I thought the aforementioned movement had more validity than the New Atheists. So here goes…

The Christian Atheist movement may seem to you guys ( as it does to many) like an oxymoron. How can one call themselves a Christian and an Atheist? Christian Atheists who follow the belief system of Thomas Altizer, believe they are Christians by following the belief that God has died and been reborn in the person of Jesus. He thinks that God’s death occured at the time of human creation and that it was an act of self-extinction. With Jesus’ crucifixion, the death of God was ended His full spirit of God was forever put into the world. These Christian Atheists believe in the importance of church, community, and overall spirituality which can enhance a person’s well-being and their relation to others around them. From what I have seen, there are no main or established Christian Atheist churches that I know of, though there are groups of Humanists (see link: http://nymag.com/news/features/46214/index2.html) and probably small groups of C.A.’s that meet up on their own. What Christian Atheists do not believe in is the traditional, what they call ‘orthodox’ God of the Old Testament. They feel that there is no place in the modern world for God, which is why they also believe that he killed himself off. So they technically call themselves ‘Atheists’ because they do not believe in ‘God’  in our current times, but they call themselves Christians because they believe in the centrality of Christ and of his spirit that exists in this world. They feel that most humans have not been able to remove the emotion associated with Theism and the idea and concept of God. There has been nothing published yet on what either the New Atheists or Christian Atheists think of one another, though, as I mentioned in my presentation, Dawkins has called himself a ‘cultural Christian’, meaning he enjoys Christian-centered and themed holidays, like Christmas, in which he loves singing Christmas carols. This could be interpreted by many as him being a so-called Christian Atheist, but I dont believe that he is. He doesn’t believe in the immanence of Christ existing in the world and also doesnt believe that God ever existed or for that matter, that he died. I can relate to much of the Christian Atheist sentiments and beliefs and feel that anyone who is questioning their Christian faith, yet wanting to retain some of the fundamental beliefs and practices of the faith could also find a place (even if temporary) within this belief system. I would be curios what you guys think and welcome any responses or comments.

Posted by: buckleyr | May 10, 2009

Eco-Friendly Atheism

I was perusing some of the news articles on cnn.com, when I came across a section that I thought to be quite pertinent to our topic of the New Atheism. Cnn.com has a feature where people can email in a question, and anyone can answer it. Generally, the questions have multiple responses from different people.
The question that struck my attention was “Which religion do you believe offers the most guidance on environmental matters?” A couple of the answers claimed that no religion is eco-friendly, but rather a non-theistic view is the most environmental. In fact, one of the replies sounded like something a New Atheist might say: “The world environmental situation will only improve if religion is abolished.” These readers usually claimed that religious conflict puts as much strain on the environment as industry and construction. Furthermore, they claimed that because Christians believed that God would make everything new again, we should not worry about the environment. Unfortunately, a Christian wrote back and confirmed this belief!
I don’t really remember us talking about this issue too much in class, but I find it to be an interesting one. What are our world religions doing or teaching to encourage us to become more aware of our environment? As Christians, we generally believe that God created this world and that it is good, so therefore we should take care of it and appreciate its beauty. Still, maybe I am just completely out of the loop, but I do not often hear of a religion actively making any sort of statement to help support with environmental efforts. I would be interested in seeing what others think about this issue.

Here is the link: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/10/01/your.emails/index.html?iref=newssearch

Posted by: trev0rclark | May 10, 2009

An Invitation to the Continental

viewThis semester has been pretty remarkable for me as a theologian and philosopher. I think some of the most difficult questions I’ve ever had to answer have been posed by “people of science.” In reality, we’re all people of science—building conclusions upon experienced data. There really is no other way to interact with our environments other than take as a basic presupposition that when observe cause and effect, we can therefore anticipate effects in other situations. However, as a person of faith, I have sometimes struggled to move beyond those experiences and imagine something beyond the here and now. I’m often stuck in a lack of imagination, focused on daily monotony. On these days, I’m not a risk taker, but one who resigns himself, to use Kierkegaardian language, to the temporal, the finite, and the necessary. 

This is where I was happy to shift the conversation this semester. It was a humble reminder that my experiences don’t bring me to absolute truth, just as other can be deceived by their own experiences. This is not to say that our experiences are not useful—on the contrary, they can lead us to accept greatest truth. However, when we focus too much on the experience itself, we do injustice to others. We make a broad, sweeping generalization that others have the same values as us and that we can all arrive at the same conclusions. However, if we accept the humble suggestion that what we experience is not all there is, if we deny the category of a “collective consciousness” and replace it with “collective personhood”, we realize the only universal theme amongst humans is that we experience, feel, think, and love. When we do not resign ourselves to the here and now, when we acknowledge an “otherness” to the human narrative that does not center on ourselves as scientific law-makers, we are forced to put and end to our struggle to condemn religions, and look in appreciation or curiosity at the experiences of others. If we can make this kind of initial movement, to move beyond worldly resignation, perhaps we can move onto the “leap of faith”. This leap of faith will give both context and meaning to our experiences, instead of ignoring the question of their purpose and just assuming they have something to offer us. 

This course was my invitation to the continental tradition over the analytic tradition. I sought common ground with my fellow New Atheists in order to simply suggest that they keep their experiences in check, remembering the cultural framework in which they operate. At the end of the semester, I’m quite glad I “RSVP’d”.

Posted by: buckleyr | May 10, 2009

Next Year’s Senior Theologians

One of Dr. Robinette’s suggestions for a topic for us to blog about was our thoughts on the topic for next year’s senior seminar. Maybe it was because I spent the last year with a roommate who is an elementary education major, and thus I have learned to appreciate themes, but for some reason, this suggestion appealed to me.
A few weeks ago when the chair of the department came to visit our class, he mentioned some of the themes of the past class. I recall some of them sounding interesting, but I also distinctly remember silently thanking God that I was not in some of those classes. Not that I think that a deep study of a specific saint or theologian is not appealing nor worthwhile- I am a history minor after all. Still, I started thinking about my own experiences with this year’s senior seminar topic of the New Atheism and realized that the reason why I enjoyed this topic so much was because it seemed extremely pertinent to my life, relationships, and daily experiences- here and now. Many of my past theology classes, have dealt with topics that at times seem irrelevant to my life or that I simply have trouble relating to. However, several of my dearest friends are either atheists or agnostic, so learning about different thought processes and concerns of atheism really seemed to be much more pertinent to my life. Furthermore, the New Atheism is very indicative of the concerns and beliefs of people in the world today. Studying about this topic and researching various theistic responses really seemed to make theology more relevant to my daily life, rather than something I think about when I go to mass or class.
So, as far as a topic for next year, I cannot give a specific suggestion (maybe I should ask my roommate?). Still, I benefited greatly from this very contemporary topic and think that maybe others like me would enjoy something up-to-date and relevant.

Posted by: joeystarke | May 9, 2009

Pathway for Positive Change

As we come to the end of the semester, I have been contemplating more and more on how we can take what we have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life situation.  I touched a little on this when commenting on Nick’s post “America: A Christian Nation?”  I pointed out there that this process is extremely difficult.  We can’t just expect to walk off SLU’s campus and make a dramatic change over night.  In fact, it can be hard for us to make changes at all given the dependency of our religion and country on certain policies and procedures.  We have come up with a lot of great ideas, but how are we suppose to implment them?  More imporatnatly, how are we supposed to get other people to even listen to our ideas and accept them into their daily lives?

I want to use this post to emphasize that the PARISHES are where these exchanges of ideas should take place.  Read More…

Posted by: allenrachel | May 7, 2009

Catholics only?

Last night, I spoke about the New Atheists at a night of reflection and prayer at my home parish. I discussed the ways in which the New Atheists are guilty of putting God into a box and stated my agreement with them that the sexist, cruel, tyrannical God so many people believe in does not exist. After the evening ended, a woman named Mary came up to me and asked me a few questions about the New Atheists. She was concerned that this movement is gaining momentum in the world and was glad to hear that there have been several intelligent theological responses to Dawkins and his colleagues.

There were a few things she said that have really bothered me, as I mull them over this morning. She asked about the specific Catholicity, if you will, of what we were doing in class and seemed concerned that our responses to the New Atheists were from a more broadly Christian point of view. A part of me cringed. I am Catholic, and proud of it, and believe in the Church as a source of truth and divine revelation, albeit sometimes flawed in its execution because it is, after all, a human institution. But the kind of Roman-Catholic chest-bumping Mary was hoping I experienced at SLU disheartened me. If we subscribe to such an exclusivist state of mind, how are we ever going to show the love of Christ to those whose opinions differ from our own?

I don’t know how many of those in the Church would support me in this, but I would hate to see the Church continue on in this state of mind. I’m simply not interested in being part of a faith community that opposes discussion and intelligent conversation when it comes to ideas of faith and God. I hope that the theologians of the future will seek truth through genuine exchanges, moving forward without alienating those who see things differently. This, I think, is the path to real conversion, dialogue that will lead to genuine agreement about the living God. Truth cannot contradict truth, after all.

Posted by: trev0rclark | May 7, 2009

Causality as problem for “The New Atheists”

21050lg2As I gave my presentation to the department of philosophy the other day, there were some comments that helped me see a big picture problem in Daniel Dennett’s argumentation in the consciousness debate, which lead me to some new more profound conclusions about the New Atheists in general. It was brought to my attention, when talking about “downward causality” in the question of free will, the terminology always used by both Nancey Murphy and Dennett has been in terms of efficient causality (that thing which causes another thing) or material causality (that material stuff which allows for another thing to happen). Very rarely is there any mention about formal causality (what “makes up” this thing) or final causality (what this thing is designed to do). In fact, Dennett says that discussing the purpose of consciousness is the greatest trap in the consciousness debate.

            Yet, in order to save himself from being a materialist in the strong sense, Dennett insists we can have rationality through the theory of ‘go meta’, where we perceiver becomes aware of his reactions to his own environment. Dennett does, thus, assert a kind of final causality here—making him break one of his rules. This leaves me more room to respond with a Kierkegaardian framework, which moves to discuss selfhood in the realm of formal and final causality. Because Dennett (and the New Atheists alike), assert an inherent purpose for consciousness (being to escape biological determinism), they are guilty of stepping outside the boundaries of their science and assigning a philosophical framework to human nature. Looking at it this way, it leaves Dennett and the New Atheists alike open to criticism from not only Christian groups, but other philosophies that take presuppositions of human purpose without inherent scientific implications.

Posted by: trev0rclark | May 7, 2009

Reflections of “neutral” language.

immigrants-19412In a discussion I had with one of my philosophy professors recently, we brought up the concept of neutral language. The discussion began with examining one of the five versions in Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative: act only according to those maxims that would hold true in a Kingdom of Ends. What would it mean, then, if we were all Kantians? Would America look as individualistic as it does now? In any case, we determined that the United States, at least domestically, takes a secular framework in their expressions of individual rights: “This is my car. This is my job. These are my rights.” In this language, there is no mentioning of inherent duties or connections to other people, except that we may not infringe on their personal rights.

However, on an international level, suddenly Americans feel quite motivated to find an almost Christian ethic, (or at the very least, an altruistic ethic with strong Christian intonations). If there is a large disaster, a war, or hunger, many Americans dedicate themselves to donating money or even effort to go help. Rarely is this passion found in helping the homeless shelter down the street, doling out tax money for decent health care, or even saving thousands of public schools from closing down. Could this phenomenon be the result of an increasingly secular society in the states? I was struck at how obvious the dichotomy was, but was incapable of characterizing why.

Posted by: crewsnr | May 6, 2009

America: A Christian Nation?

Newsweek CoverAfter reading a recent article in Newsweek entitled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” by Jon Meacham, I could not help but think about how it pertains to our seminar class. In the article, Meacham describes some alarming stats that would scare every Christian fundamental. Since 1990, the “number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled, rising form 8 to 15 percent.” In the last twenty years, there has been a fourfold increase in Americans who consider themselves atheist or agnostic (from 1 million to 3.6 million people). Likewise, the number of Christians has dropped from 86 to 76 percent since 1990. Consequently, it seems like America is experiencing a culture shift, and the western world is on the path towards a post-Christian, post-modern future. Should Christians be concerned by these trends?

Meacham rightly reminds his readers that the American nation was never based on a specific faith; in fact, America’s “unifying force” has also been the promise of freedom. Yet, due to America being a land of freedom, conservative Christians have lost several important battles in the political arena in the last 50 years, such as prayer in public schools, abortion, gay marriage, to name a few. Is America slowly developing into a state that resembles secular Europe? Should Christian Americans stand and fight this evolution? In response to these questions, Meacham suggests that Christians remember the traditions of Christianity and the lessons of our Christ Jesus. In several situations, Jesus reminded his Apostles that Christians are foreigners, strangers on this earth. Being a member of Christ’s everlasting kingdom, Christians should remember that their eternal residency is not this physical, temporary earth. Therefore, Christians must recall that they are simply passing through this world. However, Christians cannot sit idly and wait for their time to kick the bucket. Jesus has called his Church to make a difference in this world by preaching the Word of God and loving others as Christ loves us. Yet, Christians must always remember that this temporal world is also changing and evolving, and our time is but a scratch on the time continuum.

Posted by: joeystarke | May 6, 2009

The Answer to “Biblical Religions”

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my response to the question that was asked during our panel Monday. I can’t remember the question word for word, so I’ll have to paraphrase.

It was pointed out that around 60% of Americans do not believe in evolution because they subscribe to a “biblical religion.” Therefore, the man asking the question wanted to know how we would take our notions of the compatibility of religion and science and present them to this group of people to convince them of our view point.

Read More…

Posted by: rohlfsen1 | May 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Anthony Flew

atheist brochureI don’t know how many of you have heard or know of Anthony Flew, but I came across his story in my research and he is quite an interesting guy. Once known as “the world’s most notorious atheist,” Flew gained even greater notice and publicity in 2004 when he publically converted to theism. Not surprisingly, the world was shocked that a man could pull such a complete 180° turn-around, and in response to the gazillions of questions he was asked, Flew wrote There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. If you have time, you should check the book out. It is a short, easy, and yet rather mindboggling narrative.

In the preface to the book, it states : “No mainstream philosopher has developed the kind of systematic, comprehensive, original, and influential exposition of atheism that is to be found in Antony Flew’s fifty years of antitheological writings” (IX). Of course earlier atheists and the new atheists have attempted to argue against the existence of God, but Flew was distinct in that he both systematically formed rational arguments against the existence of God and then followed those arguments to their logical conclusions. He actually engaged the arguments of his counter-contemporaries (the most prominent being C. S. Lewis) and as a result, he fought against theism with more philosophical force than many, if not most, of his predecessors. Read More…

Posted by: nuismera | May 6, 2009

Stuctural Violence, terrorism, and militarism

“With the concept of structural violence, we have a way of thinking
about how institutional change has resulted in a growth of violence
that needs to be set side by side with the more obvious violence
proper to armed conflict and social upheaval. With the concept of
militarism, we have a way of thinking about the political recourse to
violence that may well be seen as a failure to find appropriate new
forms of action and institutional organization. Militarism of this kind is
both a tendency that draws on violence (even if it simulated) to
respond to social problems that otherwise call for solutions requiring
reforms that would break with existing practices. This tendency today
counts as a blockage of the emergence of institutions and practices
adequate to a nonviolent appropriation of the possibilities of globalization.
Militarism remains a major obstacle to peace.”

~Globalization and Violence
The Challenge to Ethics
By EDWARD DEMENCHONOK and RICHARD PETERSON Read More…

So in an effort to better answer a question Jen asked me at the Senior Legacy Symposium a week and a half ago, I thought I would try and post a more clear response.  Jen asked me something along the lines of, “if a Trinitarian view of God is compatible with evolution, how do you account for the suffering and waste present in the process?”  

The first response I would make is one along the lines of Teilhard’s theology.  Teilhard observed that the university is increasing in complexity and consciousness.  This complexity-consciousness relationship is a general increase as the world evolves, not species specific or every creature, but on the general order.  I argue in my paper that God creates through evolution because it is a free, autonomous process and this allows the world to be ‘other’ than God and he respects this process.  One could argue then that in order for complexity and subsequently consciousness to arise, that certain species had to die out or make way for new ones.  For example, if the Dinosaurs had never gone extinct, humans would not be present on earth.  Therefore what seems like waste is more like just a step in the process along the greater purpose and plan for God’s creation.  It is also important to realize that a lot of the extinctions that have occurred over the last 200,000 years or so have been a result of human activity and not natural selection.

Read More…

Posted by: nuismera | May 2, 2009

Global health

Charity, Neil and I attended a global health symposium today at Wash U. We had been excited for weeks because the title of the keynote address was ‘Moving from Charity to Justice’ and Dr. O’Neil had been to multiple countries from Tanzania to Uganda as a allopathic physician with a vision for social change. His 2006 book Awakening Hippocrates: A Primer on Health, Poverty, and Global Service will interest Rae for sure and perhaps some other pre-meds in our class interested in global medicine and social justice. Read More…

Posted by: nuismera | May 1, 2009

Minding my own buisness

I’m really into local, sustainable business models, you should be too here’s a link to all the great places in stl: http://www.buildstlouis.org/ Read More…

Posted by: Jaime | April 28, 2009

Abandoned to days by gods

Hey Trevor and Jenna, I thought I would pull our conversation from yesterday into the blog. I’m really interested in non-reductive physicalism from the main standpoint in my paper that asks what our gods are. My earlier blog laid out how necessary faith is as the belief that there is meaning in life and necessary to any human choosing to keep on living. Also, gods are what we put our faith in and whom we rely on to give us self worth and to determine the worth of everything around us. All of our gods fail us in that they are finite and eventually pass as we do and can guarantee my worth only for a while. Read More…

Posted by: Kimber Terese | April 23, 2009

Never Leave a Text Unchanged

When discussing my project with Dr. Robinette, I mentioned how my sources have impacted my thoughts regarding faith.  After researching a variety of definitions of faith, I came to realize how ambiguous it can be.  During the middle of my research, I began noticing each time an author or a classmate mentioned the word “faith”.  I would think to myself: How are they using the term in this context?  Should they really be saying “belief system”?  What does faith mean to them?  Is this a positive or negative view of faith?  These questions ran through my head often during class, even if I didn’t have the answers to them.  All of our extensive discussion on hermeneutics has shown that what someone says has a vast amount of history behind it.  The New Atheists’ view of faith is grounded in their negative opinions of religion.  Many theologians’ views of faith reflect their belief that God is indescribable.  One of my favorite parts of research this semester was diving deeper into these definitions and exploring the history behind them.  I know I’ll never be able to hear the word “faith” without having these questions fire off inside me.  In truth, a project like this should change your thinking forever.  It has been a growth process, and I think I have learned unique things I will carry with me into my next stage in life.

Posted by: JLLH | April 23, 2009

Is Nature Enough?

isnatureenough1

The view off my lanai in Hawaii =)

In my paper, I examine theologian John Haught’s attempts to show the inadequacies and ultimate absurdity of New Atheism by subjecting naturalism’s claims to rigorous analysis. To do so, Haught uses process philosophy and invokes his own version of process theology. After a thorough examination of naturalism’s claims, Haught’s critiques and the metaphysics that shape them as well as a brief look at non-reductive physicalism, I’ve discovered that the answer to the question “Is nature all there is?” must be left without a decisive answer. Indeed, the humble response to such an enigmatic question must necessarily be “I cannot be absolutely certain.”  But if there is a God to be found, it will not be through the reductive and objectifying methodology that both science and New Atheists use as a means of illuminating information about the realm of the physical. Theology’s approach to understanding the world and the divine requires the inclusion of subjective experience as a legitimate avenue of arriving at authentic truths. It requires that we embrace not only to the rational, objective way of knowing but also the more personal fields of meaning such as our feelings, how we experience others, how we come to know beauty and the stories that describe our experiences. Spiritual life is based on an intersubjective experience with the divine. So it makes sense that the New Atheists cannot find grounds for God by using a worldview that eliminates the ways of knowing that are at the very core of the spiritual experience.

I think I’m finally getting it. Well, better late than never.

Posted by: Jaime | April 22, 2009

Na Na – My God Can Beat Up Your God

The New Atheist preach that we are already atheist to all the greek gods, tooth fairy, sprites, etc… and all they have done is gone one god further.

Not necessarily.

Everyone who wrote their paper on faith is painfully aware that faith is not fact claim that doesn’t need any evidence to back it up. It is being ultimately concerned. Without faith we can not function because of the active aspect of loyalty faith calls for. For instance, when someone I trust lets me down I can not put my faith in them and it is impossible for us to interact at the level we did before.

The objects of our faiths are gods. Another way to think of a god is as a value center. I need something outside of myself to give me value. I may say, “I love myself strongly and feel complete.” Here I find have put my faith in ‘Love’ which I choose over a value center of hate. Read More…

Posted by: allenrachel | April 22, 2009

We have a new Archbishop…

…and everyone has an opinion.

Today’s online edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a profile piece on St. Louis’ new archbishop, Michigan bishop Robert J. Carlson (which you can find at http://www.stltoday.com). Of all the stories online today, it was the second most-commented on (after an outfielder-for-reliever Cardinals trade, naturally). I was pleased to get some news about our archdiocese’s new leader, but the reader comments were the real gold:

Take this gem from saintchuckmom – Read More…

Posted by: rohlfsen1 | April 21, 2009

Conversational Benefits of the New Atheism

Last night at Iggys I was talking to some of you about how writing blog posts always seems slightly intimidating, because I feel as though I need to make some profound, creative, new point with each post. And then of course, Gabe always poses an extra challenge, as I know no matter what I say, he will disagree in full force (though that is a good thing GabeJ). As the night continued, however, I came to find that Iggys and the beverages it serves make for a good setting for personal and theological reflection. And after three hours of good conversation with a bunch of you (in addition to my own mental wanderings) here is what I came up with last night.

 

Over the last three months, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest that my friends, family, and strangers have taken in this class. When we first began the dive into the new atheism, I tended to feel awkward when reading books like The God Delusion and The End of Faith in public. Here I was, a Christian, reading books that would lead any stranger to believe that not only was I not a Christian, but that I was an outspoken opponent of Christianity. Surprisingly, however, these notorious books caught the attention of many of my friends and passersby alike, leading into really good conversation about why I was reading the book, what I thought of the book, and what I thought about the new atheism and Christianity in general. Ironically, I usually struggle to find ways to bring up my faith to my friends. Leave it to the new atheists to do it for me…. Read More…

Posted by: Brooke | April 21, 2009

Revitalizing Spiritual Experience

As I was finishing up the last section of my paper, Sunday morning at Bread Co, I began to think about the experience of writing a twenty page paper. It was something that I had never done before, and it was exhilarating to know that I was physically and mentally able to pull it off. At the beginning of this semester the idea of writing a paper this big and with this much meaning seemed impossible, yet here I was writing the last few paragraphs on my senior thesis paper. I felt like a true theologian.

Then, as I often do, I continued my daydreaming instead of finishing the last part of my paper. I began to reflect on the spiritual journey this paper, and class, had taken me on. At the beginning of the semester I was excited to be confronting the New Atheists and their critiques of Christianity, I felt that I could tackle and solve all of their criticisms with out hesitation. However, after reading Dawkins book The God Delusion I realized that his, along with the other New Atheists, arguments were hard to swallow and spiritually unnerving. I found myself in a quandary about God and the way that He relates to creation. This led me to choose the paper topic of evolutionary theology with a focus on God in a post-Darwinian world.

After doing the research and contemplating the arguments of theologians such as, John Haught and Dennis Edwards, I began to feel my relationship with God change. It began to grow and deepen; I started to feel a nearness to God that I had not felt before. This nearness and increase in relationship continued as I started writing my thesis paper. Sitting there, at Bread Co on that rainy Sunday morning with all the Church goers coming in to get their coffee, I realized that this was not merely a paper; it was an exercise in spiritual growth. This was the first time that I had actively participated in growing my spiritual relationship with God. I looked around at all those people who had just gone to Church, and I wondered how many of them had actively worked on and experienced spiritual growth? I felt at peace with my work, and glad that Dr. Robinette had picked the topic of New Atheism for our class to discuss this semester. Their arguments created a dissonance within me, which required that I look deeper into myself and do the hard work in order to grow spiritually. I feel that this is the gift of the New Atheists to Christianity. They point out the areas that need to be worked on within Christianity and within an individual, which then promotes growth within Christianity and spiritual revitalization within the person.

Posted by: jennlay | April 18, 2009

Is Truth Necessary for Faith?

While writing and reflecting on my paper that uses the mystical tradition to bring about peace and liberation, I find myself constantly confronting this idea of Truth. Each religion claims to have The Truth, not so much a truth. Adherents to a certain religion usually belong to it because that is where they find the Truth that they want to dedicate their lives to. Maybe this idea isn’t strong for some people, and rather they call themselves Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, or Hindus simply because that is the culture and tradition they have grown up with. Maybe for some it isn’t because it is the best or only way to live and believe, but its just what they are used to, what is accepted. However, as we have seen in our readings of the New Atheists and discussion on religious extremism, there is a very real group of people who think they alone have the Truth, and this Truth is what they are willing to die for and kill for. Read More…

Posted by: cLamb | April 14, 2009

Is it okay to impose belief? If so, which ones?

            I got into a conversation with a friend recently that raised some questions that I think are interesting to entertain and relevant to responses to the New Atheism. It stems from the idea of expressing and encouraging belief in non-believers. At the beginning of the semester, in reading Dawkins’ book there was a part of it, which I took issue with. It talked about how it is the responsibility of believers to provide evidence for their belief. In some ways I agree with this assertion, but I do not completely agree with its implications. I took this passage from Dawkins to mean that it is the duty of believers to provide evidence to support their own belief so that they can convince others as well. To Dawkins, if such evidence existed, he would be a believer. Especially when dealing with Christianity, it is a mission of believers to spread the word. Therefore we must have convincing “evidence” so as to appeal to the faithless. I do agree that our convictions must have a certain level of credence in order to convert others. On this level it is the duty of the believer to provide the necessary evidence. The reason I had a problem with this accusation was because I think Dawkins was trying to discredit any belief someone already had on the basis that they cannot substantiate such claims with hard evidence. If I can believe in something without concrete manifestations of such belief then why should I be required to provide someone who disagrees with my theology with evidence in order to defend personal belief? I do not feel that this is necessary. Jesus said, “because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Therefore, as far as my personal theology is concerned I disagree that I am required to defend it with evidence. As far as evangelism is concerned, Dawkins is right, evidence is a necessary component to spread conviction.

            So how does this fit into my conversation? We were talking about the necessity of imposing belief on another when there are significant differences in belief; especially where morality is concerned. I personally try to keep an open mind and accept the difference in the beliefs that others hold. Just as I would not want someone to try and impose their opinion, in any matter, on me, I do not think I have the right to do so to others. But what about where morality is concerned? I think most people would agree that there exist objective moral truths that transcend religious affiliation, political party affiliation, nationalistic differences, gender differences, etc. But not all things that maybe should be objective moral truths are considered such, and people take every possible side. Our conversation particularly was concerned with medical ethics and the duty of a doctor, particularly a Christian doctor in their assertion of beliefs that may stem from religion. Should a doctor take advantage of their power position to spread their personal beliefs? What about to those who adamantly disagree? I think this argument is closely related to the issue of Dawkins assertion of providing evidence because of the personal nature of faith. I do not need physical evidence to believe in God, but Dawkins does. I respect that. Knowing that I know that convincing Dawkins of the validity of my beliefs is futile. He does not agree with me and he does not have to. I think this conclusion can be carried over to the conversation I had with my friend. In differences of moral issues that stem from religious beliefs, should I strongly assert my belief to those who disagree? My friend says yes, I originally said no. However, the more I think about it the more I am unsure about my response. Especially when dealing with the topic of morality, this is a very fuzzy area. Where do we draw the line? Jews consider pork as unclean and therefore it is wrong to eat it. I would not appreciate a Jewish friend trying to impose this practice on me because I do not believe it is wrong. This is a minor example but is there a point where a distinction is made and that makes the imposition of a moral belief okay? Is it an abuse of power to take advantage of ones position to make such an imposition? So in our conversation, if a doctor disagrees with abortion or euthanasia, but they are legal and accepted practices does the doctor who opts out of these procedures have the right to use their power position to try and change a patients mind if they request one of these procedures? Many Christians believe that these are objective moral wrongs because they kill a human being. So instead of simply saying as a doctor, “I do not perform this procedure” should they also explain why the procedure is wrong in attempt to convince the patient who supports the practice of such? Should the doctor try and change the patient’s conviction because theirs differs? Part of me says no, people are entitled to their own opinion, but I am not satisfied with this deduction. If someone feels strongly that something is absolutely wrong, then not only should they not partake in it, but they should not condone it either. Medical ethics can be extremely controversial, but I think that the underlying question of do we have the right to impose our beliefs, religious or not, upon others when it is of serious matter? This comes back to the evidence that Dawkins requires. To hold the belief ourselves, we may not need evidence, but to convince others we do. But is this practice wrong? Are there issues where we cannot allow for disagreement? I used to think not, but now I am not really sure. At this point I go back and forth with whether or not it is right for someone to try and enforce their convictions, moral or other, on others when there has not been an objective truth defined. 

Posted by: crewsnr | April 14, 2009

Evolution’s Effect on the Concept of God

God's Creative WorkThis post was sparked by the excellent question Joey presented in his post “God’s Role in Creation”:  What is God’s role in Creation?  This is one of the main questions I have been wrestling with in the last couple weeks as I write my paper.  I have been reading a lot about Theistic Evolution and other integrative belief systems that attempt to harmonize science and religion.  I do not completely agree with Theistic Evolution, but it has really peaked my interest because it has some very innovative ideas outside of the box of traditional Christianity.  Yet, I believe that Theistic Evolution is one of the best approaches to explaining the beginning of the cosmos. 

 

Supporting the theory of evolution, Theistic Evolution claims that our rational skills, logical deductions, and other mental capabilities (that cannot be ignored) lead us to believe in the veracity of scientific endeavors.  Therefore, how do we integrate this scientific truth into our theological beliefs?  We know that the world is self-sustaining and self-maintaining, so where does God fit in? 

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Posted by: joeystarke | April 13, 2009

God’s Role in Creation

I have been working on these posts for a while.  More contemplating than writing, to be honest.  My biggest hold up is that they all seem to be unresolved, only bringing up more questions than they answer.  So I thought I would finally take advantage of that fact, and use my blogs to answer one or two questions that the previous one brought up.

In my discussion on Genesis v. Science, I proposed that a good reevaluation or correction in the text would be to add “by evolution” after the word “created.”  This lead me to ask:

What is God’s role in creation?

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Posted by: joeystarke | April 13, 2009

Creation: Genesis v. Science

The earth was waste and void

FIRST DAY

Let there be light

SECOND DAY

Firmament- heaven and earth

THIRD DAY

Water and land
Vegetation

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Posted by: Jennie Z | April 13, 2009

Procrastinating

So in the interest of sharing (and to take a little break from writing my paper), I thought I would write a post on some of the stuff that I’ve been working on.

In my paper, I’m going to be examining theodicy, specifically how traditional theodicies fall short in light of the questions raised by the New Atheists and the atrocities that have taken place in the last few decades. I’m also going to be looking at practical theodicy, and how we can actually embrace and deal with evil and suffering, rather than just trying to justify God or reason it away.

This project has really been a struggle for me, and I think it mostly has to do with the fact that suffering is such a profound reality; it’s sobering to really consider how much evil there is in the world and how deeply it affects the lives of every person, whether they will admit it or not. It’s hard to even know where to begin addressing such a question.

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Posted by: allenrachel | April 13, 2009

For those who do not believe in God:

During the Holy Week liturgies at my parish over the past few days, there were many things that are unique from regular services. The Good Friday liturgy, the only day of the year where mass is not celebrated, includes petitions like any other liturgy. There are many specific intentions, from ‘For the unity of all Christians’ to ‘For the Jewish People,’ and everything in between. What struck me most was one near the end, ‘For those who do not believe in God.’ Read More…

Posted by: andreaheyse | April 12, 2009

The New Atheist response to Beattie…what response?

So when we were discussing Tina Beattie’s book The New Atheists: The Twilight of Reason and the War on Religion I asked if anyone knew the new atheist’s response to her book (or others like it for that matter) because I had yet to find what they thought. I decided to embark on a little investigation to see if I could come across any kind of new atheist response but surprise, surprise…I have been unsuccessful in the search thus far. If anyone has come across anything, please post it because I’m still interested in learning more. 

The closest thing I found was a post on RichardDawkins.net (a site where I’ll have to admit, has proven to be very useful in finding info for both sides of the discussion). The post was by some guy pen-named louis14 who posted part of a BBC radio transcript where they discussed the new atheists a bit, specifically Tina Beattie’s book and the new atheists on her cover since she was one of the guests that day (here’s the full post: http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=34525&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a ). Read More…

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