Does religious belief deserve our continued respect?
Does religious belief (specifically Christianity) deserve our continued respect? Ill report, you decide! Presented by Gil Shapiro Spokesperson, FreeThought Arizona This
talk does not necessarily reflect the views of members of FreeThought Arizona or the Secular Coalition for Arizona. A priest, rabbi and atheist are asked when life begins: The priest says, At
conception The rabbi says, At birth And the atheist says,. When the kids leave and the dog dies! ASTROLOGY
Lets imagine we were governed by astrologers. All laws and policies were made in line with astrological beliefs. Children would be homeschooled and private schooled on the validity of the Horoscope.
Astrology would be taught in High School because of its influence on literature such as on Shakespeare. Wouldnt it be logical (as part of rejecting the imposition of astrology
on our society) to scrutinize the belief itself? Indeed, shouldnt all ideas, including religious ones, be open to examination? The collision of two world views:
Fundamentalist Christian: All truth is Gods truth as reflected in HIS Wordthe inerrant and infallible Christian Bible. Secular humanism: A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested (for rationality) by each individual and not simply accepted on faith. This is a Christian Nation
is the foundational belief which drives many legislators to enact a wide variety of laws and public policies. They are convinced that crafting legislation in conformity with fundamentalist Christian beliefs holds the answer to every public and private issue. True Christians state that. Christianity must govern every aspect of public and private life, and that allgovernment, science,
history, culture and relationshipsmust be understood according to the dictates of scripture. There are biblically correct positions on every issue, from gay marriage to income taxes, and only those with the right worldview can discern them. Michelle Goldberg (Kingdom Coming The Rise of Christian Nationalism) Ms. Goldberg adds: This Christian nationalism movement does not represent a majority of Americansit
does not even represent a majority of all evangelicalsbut it does represent a significant and highly mobilized minority. This group is overwhelmingly Republican and tends to reject pluralism. Ms. Goldbergs national overview Their hold on state Republican parties, coupled with
overrepresentation of less populated states in the Senate, has helped Christian nationalists win influence in Congress in excess of their actual numbers. The Great Commission What is The Great Commission?
Why is it important to Christians today? And, why is it important that nonChristians understand its power and importance? According
to the Gospel of Matthew Ch. 28 v. 18-20, (and there are other versions in each of the other Gospels) after Jesus Christs death on the cross, burial and resurrection, and before he ascended into heaven, he appeared to his disciples in Galilee and gave them these instructions:
Matthew ch28; v8-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
This is the section of Scripture known as The Great Commission. As the last recorded personal directive of the Savior to his disciples, it holds great significance to all Christians. It
is the foundation for evangelism. Because Christs instructions went to all nations; and because he said he would be with his followers until the very end of the age, Christians of all generations have embraced and felt
obligated to obey this command. As many have said, it's not "The Great Suggestion." No, the Lord has commanded Christians to put their faith in action. Education The
Christian Right wants to modify the public school curriculum and win school board elections to propagate their religious or moral beliefs as school policy the Bible in HS
Educational choice Govt funded School Vouchers to pay for private Christian schooling. Homeschooling
The Religious Right sees homeschooling and private schooling as a viable alternative to public education. WHY?
Much of this increase has been attributed to the desire to incorporate Christian teachings into the curriculum. The vast majority of parents who homeand private-schooled their children cited the ability to provide religious or moral instruction as the reason for removing their children from public schools.
Evolution Teaching of creationism and intelligent design as opposed to the teaching of evolution. Academic fairness/Teach the Controversy
Sexual Education Removing sexual education from public schools Providing incorrect information on contraception, homosexuality, etc.
Sex and sexuality The Christian Right takes the position that sexuality should be expressed only within the context of a marriage. The
Christian Right believes that homosexuality is immoral and unhealthy. Leaders in the Christian Right speak out against
same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption of children by gays. Some organizations identified with the Christian Right, including Exodus International, believe that gay or bisexual people can become heterosexual
and enjoy fulfilling marriage relationships with members of the opposite sex. In that regard, concerns have been expressed by all major US mental health organizations regarding therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation.
None have proven effective. They can be harmful. Role of government The
Christian Right sees the government's proper role as promoting conservative or literal interpretations of the Bible as the basis for moral values, and enforcing such values by legislation. Medical
Opposes abortion, believing that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder. Therefore, those in the movement have worked toward the overturning of Roe v Wade.
The Christian Right also opposes euthanasia. Too often non-believers will
say, that while they disagree with the imposition of the Christian religion in laws and policies, they never the less still respect the religion of the imposers. And just look where that position has gotten us!
The bullying and church/state separation breech is worse than ever. The cage needs to be rattled! The time has come for secularists to take the highly
politically and socially incorrect approach and. dare to challenge the core theology of Christians who are behaving so unneighborly. This talk will be a strong critique of Christian belief. I will address Christianity because it
is the most influential religious belief in America. However, much of my analysis would apply arguably to any other current personal God-based belief system. What
is it that we value most in life? Our health, our family and friends, our country etc. Like many of you, I have found the need to search for the answer to the ultimate
question anyone can ask: What is it all about? The most important skill anyone can possess to answer that question is the ability to tell the difference between justified belief (knowledge) and unjustified belief (falsehood). Because,
No amount of belief makes something a fact. If its important, .its worth verifying! A
value we all hold dear is knowledge. Knowledge is. Justified true belief or
An accurate understanding of our world, of our reality. Many say it is their personal Godbased religion (or faith) that provides this knowledge. For
many others it is science (or reason) that provides this accurate understanding of the world. My goal today is to make the case that religious belief (and specifically
Christianity) does not provide this accurate understanding of our world. Knowledge gained thru science has been proved valid and reliable. Faith
and its stepchild religion (Christianity) should not be granted any respect in this regard. Christianity is a strong belief in a specific personal God
that controls human destiny. In the United States and certainly in Arizona, Christianity is the main local religion.
As it impacts our culture, the important question to ask is whether this belief, one of approx 10,000 that have come and gone worldwide, is advancing or retarding the wellbeing of Americans? How
do I approach this question of respect for religious belief and for Christianity in particular? I ask myself: Is the belief justified?
Is it helpful or hurtful? Rationalism: Knowledge comes wholly from reason The optimist: The glass is half full The pessimist: The glass is half empty The rationalist: The glass is
twice as big as it needs to be. In order for Christianity to be accepted as valid, it must be justified: It must warrant acceptance by rational standards just as..
2+2 must equal 4 Reason and rationality are expressed in the words common
sense If a belief meets the requirements of these standards it is a rational belief. If a belief cannot meet the
requirements---but is adopted nonetheless---it is an irrational belief.and deserves no respect. Three minimum requirements that must all be fulfilled before Christianity can claim the status of justified belief:
Christianity must : be based on evidence be internally consistent (not self-contradictory) validate knowledge with which it is to be integrated Today
s talk will deal with Christianitys God-claim. My position will be to Christians Youve not made the case that
your personal God exists You cant describe him intelligently. Your claims are incoherent. (ex: If He is all good, all knowing, all powerful and all present then explain evil.
Even if He did exist, does He deserve worship? (ex: questionable morality, vicarious redemption, Hell for non-believers, rejections of homosexuals, etc. GOD IS AN INCOHERENT CONCEPT Any argumentation critical of
Christianity will quickly devolve into an argument about the existence of its personal God. So lets start there. (mono)Theism/Christianity: The belief in a personal god. Agnosticism: The belief that knowledge of God is beyond human grasp and/or that God is an unknowable concept for humans... (The beauty and honesty to say, I just dont
know.) Atheism: The disbelief in godsbased on lack of evidence.(non-believer) Traditional descriptions of God: ( in monotheistic religions) The creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as eternal, infinite, transcendent (not of time and space)
ALL: powerful, good, knowing, and present; An entity that loves and gives purpose to his creation; That listens to and answers prayers;
That performs miracles (interventions that defy natural laws) And provides salvation and eternal life in heaven for some while casting others into eternal damnation and torture in hell. While there is a debate over how this entity should
be spelled, I will use the capitalized God ( or He, Him) to represent the local god of the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and the lower case god to represent gods in general and those of other religions.) The burden of proof to establish the coherency of any God concept is the responsibility of the (theist, believer, Christian)
A common question that we are all asked at sometime in our lives takes two forms: Does God exist? and Do you believe in God? Most of us are primed to give a knee-jerk answer of either yes, no, or I dont know. In my view, however, the correct answer is.. I have no idea what you are talking about---and neither do
you! What is it for which you are claiming existence? Unless the believer can define the term God---and why his particular God is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered. The Moslem, Christian or Jew is now obligated to present an intelligible description of this God. Defining God is central to any argument for this entitys
existence. Otherwise stating God exists communicates nothing! The Christian God is no more special than any of those thousands of gods that have been (and continue to be) part of
human history and culture. Metaphysics and Epistemology: Metaphysics: the study of reality (the state of things as they actually exist ), matter, consciousness and causality. Epistemology: the study of knowledge
(justified true belief)reason and faith are associated terms. Therefore: What exists? is a metaphysical question, whereas How does one know it? is an epistemological one.
And in more general terms the question becomes: How do we know, we know? and, How do we know, we dont know? Metaphysics: The Natural and the Supernatural are metaphysical terms that describe different realities. The essence of the difference is one of KIND and not one of degree.
While the supernatural realm is considered independent from the natural realm, it is able to communicate with the natural realm. ie: miracles It is in this difference of framework where atheist and Christian part company. Non-believers: science states that, to date, only the natural
reality exists. Believers: (My) faith reveals that both a natural and supernatural reality exist. The Natural Reality (material reality) is everything in our universe (and in other possible universes) including energy/matter, space and time and yet to be discovered other dimensions.
The Supernatural Reality (non-material) pertains to anything that lies beyond or outside (???) of natural reality. It is a title and not a description. And because the Supernatural cannot be described; and cannot be definitional; it borders on being a meaningless term. The Supernatural can pertain to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature in that they lack clear scientific explanation.
Miracles, spells, curses, divination, the afterlife, ghosts, gods, resurrections, anointing, angels, spirits, the paranormal, ESP, leprechauns, unicorns and holy scripture (the Word of God) are all considered as representative of the supernatural reality. Scientists do not conclude that the supernatural does not exist per se, but rather that it has yet to be proven. While there have been many unexplained events,
there has yet to be an occurrence that has been verified scientifically as supernatural. Remarkable does not mean supernatural! A sole survivor of a plane crash; a cancerous tumor that suddenly disappears and is inexplicable medically; the birth of a child; and the ability of ants to carry many times their own weight are all remarkable but hardly supernatural! INEXPLICABLE does not equal
Supernatural! Indeed, the world works exactly as you would expect if there were no personal God! God is considered an entity or being existing in
this Supernatural Realm and communicating with our Natural Realm. So the first line of challenge by the atheist against the Christian/theist is a metaphysical one. It respects the famous quote from the late Carl Sagan: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Question #1 for the Christian: Describe this God which dwells in this Supernatural Reality?
The Christian will describe God as existing in the supernatural reality. God is beyond natural existence and exempt from the restrictions of natural laws. The atheist will counter that this explains what this being is not---that it is not part of the natural universe. Granted,---but that description still does not tell us anything about this God! Question
How 2 for the Christian: does anyone understand or communicate with an entity outside or beyond natural existence? To repeat and emphasize: When a believer makes claim his God exists,
he is, at the same time, making a reality claim that there exists another reality (the supernatural) independent from our natural reality. He is also asserting that this other reality interacts with our natural reality. Very few people realize what an extraordinary claim that is!
In my opinion, it is equally if not more extraordinary than the God-claim itself! Consider There the following:
has never been a scientifically verified encounter with anything outside of natural existence. Question: On what basis then does the Christian claim the existence of this supernatural
realm? There do! is some splainin to Natural existence is describable by natural law. Natural Law pertains to the
presence of regularity (and regular irregularity) in the universe. NATURAL LAW: Entities behave according to specific causal conditions: Examples: Given the right conditions pumpkin seeds will become pumpkins, not pears; dogs will not give birth to cats; and when I drop an apple on earth it will fall to the ground at a calculable and predictable
acceleration. NATURAL LAW: also pertains to the presence of certain limitations of living things: A bird does not have the capacity to play poker just as man does not have the capacity to fly. In the Supernatural Realm all bets are
off..because that realm CANNOT BE DESCRIBED, EXPLAINED OR DEFINED. We have no idea of what a Supernatural Reality is like. By definition, it is unknowable to us because we have no way to communicate with it scientifically. Right at this point it is important to anticipate the counterclaim by Christians.
But yes we do!....Holy scripture!!! Surely the Bible gives us the assurance of that supernatural reality in which God dwells! HOLD THAT THOUGHT! The second challenge by the atheist is an epistemological (knowledge)one. To exist beyond the sphere of Natural Law means .
to exist beyond the scope of human knowledge. And Christians will agree that God is a supernatural being that transcends RATIONAL human knowledge: i.e.: Christians believe that God is mysterious, unfathomable and beyond RATIONAL human comprehension.
However. Christians are fond of saying that God (Jesus) wants you to do this or that; that God (Jesus) knows this or that; or even that God (Jesus) said this or that. So,
Christians make the claim that their personal God is knowable to some extent and at some level. The problem is.. their claim stems from their yet to be proved assertion that their Bible is the WORD of their God.
But the Bible is a self-proclaimed authority. Christians must provide evidence from outside their scripture if they are to win over a skeptic.
If God is supernatural and transcendent (not of matter, time or space and unknowable), how would humans comprehend Him? How can one know the unknowable? The existence of a supernatural/unknowable being constitutes the major point of controversy between Christian and atheist. Amazingly though, the Christian is usually
unimpressed with this line of argumentation. He will boast, See, God transcends human understanding! But how can one possibly know that something exists without some knowledge of what it is that is existing or at least what is
being called into question? To deny all the qualities of a being is equivalent to denying the being himself. .A being without qualities is one which cannot become an object to the mind, and such a being is virtually non-existent. (19th century philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach) To
claim that a thing is unknowable, one must first know that it exists--but then one already has knowledge of it, to that extent. Nathaniel Branden REASON SAYS: If God is RATIONALLY unknowable,. the concept of God is devoid of content, an empty claim, and the
word God becomes a meaningless sound. To claim that God is incomprehensible is to say that ones concept of God is unintelligible, which is to confess, therefore, that when one is talking about God one does not know what one is talking about!!!!!!!
Indeed, the Christian is basically saying, I will explain the concept of my God by pointing out that it cannot be explained. The idea of claiming the existence of an entity that is unknowable is an insult
to mans intellect and furthermore renders God and theism wholly implausible. Conclusion: If knowledge of the unknowable is a contradiction, then knowledge of the supernatural is
a contradiction as well. Additional critiques of Christianity.. Thanks C. Hitchens Man
has been around for, at some estimates 200,000-100,000 years.. Name one moral statement or action, said or done by a believer, that cannot be done by a
non-believer. (C.H. said never heard a coherent answer!) Christianity lacks validity and reliability because.. There
is no mechanism within Christianity for self-correction. (Science has peer review, reproducibility, consensus, the power of prediction, integration with previous knowledge, falsification.) Christians are indoctrinated
If they can not properly answer the question: What evidence would convince you to give up your belief in Christianity?
Misinformation passes for fact: Statement of Beliefs of the Arizona Origins Science!!! (emphasis mine) Association.
The universe and everything in it was created by God rather than by spontaneous generation and development from one kind to another. All creation was accomplished in six consecutive literal days, not over millions of years, and the earth
is relatively young (thousands not billions of years). There is a Divine Design and purpose in nature as opposed to an unorganized random and chance development. A world-wide, historical Flood, caused by God, occurred
at the time of Noah. It was not just a local flood. The Bible is the inspired, revealed Word of God to man and is accurate in all areas. Jesus Christ is God and is the only substitute and Savior through whom man is redeemed from sin.
In other words Christians believe.. The Flintstones .was
a documentary! - Steven Weinberg, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics The whole history of the
last thousands of years has been a history of religious persecutions and wars, pogroms, jihads, crusades. I find it all very regrettable, to say the least. Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or
without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes I can hope that this long sad story, this progression of priests,
ministers, rabbis and imams ..will come to an end. I hope this is something to which science can contribute it may be the most important contribution that we can make. This
is one of the great social functions of science to free people from superstition. Therefore, Christianity is excluded from the
sphere of rational consideration. REALITY CHECK: The criteria that honest investigators use when comparing God-ly vs. God-less interpretations include the following: their predictive capacity, their explanatory power, the number of testable new branches of science and technology they lead to,
the amounts of mystery and otherwise hopeless bewilderment they eliminate and so on. So superior have the God-less interpretations of nature proved to be over the God-based ones that science has now come to the point where it no longer entertains any interpretations that carry even the slightest hint of supernaturalism.
Based on the complete absence of any verifiable human interaction--ever---with any reality other than natural reality, science can confidently (yet always provisionally) say that the supernatural realm has yet to be established and cannot and must not be used for investigative, explanatory, or belief purposes. Christianitys
claims are inconsistent with known facts But alas, if it were only that easy! Many Christians will admit that while God may not be understood (ie: knowable) through rational thought, there is another pathway to certify His existence:
FAITH In my next talk, I will challenge faiths claim as a valid and reliable pathway to knowledge of the supernatural. "It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to
persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out. - Carl Sagan
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