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TORONTO (RNS) It's an unlikely setting for an unlikely class. The chapel at Jesuit-run Regis College is adorned with stained glass, icons of Mary and Joseph, and the Stations of the Cross. The eight-week course being taught here is on atheism. More properly, "Responding to 21st-Century Atheism.''

109 Comments

  1. Atheism has become “militant, aggressive and proselytizing”? Wellthen, it’s finally catching up to Catholicism, except without the torturing people, molesting children, denying science, enslaving black people, conquering savages, and colluding with Mormons to destroy other people’s constitutional rights.

    • Not torturing people and enslaving people did you miss the 20th century i mean look at pol pot, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che, do i need to continue? denying science? Mendel was an Augustinian friar, Georges Lemaître was a catholic priest you might of hear of his theory the Big Bang, and there are long list of catholic scientist.

      • None of these people did what they did in the name of atheism. Atheism is not a religion or philosophy. I believe all these people were communists of one sort or another. That was their philosophy.

        • Actually, the Communists did carry out atrocities in the name of atheism. Their mass destruction of Russian orthodox churches, murder of priests, etc. was carried out specifically in the name of atheism under the auspices of the League of the Militant Godless.Timing permitting, I could cite numerous other examples of atrocities committed by atheists that are every bit as bad as the worst things done by religious fanatics.

          • If we’re being honest, they’re much much, almost unimaginably worse..

            Atheists take credit for science but they’ve contributed proportional to their numbers at best.
            They’re swinging outside of their weight class when it comes to mass genocide, mass murder, serial killers, suicide, etc., but outside of the scientific achievements it’s hard to name a lot of great contributions of atheists.

            They need to be careful calling out the religious because the religious, the Christians particularly, have a much better historical record than atheists, agnostics, pagans or anyone else.

            You’re all just brainwashed by leftist pension case “teachers”. They thoroughly educate you in everything negative anyone identifying as religious has ever done but they forget, excuse or outright lie about the far more abundant sins of atheists and agnostics.

          • @Paul Spengler
            I’m sorry you’ve been swallowing your own propaganda. The Bolsheviks killed priests because they were anti-clerical. They believed clerics were a source of political opposition and taught the people to be satisfied with their miserable lot as they would receive their reward in heaven. Anti-clericism is part of the communist creed.

            Try to think of killing people because of something you don’t believe in. Which other religious group would you consider killing just because you don’t believe in their god?

        • Sounds like watching paint dry.

          Enjoy waiting to run up against the black wall.

          (I’m not a silly fanatic so I would never believe anything so silly as that I was a self-creating man god who made himself forget his own self-creation and then came to Earth where most people are theists!!)

          haha

      • Stalin had a graduate degree in divinity. He was almost a priest.

        Don’t forget that Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler were Catholic and heavily funded by American industrial leaders who loved them for their anti-labor and anti-communist violence. Stalin begged the US and France and England to stop supporting Hitler, until he realized it was too late.

          • Hitler hated Catholics and only appeased them because he was growing weaker and alienating the Catholic members of his armed forces would have broken him even sooner.

            He had specific plans for their extermination after the Reich took full control over the globe!

          • @Paul Spengler–
            It’s true Hitler couldn’t be described as Catholic even though that’s how he was brought up. But he wasn’t an atheist either. He had his own ideas informed by German mythology which he wanted to see expanded and turned into a German religion.

    • Leaveit Tobeaver

      Tony…agreed. It’s much harder to be a shunned non-believer with a scientific mind than a go-with-the-flow follower. This is true in any aspect of life.

      But one in ten? I think that’s too low of a number.

  2. Wrong again. If you’re young, educated and believe in Catholicism you’re a jerk. Young educated and belive in God you’re only ignorant and we can help you with that. We can’t fix stupid however so we choose to deride Catholics and Catholicism. I say this as a caring, recovering Catholic.

    • “We can’t fix stupid however so we choose to deride Catholics and Catholicism.” What an ugly statement. I don’t believe you are a “caring,” former Catholic. I bet you were a poorly catechized one, who abandoned the faith without understanding it. It has not done you any good in improving kindness or compassion for others. I used to be an atheist for 35 years, and have become a Catholic, by pure gift, five years ago. I would never trade places with you, and hope you will take another sober look, with possibly a little humility.

      • I hate when people assume that if you left the Church, you must have been improperly taught, or didn’t understand what you were being taught. I am also a former catholic (current atheist) and was very well educated in what the church teaches. I went to a Catholic high school, Jesuit college, and when I had doubts about my faith, I delved even harder into the scripture, catechism, and asked questions of people of faith around me. I wanted my faith to be the truth, felt like I was inadequate because of my doubts, but the deeper I went, the more I felt like I was grasping for straws. I will always be grateful that I grew up in a faith where doubt was welcomed and intense examination of your doubts is encouraged. Unfortunately for the church (but luckily for me!) that encouragement lead me to a place of disbelief. I honestly think that if more people critically examined what they actually believe and what their church teaches we would have a heck of a lot more atheists and agnostics.

    • Take your pick people.. The “recovering”, i.e. fallen Catholic “Kerbster”, or the devout Leibniz, Descartes, Pascal, Copernicus, Mendel, Michelangelo, etc., etc., ETC.

  3. How does Christianity account for the Tartuffe’s, these religious hypocrites that thinks (or pretends) to be pious? Does Christianity, or is it religion itself, promote, allow, or tolerate the creation of these unethical, mischievous folk?

    How has the Church institution changes itself to prevent from situations like that of Rev. Chardin? For instance, if critical thought (skepticism, sound science) points towards the existence of life on other planets, how will the institution handle this change in understanding of the universe? Will this diminish the role of Jesus in the universe?

    Is the human brain hard-wired for religion? No, religion is a social construct that some of us try to keep very much out of our lives. Some of us obviously prefer the deep questions, ones which I consider to be philosophical in nature. Others seem content to learn the rules,turn their cheeks, and pass the time. Now that we have put religion in it’s place (dogma), we can talk about what we were after in the first place… the religious EXPERIENCE. The awe-inspiring, and greatly complex network that manifests itself as a clump of cellular mass in our skulls is definitely “set up for” religious experience. ONE of the ways which this experience is induced is through the so-called “mind altering” drugs, like psylocybin (source = http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060711084914.htm ). Why was it set up for this? There is most likely no answer for that. Social psychologists, the most popular psuedoscientists of our era would put together a dumbed down argument with an appeal to the “survival of the fittest.” Well, the humans that had this predisposition for religious experience were given some beneficial survival trait, which was passed on genealogically. But what about the curious caveman that had a religious experience because he ate a potentially toxic mushroom? Unless the caveman was starving, that sounds like a very damaging trait to have. In fact, we can infer the same thing about religious experiences. Those predisposed to having these experiences, just like the predisposition to try potentially toxic substances, may not be the most fit to survive.

    I have the answer to the question “Why are we here?,” but you may find it disappointing. There is no answer to this question, as the question itself is not applicable.
    Imagine a young toddler, becoming recently comfortable with conversing with adults. You stumble upon not just the word “why,” but more importantly, the question “Why?”
    “Why is the sun yellow?” the toddler asks the adult.
    The adult responds with “because it emits light that is yellow, and when is angled perpendicularly to Earth, it looks yellow. As the sun sets each day, this angle deviates from perpendicular at the horizon, giving us beautiful shades of red, orange, and purple”
    Not

    The correct question to be asking is “How on earth did we get here?” or “How did we get here, on earth?” Although science will provide us with increasingly more information on the how, it will become more and more difficult for the average Joe to understand. Right now, scientists assume there was a state of infinite expansion at the beginning of the universe, they call it inflation. No matter how the hypothesis of inflation stands in the upcoming decades, we will still have applicable information on the formation of matter (stars, galaxies, planets) from a time in which no matter existed (only energy, as the energy density was too great to support matter, and thus life as we know it).

    The problem with “Why?” is that is can always go deeper. Why does the sun emit energy of a specific wavelength? Go study nuclear physics, I’m sure you will find out why, only to be left with more difficult questions to answer.

    If you want to sit around asking yourself “Why am I here?” I suggest you stop at your biological parents night of conception. Perhaps if they had told you the truth early on, the truth would feel more comforting? A more in depth answer would go all the way back to life on the super continent, but that is outside the scope of this comment.

    For you thinkers, for those who have read my comment, found it slightly palatable, digested it, and finally had time to ruminate on it. I must warn you, your next path is a dangerous one. You have begun a walk in the world of the absurd, the true world. The true world has no meaning granted by a higher power, in fact, you will unearth the same as I, that the meaning of life is begotten by man.

      • @ Mike I,
        Mike I read the article and wrote something of comparable length. I’m sorry you determined my entire post was not worth reading. Well actually, I never asked you to read my post, so I’m not really sorry.

        Now I am asking you, read my second paragraph. It is quite short. Probably to your liking. That is, because short sentence treat brain good.

        Then comment on it. Has the church done anything to change it’s ways of oppressing knowledge, and how would it react to something like a microbe on Mars ?I would say it has done nothing, or very little, but all I have is anecdotal experience to back me up.

        • Let me break down my paragraphs into single sentences. Perhaps I lost the meaning with my poor sentence structure and grammar.

          P1: Religion doesn’t make one ethical or moral.
          P2: Religious institutions haven’t changed quickly enough be able to accept scientific findings and apply them to their practice.
          P3: Humans aren’t “hard-wired” for religion, they are taught religion; Humans are “hard-wired” for spiritual experiences.
          P4: Quit asking the question “why are we here?” , as it makes no sense. You are just begging the question.
          lastParagraph: The world is absurd. There is no meaning to life. Go make your own. If you don’t spend time making your life mean something, you are ensuring your life is meaningless.

    • “Is the human brain hard-wired for religion?” — There is a reasonable argument that says we may be hard wired to assign agency to the unknown. He who runs away at the sound of rustling in the grass may survive even though it’s usually caused by the wind. He who ignores such rustles or succumbs to curiosity is more likely to be eaten by a tiger.

      We should assume that the virtual universality of religion in all primitive societies means it had some survival advantage. Here are a couple of ideas about possible advantages:

      The invisible policeman. — In the absence of the resources to police human behaviour if you can get people to believe that a god is always watching them and they will get their comeuppance in the next life if not in this then an overall better conformance to whichever moral code of conduct is supported is to be expected. A society with less criminality will compete better with other societies not so fortunate.

      The authority favoured by the gods. — If an individual discovers some aspect of nature, such as the hallucinogenic properties of a plant, and is canny enough to keep the information from his fellows he may be able to convince followers his authority stems from powerful gods. Such an individual may have more credibility as a unifying source of wisdom and authority in times of crisis.

      A common belief system with the other guy. — When authority was limited to tribal leaders who held sway only as long and as far as their threat of violence could extend it may have been easier to ally with other tribes with common beliefs against those of alien philosophy or no overriding world view at all. This puts tribes with no firm philosophy at a disadvantage.

    • Or more simply as I see it, the idea that there is an overall meaning to existence is begging the question. For existence to have an overall meaning it would have to have been created by a being with the kind of mind the we have. One with motivation and objectives in mind.

  4. The truth matters, and religion is simply wrong. That is why religion needs to be attacked until it is no more. The internet is doing a great job at making that happen, because religious ideas cannot stand up to serious criticism. I expect that this course will generate more atheists.

    .

    • “I expect that this course will generate more atheists.”

      I would say this is rather hopeful considering that all those involved are theists. A bit like me giving a course about Catholicism.

    • Atheism is senseless because if this temporal life is all there is then life as a whole makes no sense. It has no further objective or end-goal. Thus, from an atheistic viewpoint, in the end all is vain, for nothing. Atheism, properly conceived and thought through, is completely nihilistic. And thus it defies reason. For rationality and intelligibility have everything to do with discovering sense and meaning. Even logical meaning becomes meaningless in Atheism. Science and all fields of scholarship presuppose that we live in a sensible world. That is why Atheism is false to the core. If Atheism is true, than nothing is at stake if a criminal would wipe out the entire human race. Atheism is not only anti-religious. It is anti-humanistic as well.

      • Truth is not determined by what humans feel like it should be. Reality is completely independent of human desires and wishes. Reality simply is what it is. Just because you want reality to have some particular “meaning” because how you feel like that’s the way it should be, according to your wishes, that is utterly irrelevant to what it actually is – and thinking otherwise is what is actually makes no sense. This point is something that the vast majority of religious seem virtually incapable of grasping – and it’s a fundamental point that distinguishes atheism from religious belief.

        • That’s hilarious. I thought you were talking about atheists until you revealed yourself to actually be an atheist!

          Replace ‘reality’ with God and you got it bud!

          It doesn’t matter what atheists wish to be true, it matters what God made to be and sustains as true!

          • You know, if you could actually produce some good real world evidence that a god exists, you’d have a point. Of course, that’s exactly what you don’t have. I wish I could claim credit for the following statement, but I read this a few weeks ago as written by someone named Brian Westley: “All you (or anyone else) needs to do is show that your god exists; everything else is misdirection.” Theists are very skillful at trying to conjure a god into existence with words. But that is precisely what the problem is, as I’ve pointed out. Reality is not determined by words. Without real world evidence, you have nothing.

      • You could not be more wrong,Why would there be no end goal without a god?
        Actually you can see things a lot clearer without god.
        I think you confusing Anarchists and Atheists
        Atheists want humankind to move and advance in every means, While Religion holds you back.

      • Some atheists, like Hitchens, whom I loathe, believe that some people are not capable of being ethical without fear of everlasting punishment. My reply is that theism does not have an impressive record at promoting ethical behavior. Quite the contrary… it devalues life by making it secondary to the next life.

      • @Ronald–

        The situation is probably rather more stark than you paint it. Here is a list of things that atheism and science are telling us about reality which are probably true. Some are supported by the weight of evidence and some are proposed because there is no reliable evidence to the contrary:

        There are no gods.
        There is no afterlife. Death is final.
        The soul does not exist.
        The world is largely deterministic.
        There is no free will in the traditional sense. This means you should reconsider what the term “responsibility” actually means and reconsider the role of punishment and retribution in society.
        You are just a very complicated self programming biological robot.
        Existence has no discernible overall purpose. On a cosmic scale existence appears completely pointless.
        All life on earth evolved from an original self replicating molecule.
        The amount of suffering involved in the process of natural selection is unimaginably huge.
        Morality, like other human traits, evolves over time.
        There are no absolute, objective or universal moral values.
        Right and wrong are terms relative to the moral code of conduct in use by a particular group at a particular time.
        Atheists have to take on board the idea that only those they have wronged can forgive them.
        Human beings are just animals. That’s not to say they don’t have unique or more highly developed capabilities, but so do all complex animals.
        The Earth will eventually be destroyed by natural processes.

        Some of these things are difficult to accept even for atheists. So it’s not surprising that naturalism and atheism are slow to gain adherents.

        Atheists avoid a nihilistic tendency by setting their own life goals, learning to appreciate and wonder at the natural world and by making sure that the life goals that they have are for the benefit of others as well as themselves.

        Here is a list of typical atheist goals:

        The wellbeing of family and friends.
        The pursuit of knowledge.
        The advancement of society and civilisation.
        The advancement of music or art
        Relieving suffering by practising medicine.
        Enjoying life to the full and helping others do the same as its the only life there is.

        • @gordon ,many of the statements you produced are not in the realm of science, but more are more linguistic games combined with philosophy, mostly because no one can come into agreement on the terminology.

          Here are a list of things that are devoid of meaning, and there’s no point in making a scientific claim using that terminology.

          – “God, god, or gods”. To say that no god has ever existed, or will ever exist, is presupposing a definition of what a god is. On the other hand, It is easy for science to disprove things like
          The Hypothesis of Jesus Christ
          1. a Nazerian man named Jesus Christ was born 2,000 years ago via virgin mother
          2. performed miracles (water into wine, more bread from less bread)
          3. was crucified and died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven.

          -“absolute or objective universal moral values”. Try coming up with a definition for morality that could be tested in a scientific setting, then we will move forward.

          -“Existence has no discernible overall purpose. On a cosmic scale existence appears completely pointless.” What if I believe the universe to be hedonistic, and its purpose is to maximize the fun that humanity has in total before humanity is killed off – Could you prove me wrong? How about the cosmic purpose was to foster life, even if it means that all life will come to an end – could you prove me wrong?

          Strictly unscientific claims:
          -All life on earth evolved from an original self replicating molecule. Science has hypothesized very few ideas for the formation of earth. If you are so sure about this self-replicating molecule, might I ask which one was it – H2, H2O, H3O? I’ve never seen any studies that back this theory.
          I think what you’re getting at here is disproving the statement that “life begets life.” We know the universe was very energy dense at its beginnings, and did not support the formation of matter (life as we now know it). Fast forward to our current cosmic state, where matter has proliferated across the known universe. Sorry Christians, life does not beget life. First came energy, then came light and matter, then the molecules, then the microorganisms, then the plants and animals.

          “The amount of suffering involved in the process of natural selection is unimaginably huge.” Again, quite trite. Let’s pretend we already have a working definition of ‘suffering’. I claim that the amount of suffering due to the process of natural selection is QUITE IMAGINABLE, as I see this process every day.

          • @dan homstad–
            I don’t know why I’m answering this post of yours as I find the whole thing amounts to nitpicking.

            Clearly there have been many gods in history which do exist. People have worshiped the sun, a golden calf, nature and the universe. It is also true that people are notorious at providing completely incoherent definitions of their gods. So let me be more explicit. I mean the anthropomorphic and powerful gods of the Abrahamic religions and the Hindu pantheon. That covers most of the world population of believers. There is no credible scientific evidence for any of them notwithstanding the many definitions that exist.

            The definition of words does not require scientific testing. This includes the word “morality”. The definition I prefer is the one used by the Stamford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. If you want to decry my statement about morality you must come up with a practical code that is in use that can be defined as universal, objective of absolute. Otherwise my statement stands.

            As far as existence having some purpose is concerned, I’m open to suggestions that have good evidence to support them. Otherwise my statement stands here also.

            I am no biologist, but look up the theory of common descent. It is supported by common features in the DNA of all living things. Apparently we share 57% of our DNA with the humble cabbage.

            I was not intending to pontificate on “life begets life”. In that life did not always exist it seems somewhat obvious, barring magic, that life evolved from that which would not be considered to be alive.

      • Scary isn’t it? Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it can’t be the truth. And no, there is no more at stake if the human race were wiped out than if any other species were wiped out. By the way, we as a race are responsible for wiping out many species and the world goes on. Why should we think that the human species is any different? But atheists are not anti-humanistic. The purpose of life is to live well and leave the world a better place for future generations of humans (and other species). I don’t have a problem with people who are religious but I do feel as if some religious folks are short sighted from this purpose by the idea of heavenly gain and the afterlife.

  5. I always – always – get a good belly laugh when religionists try to pretend atheists have “become militant, aggressive and proselytizing.” Oh, you mean, like you religious believers who’ve been attacking, denigrating, and misrepresenting atheism for centuries on end? And now that atheists dare – those dirty, rotten, baby-eating, without-any-basis-for-any-morals atheists DARE – to openly speak up and represent themselves and challenge all the militant, aggressive, and proselytizing anti-atheist rhetoric religious believers have been using for so long, religious just want to atheists to shut up and go away. Any atheists who dares to open his mouth and speak his mind is “militant, aggressive, and proselytizing” just because he won’t shut up and be quiet like so many atheists in past generations had been trained to be by the intimidations of the denigrating, prejudice-pandering rhetoric of religious promoters like Scott Lewis.

    Here’s a clue for religious believers who like to use this same kind of rhetoric as Lewis is using as quoted in the article: You’re seen as a jerk because that’s what the rhetoric you use shows you to be. It is not “militant,” nor “aggressive,” nor “proselytizing” to meet religious proselytizers on their own ground for the very purpose of confronting them with the errors and fallacies of their rhetoric, and is certainly none of those things to challenge directly the pervasive misrepresentations of atheism that religious believers have been pushing for so long. But it’s certainly no surprise that those who rely so fundamentally on unquestioning belief and fabricated authority would try to denigrate those who would dare to critical scrutinize and rationally analyze their rhetoric as being “militant” and “aggressive” for doing it. Atheists are quite used to the rhetorical trickery of religious propaganda.

    • How do we misrepresent it?

      If anything you get away with far more than you should.

      The New York Times should print endless articles about how you all have higher rates of depression, crime including violent crime, sexual abuse (despite the never ending focus on Catholics) and suicide.
      Instead they give you a break because they sympathize with your desire for social libertinism and decadence and perhaps they feel sorry for you.

      • @Jacob
        You should check your statistics. Atheists and Jews are heavily under-represented in the prison system. It’s mainly the Christians who are over-represented.

      • You write, “How do we misrepresent it?”

        It’s always to see people ask a question that’s was just previously answered. It’s a rhetorical trick used to try to pretend that I didn’t just get through explicitly pointing out a specific example of misrepresentation.

  6. Atheists run and hide! They are going to teach them to PRAY! Woe is us. Prayer is so powerful! God is so powerful! You have seen how atheists everywhere have been devastated by prayer.

    Look out for the apologetics! You will never be able to resist the crafty logic. “Ahem, you have taken god’s orders to kill all the men and women and save the virgins to rape out of context.” “The bible isn’t contradictory, god works in mysterious ways.” Oh how will we ever stand up to such pithy truth?

    Maybe we atheists could take the class and learn to say, “Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?” or “I’ll pray for you.” or that all time favorite “We plan to cooperate with the police fully,”

    Care to post the syllabus?

  7. The surprising thing should be be that atheism is growing, but that anyone could take these Iron Age ideologies seriously in the 21st century! Imagine believing in a merciful being that will send his own creations for sadistic eternal torture over something as petty as believing in an ideology that has no hard evidence to back it up!!!

    • Imagine believing you’re a self-creating man god who forgot his own self-creation and came to earth with all the theists or else you just POOF! appeared from thin air like goop is always just dropping out of the sky and then frogs evolve from the goop and we have proof of this!!!

      • It’s always ironically amusing when we see a Christian – who actually does believe in POOF creation magic – try to attack atheists by misrepresenting them as believing what he believes in.

  8. The religious say they know because they have a (faith based) belief telling them it is so
    The atheist simply need proof.

    Now, please go away.
    P/S The best answer, when one doesn’t have the facts is: The heck if I know! But, I wish I did…
    Oh Yes, god does not exist.

  9. Religious claims are metaphysical propositions, and like all metaphysical propositions they’re not empirical–and are controversial. I can’t see why atheists should attack religious beliefs any more than nominalists should attack Platonism or erstazers should attack modal realism.

    Yeah, we don’t want the ridiculous moralism that has been attached to some religious beliefs. Fine. Go for that. I don’t want that either. And of course we don’t want the anti-evolution garbage that Evangelical sects, which cater for the uneducated and rural poor promote. Certainly, go after them.

    But religion as such–metaphysical speculation about the existence and nature of God and post-mortem survival, art and ceremony–is harmless and, if you’re into metaphysics and aesthetics, enjoyable. It’s a pity that it’s going to die–and it will–because the end of religion, of the rituals, myths and metaphysical speculation, will make the world a duller place.

    • Metaphysics won’t ‘die’, though admittedly in the current world, its seen as a ‘bad thing’. This is actually surprising, because science uses metaphysics all the time – they just call it something else – like ‘hypothesis building’. Its just that with most ‘common’ metaphysical questions, we don’t have the capacity yet to empirically test them.

      Quite interestingly, whilst not getting much else right, the ancient greeks gave us atomic theory. Back then, it was a metaphysical question (even now, its still a relatively metaphysical question!).

      I don’t think ritual, myth or metaphysics will die out. They’ll just transform.

      • I don’t think ritual, myth or metaphysics will die out. They’ll just transform.

        Transform into what? All that good stuff–the Hagia Sophia, San Vitale and those gorgeous Ravenna mosaics, St. Marks in Venice, St. Pauls in London, all that beautiful architecture, into what–dull megachurch auditoriums? And the music–Byzantine chant, the lushness of Eastern church music, sacred music in Latin, Bach, Anglican chant, and the liturgy in which it’s embedded, the wonderful, elaborate ceremonies, the brocade fancy dress and silverware, candles and incense–all that gone to make way for dull, vulgar, detestable Evangelical garbage.

        This is a complete stinking loss. Aesthetic experience is the window into heaven, the vision of God. The whole business of religion is art and mysticism. Without the aesthetic–elaborate ceremonies, fancy buildings, great music and art, and sensuous experience religion is worthless. The whole purpose of religion is to get us in touch with the transcendent through aesthetic experience. And all that has been thrown away. Religion has been trashed by the Evangelicals.

        • You think religion is required for beauty? You think you can’t have occasions for celebration and ceremony without the church? That beautiful architecture and music can’t happen without religion?

          Wow, thats rather… pessimistic. We have a lot of rituals, none of which REQUIRE religion. We have a lot of myth, many stories, which have no requirement for religion. Metaphysics doesn’t require religion either.

          Religion USES art and symbolism – it doesn’t own, or have sole claim to these things. I won’t argue – religion IS worthless – you can have an aesthetic, awe-inspiring experience without religion – I see the stars at night, and have a sense of beauty, wonder, and awe.

          Whats more, I hear there are certain cults who think they can gain an aesthetic, transcendent religious experience – get in touch with god – through drugs. Unsurprisingly, many religions have, or still do this.

          It can certainly be argued that metaphysics is not a proper field for the religious anyway – the church was completely against (and largely still is) the idea of ‘proving’ God, in a philosophical sense – its a ‘faith’ question – and if you need a logical proof, then you lack it.

          Humans have psychological need for myth, storytelling, ritual, ceremony – but these do NOT have to have a religious foundation for them to be accepted, or beneficial.

          As an atheist – I would have to say that as I understand it, religion, and the idea of god, get in the way of a healthy appreciation for the planet and our fellow creatures – and especially our one shot at life.

          I don’t think there will ever be an end to questions – the metaphysician will never be out of a job.

        • H.E. Baber,

          Are you over 18?

          If you are then you’ve proven my thesis that no atheist is truly a man intellectually (they make petty pedantic attacks like intellectual adolescents, completely unaware of how open to attack they themselves are).

          For a no name like yourself to try to trivialize the religion of Leibniz and Pascal is like the Higgs boson calling the universe tiny.

          You (and any serious atheist) are the definition of a fool.

          • Jacob, what are you talking about? I’m NOT an atheist. I’m a committed Christian–did you read what I said? I am over 18 but I am not a man. And I am very happy with Liebniz and Pascal–if anything my primary reason for being a Christian is a version of Pascal’s Wager. You really don’t know who’s on your side. Are you over 18? And what are your credentials, stinking Evangelical white trash filth?

  10. Pravin Thevathasan

    I loved the atheist comment ” The true world has no meaning….” All is subjective. There is ultimately no right or wrong. We make up the rules as we go along. That is why I left the atheist church for the fresh green pastures of Catholicism

    • The rules have been made up as we have been going along,The only rules or laws we don’t make up are the natural laws that govern the universe.

      Religion is a man made set of rules it was completely made up.

      • Religion is a set of rules for worshiping the being that set the Natural Law that you and other leftists so persistently attempt to turn on its head despite the universe!

  11. As a believer i welcome the rise of atheism, and its eventual taking the majority in our society.

    Observing religions at work I have come to the conclusion that God will be better served if there are no religions.

    • Observing secularists like you at work I’m surprised the two thousand years of Christian fruits haven’t been spoiled even sooner than they will be by the immoral, depraved secularist cancer..

  12. The Catholic Church, taking orders from Rome, in the US has all but declared itself Republican and told people it is a sin to vote for Democrats. The Second Vatican Council had been forgotten and the Church has returned to its roots as the Church that represents the powerful while paying lip service to social justice.

    • Does it sound like a good thing from the point of view of a moral human being to murder tiny other human beings just because they’re hidden inside mum’s stomach?

      • Murder is a crime defined by law. Killing unborn children will not be murder until the law is changed.
        While it is reasonable to be morally opposed to abortion as a social ill most who contemplate abortion are faced with a choice between evils. They can see that no-one suffers unduly when an early term foetus is aborted. Whereas if a women is forced to bear a child she does not want and risk her life in so doing considerable suffering is involved. Additionally, bringing an unwanted child into the world that you do not have the resources to raise properly must be one of the most irresponsible things you can do. And is an action that is likely to lead to endless human suffering cascading down the generations.

  13. There’s nothing new about atheism. Perhaps Rev. Lewis would start with a course called “Responding to late 19th-century Atheism” because it’s pretty much the same thing. Bold? Yes. Militant? Yes. Aggressive? Yes. Offensive? Well, here’s a quote from an Oklahoma man in 1903…

    “The God of the Holy Bible was fathered by Fear and mothered by Faith. He was born in a filthy den of savages, where cannibals drank blood and fed with fang-like teeth on human flesh. Like Romulus, he suckled at the dugs of a gaunt wild beast, the impersonation of treachery, hatred, and revenge. His is a pedigree that would cause a hyena to hang its head in shame.”

    Beat that, Richard Dawkins!

    http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Atheist-Nation-Godless-ebook/dp/B005PJKWUY

  14. First I want to comment on the irony that this is a religion news site and most of the comments being made are from those who lack just that.
    Second, most of you atheists, I’m sure, are good people who mean well. But the vitriol I see here is nothing if not shameful. If everything is “subjective,” as many atheists claim, then their own claims are just as much “subjective” as any other claims. You claim that religious belief, particularly Christian belief, is “backward” and “repressing” or just “illogical.” Tell me: how is a belief in a transcendent deity any more silly than saying “we evolved from a fish somewhere down the line,” seeing as how mammals are in no way related to fish? I’m a Christian, and while I believe in evolution and in the Big Bang, let’s keep it within the realm of possibility, shall we? If we are going to be relative, let’s be relative: your claims and mine are equally valid as being subjective and held to scrutiny.
    Third, a lot of you obviously have been watching too much Tele-Church. Me, I immerse myself in the writings of those whose minds and reason and thought fly far above mine to contemplate: writers like Schelling, Chesterton, Urs von Balthasar, Maritain, Guardini, and yes, Tolkein and Lewis, with Berdyaev, Gilson, Dawson, MacIntyre, and Durant thrown in for good measure. Also the Church Fathers. Their arguments are sound and reasonable. Why, Lewis, himself a former atheist, began a conversion to Christianity after reading Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.” For a serious discussion of faith and reason, I would suggest reading these authors and giving their ideas the time of day.
    Also, I don’t find any problem with asking “Why?” in relation to reality and existence. “How?” is not the realm of theology or faith. It is for science, I grant. But “Why?” is a perfectly logical question. Aren’t atheists (or anarchists for that matter) famous for saying “Question Everything?” Here’s the reverse: Why should we forsake asking “Why?” for asking “How?” The questions in themselves are not good or bad, objectively. But why am I wrong for finding my reality based on a concept of a loving God who created me in His Image? If we take the subjectivity argument here, who are you to call me and others who believe in God “backward” when by the critique of subjectivity your claims are not inherently better or more logical? From my meditation and reflection on things, I have reasoned, based on my knowledge (limited, to be sure) and experiences of life, that there are too many coincidences, systems, orders, and, yes, paradoxes in life to be mere chance or accident. Further, if life had no meaning objectively, then why does anything exist at all? For existence to Be, there had to be a process and a system working to an end. For me, I call this force driving this process God. God has a purpose for me (so I believe), and His purpose for me is for me to discover. The God that matches my beliefs and outlooks best is the God of the Bible. Again, this is what I believe, and I might be wrong, but pardon me for taking pride in being in on Pascal’s Wager.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that everyone need’s to chill out, sit down, sip some beer, and discuss these things like adults instead of insulting one another. I admit Christians can be extreme, but I’ve met more than my fair share of militant and disrespectful atheists. Luckily, those atheists I do know for the most part are friendly, courteous, and respectful of my beliefs, and I of theirs. Further, something I feel that I have to say to my Christian friends: actions speak louder than words. You claim to have faith in Jesus. You are better serving Him by living virtuous, moral, selfless lives. I’m sure that Christ knew people who hated him, but I am convinced that He loved them all the same. Remember that.
    Best Regards to all!

    • First subjectivity and objectivity are best not looked at as opposites but rather as points at the ends of a scale. In a sense all data about the real world comes to us via our perception and therefore is in some measure a subjective interpretation. We can increase the degree of objectivity we assign to data by several methods. The simplest of these is probably checking that others perceive something exactly as we perceive it.

      When you say that some atheists think that theists are illogical you are right but in a qualified way. I am sure that all the famous mathematicians in history who were theists had much greater facility with logic than I do. The problem with theistic logic is usually not in the logical steps but in the original selection of premises. Ideally premises are self evident facts agreed by all. Unfortunately theistic arguments are usually based on premises such as the existence of gods and other things for which there is no credible evidence and no general acceptance.

      Your argument against evolution is a fallacy. The fallacy is known as the argument from ignorance or the argument from incredulity. I am not a scientist nor did I study biology, but there is evidence enough in shared DNA,
      in the fossil record and in those creatures alive today which exhibit some fish characteristics and some mammal characteristics for scientists to be certain, (that is as certain as theyn can be of anything), that some of your ancestors were fish. – There is no scientific evidence for the existence of your God.

      The trouble with “Why”. The problem with questions like “Why are we here” or “Why does the universe exist” is the question assumes there is a valid answer. It is a reasonably subtle form of the logical fallacy “Begging the question” The question assumes the universe was made for a reason. Only reasoning creatures make things for reasons.

      Again your argument for God based on the perceived frequency of coincidences and other “unusual” happenings is an argument from ignorance. I venture that mathematics and statistics are not your strong points.

      • I know but I can take the same mocking tone with atheism and then we arrive at Pascal’s Wager.

        Given that we can argue about him for the rest of time if God himself doesn’t intervene, why not just believe in the best case scenario?

        If atheism is right then you’re going to hit a black wall and none of this means anything anyway so who cares if you believed in Christ? If God is true, it makes sense to worship him in case your eternal salvation really is in his hands!

        • @Jacob–
          Your view that your god does not care about the sincerity of your belief shows what a parlous state your moral outlook is in.

          If you had any access to reason or an ethical outlook you would dismiss Pascal’s wager as a foolish attempt to con your god.

        • .. a coward’s answer.

          I’d suggest living your life as it it was the only one you’ll ever have – because it is.

          Be good for goodness sake, not for godness sake. Living your life in fear of its natural ending robs you of the opportunity to do much good instead of hanging around in church, praying to be forgiven for ‘sins’ you never committed.

    • When it comes to vitriol and shamefulness, atheists don’t even hold a candle against the anti-atheism rhetoric that runs rampant in Christian rhetoric.

      And, of course, that is all beside the point. The point being that the only task Christians have is to produce good real word evidence to justify the belief they have in some mythical Bible god. Anything and everything else they have to say is completely beside the point.

  15. Where do we get the natural moral law that tells us that good is to be done and evil avoided ? It cannot be from self as this leads to moral relativism. This is only one argument for the existence of God but it helped me a great deal. I have to admit that reading militant atheists also helped. When I experience doubts, I turn to Dawkins and turn to God.

    • There is no natural moral law – all of it is generated, some biological, as in most of our family connections, and some social, as in how we work towards things we want, amongst others.

      We’ve adapted to survive – and we did so by working out that we’ve got a better chance by working together, than we do against each other. We develop morals – there may be some which can be universalised, but they all change, just as our societies do.

      Are you a pacifist? Would you harm, or kill someone if your life, or someone you love was in mortal danger from them? If you would, then you would commit murder in the right circumstances. So killing, the ‘big one’ can’t be a ‘universal’ moral. If you would not, what does it make you? You would let someone you love (or allow yourself) to die? You would stand there, and watch, while innocents are murdered?

      Killing is sometimes justified – and yet, its clearly in black and white – Thou shalt not commit murder. No ‘oh, its ok if its in defence’. So, you fall back to Judeo-Christian philosophy, who deemed it necessary to ‘tinker’ with the ‘true meaning’ behind the words. I would have thought, of the bible, the story of the mount – the time man is given something directly from god – you’d think they’d be universal. You’d think they wouldn’t need ‘translation’ into ‘real world scenarios’.

      What is good? For whom is good being done? Is it ‘good’ to rescue several million people, if it means murdering one, and losing 5000 in reprisal? Is it good to save lives, if it means we’re tampering with Gods plan? If he calls someone, and we ‘rescue’ them? Or does he sometimes just let them come back? Is it good to save a life, if the only way to do it means aborting the child she’s carrying? Is it good to ease suffering of a terminally ill patient, when doing so will kill them? Or is it good to allow them to suffer, and refuse to help, refuse them food, prolonging the pain because giving them something for the pain might kill them? Which is more wrong?

      Sorry, you’re going to have to define good. You’re going to have to decide what is evil – and decide which is more evil – the person who does wrong, or the person who simply allows it.

      If you want to be humane, moral and ‘good’, you’d be far better served reading Dawkins than the bible – though I’d sincerely recommend A.C Grayling’s ‘The Good Book’. Morals for a bygone era are no longer suitable for our far more ethical world.

  16. Good questions Rebecca.There are certain things that are intrinsically wrong. Rape and racism are wrong in Europe and Asia. Slavery is wrong in Europe and Asia. The intentional killing of innocent human life is wrong in Europe and Asia. In fact these things are wrong for all humanity. A C Grayling says that euthanasia is relevant in cases of “exhausting old age.” I suppose there is no slippery slope when you hit rock bottom.

    • I note that many Americans favour enslaving women for up to nine months and risking their lives to bear children that the women don’t want. I suppose they oppose slavery except when they don’t and then they call it something else.

  17. 98 % 0f abortions are for social and not medical reasons.Like a growing number of people who have moved in the pro-life direction, I would prefer to work alongside people who are politically left rather than right. I have spoken to a large number of people who would have continued with their pregnancy had they received sufficient care. I have also worked in a culture where women are more or less told to abort simply for carrying an unborn female rather than male. So yes, abortion can be a form of slavery.

  18. “It’s an attempt for people of faith to understand and come to terms with the increasingly muscular secularism and atheism that has arisen in Western societies over the past generation.”
    – – – –

    Please remember that atheism is merely a position one arrives at when and because the evidence for any gods is lacking. It is in fact, the natural default position that would occur if religions did not have the opportunity to indoctrinate children with the unsubstantiated magic-book stories well before those children have a chance to develop independent and critical thought.

    “Muscular” atheism is merely the equal reaction of a certain oppressed group against the actions of centuries of oppression. The relative recent manifestation of this is a direct result of the new ability of those like minded people to converse with one another without being scorned by the religious estabishment.

    The fact that ‘courses’ are now offered to “Respond to 21st-Century Atheism” betrays the great fear of religions that independent and un-infected education is like a genie out of the bottle, and they are afraid of where it will lead if not attacked.

    I’d therefore offer that the course is more of “an attempt to stem the loss of believers from the fold by discrediting the atheists while they can’t defend themselves”. After all, where is the atheist representation in the course? It’s not like none are available to add personal perspectives. It’s not like what is being studied is a plant or wild animal. One can actually ask questions, and get answers from atheists. Or is it too threatening to religions when the monolog becomes a dialog?

  19. “One-fifth of the U.S. public, and a third of adults under 30, are religiously unaffiliated today, “the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”
    – – –

    Fasten your seatbelt: I’d suggest that the numbers are even more drastic. My personal (but unsubstantiated by Pew study) observation is that MOST younger people don’t attend church, and those that do, do so to appease their parents and grandparents.

    That is likely to keep trending that way: education erases religion. I fully expect that in their frantic drive to remain relevant, religions will attack atheism even more than now – with disastrous results because atheism is (rightly) seen as the underdog. And they have been able to get away with anti-atheism statements because there has not really been any ‘organized’ atheism, since atheists couldn’t care less about what others believe, unless and until it starts to threaten their own well being.

    Atheists, a group that is not otherwise connected except by their unwillingness to accept faith without a sliver of proof, are tired of being dumped on, and are increasingly ready to form some kind of association to, protect their interests. In light of historical ‘quietness’, the fact they are speaking out is seen as ‘militant behavior’. In reality, it’s long overdue that their voice be heard, and that religious silliness be questioned openly and without the threat of physical harm to the questioners.

    • @aldewacs

      As a fellow atheist I have sympathy with your sentiments. However, I think you might be optimistic about the power of education. If you read a little of the work of Phil Zuckerman and Gregory Paul:

      http://edge.org/3rd_culture/paul07/paul07_index.html

      you will see that most people don’t make decisions on their world view based on facts. It’s an emotional business. In a single word it comes down to anxiety. Phil Zuckerman and Gregory Paul’s explanation of religiosity is the one that best explains the difference between the US and Western Europe on this matter in my view.

      Given that the world seems likely to become a more uncertain place for those of us in the West I wouldn’t write religion off just yet.

      • I’d have to concede that radication of religion would mak me happy, and non-infected education *DOES* guide people in that direction.

        If individual people have personal beliefs that are factually unsupported, I’m OK with that as long as they don’t affect my life negatively. With organized religion manipulating those people, though, the odds that the rest of us are left in peace is virtually nonexistent.

  20. “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.” ~Joseph Campbell

  21. As a non-believer, my policy – until recently – was ‘live and let live’, and I regularly chastised fellow non-believers for ‘picking on the people’, not the ideology.

    Then it occurred to me that I was being too generous; EVERY “Christian” church picks and chooses what they want from the Bible, and most (if not all) ignore Christ’s 11th commandment, and are filthy rich – especially the Catholic church – in direct and obvious defiance of Christ’s teachings.

    As it happens, I have no problem accepting that Christ existed, and was probably a decent human being; it’s not just the horror done in his name that I abhor – but the defence of said horrors by organised religion.

    This thread is a classic example; rather than accept that there have been monsters, wars and pedophiles in the name of Christ, the religionists keep changing the subject to the ‘nice guys’ who had religion.

    Hypocritical; if believers had stood up to Hitler, rather than crawl (eg the pope), maybe he’d have been stopped sooner. If the catholic church exposed and assisted in prosecuting pedophiles, maybe decades of official;ly-condoned sin could have been stopped.

    Christianity has built itself on it’s caring for children, and has systematically lied and swept matters under the carpet (and not just the catholics, either).

    Atheism has not got more attractive; it hasn’t had to – churches are driving peiople away with their lies, hypocrisy and double standards.

    If there was a heaven, it would be almost empty while millions of so-called Christians try to squeeze through the eyes of the laresgt needles they can find.

    And if there’s a Hell, it’ll be full of lying Christians who planned a deathbed repentance, but fell under a bus too soon. And what kind of religion lets you sin for 70 years, so long as you remember to say sorry before you pop your clogs? (Relax, relax, there is no hell!! I was joking!!)

    And what kind of God allows children to suffer: Either there is NO God, or there’s a malevolent God – you choose; makes no odds to me.

    • F*ck you. I’m a Christian but I hate Evangelicals as much as you. I want them dead. But I LOVE religion: I love the folk practices–processions in the streets, rituals, music and art. Let’s keep that and kill off the Evangelical lower class stinking garbage people and their puritanical BS.

      Religiousity is fun! the more the better. Screw you, f-ing killjoys. I want there to as much religiosity as possible!!! And I couldn’t care less whether Jesus existed or not. He was pretty boring and dull anyway.

      I couldn’t give a damn about morality or doing good or any of that garbage. Christianity doesn’t make people any better–it certainly hasn’t made me any better, and may well have made me worse. I don’t care because I have no interest in being a good person. You jerks want to kill my fun, and the fun of lots of us who enjoy religion.

      • “F*ck you.”
        “I want them dead.”
        “kill off the Evangelical lower class stinking garbage people”
        “Screw you, f-ing killjoys.”
        “I couldn’t care less whether Jesus existed”
        “I couldn’t give a damn about morality or doing good”
        “I have no interest in being a good person.”

        Sorry, old chap – you aren’t a Christian, you’re an idiot. But a happy one: And nice to see you confess to being an idiot.

        You may ‘like’ ‘bits’ of Christianity, but that doesn’t make you a Christian.

        Though it does make you one more hypocrite. TIP – to enjoy the bits you like, you aren’t supposed to admit that you don’t believe in it. Keep that bit quiet. Idiot :)

        • And who are you to determine the criteria for being a Christian? Are you a bishop? Or what?

          I’m a Christian if I say I am–and I see no reason why I shouldn’t take the bits I like and ignore the bits I don’t like.

          And I’m certainly not a hypocrite because I freely admit that I cherry pick what I enjoy about Christianity and don’t bother with the rest. What’s your problem with that? I’ve never pretended to take the moral aspect seriously.

          • You’re not a Christian, you’re a Happy Liar.

            You could say you were a monkey, but you’d still be a liar. You could say you had a clue what you were talking about, and you’d STILL be a liar.

            A Christian IS someone who believes not only that Jesus existed, but also that he was the son of God; A Christian is also committed to following the simple rules laid down; like being a twat all your life – like you – but remebering to repent before you get murdered in prison. That kind of thing.

            Oh, and ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ is part of the deal. fail that, and you sure ain’t a Christian. Or a decent human being. But you knew that.

            Anyway, I know you’re having fun, so I’ll let you have the last word. See? I’m NOT a Christian – but I’m a darned sight more thatn you will ever be ;)

          • A darned sight more what if I may ask?

            As I understand it, a Christian is someone who believes, under some interpretation, the Nicene Creed. I actually believe that–under some interpretation. The Creed however does not say anything about the “simple rules” for living one’s life–it says nothing about ethics. As for loving one’s neighbor, being fair and decent, there’s nothing particularly religious about that. It’s what most of us, atheists or believers, accept as guidelines for good behavior.

            Morality is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a Christian. You can’t deduce ought from is–even from the metaphysical is of the articles of the Creed. Oh, yeah: Kant got religious folk all nervous about metaphysics so, in response, many tried to make the case that religion was really about something more respectable–viz, ethics. “Real Christianity” was loving your neighbor, yada, yada. Sorry. I don’t buy that. Religion is metaphysics–claims about the existence and nature of God, and post-mortem survival. And that I buy, though without any high degree of conviction.

            So what am I lying about? I’ve made my position perfectly clear, and I have never dissembled on this account to anyone.

  22. I am an atheist and firmly people should be able to believe whatever they want-as long as they don’t infringe on others or their rights. I don’t want your so called book of morals to dictate public policy or laws. I want real science taught in public schools–Christian schools can teach that psuedo science crap, but not public ones. The religious people have no right to dictate who gets married and what a woman does with her body, that is none of the business. I will leave you alone if you do the same.

    • I think I speak for the majority of religious believers when I say:

      (1) I am not interested in infringing on your rights

      (2) My “book of morals” is the same as your book of morals and the only liberty-limiting principle I recognize is Mill’s Harm Principle: the state may restrict individual liberty to prevent individuals from harming or endangering others.

      (3) My science is the same as your science and I, like most religious believers, are absolutely opposed to fundamentalists’ “Creationism” or “Intelligent Design.”

      (4) I support same-sex marriage and availability of safe, legal abortion.

      Would you please check the statistics? Only 1/4 of Americans are Evangelicals, and only a few more are conservative Catholics. The overwhelming majority of us religious believers have no sympathy for the agendas promoted by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics.

      • @H.E.BABER:
        I welcome your post. I could not ask for a better approach.
        If everybody took your position, an enormous amount of friction would disappear.
        While I do not share your religion, we seem to share some core beliefs anyway. And that’s a good thing.

  23. It’s really disturbing how many readers think atheists are communists. Have you ever heard of Ayn Rand – I guess not. Stalin was a terrible person and an atheist. Hitler was terrible person and a Catholic- who cares. Rejecting religion doesn’t make you a Marxist any more than rejecting abortion makes you Catholic.
    I’m glad secular organizations are “aggressively proselytizing” we already reached 30% of the people under 35 and you had a 2,000 year head start!

    • A lot of people don’t realize that Ayn Rand was born and raised in Russia and lived there during the revolution under Lenin, and that she was able to get out of the country in her early 20’s and make her way to the United States – where she railed against the communist/socialist tendencies she saw in the United States for the rest of her life, tendencies which she hated quite personally, having lived through them.

  1. […] Religion News Service: Catholic college engages atheism head-on… Talk about an unlikely course in an unlikely place. The main chapel at Jesuit-run Regis College at the University of Toronto is adorned with stained glass windows, icons of Mary and Joseph, and the Stations of the Cross. The eight-week course, which meets every Wednesday afternoon, is on atheism. Or more precisely, “Responding to 21st-Century Atheism.” It’s an attempt, says the Rev. Scott Lewis, for people of faith to understand and come to terms with the increasingly muscular secularism and atheism that has arisen in Western societies over the past generation. […]

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