from the world's big
Placing science and religion at opposite ends of the belief spectrum is to ignore their unique purposes.
- Science and religion (fact versus faith) are often seen as two incongruous groups. When you consider the purpose of each and the questions that they seek to answer, the comparison becomes less black and white.
- This video features religious scholars, a primatologist, a neuroendocrinologist, a comedian, and other brilliant minds considering, among other things, the evolutionary function that religion serves, the power of symbols, and the human need to learn, explore, and know the world around us so that it becomes a less scary place.
- "I think most people are actually kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature, but it's not the whole story and there's a place also for religion, for faith, for theology, for philosophy," says Francis Collins, American geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "But that harmony perspective doesn't get as much attention. Nobody is as interested in harmony as they are in conflict."
All that matters is the here and now.
- While bestselling author and skeptic Michael Shermer doesn't believe in God or any outside force that cares about us, he also doesn't think that the existence of one would give our lives meaning.
- Shermer argues that it is up to us to create purpose for ourselves in various ways, including through meaningful work, familial and romantic relationships, and a connection and respect for the wonder of nature.
- "It doesn't matter what happens billions of years from now or whether there's a God or not, whether there's an afterlife or not," he says. "It's irrelevant. This is the life that matters."
Philosophy professor James Sterba revives a very old argument.
- In his book, Is a Good God Logically Possible?, James Sterba investigates the role of evil.
- Sterba contends that if God is all-powerful then he'd be able to stop evil from occurring in the world.
- God's inability (or unwillingness) to stop evil should make us question his role, or even his existence.
A young boy carrying a placard in London's Trafalgar Square which says, 'Prepare to Meet Thy God'.
Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images<p>If God is unable or unwilling to stop the external consequences of evil—while good and evil can be culturally relative terms, murder is universally recognized as being in the red—then the implications, to the religious at least, would equate to blasphemy. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If there's all this evil in the world, maybe God can't prevent it. Then he's still all powerful, he just logically can't prevent it. The problem there is it turns out that God would be less powerful than we are because we can prevent lots of evil. Now if God is stuck in a logical possibility while we're only stuck in a causal one, then he's so much less powerful than us. The traditional God can't be less powerful than we are." </p><p>While this discussion is often relegated to religious philosophy, we regularly witness the effects. Sterba mentions the Pauline principle, that "one should never do evil so that good may come." Murdering a doctor that provides abortions, a platform accepted by extreme religious conservatives, falls into this category. We can place the <a href="https://apnews.com/015702afdb4d4fbf85cf5070cd2c6824" target="_blank">record number of migrant children</a> held in detention centers in 2019, nearly 70,000, because their imprisonment supposedly saves American jobs, or keeps brown people out, or this week's excuse du jour in that category as well. </p><p>Sterba says that a religion that purports to champion charity and poverty should not be making a utilitarian argument when at root its adherents should be thinking about not doing evil. Doing evil for a supposed later good is not, by its very nature, a charitable act. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In traditional religious views, utilitarianism is a horrible thing. Trying to maximize utilitarianism is a bad way of thinking about things. You should be thinking about not doing evil and you should be worrying about intention."</p>
A federal court ruled that the state of Kentucky was wrong to deny a man's request for a personalized license plate reading "IM GOD." Here's why that's a win against atheist discrimination.
- After a three-year legal battle, a federal court last week cleared the way for a man in Kentucky to obtain a customized license plate declaring "IM GOD."
- The Kentucky Division of Motor Vehicles rejected the plate in 2016 claiming it violated the state's rule against religious messages on license plates.
- A state/church watchdog organization says the court's decision to approve the plate highlighted the bias the state of Kentucky was displaying toward religious non-believers.
Free Speech Rights<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA5MjQ5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA1OTk0NH0.t2TNz1t3jYq-xuZ2pt0OkONlBG0KB1OAxvXTuVyAY3o/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C61&height=700" id="449b7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2a239e02e4ca2fd0e0482ddefbffe3d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Source: Public Domain Files<p>The lawsuit, filed by the <a href="http://icm-tracking.meltwater.com/link.php?DynEngagement=true&H=btYXC68syxmDVppbhVzFoYHdeMNV9070xvOlf%2FNdDQ0wXj6aidRhm13K0KQUwVm%2Fs%2Fe1Da9%2FiGktTnOSOjEtWpylTLOYtqKX1z4vgLtJAcuM%2FHAlUJmdFhFUk0a3m0oj&G=0&R=https%3A%2F%2Fffrf.org%2Flegal%2Fchallenges%2Fongoing-lawsuits%23id-27965&I=20191113182603.000008fc12d1%40mail6-114-ussnn1&X=MHwxMDQ2NzU4OjVkY2M0YWIzYzNjZWRiMzZiYmYwN2Y5MTs%3D&S=xahZtyD2Jy-2uV1RUfalNzGETNpSMaboSbaFXdOatTw" target="_blank">Freedom From Religion Foundation and ACLU</a>, challenged the Transportation Cabinet's denial of Hart's plate, which it argued was based on the state's required restrictions on license plate messages that communicate religious, anti-religious, or political viewpoints. Essentially, it said that a license plate qualifies as government speech, so Hart's vanity plate didn't have free speech protections. </p><p>But the <a href="http://icm-tracking.meltwater.com/link.php?DynEngagement=true&H=btYXC68syxmDVppbhVzFoYHdeMNV9070xvOlf%2FNdDQ0wXj6aidRhm13K0KQUwVm%2Fs%2Fe1Da9%2FiGktTnOSOjEtWpylTLOYtqKX1z4vgLtJAcuM%2FHAlUJmdFhFUk0a3m0oj&G=0&R=https%3A%2F%2Fffrf.org%2Fimages%2FHartvThomasOp.pdf&I=20191113182603.000008fc12d1%40mail6-114-ussnn1&X=MHwxMDQ2NzU4OjVkY2M0YWIzYzNjZWRiMzZiYmYwN2Y5MTs%3D&S=fsuaPJ5zHV_z02ZGXGp6h-G5KJ02lYRFjbijINCZSnc" target="_blank">U.S. District Court for the Eastern Court of Kentucky</a>, which resoundingly ruled in favor of Hart, said that the Commonwealth of Kentucky had gone too far. It concluded that the rule governing such license plates was an unreasonable and impermissible restriction of Hart's First Amendment rights. This was because of the inconsistency of the rule's application, which amounted to the state picking and choosing what kind of messages it wanted on the road regarding the topic of religion.</p><p>"The same year Mr. Hart was denied a plate reading 'IM GOD', the Transportation Cabinet approved the contradictory plates 'NOGAS', 'EATGAS', 'VEGAN', and 'BBQ4U' among many others," wrote U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove in his decision. "Under the Transportation Cabinet's logic, the Commonwealth is not only contradicting itself, but spewing nonsense."</p><p>"If the Court finds that vanity plates are government speech, then the Court would also be finding that Kentucky has officially endorsed the words 'UDDER', 'BOOGR', 'JUICY', 'W8LOSS' and 'FATA55,'" he also noted, according to WDRB.</p>
Win Against Religious Discrimination<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c0d10d900fd769db0bb1efd0f1974bae"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0Ea4nkN5CeE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church organization, the court's decision highlighted the bias the state of Kentucky was displaying toward religious non-believers.</p><p>"As the court affirmed, the denial of Ben Hart's choice of a license plate was pure discrimination," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor <a href="https://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/36267-i-m-god-victory" target="_blank">in a press release</a>. </p><p>Hart expressed gratitude for the court's ruling against that discrimination. </p><p>"I'm thankful to finally have the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver," said Hart in FFRF's press release. "There is nothing inappropriate about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation."</p>
A new book by constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel takes on Christian nationalism.
- A new book by attorney Andrew Seidel, 'The Founding Myth: Why Christian nationalism Is Un-American', takes on the myth of America's Christian founding.
- Christian nationalism is the belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation on Christian principles, and that the nation has strayed from that original foundation.
- Judeo-Christian principles are fundamentally opposed to the principles on which America was built, argues Seidel.
What is Christian Nationalism?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="45fe304220a3ed5d6c8d8b5ee5591fca"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rImjGolrxFI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Seidel, an attorney at the <a href="https://ffrf.org/" target="_blank">Freedom From Religion Foundation</a>, defines Christian nationalism as the belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation on Christian principles, and most importantly, that the nation has strayed from that original foundation. </p><p>It is this language of redemptive Christian nationalism, according to Seidel, that is used to justify recent policies such as immigration policy that banned immigration from <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/" target="_blank">Muslim majority countries</a>, government funded <a href="https://religionnews.com/2018/02/14/private-school-vouchers-are-a-threat-to-religious-freedom/" target="_blank">voucher school programs</a>, the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/" target="_blank">child separation policy</a> at the border, opposition to <a href="https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/8/16/20806990/trump-religion-lgbtq-discrimination-rule" target="_blank">LGBTQ</a> rights, <a href="https://baptistnews.com/article/god-wants-humans-use-natural-gas-oil-not-keep-ground-says-epa-chief/#.XaikPBQXDzJ" target="_blank">environmental</a> deregulation, the evisceration of <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-abortion-laws-separation-church-state-20190523-story.html" target="_blank">women's reproductive rights</a>, and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/04/project-blitz-the-legislative-assault-by-christian-nationalists-to-reshape-america" target="_blank">Project Blitz</a> - an overt Christian nationalist push to rewrite American law. </p><p>According to Seidel, the aim of certain politicians is to wipe away the regressive aspects of these policies by incorrectly claiming they align with America's Christian heritage.</p><p>"The political theology of Christian nationalism, their very identity, is dependent upon a common well of myths and lies," he says. "Without the historical cover that the lies give, their policy justifications crumble." </p><p>Common myths he points to include American verbiage such as "One nation under God" and "In God We Trust." The former was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and the latter was not required on currency until 1956. The original motto the founders suggested was the Latin phrase <em>E pluribus unum</em>, which translates to "Out of many, one." Other untruths are that the Declaration of Independence references Jesus multiple times, that the founders prayed at the Constitutional Convention, and that our laws were based on the Ten Commandments. </p><p>But Seidel's book goes beyond gently correcting historical inaccuracies spewed by Christian nationalists, pointing out that correction is not enough at this political moment. He makes the claim that America's foundation is in direct opposition of the principles found in the Bible. </p><p>"Pointing out errors is no longer sufficient," says Seidel. "This book does that, but it takes the next step. It goes on the offensive. This book is an assault on the Christian nationalist identity. Not only are Christian nationalists wrong, but their beliefs and their identity run counter to the ideals on which this nation was founded. They are un-American."</p>
American principles<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAxMTQ0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTE0OTk4NH0.IaWhBHKQ0mMcpaHDwW5_j2JBcLgg7Qc34TH23R9AHkU/img.jpg?width=980" id="c4589" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="da9144aa1c801b63458694629b197a49" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image Source: Wikimedia<p>The central question that Seidel sought to answer was: Did Judeo-Christian principles positively influence the founding of the United States of America?</p><p>"The answer to that is no, America was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and it's a good thing because those principles are fundamentally opposed to the principles on which this nation was built," argues Seidel. </p><p>For example, there is a common misconception that America's legal system is based on the Ten Commandments. He devotes an entire chapter of the book to rigorously debunking the myth commandment by commandment. </p><p>"When you crack open a bible and read those it becomes very obvious that they are fundamentally opposed to American values and founding principles," says Seidel, who points to commandment number one: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me. "It would be very difficult to write a sentence that is more fundamentally opposed to our <a href="https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment" target="_blank">First Amendment</a> than the First Commandment." </p><p>Another founding myth that has prevailed is the story of the Pilgrims and Puritans arriving in the New World seeking religious liberty. It isn't exactly true. </p><p>"They were fleeing religious persecution," says Seidel. "But they didn't come to America seeking religious freedom. They actually didn't come to America first." </p><p>First, they <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-pilgrims-before-plymouth-111851259/" target="_blank">fled to Leiden</a> in the Netherlands, one of the (inconveniently) freest, most tolerant countries in Europe. The religious freedom there posed a bit of a problem for the Puritans according to Seidel, who says that the followers were exercising their freedom and leaving the faith. It led the church fathers to conclude that they needed to find a new land where they could use the secular law to impose religious law. </p><p>"[That's] why they came to the New World," says Seidel. "Not for religious liberty, but seeking the ability to establish tiny theocracies in New England. When the founders looked at that earlier history, they looked at it as an example of how not to build a government."</p>
Claims on patriotism<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAxMTQzOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTkxNTYzOH0.s0uEWyEqQ3bTy4nAAlNcGTZn1dYsmARQhWvLDyPnXzc/img.jpg?width=980" id="9cedb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="666b080097f98424d74f21236916050a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="the American flag" />
Image Source: Wikimedia<p>Ultimately, 'The Founding Myth' is an aim to take away the exclusivity that Christian nationalists attribute to being an American. </p><p>"Patriotism has no religion," says Seidel. "There's no such thing as the freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion. America's unique contribution to political science is the wall of separation between state and church. That had never been done before. That is an American original." </p><p>This is something that he says we should be proud of, rather than seeking to undermine with myths about a Christian founding. We also, he mentions, should remind Americans that our Constitution demands the absolute separation of church and state. </p><p>"We have to raise hell whenever that wall between state and church is breached," says Seidel "This is not a Christian nation. Our Constitution does not belong to the Christians. It belongs to we the people, all of the people. And it's about damn time we start acting like it."</p>