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Monday, May 27, 2013

Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

Aristotle's Ontology

The Freethinker

Reasonable non-belief

Inquiry trumps faith.

"There is only one way to avoid criticism: 
do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."

The Skeptic

Lack of empirical evidence

Discovery trumps revelation.

"It is the mark of an educated mind 
to be able to entertain a thought 
without accepting it."

The Secularist

Inconsistent revelations 

Reason trumps custom.

"Our remote ancestors have handed down remnants to posterity in the form of myth, 
to the effect that the heavenly bodies are gods and that the divine encompasses 
the whole of nature. But the rest has been added by way of myth to persuade the vulgar 
and for the use of the laws and expediency."

The Humanist 

The argument from evil

Autonomy trumps piety.

"Men create gods after their own image, 
not only with regard to their form 
but with regard to their mode of life."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blessing In Disguise

In an earlier post, Counterfeit Pluralism, I aired my grievances about a religious poem read at a  university graduation ceremony. The university is non-religious. I have since acquired the text of the poem from the university chaplain who read it. I could swear he didn't read the "Christ our Lord" part, but I do remember the invocation to "Eternal God." The original text reads as follows.

A Blessing for Graduates
Eternal God, in you we live, and move, and have our being.
In your will we find our purpose, and in your wisdom we find our joy.
Bless these graduates who have completed a course of study and now begin a new part of their lives.
Let them not be troubled about the past nor anxious about the future, but let them be concerned about the moment they must now live. 
Strengthen their faith and ease their fears that they may courageously follow your Spirit and live fully the life you give them.
When in doubt and confusion about their purpose surround them, light their way and give them peace in your plan for them.
Let them use the gifts they have received in their studies that they may become a source of inspiration and blessing for the world. 
And when each day is ended, give them delight in knowing that the good work you have begun in them shall come to completion in you.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Diana Macalintal From the May issue of Give Us This Day. Liturgical Press. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Member Quote: Atheist Quotes Of The Day

"Religious freedom will be an anachronism if reason prevails. 
Meanwhile, I support it religiously because it is expression, 
but not expressly because it is religious."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Counterfeit Pluralism

I just came back from a graduation ceremony and sat through the requisite public display of piety officiated by the university chaplain. This service was clearly influenced by the interfaith movement, although it was not billed as such. The chaplain acknowledged the diverse faith traditions present and addressed his prayer to Eternal God. The interfaith model that influenced the service was not the pluralistic kind that reaches out to non-believers. No, it was as the old theonormative variety that the nomenclature implies--the counterfeit pluralism that reaches out to believers of diverse faiths but no further.

As if the prayer to Eternal God were not enough, the chaplain read a poem that affirmed that we all find our purpose in God's will. Not only were non-believers co-opted into reverent silence that implies consent to public indoctrination, we were insulted in the bargain. We were told that our lives have no meaning. Assuming a representative sample, there is every reason estimate that one in five were religiously unaffiliated. Whether conferring or receiving diplomas or congratulating loved ones, we came together in celebration and were insulted for our efforts.

I have reached out to the chaplain to ask for a copy of the prayer. I hope to engage him on how he might craft a more inclusive message. A friend suggested that the proper course of action would be to appeal to the university administration to disallow clerical invocations. I do object to clergy being invited to give invocations in deference to their professional credentials alone and I will follow up with the administration if the chaplain is indifferent to my complaints. I wouldn't object to a poet giving an invocation--even one who happens to be a chaplain. The problem is the assumption that a chaplain's credentials on their own are considered universally relevant to those assembled.

Maybe I'll recommend that the chaplain read Faitheist and consider making outreach to atheists a goal of the campus ministry office. Not only do you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, you sometimes get an unlikely ally for a secular student group. As much as I abhor the obscurantism that atheist interfaith activism implies, incremental change is still change. Moreover, there's no guarantee that the university administration would risk alienating benefactors among the faithful with a secular invocation. Ultimately, the sense of entitlement to a religious invocation will need to be challenged.