“What an amazing night.”The positive online comments keep pouring in!
There were several people in Lincoln today meeting about trying to organise a state chapter of the SCA in Nebraska.Organising people over in Omaha and Lincoln (the state capital) is not too hard, the…Continue
This organization is a very serious threat to a "Secular Nation." These people are using our tax dollars to go into school buildings after hours and teach this garbage to our children! I'm sure…Continue
I live in Southern, Ohio and the Bible-Belt runs strong through the hills in our community. I frequent many city council meetings because of the corruption that has been within our tiny city for…Continue
Few people will change their worldviews because of a debate. But some Christians might become less inclined to stereotype atheists if atheists debate differently.
As an atheist, I’ve had a number of debates with Christians on topics like whether God exists, whether we can be moral without God, whether science makes belief in God harder or easier, and more recently, whether atheism makes more sense than Christianity.
Usually, debate preparation depends on the topic and what your opponent has previously said, but there are some common strategies that work well in any situation. With a mostly Christian audience, I look for opportunities to change atheist stereotypes and raise questions some might never have considered.
Here are five ways to behave and ten questions to answer in every debate with Christian counterparts:
1. Praise the Bible. I like to mention that every educated person should read the Bible (this line is the only time I get cheers from conservative Christians) because it’s an important part of our culture. I also provide a list that includes books like A Demon Haunted World and The History of God to hand out to audience members after the debate.
2. Target the audience. Most conservative Christians are skeptical of whatever I say in a debate. The best I usually hear from them afterward is, “The atheist seemed like a nice person, even though he’s going to hell.” While atheists usually want me to bash religion, I try not to do that because I want to reach open-minded Christians who have never heard an atheist’s point of view from an atheist.
What will an atheist find when he attends services at a conservative Christian church in South Carolina?
Editor’s note: Church Invitation is an occasional series at OnFaith where we ask people of various backgrounds to attend houses of worship and write about the experience.
On Sunday, March 30, I visited St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston where I live. The church’s stated vision is to re-evangelize our society and transform our culture. My intention was to learn more about this church that was established in 1827 and now has more than 3000 members. So I attended both the 9 a.m. contemporary service along with several hundred young and old congregants, and then the 10:45 a.m. traditional service with fewer than a hundred people, mostly older.
Both services began with music (guitar in the first and organ in the second), followed by the minister reading Bible passages. The homily was titled “TODAY: How Should I Read the Bible?” I translated that in my mind to “How Should I Read the Bible TODAY?” However, the homilies were specifically about reading the Bible without concessions to modernity.
Rev. Chris Hancock, who led the contemporary service, was dynamic and sometimes humorous. After a little trouble with his PowerPoint presentation, he riffed off the Lord Acton quote, “Power corrupts, but PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.” He told us to read the Bible “humbly, prayerfully, thoughtfully, expectantly, and obediently.” No mention of reading it skeptically. He warned of scorners (like me, I guess) who use difficult passages to undermine the Bible’s authority, and quoted 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
Rev. John Burley had a more serious demeanor at the traditional service, though he made the same points. He warned of cultural biases that might lead us to follow only some parts of the Bible, saying that if any parts offend us, it’s because we don’t understand them. He also made the only reference to atheism, claiminginaccuracies in the film Noah were to be expected because the film’s director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist. Burley added that we must trust only Jesus rather than those who appear to be good and moral. (Hmm . . . should congregants then not trust Rev. Burley?)
He told us to read the Bible “humbly, prayerfully, thoughtfully, expectantly, and obediently.” No mention of reading it skeptically.
I might have put money in the collection plate if the minister had said it was for a good cause, like helping the poor, but the first minister merely quoted Acts 20:35, “It is better to give than to receive,” and the second asked for an offering to God. So I kept my money.
On Friday Salon.com published an article critical of the Secular Coalition for America's Congressional Report Cards, "Liberals are overlooking a major political ally: Yes, there's a religious left!" In the piece, author, Elizabeth Stoker, rightly pointed out the rubric of the report cards' "logic is open to inquiry."
Unfortunately, many of Stoker's points of concern inaccurately portray the basic facts of the report cards via misstatements, inaccuracies, or logical fallacies which beg for clarification or correction.
On Darwin Day
Salon says: "It's even more bizarre to try to work out exactly what [the Darwin Day Resolution] would have to do with the separation of church and state."
The SCA asserts: The text of the resolution, H.Res 41, states "the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems." Using publicly funded schools to promote the religious belief in creationism is a textbook example of the separation of church and state.
Salon says: "...it's absurd and insulting to imagine only non-religious people to be interested in the improvement of human life through scientific progress."
The SCA asserts: The Secular Coalition never stated, nor implied the bills we champion are only open to support from the non-religious, because that's not true. We regularly work with religiously affiliated allied organizations and continue to enthusiastically encourage their support for this bill. The separation of religion and government protects both the church and the state, which is why we work with religious organizations, including three of our own member organizations, The Society for Humanistic Judaism, American Ethical Union and HUUmanists.
On Health Care
Salon says: The Health Care Conscience Right Act, H.R. 940, is described as an attempt to "protect rights of conscience" as it would "signal the government's refusal to act upon individuals who, for reasons of conscience, did not want to perform a particular service. In that sense it's a clear-cut push for neutrality."
The SCA asserts: This bill, and this representation of it, continue the misinterpretation and misuse of religious freedom that has grown in the past few years. The truth is this bill exempts an individual from the requirement to purchase health insurance coverage if something they religiously or morally object to could potentially be covered. To be clear, the action required by the Affordable Care Act is purchasing insurance. The action religiously objected to is receiving various health services. These are distinctly different. There is no action which burdens religion to be exempted from here. The ACA is religiously neutral as written. This bill is not a push for neutrality, but a push away from it towards religious privilege.
On Religious Discrimination
Salon says: "That the SCA willingly aligns itself with symbolic legislation that takes a shot at religion writ large could, however, ultimately damage the prospects of the left as a coalition."
The SCA asserts: The Secular Coalition cannot align with "symbolic legislation that takes a shot at religion" as it does not exist. However, legislation that symbolically endorses religion is much easier to find. For example, the Congressional reaffirmations of "In God We Trust" as our national motto and "one nation under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Or possibly the 20 statements on floor of the House of Representatives honoring various reverends and pastors during the three weeks of March in which the House was in session. Pointing out favoritism is hardly an attack.
Salon says: "The breakdown of the lucky few who managed to score A's was telling: All were Democrats." "But based on the issues that appear meaningful to the SCA and the side they fall out on, it seems there's rather a political agenda tied up in their secularism, and it's a decidedly leftist one."
The SCA asserts: Correlation does not imply causation. The Secular Coalition is a nonpartisan organization. We reject political agendas, conspiracy theories and logical fallacies. The issues that are meaningful to the Secular Coalition are those which privilege religion by claiming a burden which does not exist; justify legislation with religious beliefs, not evidence nor reason; or send taxpayer money to houses of worship, exempt from any oversight or transparency. The political agenda tied up in these issues isn't ours. We will continue to recognize and thank whoever stands up to the monolithic religious-political complex pushing this agenda, no matter the party with which they are affiliated.