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Assistant Director of Avondale Children’s Choir says she was dismissed because she is atheist –

Posted: January 25, 2020 at 2:24 pm

A popular local choir isnt in perfect harmony this month following the departure of long-time assistant director Tama McGee.

McGee, who had been with the Avondale Childrens Choir for 10 years, said she was recently told she wouldnt be allowed to continue with the choir because shes an atheist. While the choir is open to everyone, it holds practices at the First Baptist Church in Avondale Estates and the church donates the space to the choir, McGee said.

McGee said her atheism wasnt a secret, but it had never come up and she assumed it wasnt a problem because the choir was open to everyone. That all changed, she said, when she was asked to fill out paperwork to change her employment status. She had been employed as a contractor but was told she was required to become a member of the staff. McGee said she was told there would be no change in her pay or hours worked.

In an email to choir families last week, McGee wrote, I was invited to a meeting with [Choir Director Mark Green] and Cathy McCumber [a member of the choirs board of trustees]. During this meeting, I was told that the church had not accepted Marks request to have me continue as Assistant Director because I identify as atheist and that all staff must all identify as Christian.

In a follow-up interview with Decaturish, McGee said until now she was never asked to disclose her religious beliefs. She said Green had written a letter to the church officials in support of bringing her on as a staffer. The church denied his request to employ McGee because someone from the church saw that she identified herself as an atheist in her social media profile, McGee said.

Ive been atheist this whole time, McGee said. Some people from the church didnt think that was OK.

Green, who also serves as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church, and other church officials didnt return numerous messages seeking comment. Attempts to reach McCumber were unsuccessful. McGee and other people interviewed for this story said Green was supportive of keeping McGee as an assistant director of the Childrens Choir.

Green sent a letter to choir families announcing McGees departure, but he didnt specify why she was going.

Though we are a community choir, the Avondale Childrens Choir operates under the broader umbrella of First Baptist Church Avondale Estates and its program ministries, he wrote. Based on staffing modifications made by the Churchs Personnel Council which were necessitated by IRS regulations, sadly Mrs. Tama McGee will no longer be helping us with the Avondale Childrens Choir. She has served well as our Assistant Director for the past 10 years.

McGee sent an email to the parents after receiving Greens email because she wanted everyone to know the truth.

She wrote, I felt that it was important that the families involved know that it was not my decision to leave and that they have the full story regarding why I would no longer be working with the choir.

McGee explained her reasoning in the follow-up interview.

I didnt want the parents to think I just up and quit and abandoned the choir a week before it was about to start back, she said. I didnt want them to think this chick left Mark high and dry. I wanted them to be aware I did not decide to leave. I was told I could not continue.

That information has roiled the choirs supporters, with some now asking whether they are still welcome there.

Patti Ghezzi, who has a daughter in the choir, says she plans to continue with the group and supports Green. But she worries about what McGees departure means for the choir.

As a non-religious family, we were very concerned, Ghezzi said. She noted that while the practices are held at the church, there has always been a mix of secular and religious music performed.

She noted there are Jewish children in the choir and a lot of families in the choir who arent religious at all. Ghezzi thought the church was progressive and welcoming until now.

Ms. Tama pretty coldly being let go because she is not Christian really sours me on the church, she said, before quickly adding, the Ghezzi family stands with Mr. Mark. We are not leaving the choir.

Parke Kallenberg, a member of the choirs board of trustees, said he wasnt privy to the reasons for the decision to part ways with McGee, but said he had no problem with McGee being assistant director of the choir.

Im a long-term church member and Ive also been on the board for childrens choir for quite some time, he said. I think Tama has done a very good job with the choir. I have no reservations about her being involved with the choir at all.

Cassie White, another parent with a child in the choir, said she was thinking of leaving the choir because of this issue, but said her child wanted to continue singing with the group.

My kid identifies as an atheist, too, White said. Hes outraged.

White said parents were under the impression that the choir is separated from the church.

It has always been our understanding with this choir is its not a church choir, its a choir at the church, White said, adding later that while the choir felt inclusive, McGees departure and the reason she left felt very shocking to us.

Sylvie Oechsner, a member of the choir for 10 years, called the situation devastating for choir members.

I was furious, Oechsner said. I cannot believe that a church especially this church which is all-inclusive and preaches all-inclusivity [would] turn their back on someone who has put so much of their own time and effort into this choir, and they disregard everything shes done, and let her go. I am really hurting for Mr. Mark at the moment because he lost someone valuable to him. Its all around just very upsetting.

Oechsner isnt the only member of the choir hurting right now. McGees daughter sang in the choir but quit because of what happened to her mother.

She doesnt want to talk about it, McGee said.

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Who Has the Burden of Proof? Apparently Not the Christian. (4 of 4) – Patheos

Posted: at 2:24 pm

We started with a couple of arguments from popular Christian apologists with an evasive approachto the burden of proof in part 1.

Returning to apologist Greg Koukls Professors Ploy in part 1, note that he wasnt making a claim of parity. He wasnt saying, My God hypothesis is in the running just as much as a naturalistic explanation, and I demand a seat in this debate as an equal. That would be bold enough. No, he was going further by taking the role of the Socratic questioner, assuming that he was right and guiding the student (the professor, in his example) through a pre-planned series of questions to a predetermined conclusion.

To the extent that Koukls goal is to help inexperienced Christians ease into the intimidating world of public speaking and debate with antagonistic strangers, thats fine. He encourages them to ask questions to learn, to admit when a topic is new to them, and to ask permission to respond to the atheist after some research. However, his tactics go too far when he ignores that the atheist is defending the default hypothesis (naturalism) and that the Christian is making the extraordinary claim, which must be defended. Attack has its place, but thats subordinate to making and defending the Christian claim. And, of course, his goal isnt to follow the evidence, its to support a predetermined conclusion.

(In case its not obvious, I do want to follow the evidence. Atheism is my provisional conclusion, but evidence could change that. If atheism is incorrect, I want to find the evidence that shows this.)

Weve seen the same contempt for honest debate with Koukls metaphor of arguments committing suicide by being self-defeating. Heres an example: if I said, Im offended at Christians condemning homosexuals; in fact, I think its wrong to condemn anyone for anything, he could reply, Then you shouldnt be condemning me. Or if I said, There are no absolutes, he could reply, You might want to reconsider your position because that certainly sounded like an absolute. Many of these suicides are easily corrected, but Koukl has no interest in engaging with the valid points at the core of any opponents argument. He just wants a technicality with which to dismiss it. (More here.)

Here are two more quick examples that illustrate the wrong approach to the burden of proof. These have nothing to do with religion, so both Christians and atheists should be able to see the flawed thinking without distraction.

Beginning in the 1970s, psychic Uri Geller claimed to be able to perform a number of impressive feats, most famously bending spoons with his mind. While these were part of the standard repertoire of stage magicians, Geller claimed to be able to do them with paranormal powers given to him by aliens, not with stage magic.

Magician and psychic debunker James Randi publicly showed that he could duplicate all of Gellers tricks. Geller admitted that but said that just because Randi could do his tricks with fakery (like any stage magician would) didnt mean that Geller wasnt doing it for real. Randi replied, If Uri Geller bends spoons with divine powers, then hes doing it the hard way.

We cant prove that Christianity is just one more manmade religion, and we cant prove that Uri Geller uses trickery to bend spoons, but in both cases, thats the way to bet. (More on Uri Geller here.)

Heres an example from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the inventor of the ruthlessly empirical detective Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle was fascinated with spiritualism, and he discussed this interest with illusionist Harry Houdini. Each was an expert in deception in his own way, but curiously, they were on opposite sides of the spiritualism question. Deaths of people close to Conan Doyle pushed him to see spiritualism as a legitimate way to contact the dead, while Houdini spent much of his life debunking the spiritualist Uri Gellers of his day. Houdini encouraged Conan Doyle to reject spiritualism, pointing out that all his stagecraft was deception.

After Houdinis death in 1926, Conan Doyle wrote a book about spiritualism. Without Houdini to refute him, the book included a chapter summarizing Houdinis feats. In it, Conan Doyle argued that Houdini used supernatural powers but lied about it. Hesaid,

Can any reasonable man read such an account as this and then dismiss the possibility which I suggest as fantastic? It seems to me that the fantasy lies in refusing its serious consideration.... As matters stand, no one can say positively and finally that his powers were abnormal, but the reader will, I hope, agree with me that there is a case to be answered.

(More on Conan Doyle and Houdini here.)

The person making the extraordinary claim has the burden of proof. If I claim theres a teapot orbiting the sun or that pixies and unicorns exist or that were living in the Matrix or that our world came into existence last Thursday, I would have the burden of proof.

Theres another definition of burden of proofthe obligation someone has to defend a statement they madeand thats fair, but keep these two definitions separate. Dont let this definition allow the person making the Christian claim to demand any sort of parity. There is no parity between the extraordinary claim (the theists position) and the default hypothesis (the atheist position). The theist is starting at a deficitdont let them forget that.

Hes not the Messiah, hes a very naughty boy! Brians mum(Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones)


Image from Mariam Shahab, CC license

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In Tamil Nadu, Atheists Want To Consecrate A 1,000-Year-Old Temple With Slokas In Tamil Instead Of Sanskrit – Swarajya

Posted: at 2:24 pm

A controversy has broken out over the language of slokas that will be rendered during the consecration of the 1,000-year-old Sri Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, popularly known as the Big Temple, on 5 February this year.

Leading the pack in raking up the controversy is Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a party that propagates atheism. The partys president M K Stalin issued a statement last week demanding that the entire consecration of the temple be performed in Tamil.

Stating that the Sri Brihadeeswara Temple was a testimony of Dravidian architecture, he said the Thanjai Big Temple Rights Retrieval Committee wanted the consecration to be done in Tamil.

The committee is holding a meeting in Trichy in support of its demand on Wednesday (22 January).

Tamil Nadu Minister for Tamil, Art, Culture and Archaeology has been quoted by the media as saying that the consecration will be held in both Tamil and Sanskrit.

However, the Thanjai Big Temple Rights Retrieval Committee organiser P Maniarasan, hitting out at the minister, said his organisation has sent a letter to the state Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, demanding the event be held in Tamil.

Maniarasan said the committees demand has been supported by, apart from Stalin, Marumalarchi DMK founder Vaiko, Naam Tamilar Katchi founder Seeman and former HRCE minister V V Swaminathan.

Maniarasan is the founder of the Tamil National Movement, which espouses the cause of a separate Tamil nation. The organisation has been active in opposing the methane and hydro-carbon projects in Thanjavur.

The consecration of the Big Temple, constructed during the Chola rule, was last held almost 30 years ago, on 9 June 1997. The temple was maintained by Pandya, Naicker and Maratha empires before the Archaeological Survey of India took over its upkeep in 1922.

One of the initial reactions to the statements of leaders such as Stalin and Vaiko, both sworn atheists, is whether they would have the courage to suggest holding of prayers in Tamil in other religious places, particularly mosques.

On social media, some wondered why atheists should be bothered in which languages the slokas are rendered in temples.

Another wondered how the temple was consecrated by Raja Raja Chola, during whose period it was built.

Some wondered why consecrations during the DMK rule headed by the late Karunanidhi were not held in Tamil.

A few pointed out that Dravidianism was only half a century old and a couple of people remarked tongue-in-cheek if these atheists would come for the consecration and sport ash marks on their foreheads.

There were others who pointed out why people who spoke ill of temple architecture were concerned over the language of the slokas.

While the language controversy dodges the run-up to the consecration or kumbabishekam of the temple, the last time when it has held a fire broke out in a thatched shed resulting in the death of 48 people.

The Big Temple was constructed in 1010 AD during the reign of Raja Raja Chola. It is among the tallest in the world and showcases ancient Indias architecture.

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If Everything Is Religion, Is Anything Religion? | Libby Anne – Patheos

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 11:02 am

Seven Ways Atheists Are Religious, reads the headline of a recent Answers in Genesis article written by Simon Turpin, executive director of Answers in Genesis-UK. My curiosity was piqued.

Because of the secularization of the Western World, many people today now identify as not religious (the nones). In 2016 and 2017, according to some national surveys, 48.5% of people in England and Wales and 72% of people in Scotland say they have no religion! Many of these people identified as atheists. But are atheists not religious? Atheists will tell you they are not religious, but several characteristics identify atheists as religious. In this article, I deal with seven of those characteristics.

Ah, yes. Of course.

It should be noted that it is particularly difficult to define religion as there is not a universally accepted definition.

This is a good thing to note. I once took a religious studies class where a good bit of time was dedicated to discussing how to define religion. Oh, and different kinds of religioncivil religion, for instance, which if I remember correctly included baseball. The point is, definitions are complicated.

But I get the feeling that Turpin is going to let the fact that definitions are complicated obscure or elide something completely different. Lets continue on and see:

The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Under this definition, atheism would not be viewed as religious since the dictionary definition of atheism is disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

Yet, atheism isnt just a lack of belief in God (or gods). It was not a lack of belief in God that caused atheists to write books such as The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), or God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens). Those books are designed to convince people that theism is false and that atheism is true. The Oxford English Dictionary also defines religion as a particular system of faith and worship and a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion. Under that second definition of religion, atheism is religious. Many atheists (e.g., Richard Dawkins) spend much of their time railing against the Creator they believe doesnt exist, and they hold their cause with great devotion and faith.

Wait. Wait! Slow down for a moment!

Lets dissect this, shall we? One definition of religion includes belief in superhuman controlling powers such as a god or gods. Under this definition, Turpin says, atheists arent religious. We already have a problem. Religion and religious are different words with different meanings. We talk about people having religious devotion for things all the time. Like baseball. Or sushi. I suspect that what Turpin meant to say was that under this definition, atheists do not have a religion. Already, words are getting fudged.

So, then Turpin writes that Richard Dawkins was not motivated to writeThe God Delusionby his lack of belief in God. Sure. But Turpin doesnt address what did motivate Dawkinshis conviction that religion is harmful. People are motivated to write books by their belief that one thing or another is harmful all the time. This is not religion.

Instead of addressing what motivated Dawkins, Turpin moves immediately to offering another definition of religion: a particular system of faith and worship or a pursuit or interest followed by great devotion. Like I said: baseball. And also sushi. Or veganism. But here again, words are getting getting mushy.

Check out this line, for instance:

Many atheists (e.g., Richard Dawkins) spend much of their time railing against the Creator they believe doesnt exist, and they hold their cause with great devotion and faith.

Okay, sure. But would Turpin say that Trump supporters who are also Christians have two religions? Or that an avid golfer who is also a Christian has two religions? Or that a flat earther who loves to argue on internet forums, and also goes to church, has two religions? I doubt it, becausethese are notthe same things.

We may use the term religious devotion for both love of sushi and evangelicals prayer practices, but no one would suggest that these two things are somehowthe same thing. Both atheists and Christians have things they love and are passionate about. Everyone does. Not everyone believes in a supernatural deity.

A helpful way to know if a system of thought or worldview is religious is to look at the characteristics that most religions share. In his book Dimensions of the Sacred, the renowned anthropologist Ninian Smart set forth seven of these dimensions to detect whether something is religious:

Lets just briefly consider each of these dimensions in light of the system of thought that is naturalistic atheism.

This is going to start predictably, isnt it?

Just about every religion has a narrative that explains the world around them. Briefly, the Christian narrative is creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, for example. In the Western World, the narrative of atheism used to explain the existence of life and the world around them is Darwinian evolution, and the philosophy that it entails.

Yes. Yes, it is.

There were atheists before Darwin. And there are many, many Christians who accept the scientific reality of Darwinian evolution. Also, most atheists I know dont spend much time thinking about this. We exist. We live. We are. We arent hung up on lots of existential questions or finding a specific narrative.

Indeed, to the extent that I have a narrativeand I suppose I doit has a lot more to do with capital and gender and racial relations and social progress than it does with where life comes from. Where life comes from is unimportant to me. It really, genuinely does not matter to me. Whats important to me is how the inequities that exist in our world came to exist, and how we can identify and erode them.

Does that mean my social and political beliefs are a religion?

Anyway, moving on:

The experiential, social, and ritual aspects of atheism can be seen in the recent establishing of atheist churches.

Seriously? Does Turpin really think this is at all common? Because it isnt. At all. Period. I promise. Besides, what rituals does Turpin think atheist churches would have anyway? This is such a stretch.

I have a ritual. Its called yoga.(Yes, I really am feeling that snarky, but seriously, this is such ridiculous stretching on Turpins part.)

Wait a minute! Body Ritual among the Nacerima comes to mind. You should read it. And so should Turpin. And after he reads it, he should read this Wikipedia article about it, because its actually very relevant.

Anyway, moving on!

Atheists even have doctrine and are evangelistic in their promotion of it. For example, a few years ago, the humanist society in the UK teamed up with atheist Richard Dawkins for a famous advertising campaign that they plastered on the side of buses that read, Theres Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life. The fact that atheists go out of their way to let other people know what they believe and even come up with principles to live life by (even called, for example, the New Ten Commandments) is evidence of their religion.

Does Turpin have any idea what percentage of the nonreligious populationbecause he states early on that hes talking about the nones in generalactually fund and organize the creation of signage like this? Because its small. And I had no idea we had a new Ten Commandments and Ive been an atheists for ages now.

There is no one atheist book all atheists have to read. There is no one atheist code of ethics, no one atheist set of rituals, no one atheist doctrine. Really. I promise. There isnt.

Seriously!? What did I just say! Atheists dont share any one single moral code! Really and truly we dont! Individual atheists subscribe to individual moral or ethical beliefs. Not all atheists are even moral relativists. And there isnt just one moral relativist position, either. We dont have dogma. Were not even really a we.

Finally, the material aspect of the religious nature of atheism can be seen in several ways, but specifically, it can be seen in the atheists treatment of creation as sacred.

Wait, we treat what like what now? We do not have a club. We do not have dogma. I for one dont treat creation as sacred. Sure, I enjoy a good sunset as much as the next person, but I dont exactly go around touching the ground in awe all the time. I mean, what does that even mean?

Heres Turpins explanation:

In an interview in the UK newspaper The Times (April 2019), the founder of the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion Gail Bradbrook, a molecular biophysicist, said,

I dont believe in God, like theres some person there organising everything. I think theres something inherently beautiful and sacred about the universe and I think you can feel that just as well as an atheist. A bit of me thinks, Is there a way to have some form of dialogue with the universe?

From an atheistic perspective, the universe does not care what you think, or how you feel. So, what would be the point of dialogue?

Im wondering that myself.

But seriously, Turpin quotes an individual atheist saying that to her, theres something inherently beautiful and sacred about the universe, and concludes based on that that atheists treat creation as sacred, and therefore have a material religion. So guess what? I decided to look up what Ninian Smart, the anthropologist who created the seven dimensions Turpin discusses here, meant by a material dimension.

material dimension Those aspects of religion exhibited in material form, such as temples, paintings, special clothing and pilgrimage sites.

Huh. How about that.

Also, experiential isnt about going to church, which is how Turpin treats it. But its more than that.Turpin isnt actually using any of Smarts seven dimensions the way Smart outlined themin his 1996 book, which is the one Turpin sites. Turpin doesnt even get the terms themselves correct: what he calls the narrative dimension Smart actually calls the mythic or narrative dimension. What Turpin labeled only social, Smart labeled the organizational or social component. In fact, Smart givesall of the components he laid out double names, which he says helps to elucidate and sometimes to widen them.

In Turpins defense, there are lots of study guides online helping students prep for religious studies tests that have include only single-term labels for Smarts dimensions, and Smarts 1996 volume isnt the first time he laid out this seven-fold schema. Its possible he originally used only single terms. But Turpin sited Smarts 1996 book, not his earlier work. I dont think Turpin actually cracked the book he cited.

Anyway! Leaving aside the issue of religious zeal (again, sushi), what counts as religion depends largely on how religion is defined. Which, of course it would! But Turpin doesnt care about that. He only cares about shoehorning atheism into religion in order to make an ideological point. Frankly, this is far less interesting than actually considering what religion looks like, and what should count (or not count) as religion.

Now, Im making this up on the fly, but consider three options:

Under definition 2 above, Marxism is a religion. New Atheism is also probably a religion, but it should be noted that not all nones or all self-described atheists are New Atheists. Under definition 3 above, everyone has a religion. Religion becomes individual, and is not about the divine or the sacred, or shared dogma.

But see, this is me throwing something at the wall to see if it fits, without having some sort of point Im trying to make or axe Im trying to grind. Thats me thinking about the various issues involved because its interesting. Id also be totally cool defining fandoms as religions. That could be really interesting, as a thought experiment. (Also, in this framework, anti-vaxxing is definitely a religion.)

If youre interested in reading books discussing what religion is, scholars in religious studies and anthropology have written a lot on this. (Start with Catherine Albanese Religions and Religion.)

Turpin finishes his essay as follows:

Atheism is a false religion. It is the worship of self where they have ...exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). The facts that (1) the leader of the atheist church wants to live better, wonder more; (2) Daniel Dennett believes child abuse is wrong; and (3) that Neil deGrasse Tyson can have a spiritual experience over creation all ultimately exemplify a recognition (whether they accept it or not) of what theologians call the sensus divinitatis (a true knowledge of God, i.e., Romans 1:1823). It is to this sensus that Christians should appeal in order to show atheists the internal inconsistency of their own worldview. The reason that atheists can value and seek to preserve human life comes from the fact that knowledge of God comes to them not only through his creation but from the fact that they are made in his image (Genesis 1:27).

Turpin, unlike me, has a very big axe.

Turpin thinks hes writing some sort of gotchaHa! Atheists are too religious!but my takeaway is somewhat different. See, Im sitting here trying to figure out how to fit my Doctor Who fandom into those seven categories. Weve got the narrative (stories galore) and weve got the social (who doesnt view as a family?). Weve got the ethical component tootheres quite a bit of ethical discussion in the series.

As for the material, I already have Whovian kitsch. All I need is the rituals. Hmmm. What an interesting challenge.It turns out that while I may not have an axe to grind, I do have a screwdriver to sonic. Ill keep you posted on future virtual meetings of the international Doctor Who religious consortium.

One last thing. I found my religious studies classes in college fascinating, perhaps in part because they werent about making a point. They werent about finding away to arrive at an already determined answer. In fact, questions didnt have to have answers. It was about an open exploration of ideas. And sure, not every idea was equally good, but it was the questions and discussionthe debate, the mind-blowing momentsthat made these classes fascinating, not the answers (or, in some cases, the lack thereof).

It strikes me that, in comparison, the approach Answers in Genesis takes is fundamentallyboring. And, frankly, sad.

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If Everything Is Religion, Is Anything Religion? | Libby Anne - Patheos

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Christian lifestyle and the reasons of so-called Christian education importance – Christian Post

Posted: at 11:02 am

By Anna Medina, Op-Ed Contributor | Saturday, January 18, 2020 Students at Spalding High School in Griffin, Ga., pray on August 23, 2019. | Screenshot: AHA

Does a Christian need education? Before answering, let's look at the history of this question. For almost the entire twentieth century, humanity has lived under the banner of scientific atheism. People were told that faith in God was supposedly incompatible with scientific knowledge, and therefore only backward, semi-literate people supposedly believe in Him.

But if that were true, then each person, regardless of character and other personal qualities, would automatically become an atheist after accumulating a certain amount of knowledge. However, this does not happen. On the one hand, many well-educated people believe in God, and on the other, many such people do not aspire to any knowledge, and at the same time consider themselves convinced atheists. Is Christian education important today? Of course, yes, because it leaves its mark on a persons lifestyle, his worldview and the opportunities that he can open before other people.

Christian Education Explains the Laws and the True Causes of Things

If we are striving for truly Christian education, then we must focus on the divine origin and explanation of the world in every subject. In the course of history, for example, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that behind all the events that have taken place over the centuries, there is a clear pattern. History is not driven by chance, but by God's purpose. He "rules over the kingdom of man" and does "everything according to His will." It is important to see the hand of the Lord and His sovereign goals in everything that happens.

The same can be said of the natural sciences. In Christian education, we cannot approach the study of phenomena from the so-called neutral positions. The neutral position does not exist. The world around it arose either as a result of chance, as unbelievers believe, or it was created by our God. And if the world is His creation, governed by His sovereign power, then we reject and insult God, not recognizing this in all the events that take place, whether in physics, biology, chemistry or any other science. An education that does not recognize the Creator God and the role of providence in maintaining a certain order in this world cannot be called Christian.

Christian Education Teaches Truth and the True Path

Sometimes parents believe that a secular environment will strengthen their children, teach them to defend their views. But the Word of God does not confirm this point of view. It does not say: "Let the youth twelve years follow the unrighteous path to strengthen him." God teaches us something completely different: Teach a young man at the beginning of his path: he will not deviate from the righteous one when he grows old (Prov. 22: 6).

Secular education is just the case when young people are allowed to follow any path the path of cruelty, bullying, self-centeredness, disrespect for elders and violence. There is not one such verse in Scripture that would say that secular education will strengthen Christian children, except in the sense in which stale bread is strong. Yes, it will make them callous and sin will seem normal to them. It will make them firm, and they will care more for worldly things than for God. It will make them insensitive to evil and it will be quite comfortable for them in a world that sins against their Lord every second. But secular education will not strengthen them as Christians, therefore, "teach a young man at the beginning of his path".

This is like a poor translation of an important document - it only seems that the meaning of the written is preserved, but in fact, it is hopelessly lost. To get a high-quality translation of, for example, a marriage certificate, which, as we know, are concluded in Heaven, you need to contact The Word Point translation service. And to strengthen your Christian soul, it is necessary to receive a religious education.

Christian People Can Give the World a Chance

So, what is the role of a well-educated person in the church of Christ? Generally speaking, the role of a well-educated believer is the same as the role of any Christian - to carry the gospel to a perishing world. Such is the nature of man he best perceives spiritual information from those who are equal to him both in rank and in education. Therefore, the role of a well-educated Christian is to bring the message of salvation to the society of well-educated people and to acquire at least some of them for Christ. The Apostle Paul was a well-educated man for his time. That is why he was to preach in Athens - in the center of ancient science and culture.

Scripture says that the whole world is controlled by evil. (1 John 5:19). Every believer should not only move away from evil but also expose this evil. And a well-educated Christian has to expose the evil that takes place among scholars. For example, now there is much debate about both cloning and experiments on pillar cells, that is, on cells of the human embryo, to obtain which this embryo needs to be killed, that is, an abortion is performed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: modern science often goes beyond morality. And it is precisely well-educated believers who must raise their voice against this kind of lawlessness. And to see the boundary between the permissible and the immoral, you need to know the Scriptures.

Christian education is important, and most importantly, it should begin in childhood. In modern schools, much attention is paid to the development of mental and physical abilities, and this is good. It is bad that spiritual needs, which are very significant throughout the life of a child, do not develop, and therefore in our society, there are many spiritually and emotionally lonely people. The lack of religious education in childhood certainly affects the character of a person: in the mental warehouse of such people, a certain breakdown is felt. The child is unusually susceptible to religious impressions: he instinctively reaches for everything that reveals the beauty and meaning of the world. Take it from the child - and his soul will fade; the child will remain in a deserted world with his petty everyday interests.

Anna Medina is a specialist in different types of writing. She graduated from the Interpreters Department, but creative writing became her favorite type of work. She works as a freelance writer and translator forTheWordPoint.

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A brief history of doubt and the emotion that underpins it – Church Times

Posted: at 11:01 am

THE philosopher Charles Taylor puts it well. Why, he asks, was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?

The conventional, triumphalist, inevitabilist answers about secularisation tend to focus on philosophers and scientists, on the Enlightenment and the Victorians, and on intellectual critiques. But that misses a longer, deeper story.

Intellectual critiques of religion did not cause our modern secular surge. The purely rational case for atheism has added almost nothing to its arsenal for a century (only the neurological argument, really).

In the same time-frame, lots of anti-Christian truisms that every educated European in the early 20th century knew have been debunked. We no longer believe that the universe is infinitely old and entirely deterministic, that humanitys races are fundamentally different, that evolution is governed by some sort of progressive life-force, or that the Bible is a mere collage of myths shared by peoples across the ancient Near East.

And yet, during this same era, Christianity in the West has been receding, not advancing. It looks as if it is not all about science and philosophy.

Then look at the other end of Taylors timescale. The conventional story says that the starting-gun for modern atheism was fired by Spinoza in the 1660s. But, by then, the Christian West was already nearly two centuries into a full-scale moral panic about what it called atheism. The English word, coined in 1553, quickly became ubiquitous.

It was not just paranoia. The villain in Cyril Tourneurs 1611 play The Atheists Tragedy is a caricature, but Tourneurs rival, Christopher Marlowe, was credibly accused of saying: There is no God, and that Christ deserved better to die than Barabbas. It was proverbial that physicians, soldiers, and politicians were naturians or nullafidians, with no faith.

Even the most earnest believers found this kind of atheism in themselves. A pious Londoner described how she had spent the 1640s wrestling with temptations to believe that there was no God, no Heaven, and no Hell. The young John Bunyan spent a year desperately wondering whether there were, in truth, a God, or Christ?

None of these people had sound philosophical grounds for their doubts. Like nervous flyers white-knuckled during a nasty bout of turbulence, they told themselves firmly that there was nothing to worry about. But, under such circumstances, rational reassurance does not help much. In other words, atheism existed in practice before it existed in theory.

This is as we should expect, of course. If our own age has taught us anything, it is that intellectual arguments rarely change anyones mind. The conventional story has it that philosophers attacked religion, and people then stopped believing. But what if people stopped believing and then invented philosophies to rationalise their unbelief?

So, the answer to Taylors question why it is that belief once felt so natural, and now feels so difficult is an emotional one. We all accept that, when we embrace religious faith, we do it intuitively or emotionally, with our whole selves, not by dry calculation. My point is simply that when we reject or abandon faith, we do exactly the same thing.

THE emotional history of atheism that I have been reconstructing has two keynotes, which run deep back into the Middle Ages: anger and anxiety. Anger was directed at overbearing Churches, interfering priests, and the God who, they claimed, was on their side.

Anxiety was about whether God really hears prayers, whether the soul is really immortal. In themselves, neither anger nor anxiety threatened Christian society. They were perennial, predictable, and eminently manageable. The fury of a few blasphemers and libertines offered the Church exactly the kind of opposition it wanted. And stirring a little anxiety into the faith helped to ensure that it never solidified into a mere habit.

And then came the Reformation. Martin Luther turned his personal crisis of faith into a Europe-wide religious explosion by weaponising scepticism: training Christians not just to doubt other Christians, but to mock and vilify them, accusing them of perpetrating a centuries-long priestly con-trick. Pretty soon, whether you were a Protestant or a Roman Catholic, scorning other Christians beliefs as ridiculous was an inescapable part of your faith.

The point was, of course, to overthrow the corrupt Church and set up a purified one in its place. But the trouble with arming whole populations to fight a war of scorn and scepticism is that they do not always stop when they are told.

So some people turned their scorn on to the new religion as well as the old. Catholics were blind, and Protestants one-eyed, one group of French free-thinkers said. Only they themselves were truly deniaisez. The word meant both enlightened and deflowered. They had lost their religious virginity, and there was no going back.

Both anger and anxiety had a new urgency. That startlingly secular playwright William Shakespeare summed up an age of religious warfare in the words of a dying man caught in senseless crossfire: A plague on both your houses! Anger at the Churches had acquired a righteous edge. Was this how Jesus Christ would have lived?

As for anxiety it was not only the terrible choice between Catholic and Protestant, made in the knowledge that heaven or hell hung on the outcome. You did not need to spend very long impaled on that dilemma to begin to ask: is either of them right? Am I damned, whatever I do? Or is Hell simply another of those priests tricks? Would a good God ever truly condemn his creations to eternal torment? Maybe, a few people began to wonder, the most truly moral thing to do was to walk away from all this so-called religion?

And so, by the middle of the 17th century, something new was stirring. Moral rationalists such as the Dutch Collegiants, or mystics such as the early English Quakers, had turned their fury at the Churches and their struggles to find spiritual bedrock on which they could build a true faith into a moral struggle against religion and all its evils. When a brilliant, excommunicated Dutch Jew, Baruch Spinoza, fell in with the Collegiants and the Quakers in the 1650s, that was the world that he discovered.

Like him, many of the canonical founding fathers of Western secularism, from Pierre Bayle through Voltaire and Tom Paine to Feuerbach and beyond, were not trying to abolish Christianity: they were trying to reform and purify it. In practice, though, that could look pretty similar. If you conclude that your faith is built on sand, you might demolish it and start digging to find bedrock so that you can build anew. That is not too different from just smashing it up especially if, no matter how deep you dig, your shovel never seems to ring on anything truly solid.

Anger and anxiety kept simmering away: in the anticlerical fury of Karl Marx or the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, in the agonised doubts of Fyodor Dostoevsky or George Eliot. And, as ever, what truly fired those emotions was not science or metaphysics, but ethics.

LIKEWISE, the secular surge of our own times does not represent any kind of intellectual breakthrough; more that, in the wake of two world wars and the social revolutions which followed, our society no longer measures its morals by religious yardsticks.

Once, the most potent moral figure in our culture was Jesus Christ, whose ethics were normative for believers and unbelievers alike. Now, our most potent moral figure is Adolf Hitler, who has become our new, secular embodiment of absolute evil. That is the conviction on which most of our modern ethics, including the gossamer bubble called human rights, depends. So, now, Churchills speeches tug at the heart more than the Sermon on the Mount, and a swastika stirs deeper emotions than a crucifix. Its powerful, its fiercely moral, and its right as far as it goes. But it is not rational, it is not inevitable, and it is not stable.

The enduring truth is that, from the Middle Ages to the present, most of us have made the great choices beliefs, values, identities, purposes intuitively and emotionally. That is not because belief, or unbelief, is irrational. It is because human beings are irrational or, rather, because we are not calculating machines. The emotional history of belief and unbelief suggests that our intuitive choices often have a certain wisdom to them.

Blaise Pascal, the 17th centurys shrewdest wrestler with doubt, famously compared the choice between belief and unbelief to an impossible wager on unknown odds. His point was not to make a crass, pragmatic argument for faith: that was only ever a parody. It wasto demonstrate that multiplying proofs of Gods existence is futile. This is not an academic matter: too much is at stake.

And so, like any gamblers, we wager with our guts and our hearts. As well we should; for, as Pascal also told us, the heart has its reasons, of which Reason knows nothing.

Dr Ryrie is Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University. His latest book, Unbelievers: An emotional history of doubt is, is published by Harvard University Press at 18.95 (CT Bookshop 17).

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I would absolutely become a true believer tomorrow if – Patheos

Posted: at 11:01 am

Consider for a moment the essential idea in this photo illustration:

It would only take 1 piece of verifiable evidence to destroy atheism.

This is what distinguishes religious faith from religious doubt.

For example, science and common sense have provided veritable mountains of material evidence irrefutably contradicting many fundamental proclamations in the Bible, such as the age of the Earth, the genesis of humankind and how the solar system is structured and moves.

Which is to say, substantive fact has proven that the Earth is more than 4.5 billion years old (the bible says 6,000); our species, Homo sapiens, evolved from lower life forms over eons (the Bible says God originally created humans in the same form they exist today); and all the planets in our solar system, including Earth, orbit the Sun, and only moons orbit their parent planets (the Bible contends that Earth is the center of the universe around which everything else revolves).

And weve known these concrete truths for a long time now, centuries in some instances.

Reasonably speaking, the credibility of any book divined as the Word of God should be permanently destroyed if any part of it proves mistaken, not gospel, in other words.

But this has not fully happened because religious dogma, unlike facts, is based on inaccessible surreality, not reality, and believers trust sketchy and uncorroborated supernatural imaginings received from the ancients instead of material, testable, provable, empirical evidence obtained from the real world in the here and now.

As a nonbeliever in all things supernatural and superstitious, I subscribe to the sentiment in the photo illustration embedded here. If any any evidence were credibly produced that divinities exist in an invisible realm and control our lives beyond our capacity to investigate them, I would instantly transform into a true believer.

But such evidence has never been reliably, plausibly presented. So I remain unconvinced and live my life by the stars, as it were by the banal realities of existence, not seductive fantasies.

It would be a far different world if faithful people would hold their beliefs to the same rigorous testing that atheists and even agnostics do.

If they did, most of us would likely be of the same mind regarding the gods: There arent any.

Photo illustration/Atheist Global

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Godless Engineer Best Advice Ever #20 | Andrew Hall – Patheos

Posted: at 11:01 am

Episode 20 of Best Advice Ever touches on whether Jesus ever existed.

Here is the latest episode of Best Advice Ever, the show where awesome people share the best advice they ever received. Past guests include Professor Phil Zuckerman, YouTuber Steve Shives, and cardiologist Sanjay Gupta.

Lets go through some basics!

Godless Engineer is a YouTuber. He has 47,300 subscribers and has had over 7.6 million views of his videos.

Heres an excerpt from his about page on YouTube:

I am an ex-christian. There was nobody around to point me in the correct direction as far as thinking critically about what I believed. I was allowed to believe ridiculous things like that Adam and Eve were real people and a global flood I covered the earth. I felt stupid believing those things when they didnt make sense but I was told that was what I was supposed to believe.

I understand the sentiment. One of my friends observed Im so passionate about atheism because I feel like I was duped.

We take some time and talk about how Paul (yes, that Paul who wrote Acts and was integral in creating Christianity) never met Jesus. Godless Engineer continues to say Paul never met any of Jesus disciples. It seems what Paul had in spades was a creative imagination and a penchant for writing.

And what was the best advice ever? We delve into the nature of fear and how it prevents people from creating and living their best (or least bad?) lives.

I hope you enjoy this episode. Please go to the YouTube video,hit like and subscribe to the channel!

Thanks for watching.

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Richard Dawkins and the ignorance of New Atheism –

Posted: December 18, 2019 at 9:11 pm

I recently met an old friend at a party. She works for a Christian NGO. Later that evening we were introduced to a man with a background in software engineering. Having learnt about my friends job and then discovered that she goes to church, he asked her how old she thought the universe is. Her jaw dropped a bit. But she was composed enough to reply with a counter-question. Did you know that it was a Catholic priest [the cosmologist Georges LeMatre] who proposed the Big Bang theory in the first place? Now it was the engineers turn to look shocked.

Some may dismiss this exchange as a flash in the pan. To others it will reflect a phoney war evident across Western culture and beyond. The frustration felt by this second group is well founded. Popular contemporary attitudes towards religion include condescending dismissal. The same applies to large sections of the media, universities and the arts establishment. Faith groups must bear their share of the blame for this. But so must the strident atheists who reject what they have never taken the trouble to investigate beyond a superficial level especially those who write bestsellers ridiculing belief systems they know so little about.

How might scientifically informed religious believers defend the coherence of their world view? If they are Christians, say, part of their answer might run like this. The aim of Gods creation is that the world should help make itself, and the Scriptures are humanly written and developed history riddled with ambiguities and dead-ends and fresh starts. Nevertheless, they are powerfully challenging calls to humanity to grow and reform and criticise itself. This sort of judgement could be voiced in allied ways across the spiritual spectrum. We have a deep respect for science, people of various stripes often add. We just dont think that this way of investigating the world exhausts all reality.

In particular, there is no contradiction between accepting Darwins theories and belief in God. Young-earth creationists and advocates of intelligent design are therefore mistaken. So, too, are those who assume an unbridgeable divide between science and religion.

Four reasons especially might be cited in favour of such a model. The first is intellectual. Honest enquirers should follow the evidence where it leads, whether or not they practise a faith. There is nothing pious or wishful about this: a pillar of Christian orthodoxy such as St Thomas Aquinas would have insisted on the unitary character of truth. If science establishes that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius or that the world is 13.7 billion years old, then these and other discoveries cannot be credibly challenged from any pulpit.

The second is theological. Classical teaching in various traditions, Eastern as well as Western, represents God not as a big thing competing for space with lesser things, but as the ground of existence.

One useful analogy is that of the author in relation to his or her characters. While not himself a cast member of War and Peace, Tolstoy nevertheless inhabits every line of the narrative. Another analogy is supplied by light. The light in which we see is not one of the objects seen, because we see light only inasmuch as it is reflected off opaque objects. Nature has its own integrity according to laws and patterns established by science. To repeat: God is not a micro-manager intervening here and there. Nor is the relationship between God and the world like that of a builder to a house. Things are both subtler and more intimate from a monotheistic standpoint. As a canvas supports a painting or a singer holds a song, God sustains everything in being moment by moment. We are talking about a deeper level of causation. So when someone turns on the gas to heat up a pan of water, for example, chemistry can give a full account in its own terms of the process involved. But a Hindu or Muslim or Jew or Christian can still maintain that God makes the whole situation exist: the gas, its power and its action on the water. God and the gas work at different levels, not in competition.

Divine being is also seen as unfathomable in the major faiths. God may be loved, but not thought, as a classic such as The Cloud of Unknowing puts it. By love may he be gotten and holden; but by thought never.

Believers can nonetheless combine humility in the face of a profound mystery with a calm certainty about what God is not. In the case of a figure like Richard Dawkins, by contrast, things are turned upside down. Starting with an utterly inadequate definition of God as an angry tyrant in the sky, he then informs us that this monster doesnt exist. Its a true belief widely shared by people on either side of the religious divide. But why should it necessarily be an argument for atheism rather than a spur to resist idolatry?

Initial mistakes breed larger ones when unchecked. If I say that my favourite drink is beer and you reply that yours is wine, we are at least agreed on what it is we disagree about. But since the deity in whom Dawkins disbelieves is a blown-up creature, he has even gone on to make the surreal claim that our supposed creator would need to have evolved through natural selection, and there is no available evidence of any life form more sophisticated than humankind. In other words, God is being pictured as both the cause of the universe and a product of it. Fallacies rarely come larger.

What is implied by all this? Among much else that so-called New Atheism is old hat. Call out superstition by all means. But dont display culpable ignorance by likening all manifestations of faith across the world to belief in the tooth fairy. Dawkinss new book Outgrowing God is no less crude than his earlier diatribe The God Delusion. Once more, hes lobbed a stone in a vain bid to hit the clouds.

Rupert Shortts book Outgrowing Dawkins: God for Grown-Ups is published by SPCK (9.99)

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Joy and the Life of Faith | Billy Kangas – Patheos

Posted: at 9:11 pm

The author C.S. Lewis is considered one of the most influential Christian writers of the twentieth century. He activated the faith and imagination of millions of people with fictional works like The Chronicles of Narnia, series. He also has had a significant impact through his books on theology, like his highly influential Mere Christianity.

In one of his most personal books, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis tell of his own journey from Atheism to Christianity. In Lewis life he identifies his own experiences of joy as the primary moments that led him to know God. He states that,

All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still about to be'.

In other words, Joy is an arrow and it points towards our deepest hopes about the universe.

In Lewis life he began to realize that he experienced moments of joy that pointed to a hope for something that nothing in this world could satisfy. He was convinced that his joy must point to some reality and his journey to find the target of his joy eventually led him to find God. His discovery of God completely changed his life, and all his work following this conversion sought to inspire similar joy in the hearts of his readers.

This is an entry in my Advent Action Guide which will be featured all Advent long.

If youre interested in downloading a copy or signing up for daily emails for the rest of the season fill out the form below:

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