I promised last month that I would tackle a topic this month that seems to keep popping up all over in the non-theistic community. Is it wrong for atheists, particularly atheist leaders, to state with absolute certainty that “there is no God”. Some of our most prominent leaders have been called out for saying that, numerous times, in social media and as I said, in many off-line discussions. The argument is generally philosophical in nature with some pretty esoteric discussions requiring a handy dictionary or a very strong background in philosophy. My side of the discussion has leaned more towards a practical perspective which I hope to explain here.
Needless to say, the question of whether or not “God” exists is not something that I’m going to be able to give much insight into, for several reasons. Many people, with much more knowledge than I have, have written massive volumes on this and this article just isn’t going to have enough space to rehash even a fraction of that let alone any fresh ideas. I also don’t have a degree in philosophy even while I do understand some of the arguments for and against and I’m unlikely to come up with any fresh ideas anyway. Some of the discussions that I’ve read on this have been mind-numbing to me (or migraine producing). But I will touch on just a few of the philosophical arguments just for the fun of it and to give a little perspective on how complicated this is. Some arguments FOR the existence of “God’ include Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, the well-known Teleological argument, the Christological argument, the Majority argument (an obvious logical fallacy), to name just a few. And then there are the philosophical arguments AGAINST the existence of “God”, such as the Argument from inconsistent revelations, the Dysteleological argument, the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit (gotta love this one), the Omnipotence paradox, and the Argument from free will, again, just to name a few. And this just goes on and on. But the one that seems to be the most common philosophical argument is the argument of unfalsifiability which essentially states that any claim that cannot possibly be proved or disproved by any experimental means or observation, is essentially meaningless and cannot rationally be stated, for example “there is no God”. Remember that statement? That is what this article is about, or at least whether or not it is appropriate for us to state that. We could wax philosophical ad infinitum and it wouldn’t get to the main point. While understanding philosophy and how to spot logical fallacies is important for critical thinking skills and understanding what’s real and what likely isn’t, the question that I started with has a very different importance to it in my opinion.
As I understand it, there are an estimated 4100 – 4200 distinct religions in the world today and literally countless gods or powerful spirits (is there a difference?) that people believe in. This is not even mentioning how many gods people have already stopped believing in. I don’t believe anyone has an accurate count. While I may be referring mostly to the Abrahamic God here, that’s just one of many thousands. And as for evidence regarding the existence or non-existence of any of the gods, although it might not be definitive proof, there have been mountains of credible evidence found that actions attributed to any one of these gods is actually explainable by natural laws. And as to evidence to the contrary, there has been none. The definition of “God” alone can be seen to be a moving target the more we learn. So when it comes to extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence, it would seem that the claim that “there is no God” is way, way ahead.
Belief in fairies, invisible pink unicorns, Russell’s Teapot, leprechauns, and giant heat-resistant rhinoceroses living near the core of the earth (Armin Navabi. “Why There is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God”. October 2014. P19) are all quite harmless beliefs. But believing in a deity that speaks to you through thoughts, “wise” leaders, or “holy” books, all without a shred of credible evidence, can apparently lead one to do some pretty horrible things. Not only can it impede your understanding of real threats (think Anthropogenic Global Warming for example – we cannot possibly harm “God’s creation”) or understanding the value of all life on this planet, but it can also lead people to directly harm others. Can any of you readers think of any recent examples? Better yet, can any of you readers NOT think of any recent examples? I’m not going to debate how much of the violence on the Eastern side of the Atlantic is due to beliefs like this or due to Western imperialism but it does appear to be a healthy mix of both. How much better off would we be if nobody believed such things anymore? I’ve heard people say that some folks just can’t function without a belief in a higher power. I have yet to see any scientific studies that show definitively that that is true and not the result of environment. I am highly skeptical that anybody really needs such beliefs. And I’m highly confident that all people could benefit greatly if we all trusted in what science, rational observation, and life experience teach us and feel a sense of curiosity and excitement about the possibilities of learning what we don’t yet know. So it seems to me that shouting “There is no God!!” from the rooftops is not such a bad thing, logical fallacy or not.
I recently had a discussion with a gentleman recently from Sweden who, in the middle of a delightful conversation, informed me that where he is from, people don’t talk about religion anymore. To them, that’s for the history books, not for the present. He is having trouble understanding our (the U.S.) seeming obsession with it on both sides of the coin. He was anxious to find a community where this is not on the list of topics. And here I am spending more time on the subject, again. But can you imagine living in a place where this is not even a topic worth discussing? Yes, imagine that. I CAN’T WAIT!!
If you would like to comment on any of this, please feel free to email me at the address shown below or post something on our Facebook Group page, the link to which is also shown below. I would enjoy a good conversation about this.
Here are links to some of our important webpages. Our Meetup page is at HSGP Meetup. Our Facebook Group can be found at HSGP Facebook Group. Our Facebook page at HSGP Facebook Page. And lastly, since you’re reading this, you probably already know but our main website is at HSGP website.
Message from the Membership Director
Once again, I am visiting the subject of HSGP finances, this time with a message from Bruce Stiles:
My wife Ann Marie Eisentraut and I are Life Members of HSGP, so we no longer pay dues. However, HSGP is very important to us; we feel that we receive a lot of value from our humanist community, and from its first-in-the-nation Humanist Community Center (HCC). Therefore, we are contributing $300 per year to HSGP in order to be certain that we are paying our fair share of on-going expenses. (This money is from income.)
Further, we have made provisions in our estate planning to leave at least $5000 each to HSGP’s Endowment Fund. (This money is from capital; we will no longer need money.) Assuming a 3% annual return after inflation, these contributions will ensure that our annual contributions to HSGP can continue until Kingdom Come (so to speak). Helping to secure the financial future of HSGP will be part of our legacy.
What will be YOUR legacy? I would like to encourage all HSGP members to join Ann Marie and me in providing a meaningful legacy for HSGP in their estate planning. (Please contact me if you would like ideas on how to do so easily. I have a Black Belt in Planned Giving.) I would also like to encourage fellow Life Members to join us in contributing at least $140 a year each to HSGP, even though you no longer pay dues. We have the HCC to show for our previous contributions, but on-going expenses must be paid as well.
Thank you for your support.
Continuing Crocheted Sleeping Mats Project:
My next workshop for making these mats is being held on September 10, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Humanist Community Center. Please RSVP on Meetup.
Details are on the Meetup announcement. Any questions can be sent to my email address below my signature.
Welcome new members
- Brian Dye
- Judy O’Donoghue
As always – my monthly blurbs
We are always in need of volunteers to supply breakfast casseroles, help set up before and clean up after meetings and events, serve on various committees. We have a brochure with a complete list of volunteer opportunities on the info table at the front of the meeting hall. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Matt Ferrin at email@example.com for additional information or questions.
To volunteer for a Sunday meeting opportunity or other event, click on this button and select the event for which you’d like to volunteer.
You can also find the SignUp Genius button on the home page of HSGP.org by scrolling down.
Your Participation is Welcome
This column is for the members. I’d like it to also be about and by the members by encouraging all of you to send me announcements of life events, questions about HSGP, contribute a piece for this column or suggestions of subjects you’d like to see posted here.
Please contact me if you need any membership information or have a change of address, phone number, or email. Anita Romanowski Membership Director
Join Us to Plan Fundraising Events
A Fundraising Event Planning meeting is scheduled for September 24. For details please see the Meetup announcement.
Events in the planning stage include:
- In October enjoy a pasta dinner honoring the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (May you be touched by his noodly appendage. Sauce be upon you.)
- In December, we celebrate the winter Solstice with a giant potluck.
- Other events like the Flat Earth Pancake Breakfast and rummage sales occur as inspiration arises.
Volunteers with skills ranging from event planning to dish washing are needed to make these events a success.
HSGP Service Outreach Project
Our upcoming events include going back to Paz de Cristo on Saturday September 24 at 4pm for dinner service.
We are also scheduled at St. Mary’s Food Bank on Saturday October 15, from 12pm to 3pm.
by Gwyndolynn Gentry
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
The HSGP-sponsored Girl Scout group is starting with a planning meeting on Saturday, August 13 at 4 pm in the Humanist Community Center. This is an all ages group.
For more information contact email@example.com
Please note that the Sunday Speaker meetings now have a children’s program!
Keeping Up With HSGP Social Media Matters
by Jennifer White
Overview and update of our social media/internet presence!
I would say that Meetup has the biggest impact on HSGP’s reach. More people say they found out about us there than anywhere else. As of now (08/01/16), we have 1,620 folks signed up on our Meetup group! Some of them join us at our Sunday Speaker meetings and/or other events like Game Night, Humanities Project, Inquiring Minds, Book Club, Ted Talks/Interesting Discussion, and various charity/volunteer opportunities.
Meetup is how we get great turnouts for special events like the Flying Spaghetti Monster Dinner, the Winter Solstice Celebration, the Darwin Day Luncheon, concerts, and visiting guest luminaries, resulting in income to help pay for our Community Center. A few of these folks even become dues-paying members of HSGP. Join us at Meetup now so you will always be abreast of what’s happening next at the Humanist Center!
This is an open group on Facebook, where people share posts and participate in conversations. Anyone on Facebook can see the fascinating articles and discussions, but you must be a member of the group to post or comment. Just go there and request to become a member. Richard or I will approve you. You must have a Facebook account. We do our best to keep out spammers (trying to sell you stuff) and we don’t allow abusive comments. As of today we have 811 members in our group!
A traditional Facebook page. Anyone can see it. You can react to and comment on the articles, events, and memes on the page. Only posts by authorized admins will appear on the wall. The public may post, but they will appear to the left of the wall. Stop by the page and check it out – then be sure to LIKE us!
Yes, we do have a Twitter account, but it has been all but abandoned. We really need someone who can take it over and start us tweeting again! Let me know if you are interested or know someone else who may be.
Ok, so not exactly social media, but internet presence for sure. When people google Humanism in Arizona, what pops up is our welcoming, attractive, and informative website. It is our face on the internet, where one can learn about Humanism in general and HSGP in particular – everything one needs and wants to find out is on our site, including contact information to find out even more! One can see our upcoming events, read our newsletter (as you are doing now), click on links to HSGP on Meetup and Facebook, learn about the charities and causes we support, use links to find other interesting Humanist sites, and much more.
Questions or need help?
Grab me if you see me at the Humanist Center in Mesa,
Message me on Meetup or Facebook (use links above), * E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org Meanwhile, have fun on the social media!
Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.
— Attributed to Joyce Carol Oates.
The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.
— Attributed to Carl Rogers.
Quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com