I was set to write something completely different and then someone sent me a link to a website that had this statement on it:
“Proud, vocal, unapologetic atheist, freethinker and secular humanist. Science teacher. President of northeast Ohio branch of Center for Inquiry. Member of Freedom From Religion Foundation, Cleveland Freethinkers and Cleveland Skeptics.”
He is calling for like minded people to get together and talk. The sessions would be pretty open to, “Anything that is intellectually stimulating and interesting.” Would that Christians would be so bold.
As a side note, I do find it interesting how similar what they want to do is to Church. They want community and a gathering. They will have a set of beliefs with its own set of presuppositions that are as utterly improvable as the faiths they disdain. There will also be dogma. Consider the acceptable areas of inquiry being, “intellectually stimulating and interesting.” Who gets to decide this? The president? (a pope – every Church has its version of a pope) or a committee (a curia)? I am pretty sure that things that I find stimulating and interesting would probably off limits. But I could be wrong on that.
But what are the main differences between this gathering and Church? Well, yes, of course whether there is a God (or gods) or not. Though both are seeking community, both are seeking truth, but one is seeking the “how” of the universe, and the other is seeking the “Who.” One hopes to understand causality (this happened because this happened because this happened), the other on relationship between persons of this world and the Persons of another place.
Abraham Joshua Heschel writes about this in his book, “A Philosophy of Judaism” (h/t Adam). He is describing what each of these groups are looking for when they look at something such as the book of Genesis:
“There is, for example, a basic difference in meaning, intention, and them between a scientific theory of the origin of the universe and what the first chapters of the Book of Genesis are trying to convey. The Book of Genesis does not intend to explain anything; the mystery of the world’s coming into being is in no way made more intelligible by a statement such as, ‘At the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ The Bible and science do not deal with the same problem. Scientific theory inquires: What is the cause of the universe? It thinks in the category of causality, and causality conceives of the relationship between a cause and effect. . . The Bible, on the other hand, conceives of the relationship of the Creator and the universe as a relationship between two essentially different and incomparable entities, and regards creation itself as an event rather than as a process. Creation, then, is an idea that transcends causality; it tell us how it comes that there is causality at all. Rather than explaining the world in categories borrowed from nature, it alludes to what made nature possible, namely, an act of the freedom of God.”
(There’s a lot there. Spend some time with that if you have the time.)
It takes just as much faith to say that creation just always was than to say that it was created. But to say that there is an infinite Creator (or at least a Creator Who is outside of time) begins to give an answer. It also allows for a bigger universe both in terms of the size of existence and the realm of knowing for belief (at least Catholicism) allows for (and developed much of) scientific “belief,” but the discussion group proposed at the beginning of this post does not allow for the opposite. (I can talk to him, but he cannot countenance me.) And that creates an incredibly limited universe.
It is also sad. For taken to its logical conclusion, the type of belief system proposed by the gentleman above leads to the belief that human beings are utterly pointless. The group, in turn, becomes pointless. Even the pursuit of knowledge is a chase after the wind. We are an accident of the universe. We only exist for ourselves, and when we are dead we cease to exist, when we are extinct there will be no one even to know it, or care, or remember . . . we are entirely without purpose or meaning. And this leads to a horrible form of morality. A culture of death. It becomes about what is best for me because that is all that really matters.
And that, to me, sounds neither honest, hopeful, complete, intellectually stimulating, or interesting.