This month's salon introduces the Good Country Index. Policy advisor Simon Anholt asks the question, "Which country does the most good?" After hearing how he answers, join the engaging discussion to follow.
Help raise money for the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Join the Humanists of MN team for the NAMI Fundraising Walk on September 27th at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis.
We aspire to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment and contribute to the greater good of humanity and the planet through reason, science, compassion and creativity. Read more...
As I define it, liberal religion is the adherence to religious traditions and beliefs that do not outright contradict modern secular ethics or science. Often, Secular Humanists and liberal theists agree on a lot of topics. For example, many liberal theists accept evolution, global warming, gay rights, women's rights, sexual freedom, and cultural tolerance. In the end, the world would be a much better place if fundamentalist theists embraced liberal religion. Despite this, however, liberal religion still creates many problems which harm society.
As I define it, fundamentalist religion is the strict adherence to traditional beliefs and practices of a religion including, but not limited to, the literal interpretation of holy texts. The problem with fundamentalist religion is that it leads people to not only be immune to reason, but also to behave in ways which are harmful to themselves and others.
So far in my blog posts, I've discussed the evolutionary, historical, cultural, literary, moral, psychological, and neurological nature of religion and of Christianity in particular. Before I delve into the issues created by religion and provide explanations of a more rational worldview, I would first like to summarize what religion is actually all about.
In my previous 3 posts, I've provided evidence that religiosity and spiritual experiences are not based on supernatural forces, and free will is merely an illusion. Given this information, is there still room for an immaterial soul? Based on the best available evidence regarding brain functioning, there is no reason to believe anything akin to the human soul exists.
Gary Cox is a member of HofMN and an inmate at the Oak Park Heights prison. He is co-editor of the prison inmate publication, "A New Perspective," from which the following is excerpted.
The proverb "out of sight, out of mind" is likely familiar to most everyone. Yet how many of us fully appreciate just what a profound truth it actually expresses? Relatively few, I would hazard to guess. In short, we depend on our sense of vision much more than we realize – or should, once the scope of the situation is properly grasped. As the notoriously cryptic Yogi Berra might once have quipped: We are often blinded by what we can’t see. An example of this is prisons.
Free will is an important aspect of many denominations of Christianity. As C.S. Lewis explains "God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having." However, the more we learn about the forces influencing our decisions, the less room there is for such freedom of will.
Many people have had experiences they feel are too powerful and real to be the result of anything other than God or the supernatural. These "spiritual" experiences may be transformative, but science shows they are likely the result of our brains and nothing more.
We live in an age when we cannot and must not cede ethical thought and process to religion. While many religious people are good people and do good things, no religious tradition offers a moral philosophy or code by which all of humanity can live. Humanism offers a better way to do ethics that is accessible to all-using shared information and a common language.
Responding to conversations with Humanists of MN members, I started a series titled “Squinting at Postmodernism.” I will write the third in this sequence that I started a few months ago soon; this time, however, I’m responding again to an event organized by the MN Humanists on issues that, many of us would like to believe, the history of humanism has always been concerned with, namely, inclusivity and diversity. The guest speaker on Saturday, April 26th, 2014 was Vanessa Gomez-Brake, co-president of the Bay Area Humanists Association. Her presentation was lively, accessible, and interactive; the crowd of about 50 people responded spontaneously and eagerly. It was a stimulating and thought-provoking occasion.
In the Christian tradition (among others), the human soul is an immaterial entity that comprises the essenceof our true selves and is capable of union with the divine. Given this understanding, it is the soul which seeks to know God, and not the physical brain. However, modern science shows this belief to be false. In fact, the drive to be religious and spiritual has been demonstrated to be the result of biology, not an immeasurable and unknowable essence akin to a soul.
On May 1st humanists will gather with many other secularists around the country to celebrate the National Day of Reason. Local Minnesotans will be doing the same at the state capitol. As in the past, this year’s National Day of Reason coincides with the Congressionally-mandated and federally-supported National Day of Prayer when many religious people gather to pray in and around halls of government. To counteract the latter, secularists come together to uphold this day as a Day of Reason—and ask our legislators to commit to making every day of their public service a day of reason.
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