Thursday, October 20, 2005

Creationism and Intelligent Design: Is there a difference?

One of the common arguments from opponents of intelligent design is that it is only the theory of creationism under a new name, a name that may gain more notice and credibility in the scientific community. But I am left wondering if intelligent design is exactly the same as creationism, or if there are some differences in the two theories about the origins of the world. From what I have gathered in class, they are two different theories, although they have similar foundations, and I wanted to distinguish between the two.

"Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or “intelligent design theory” (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name." Richard Dawkins, "Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant"

"In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it. Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.
Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details." -The editors of Scientific American, "Okay, We give up"

According to the second quote from Scientific American and an article by Daniel Engber called "Creationism vs. Intelligent DesignIs there a difference?" ( there is a difference between creationism and intelligent design.

Engber claims that "Intelligent Design adherents believe only that the complexity of the natural world could not have occurred by chance." Simply stated, they believe that some "intelligent force" must have created the earth because of the complexity of its design; however, unlike Creationists (creationism-the belief in the literal Genesis story of the Bible they do not identify this force as God. He claims this designer could be "anything or anyone."

"In 1802, William Paley used the "divine watchmaker" analogy to popularize the design argument: If we assume that a watch must have been fashioned by a watchmaker, then we should assume that an ordered universe must have been fashioned by a divine Creator. Many traditional Creationists have embraced this argument over the years, and most, if not all, modern advocates for Intelligent Design are Christians who believe that God is the designer."

However, this does not meant that all advocates of intelligent design are Christians who believe in God.

Another idea:
"...adherents of intelligent design scrupulously avoid biblical arguments to undermine evolutionary theory and argue instead that the subcellular complexity of life demands a knowing designer. What's more, many who subscribe to intelligent design theory have no problem accepting the great antiquity of life on Earth." -Terri Devitt from Ron Numbers, "Intelligent design: The new 'big tent' for evolution's critics"

Although he recognizes a difference, he points to the fact that both still have "the same ambitious agenda: to influence how science is taught in the nation's schools. In particular, they seek to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution - the dominant, unifying theory of modern biology - in public schools."

"Unlike creationism, ID accepts that the Earth is billions of years old and that species evolve through natural selection. It posits that life has been designed but doesn't specify by whom." William Saletan, "Unintelligible Redesign"

So there is a difference between creationism and intelligent design. me, this means the argument between supporters of these two theories and evolution is far from over...if it will ever end. But the next question is, does intelligent design belong in public schools?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Intelligent Design Controversy Cartoons

 (last three cartoons)

Darwin and God

"I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone." -Darwin, The Origin of the Species

In reading this selection from the text, I found it intriguing to note in the Introduction that after losing interest in medicine, Darwin "turned to ministry by default rather than by any great desire." I was not previously aware that Darwin studied theology; however, it is not suprising because this was a popular choice of intellectuals during his time. Today, evolution is considered a theory that completely counters the ideas of Christianity and the creation of the world by a divine being, yet we discussed in class that some evidence points to the idea that Darwin himself was a believer in God. I was curious of Darwin's path of faith, as one who studied religion but then seemingly rejected the idea of God.

(Quotes come directly from Darwin's autobiography)

Darwin began contemplating the idea of studying in the church at the encouragement of his father after having difficulities in the field of medicine.

"...I asked for some time to consider, as from what little I had heard and thought on the subject I had scruples about declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England; though otherwise I liked the thought of becoming a country clergyman. Accordingly I read with great care Pearson on the Creeds and a few other books on divinity; and as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted...."

He admits that the prospect of a career as a clergyman was appealing and he came to believe fully in the literal truths of the Bible, claiming that it was divinely inspired and historically accurate in every word. He completed his degree at Christ's College in Cambridge; however, he was not ordained as a minister at the time. His life changed paths dramatically with his decision to sail on the HMS Beagle, venturing into a world of scientific exploration.

Darwin explains his voyage on the Beagle:
"...During these two years (March 1837 - January 1839) I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time (i.e. 1836 to 1839) to see the Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rain-bow as a sign, &c., &c., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian...."

Darwin boarded the ship in a religious mode; however, his relationship with the crew played a significant role in his departing from Christianity even though they themselves were orthodox Christians. The men did not completely turn his back on religion, as he admits he had been having doubts about the historical accuracy of the Old Testament for some time. It is likely he thoroughly investigated the information before making a final decision.

"....Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished."

This quote by Darwin asks an interesting question:
How can anyone wish for Christianity to be true when its truth would mean so many of our fellow men, including close friends and family would face eternal punishment?

This returns me to our first unit on religion and and idea that I presented in my entry entitled "This is My God: The Jewish Way of Life."

I personally like the Jewish outlook on salvation because I have a hard time accepting the idea that those who believe in Jesus Christ are the only ones who have a chance at salvation, maybe because so many people in my life have not confessed a belief in Christ. I don't want to imagine a heaven without those I love--like the person in the handout "My Struggle," I wonder "how a person in heaven would not be mourning or crying for all of the people they loved who were not in heaven with them." I have a difficult time believing that God would send genuinely good and caring people to heaven because they didn't choose to believe in Christ; however, this is what my religious group teaches--that is why Christians are so concerned with conversion--we are taught that it is the only way for everyone to get to heaven.

And although I believe the foundation of Christianity to be true, like Darwin, I struggle with the idea that if it is, so many of the people I care about with perish and suffer for eternity.

One last thought from Darwin regarding faith in God:
"At present the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomedans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favour of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddhists of no God...This argument would be a valid one, if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God; but we know this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists...."

Darwin does not completely dismiss the existence of God, he simply states that "inward convictions and feelings" cannot be used to prove truth, because each person has individual feelings that guide their lives we cannot use any feelings to provide worldwide truth. In this statement, Darwin implies that the scientific method must be used to determine fact, a realization in his life that led him away from a life of religion.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

The World of Public Intellectuals

"Intellectuals are not just people who know things but people who shape the thoughts of their generation. An intellectual is a synthesizer, a publicist, a communicator. In his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals, the cultural historian Russell Jacoby bemoaned the passing of a generation of public thinkers and their replacement by bloodless academicians. He was right, but also wrong. The third-culture thinkers are the new public intellectuals." -John Brockman

In his article, Brockman refers to a third culture, which he explains to be scientists communicating directly with the public rather than using a literary "middleman," which has the effect of scientists emerging more often as public intellectuals. Science is becoming a greater part of mainstream culture, and Brockman quotes Steward Brand, saying "science is the only news." Scientists are quickly emerging as public intellectuals as more everyday individuals are able to read their findings and explore the world of science without communicating with "literary intellectuals."

A public intellectual is the type of person that demands attention through speech and action. When this person speaks, people listen...people are attracted to what the intellectual says. They feel connected...people need to feel connected to others in order to listen, and public intellectuals possess an amazing ability and charisma to attract this attention. They reach beyond their specific culture, having a worldwide influence. They don't all come from the same place, or the same walk of life...they can be religious leaders, scientists, writers, politicians...they can be anyone...they are respected.

In class, we were given a list of the 100 top public intellectuals as selected by Foreign Policy Magazine.

They were chosen based on certain qualifications:
~"Someone who has shown distinction in their own field along with the ability to communicate ideas and influence debate outside of it"
~a living person
~still active in public life
~measured public influence, not achievements
~must not only affect own culture, but have widespread influence throughout the world

We were asked to choose three of the top 100 we would personally like to know more about, so I decided to choose three and do a little research. I must admit there were several on the list I hadn't heard of, in fact only about 5 or so that I had.

Pope Benedict XVI (I was raised in the Catholic Church, so the position of pope has always interested me, I know there are several controversies surrounding his appointment and his beliefs)

Joseph Alois Ratzinger

1927 Josef Ratzinger is born on April 16, Holy Saturday, and is baptized that day. His father is a rural policeman.
1939 Josef Ratzinger enrolls in the seminary in Traunstein.
1941 Josef Ratzinger joins the Hitler Youth, as is required of all German youth when they reach the age of 14.
1943 Josef Ratzinger and his seminary class are drafted into an anti-aircraft unit of the German army. He would be released the next year and then drafted into the Austrian Legion, an infamous group that brutalized others.
1945 In the Spring, Josef Ratzinger deserts the military and goes home to Traunstein.
1947 Josef Ratzinger enrolls in the Herzogliches Georgianum, a theological school in Munich.
1951 Josef Ratzinger is ordained into the priesthood on June 29.
1953 In July, Josef Ratzinger is awarded a doctorate in theology by the University of Munich.
1959 On August 23, Josef Ratzinger's father dies.
1962 - 1965 Josef Ratzinger participates in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council as chief theological advisor to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, Germany.
1963 On December 16, Josef Ratzinger's mother dies.
1966 Josef Ratzinger becomes chair of dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, a position supported by his friend professor Hans Küng.
1968 European campuses are swept up in a series of student uprisings driven in large part by Marxist ideologies. The wholesale rejection of traditional religion outrages Josef Ratzinger, turning him away from his earlier liberalism and causing him to embrace more orthodox Catholicism. The next year he would return to Bavaria to teach at the University of Regensburg. 1977 On March 24, Josef Ratzinger becomes Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He would be ordained May 28.
1977 On June 27, Josef Ratzinger is made Cardinal of Munich by Pope Paul VI.
1981 On November 25, Josef Ratzinger is named by Pope John Paul II as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
1993 Pope John Paul II names Josef Ratzinger a Cardinal Bishop of the episcopal see of Velletri-Segni.
1998 Josef Ratzinger is named vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.
2002 In November, Josef Ratzinger is elected dean of the College of Cardinals. This means that he is now also Cardinal Bishop of Ostia.
2005 On April 19, Josef Ratzinger is elected pope and adopts the name Pope Benedict XVI, evidently in honor of St. Benedict, founder of western monasticism, and Pope Benedict XV, leader of the Catholic church during World War I.
On April 24, Benedict XVI is formally inaugurated as pope.

One current conflict within the Catholic church is between those who believe the Catholic Church should continue to adhere to traditional doctrine and those who believe it is time for change, that the current practices of the church are outdated and do not match with contemporary society. Most individuals who report a high amound of support for Pope Benedict are those with more traditional views, as he is expected to change church policies very little over the next few years, and may even move the church back to previous doctrine or more strict beliefs.

Reports on some of Pope Benedict's Beliefs:
What does he believe about homosexuality?
Pope Approves Gay Priest Ban
Pope says gay unions are false
New Rules Affirm Pope Benedict's Stance Against Gays

"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."
From Ratzinger's Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986.

What does he believe about birth control? (Catholics have been traditionally against the use of contraceptives)

Planned Parenthood launches campaign against Pope Benedict XVI
Pope rejects condoms for Africa

The Pope warned that contraception was one of a host of trends contributing to a "breakdown in sexual morality", and church teachings should not be ignored.

On women in the church:
Last year, the former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger sent a 37-page letter to bishops regarding the position of men and women in the church and in the world. Leaked to the press (2), the document accused feminists of “blurring the biological difference between man and woman”. As Pope John Paul’s chief theological spokesman, Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter pointed to the book of Genesis to illustrate his views on the latest trends in gender studies. Genesis 3:16 reads “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (3).

A few of his other controversial views are also included in each of these articles.

Avram Noam Chomsky
~Born in Philadelphia, December 7, 1928
~Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics at MIT
~Credited with the theory of generative/universal grammar, often considered on of the greatest linguistic contributions of the 20th century
~Chomsky heirarchy, which classifies all formal languages in terms of their generative power
~Political activist and critic of United States and its foreign policy.
~Considers himself a libertarian socialist-one who opposes authority and social hierarchies, specifically including capitalism. As an anarcho-syndacalist, he believes in the abolition of the wage system and most forms of private property, which tend to classify people by social class.
~Leading opponent of the Vietnam World
~universal grammar-all children are born with a basic knowledge of the grammatical structure of all languages, meaning that all human languages are somehow interconnected. This idea emerged because Chomsky believed children gained language skills too quickly to have simply learned them from modeling adults.
~Chomsky claims that international terrorism is caused by the world's greatest superpowers, led by the United States

More info on Chomsky, including articles written by him:

"Government failures at home and the war in Iraq found a confluence in Katrina’s wake that graphically illustrates the need for fundamental social change, lest we suffer worse disasters in the future." Chomsky

Edward Osborne Wilson
~June 10, 1929
~entomologist (studies insects) and biologist, known specifically for work with ecology and evolution
~Worked specifically with ants
~believed that the conservation of a gene through natural selection/evolution was more important than the individual
~originator of sociobiology-which serves to explain the behavior of all animals based on socially accepted behaviors within a group, provides foundation for contemporary study of evolutionary psychology
~Stephen Jay Gould was a great opposer of Wilson's ideas about sociobiology
~Wrote two Pulitzer Prize winning books, On Human Nature and The Ants
~Time magazine named him one of America's most influential of the 20th century

"The true natural sciences lock together in theory and evidence to form the ineradicable technical base of modern civilization. The pseudosciences satisfy personal psychological needs... but lack the ideas or the means to contribute to the technical base." [Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, (First edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 54.]

"Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science for its part will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition." [Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, (First edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 6.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Humanism in Perspective and Lawrence Kohlberg

We recognize that conflicts and moral dilemmas do occur and that moral choices are often difficult and cannot be derived from simplistic yardsticks and rules of thumb. Moral choices often involve hard thinking, diligent gathering of information about the situation at hand, careful consideration of immediate and future consequences, and weighing of alternatives. -Fred Edwords

Heinz Steals the Drug
In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist
that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug-for his wife. Should the husband have done that? (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 19)

According to Edwords, conflicts cannot be simply resolved by a universal rule, because each situation is different and the context changes everything. An idea or value that works in one situation my not work in another. A perfect example of conflicts in moral thinking is found in the story developed by Lawrence Kohlberg to understand the moral development of children.

Heinz faces a difficult decision because he is forced to either break the law or let his wife die, both of which have very serious consequences. He has to make a decision about which is more important to him, regardless of what society around him thinks. He may normally choose to obey the law, but in this extreme example he chooses his wife over societal rules. In one way, he is doing the wrong thing, in another, he is doing the right. This illustrates the idea that choices "cannot be derived from simplistic yardsticks and rules of thumb."

Although Heinz engages in actions that many might say are morally wrong, he did not do it without careful consideration and exploration of his options. He tried to cut a deal with the pharmacist to pay a smaller price or pay at a later date, but the pharmacist refused to accept. He knew that breaking in and stealing the drug was his last option, or his wife would die. All alternatives were eliminated. "...hard thinking, diligent gathering of information about the situation at hand, careful consideration of immediate and future consequences and weighing alternatives."

In this situation, Heinz followed the humanistic method of moral decision-making as outlined by Edwords; however, this does not mean that Heinz would be purely humanistic because there is much more to the philosophy as described by Edwords. We do not know enough about Heinz to make this decision, but he exemplifies the fact that individuals can adhere to only portions of a philosophy. Each of us has our own beliefs that are taken from personal experiences and encounters. We may believe in one portion of a philosophical construction and not another. It is up to us to decide.

The assignment Dr. Klein had me read out loud in class:

from Nature
John Stuart Mill

It thus appears that we must recognize at least two principal meanings in the word nature. In one sense, it means all the powers existing in either the outer or the inner world and everything which takes place by means of those powers. In another sense it means, not everything which happens, but only what takes place without the agency, or without the voluntary and intentional agency, of man. This distinction is far from exhausting the ambiguities of the word; but it is the key to most of those on which important consequences depend. (Paragraph 4)

I believe the passage above effectively summarizes the main ideas presented in Mill’s essay; therefore, it could be considered the most important portion of his writing. Mill is focusing on the definition of nature, discussing how it originated and how it progressed to what many believe it is today. He claims the definition of nature has “acquired many meanings different from the primary one,” creating ideas about nature that the original meaning does not support and “will by no means justify.”
Mill speaks of two definitions of nature. The first is a belief that nature is in everything; natural powers exist in the inner and outer world and events that take place because of these natural powers are a part of nature, even when the event is initiated by a human. The second definition of nature does not include everything, but instead only those events that happen without “voluntary and intentional” actions of man. Mill also recognizes that these two definitions do not completely answer all questions related to nature; in fact, several other variations of the word exist that cannot be simply described in two definitions.
Mill finds fault in the second definition, claiming it is “palpably absurd and self-contradictory” because actions by man are typically intended to change and improve nature, so acting in any way would be meddling in the “satisfactory” state of nature. The only actions that would be appropriate would be those in response to instincts because they are a part of nature, but any other action is a violation of nature and possibly offensive to higher beings that are accepted as rulers of nature in several societies and religious groups.
I think this passage is important to Mill more than me because it is the thesis of his essay, and the central idea in his thoughts about nature; however, it provides readers with a clear, working summary of the article with which to build an understanding of Mill’s concept of nature.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Are we all born alike?

"For no single thing is so like another, so exactly its counterpart, as all of us are to one another. Nay, if bad habits and false beliefs did not twist the weaker minds and turn them in whatever direction they are inclined, no one would be so like his own self as all men would be like all others. And so, however we may define man, a single definition will apply to all. This is a sufficient proof that there is no difference in kind between man and man; for if there were, one definition could not be applicable to all men; and indeed reason, which alone raises us above the level of the beasts and enables us to draw inferences, to prove and disprove, to discuss and slove problems, and to come to conclusions, is certainly common to us all, and though varying in what it learns, at least in the capacity to learn it is invariable. For the same things are invariably perceived by the senses, stimulate them in the same way in all men, and those rudimentary beginnings of intelligence to which I have referred, which are imprinted on our minds, are imprinted on all minds alike..." -Cicero

Cicero demonstrates a belief that men are fundamentally the same, with our general identity and tendencies determined at birth, which connects us all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, etc. Certain aspects of all humans are the same, listed in the passage above, and all relate back to the ability to reason which separates us from all other creatures.

I think Cicero's idea about the nature of humanity relates to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a familiar concept of human understanding in social sciences. The hierarchy is pictured above, and it outlines needs of all humans and the order in which they must be met to achieve self-actualization, or the highest level of self-esteem.

All humans have the same basic needs. Food, water, shelter, love, security, etc.

More Info on Maslow's hierarchy:

Although all humans have the same basic needs, there is more to our individual composition than I believe Cicero addresses in this passage, affected by our individual genes (although human genetic composition is very similar). We inherit certain characteristics and tendencies from our parents, which cannot be ignored.

Cicero does briefly recognize the idea of socialization (processes by which individuals acquire knowledge, skills and dispositions that enable them to participate as more or less effective members of groups and society), but this is where most of the differences from one man to the next lie, or where race, ethnicity, gender, geography and other characteristics come into play. Our sociocultural experiences teach us how to act according to our specific society. Because most cultural groups have different customs and laws, people become different and have contrasting views of right and wrong. They are socialized on many levels according to Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems theory.

Microsystem-activities and relationships with significant others in a particular small setting such as family, school, peer group, etc.

Mesosystem-linkages and interrelationships between two or more of children's microsystems (family and school)

Exosystem-settings in which children are not active participants, but that affect them in one of their microsystem (parent's job, school board)

Macrosystem-society and subculture to which children belong, with particular reference to belief systems, lifestyles, social interaction and life changes (urban/rural, religion, ethnicity)

(This information came from my textbook for HDFS 106: Family School and Community Partnerships)

This socialization is what separates us from other men and keeps us from accepting each other and loving in the most universal sense of the word. Over time, we are socialized to believe that our way is the best, which serves to divide us and our efforts for human survival.

We are the same, yet we are so different.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Investigating Secularism: Is it a blind faith?

As a Christian who is only somewhat familiar with the secularist movement, I feel it is important to begin my examination of the topic at the very beginning, with the introduction of the term secularism into society. I will do my best to remain neutral in this investigation, as I am doing this for my own personal gain and understanding of the movement opposite of religion. ***By no means do I intend to claim that this is a complete history of the secularist movement, as it could not be expressed in such a short time.***

The term "secularism"came for George Jacob Holyoake in his 1846 publication English Secularism in which he defined it:
"Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: (1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good. "

He also noted that secularism should not be interested in the questions of religions, which separated it from athiesm and freethought.

Two other definitions of secularism:
"Secularism is the religion of humanity; it embraces the affairs of this world; it is interested in everything that touches the welfare of a sentient being; it advocates attention to the particular planet on which we happen to live; it means that each individual counts for something; it is a declaration of intellectual independence; it means the pew is superior to the pulpit, that those who bear the burdens shall have the profits and that they who fill the purse shall hold the strings. It is a protest against ecclesiastical tyranny, against being a serf, subject or slave of any phantom, or of the priest of any phantom. It is a protest against wasting this life for the sake of one we know not of. It proposes to let the gods take care of themselves. It means living for ourselves and each other; for the present instead of the past, for this world instead of another. It is striving to do away with violence and vice, with ignorance, poverty and disease." -Robert Green Ingersoll

"...a variety of utilitarian social ethic which seeks human improvement without reference to religion and exclusively by means of human reason, science and social organization. It has developed into a positive and widely adopted outlook which aims to direct all activities and institutions by a non-religious concern for the goods of the present life and for social well-being." -Virgilius Ferm, Encyclopedia of Religion

In Secularism's Blind Faith, Peter Marin describes the hopes of secularism to replace religiosity in American society, "religion would slowly wither away, giving way, as it did so, to reason, to a morality rooted not in a fear of God or the hope of heaven but in reflection, a sense of kinship, and a belief in the common good..."

He also says "as we know, none of this came to be, or is likely to come to be."

Although he is a secularist, he is not afraid to address the weaknesses he sees in the movement, demonstrating the importance of constantly questioning and examining your beliefs.

It's interesting to me that secularism has become something of a religion, even in the eyes of secularists like Marin, which is the one thing it probably wanted to avoid. I think this may indicate the need of humanity for the structure of religion...or no matter how hard we might try, we can't avoid the "trappings of faith" that characterize religion. There likely will never be an agreement regarding morality and the best route to it, because there are too many views and too many people thinking that their way is the only way. The efforts of secularism to unify moral views in humanity is a testament to this; furthermore, Marin points out that attempting to force views on someone only serves to make you self-righteous and superior. The truth is, secularism has done no better in helping humanity reach a moral high than religion because
"men are as ready to kill in God's absence as they are in his hame: that reason, like faith, can lead to murder, that the fanaticism long associated with religion was not born there, but has its roots deeper down in human nature."

This shows that there is not one uniform solution to reaching a level of ethical behavior in humanity, but it instead must be something found in an individual way, whether it be with or without God.

Articles presenting ideas similar to Marin:
One titled "On Faith" by Os Guinness can be found on the BGSU libraries page. It was originally published in Wilson Quarterly.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I must say these quizzes and this unit have brought me to think more about the idea of spirituality, and to examine the difference between spirituality and religion...I have considered this idea before and I do in fact believe that there is a difference. They are interrelated, but one can be spiritual and not religious or religious and not spiritual or both at the same time.

The idea of being religious comes from adhering to specific doctrine and traditions of an organized religion, whether it be a form of Christianity (Catholicism, Baptist, Methodist, etc.), Buddhism, Islam, or some other group. The achievement of religiousness often comes in front of a group (the church congregation) in the form of completing certain steps to being a mature, adult member of the faith.

In my opinion, spirituality is a personal relationship with something around you (possibly a god, nature, etc.) that leads to personal discovery and betterment. My personal spirituality comes from my prayer life, journal writings and thoughts about myself and the world around to improve my life and the lives of others. It is realizing there is more to the world than myself, it is a recognition of the beauty and benefit of my surroundings.

Spirituality without religion
I consider myself to be spiritual, but not religious because I do not adhere to the doctrine of a specific Christian denomination, but find myself connected to a higher being (God) through prayer, reading the Bible and thoughtful meditation. I do not attend church every Sunday, yet I still consider myself to be a Christian who is saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. I call myself a "non-denominational Christian."

Interesting articles: