I am sure you have probably heard by now of Ryan Bell, the Seventh Day Adventist Pastor and teacher who recently embarked on an intellectual experiment to “try Atheism” for a year. This sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. Try something new, see what it’s all about. Unfortunately Bell was promptly fired from two positions, one at Fuller Theological Seminary as a Doctoral adviser and as a consultant for the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Glendale, CA. How’s that for a kick in the Rear?! Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Some suggest it s a popularity stunt to gain more Christian followers (as one comment on the Thinking Atheist suggests). Others are saying he is seeing real Christianity. It is also noteworthy that the Thinking Atheist, Hemant Mehta, encouraged atheists to donate money to a fund to support the now unemployed spiritual experimentalist. I applaud Bell for his bold action, and lament that it is considered a bold action. Everyone should confront their spiritual beliefs head-on as Ryan Bell is doing. Far too many people are willing to be spiritual sheep, following in their parents and grandparents footsteps without considering why they are following that path. I would guess most folks do this because its easy and the alternative is frightening. If you are a Christian reading this, think about it. Life without God… What does that even mean? Or more importantly what is a Life with God, exactly? What do you gain by believing in a God or Gods that a non-believer does not? Most Christians will answer, “Spiritual fulfillment.” Can’t there be more than one way to fill your spirit? I think there is. In fact, I would bet there are more than 100 ways to achieve spiritual fulfillment. Atheists are likely equally quick to criticize, “How can someone honestly believe in a supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent, being that cares for us, though leaves no incontrovertible, unambiguous evidence of its existence?” The answer is the same as it is to the Christian’s question, “There is more than one way to spiritual fulfillment.” Instead of looking at the differences between atheism and Theism, we should be highlighting the common ground. All people (at least all decent people) want to see the hungry fed, the poor clothed, and justice for all regardless of what they believe or do not believe. So, I urge you to reach out and attempt to understand why others believe differently and help them understand why you believe differently. There is a good chance both of you will learn something about yourself.
Category Archives: Atheism
On March 31st I will be chairing a symposium on Science and Religion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science-Southwest and Rocky Mountains Region annual meeting in Tulsa, OK. Attached is the latest version. It is down to 12 minute. I have posted it here to get CONSTRUCTIVE critisisms. Please don’t comment on the lack of polish or the “ums.” It was the first time I went over it. I know it’s rusty. Please let me know what you think of the content.
You must have a PowerPoint viewer to hear the talk. Let me know what you think. As I polish, I will post upgrades.
I have been working on a post about bacon and Christmas, but that is going to have to wait. I have my undies in a bunch and need to vent a bit. The bacon Christmas connection will have to come later this weekend…
Friday I got one of my regular emails from the American Humanist Association. There was a brief story about their recent ad campaign to raise awareness about bigotry toward atheists. The holiday season seems to heighten everyone’s sensitivities about this sort of stuff (which is interesting in and of itself). Along with the story was a picture of the ad. I found the ad to be thought provoking, so I thought it would be enlightening for our students to post a few copies around campus.
On our campus, all bulletin board posts need approval. So, I went to get approval at the student affairs office, and was promptly denied!
Say what! I asked why and the guy in charge said it had nothing to do with a student organization. Alright, well, according to our University’s new Strategic Plan, one of our core values is Diversity. Under the value of diversity it reads, “Promote the expression of differing opinions and beliefs.” PROMOTE! Either he didn’t get the memo or the Strategic plan is lip service. It really does look good on paper.
Okay, maybe for some strange reason the post was considered religious. I’m not sure how a non-belief can be religious, but each to their own. So I tried a different tactic. In the faculty handbook he states something to the effect that in our teaching we should encourage critical thinking in our students. What could encourage critical thinking more than a poster that says atheists are discriminated against in a community that is predominately Christian. I would hope a student would read that and think, “Hmm, bias against atheists? What reason would someone have for being atheist? Wait, what reason do I have for being Christian? What is the source of my beliefs? How do they differ from an atheists beliefs. I should go to the website on the bottom of the add and find out more.” I made the argument to the one in charge that my teaching extends beyond the classroom.
He retracted his initial No dice stance, and said that he would take my comments under consideration. If I don’t hear back from him by Monday I should give him a call. This is a clever ploy, as next week finals start on Tuesday so traffic on campus will be much reduced and the impact of the ad will be much reduced.
I am going to check out the American Humanist website a bit further to see if I can find a flier that is not so seasonal that i might have up and read to go the first day of the Spring semester.
Perhaps I should close with a few questions reads might comment on:
Why would a university administrator’s knee-jerk reaction be to deny a post that raises awareness for a diversity issue?
More importantly, why is it okay to post advertisements for fellowship dinners at the Baptist Student Union or the Wesley House and not okay to post a sign that suggests there are people in the community that have different beliefs than the majority? (Note to point: I saw a sign near the student affairs office advertising a Christian Addiction support group.)