February 17, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Faith and values: Belief in me and the here and now

The other day, I read an article in The Indianapolis Star titled, “In no god they trust.” Huh? I always thought that trust implied belief in someone or something. You can’t trust what or who is not there.

Not only that, this piece was included in the “Faith & Values” section of the newspaper. I guess it was more about values than faith.

At any rate, Reba Boyd Wooden, the spokeswoman for what she called the “secular humanist” view, conducts a chapter of the Center for Inquiry Transnational. This is an organization that “traces its roots to a group of skeptics who began investigating claims of the paranormal in the 1970s.” Apparently, the idea of God fit into their definition of paranormal.

Wooden’s group is composed of about 50 members, including atheists and agnostics as well as secular humanists. They conduct meetings and social events something like Church functions, and eventually she hopes to establish “a family group that would be like a secular Sunday school.” What kind of school would that be?

Instead of studying or relying on the Bible for inspiration (if that term is even applicable here), the group studies books like Freethought Across the Centuries: Toward a New Age of Enlightenment by Gerald A. Larue. They emphasize science and reason.

Indeed, the implication throughout the article was that people who do not accept the idea of God think that religion and science/reason are mutually exclusive. Wooden plans to host a “Darwin Day Conference” to “showcase the scientific evidence for evolution” in March.

Well, they don’t have to convince me. As I’ve written many times before, I don’t think there’s any . . . er—reason why religion and science should conflict at all. Popes and scientists and many others, who are a lot more learned than I am, have believed the same.

Science is the material evidence about our origins and purpose that humans can obtain through their own reason and intelligence. Religion is the transcendent evidence about our origins and purpose that humans obtain through faith in powers beyond their own possibilities.

But members of her group are not just mistaken eccentrics, Wooden said. “They treasure science and reason, value common decency toward others and believe people must solve their own problems.” They value “honesty, personal integrity and tolerance.” Makes me wonder why it’s necessary to reject God when they believe in the same values that we do.

Still, Wooden said, they’re hard to mold into a community. “They are all independent. They want to go in different directions. A lot of them are really kind of loners and are happy being loners.” How sad. Even the loners in a religious community know that God is always with them.

Wooden left the Methodist Church and God when she discovered that Scripture scholars argue about the origins and authenticity of the Bible. She thought this kind of disagreement among humans automatically denied the idea of a God who must’ve inspired them.

So she and her group rely solely on human ability, with action substituting for prayer. They quote philosophers rather than Scripture, and think it’s all over when we die. Now, that’s really sad. Let’s pray for them.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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