Morning News Roundup

The Sacramento Bee has a positive story on a gathering of atheists:

Billed as a “celebration of reason and church/state separation,” the event brought together atheists, secularists and humanists, who explained their faith in man and nature and their disdain for the unseen and unprovable.

“Humans have the ability to lead ethical lives for the greater good of humanity without the supernatural,” said Mel Lipman, president of the American Humanist Association.

Those who don’t believe in God, he said, “are no less capable of doing good in the world.”

Not everyone at the event, which attracted some Old Sac tourists passing by, agreed with such views.

David Kukhar, who said he was a Christian, engaged in a good-natured argument with Maughn over the existence of God.

I think they’re going to be absolutely disappointed when they meet the real God some day,” he said.

Barack Obama still has my vote. The following isn’t him being overly religious. It’s just him pandering. I can live with that. He’s just acquiring future votes. He still supports church-state separation:

[Obama] finished his brief remarks by saying, “We’re going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth.”

(Thanks to Sebastian for the link!)

Thomas Jefferson didn’t just father an illegitimate child. He was a “reputed atheist,” not a Deist, according to a review of a book about the 1800 presidential election, in The New Yorker:

Jefferson: former governor of Virginia, onetime Ambassador to France, Washington’s Secretary of State. Eminent, brilliant (president of the American Philosophical Society), surpassing prose stylist, author of the Declaration of Independence (with help from Adams), unrivalled champion of liberty, slave owner, grieving widower, rumored to have fathered children by one of his slaves. Tall, humorless, moody, zealous, cosmopolitan. Artistic. Loves France, not so worried about Bonaparte. Ardently opposes the Sedition Act. Reputed atheist.

The same week, Philadelphia’s Federalist paper, the Gazette of the United States, offered a still more emphatic judgment:

THE GRAND QUESTION STATED

At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is: “Shall I continue in allegiance to

GOD—AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT;

Or impiously declare for

JEFFERSON—AND NO GOD!!!”

“It will not do to be overscrupulous,” [Alexander] Hamilton claimed, if the result would be “to prevent an atheist in Religion, and a fanatic in politics from getting possession of the helm of State.”

It took the House seven days and thirty-six ballots to break the tie, largely because Federalists had come to believe that, as much as they hated Burr, they hated Jefferson more. A few had pledged that they would rather “go without a Constitution and take the risk of civil war” than cast a vote for an atheist. Only when it became clear that a victory for Burr could not be insured did Federalists find a way to break the tie. On February 17, 1801, just two weeks before Inauguration, Thomas Jefferson was at last elected President.

(Thanks to Brad for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://www.bbayne.com Bijan C. Bayne

    You should interview, or allow posters to ask questions of A.J. Jacobs. The author of “The Know-it-All” spent a year living the Bible- from stoning adulterers in Central Park to avoiding seats previously occupied by menstruating women:

    http://www.ajjacobs.com/content/home.asp

  • Mriana

    Well, I can handle someone saying they believe we can build a Kingdom here on earth. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is McCain and what he’s been saying. Hillary has had her moments too, but she doesn’t bother me as much as McCain and a few others do when they go off on the deep end.

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  • Autumn Harvest

    These quotes are pretty weak for showing that Jefferson was an atheist. They’re all from his political enemies, using “atheist” as an epithet. I could provide similar quotes to “show” that Hillary Clinton is a communist.

    Also, I’ve found that people at that time used the word “atheist” to describe agnostics, non-Christians, or Christians of “bad” denominations.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I don’t think Obama is pandering. I think he really believes what he says and really is motivated by his beliefs and values (as are most of us). However, I wish he’d be a little more cautious and precise with his language. In the context I think he uses the word “Kingdom”, he is talking about a society of justice and peace and inclusion for all peoples (at least, that’s the gospels’ vision of the “Kingdom of God” that I’m pretty sure Obama’s church teaches and that he is referring to). But the problem is that without clarification it can sound too much like the theocracy that some extreme Religious Right folks desire. So if he’s going to use that language, I at least hope he knows his audience and knows in which sense they will take it.

    Though personally I’d disagree with him that such a kingdom of justice and peace can ever be ultimately reached via political means. We’ve been chasing that particular utopian dream for some time now and yet not much seems to have improved. I do agree that the “kingdom” is for here on earth (not just some pie in the sky when we die) but I don’t think our “imperial” structures are ever going to succeed in bringing it about.

  • Darryl

    I do agree that the “kingdom” is for here on earth (not just some pie in the sky when we die) but I don’t think our “imperial” structures are ever going to succeed in bringing it about.

    I interpret Jesus’s statement “The Kingdom of God is within you” in a universalist way: everyone can reach within themselves and pull out something good and true and live that in the world. That’s about as close to the Kingdom of God as we’re going to get.

  • Mriana

    Though personally I’d disagree with him that such a kingdom of justice and peace can ever be ultimately reached via political means.

    Mike, dear, my personal beliefs aside, to save argument about an afterlife, I think we could at least try, politically and non-theistically (secularly) to make earth heaven. Yes, it is idealism I’m talking, but if we don’t strive to do that then we will continue to be at war with each other. This is why I can tolerate Spong’s ideology and others who talk in this manner, because they too have a dream similar to mine. I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to “love wastefully”, strive to be all we can be, and to strive for peace and justice. Regardless of the words one uses, it is a common goal that we can all attempt to strive for even if it is idealistic. If we don’t try then things won’t get better.

    I interpret Jesus’s statement “The Kingdom of God is within you” in a universalist way: everyone can reach within themselves and pull out something good and true and live that in the world. That’s about as close to the Kingdom of God as we’re going to get.

    I’m working on a paper working with the word ‘numinous’ currently which includes the Gospel of Thomas verse 3 and 77. I think this concept has been around for centuries and can be used in a non-metaphysical manner, though Strong atheists would disagree with me as well as Fundamentalists. It is a concept that can even apply here too in the case of Obama’s words too and does not need a concept of an afterlife- Sea of Faith and some Unitarians might understand what I’m saying though.

    As idealistic as it sounds, Mike, it is still a common goal and dream for many humans to make the concept of heaven tangible. If we could all think of heaven as a human concept, then our ideas change concerning how to achieve this changes. Whether our idea is a supernatural concept or a natural concept I think it is a worthwhile goal to strive for it here on earth.

    What if I and others are right that this is it, that this is the only chance we get, wouldn’t it be a good idea to at least make our common goal to have heaven on earth and to strive for it? Of course if we are wrong, then those who believe in a supernatural heaven too could end up with both. Either way, it doesn’t matter because it is a good goal to strive for on earth too.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mike, dear, my personal beliefs aside, to save argument about an afterlife, I think we could at least try, politically and non-theistically (secularly) to make earth heaven. Yes, it is idealism I’m talking, but if we don’t strive to do that then we will continue to be at war with each other. This is why I can tolerate Spong’s ideology and others who talk in this manner, because they too have a dream similar to mine. I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to “love wastefully”, strive to be all we can be, and to strive for peace and justice. Regardless of the words one uses, it is a common goal that we can all attempt to strive for even if it is idealistic. If we don’t try then things won’t get better.

    Oh I agree. I think we do need to work for the “kingdom” here on earth. I just don’t think it will happen by means of our current systems of power, violence, and domination. The current tools of governments are antithetical to what I think the “kingdom” is all about. You can’t bring peace through violence (e.g. Iraq), reconciliation through exclusion (e.g. immigration), prosperity through exploitation (e.g. trade policies), or virtue through legislation and threat of punishment (e.g. “Family Values”). This is why in the kingdom Jesus described the greatest are really the least (and vice versa) and those who would lead have to learn to give their power away for the good of all. Personally I’m not holding out hope that our current power structures will be doing this kind of thing any time soon.

  • Mriana

    I agree and I think I mentioned that if we don’t strive for heaven on earth, then we will continue to have war. The problem is, we need to have a president with a more humanistic view and goal- this does not mean they can’t have a god concept, it just means having a humanistic view and goal. In many respects, I think Obama is that man or at least from what he says. From what he says, he does have a humanistic worldview and that in itself is a start in the direction of peace and justice.

    Of course, the president would need all the help he can get, which means we have to other like-minded people in congress too. That’s the hard part.

  • Darryl

    Mike and Mriana, I agree with your last statements. Good thoughts.

  • Mriana

    How often is it that a theist and a non-theist agree? This could be earth shaking. :lol:

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