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In the first half of philosopher A.C. Grayling’s latest book “The God Argument,” he debunks the teleological, ontological and cosmological arguments employed throughout Christendom for the literal existence of God.
Those looking for a succinct analysis of these centuries old debates will appreciate Grayling’s insights, though as journalist Nathan Schneider aptly observes in “God in Proof,” proofs about God can be a very preachy genre. While Grayling is interested primarily in whether the proofs are correct or not, Schneider explores them as cultural artifacts, with value regardless of how one evaluates their truth value. Hence, one can glean insights in perusing both works in order to gain a deeper understanding of this never ending debate.
While both Grayling and Schneider trace how gods have served as a means of controlling society since the dawn of civilization, this 21st-century mantra for the U.S. of A. to become a Christian nation has been uttered in various incantations starting with the 17th-century debates between Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop and Roger Williams, founder of the state of Rhode Island. At the root of their disagreement was Winthrop’s anointing of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a beacon of light and a Christian “City on the Hill” blessed by God while Williams argued for liberty of conscience, the right of all to practice their beliefs free from interference from the crown.
Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State notes:
During an interview with comic Paul Provenza, co-founder of Set List and director of The Aristocrats, he offered this succinct analysis of the atheist v Christian faith fights.
Grayling concurs with Williams and Provenza in their collective call for greater secularism by asking religion to keep itself in the private sphere, and not to obtrude into matters of general concern. Lest those feel Grayling proposes humanity operate in a moral vacuum, he then moves into an exploration of humanism, which he sees as a rational approach to addressing Socrates’ great question, “What kind of person should I be and how am I to live?”
In his book “Faitheist” Chris Stedman, Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, expounds on the need in our pluralistic global culture to bring atheists into the conversation.
A petition circulating in response to the exclusion of non-theists from an interfaith service held in Boston and attended by President Obama points to a growing desire to include all in gatherings designed to bring communities together following a tragedy. The more I connect with spiritual atheists and agnostics, as well as the occasional religious community or individual, I realize that while we all think for ourselves, we often speak a similar language at our core that connects us together in our shared humanity. To quote comedian, actor, marathon runner and aspiring mayor of London, Eddie Izzard, “I believe the melting pot is the thing that can save the world.”
Becky Garrison is a religion writer and author, most recently, of
“Roger Williams’ Little Book of Virtues?“