How to go from deism to your particular religion in eight easy steps

As I wrote in an earlier post on deism, theism and atheism, genuine deists are rarely to be found these days. Deism requires people to not affiliate themselves with any particular manifestation of religion. While sophisticated religious apologists these days will often use deistic arguments because they are the most intellectually defensible, these people are also usually affiliated with this or that particular religion and thus have to somehow make the transition from deism to theism.
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The coming of age of the atheist movement

(This is the text of the talk that I gave to the Sunday Assembly yesterday. These Assemblies are monthly gatherings of generally secular people who meet for fellowship and to engage in activities to further social good.)

When Mark passed on the invitation to me to be the speaker at this second anniversary of the Sunday Assembly, I was honored, just as I was to be asked to speak at the inaugural event. But I was also surprised that two years had passed by so fast! The Sunday Assembly has reached the toddler stage in just the blink of an eye and has reached the stage of throwing things around.

That sense of the growth and evolution of the Sunday Assembly is what made me think about what I would talk about and why I chose ‘the coming of age of the atheist movement’ as my theme for today’s (dare I say it?) sermon. As a former ordained lay minister in the Methodist church I am used to giving long sermons but don’t worry, I will not subject you to the half-hour or more diatribes that are common in that church.
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Curious views on astrology

Usually what we see in the news are stories about how local communities are riddled with superstitions and oppose efforts to combat popular form of it. Hence I was intrigued by this story about the opposition to a woman who wanted to teach a course on astrology in the town of Canyonville, Oregon. It turns out that there is a local ordinance dating back to 1982 that “prohibits fortunetelling, astrology, phrenology, palmistry, clairvoyance, mesmerism and spiritualism”.
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Thin versus thick theism

When writing about religion, I encounter a problem in describing the various forms of it. One form consists of that favored by theologians and sophisticated religious apologists who move in academic circles where they encounter deep critiques of religion. They usually speak in abstract terms about god, as a first cause, a prime mover, and so on. They do not anthropomorphize god by ascribing human passions and qualities to their deity. The second type of description is by those who see god as much like a human except that their deity also possesses superhuman attributes and is perfect in every way. Their deity intervenes in the world in response to prayers and can override the laws of nature in order to do so.
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Mother Theresa becomes a saint. So what?

Pope Francis has just taken the final step making Mother Theresa a saint. Her record is at best mixed. On the positive side she did take in the sick and dying from the streets of Calcutta and provided them with some minimal care. On the negative side, in order to raise money for her work, she hobnobbed with some of the worst people in the world like the Duvaliers in Haiti and praised them, thus providing them with cover for their misdeeds. She also was an implacable foe of contraception and abortion and seemed to have this bizarre love for suffering for its own sake, seeing it as somehow ennobling and bringing you closer to god. As one critic said, she was not a friend of the poor so much as a friend of poverty.
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Resurgence of polio

We have come really close to eradicating the deadly disease of polio and so any setbacks have to be viewed with concern. NPR’s Jason Beaubien, who has been doing some excellent reporting on health issues in Africa, says that the recent discovery of two new cases in the northeast of Nigeria (near the border with Chad) has health experts worried because that country had gone for two years without any cases and was on track to be next country to be declared polio-free.
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When bad things happen to bad people

Readers may have heard that Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, was one of those people whose homes were flooded by the torrential rains that fell on Louisiana and flooded parts of Baton Rouge and other areas. The FRC is one of those evangelical organizations that have an anti-LGBT mission, though like many Christian groups, they claim to “love the sinner and hate the sin”.
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