Faith and Reason: Part 3
This week I visited the North Texas Church of Freethought, which is the organization which supplied atheists for interview to the "Faith and Reason" class I attended two weeks ago, as well as last week. Since both groups meet at the same time, I had to miss out on this week's "Faith and Reason," which Kevin Harris informed me would focus on "The Beast" of Revelation, given the proximity to June 6th.
I was welcomed as equally by the Freethinkers as I was by the Christians. Especially once I explained that I had heard about their church from attending the interview at the Baptist church, they were very interested to hear what I thought of the experience. The proceedings were conducted less like a church service, and more like a seminar. The theme was: "Forebears of Freethought," and presentations were given on Helen Gurley Brown and George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). Another member gave a talk on the Left Behind Video Game, and its connection to Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven" Ministry's stealth-dominionist agenda.
I picked up a brochure called, "Freethought 101," which was written by the pastoral director of the church, Dr. Tim Gorski. It establishes the church's definition of freethought, and talks about rationalism, parsimony, materialism, atheism/agnosticism, and morality. To justify its existence as a church, there's an argument made for freethought being a counterpart to religion:
Now reason demands that in thinking about facts we should distinguish between different kinds of facts. There is a world of objective facts and there are worlds of subjective facts. The sound of a voice that we all hear, for example, means something different than the sound of a voice that only one person hears, though theologians and psychiatrists disagree on what the latter means.
Secondly, Freethought is distinguished by its concern with "questions of religion." That is, it concerns those aspects of the human condition that have to do with meaning, morality and purpose and the personal and conscientious intellectual/emotional motivations - "spiritual" motivations in this sense -for such ideas as divinity, eternity, origins and ends, worth, duty, rewards and punishments in this world or some other, and so on. This is why we take the position- and the Church of Freethought is really predicated on the claim- that “Freethought is religion.”
Now there is a lot to think about in this schematic, and I invite you to draw it out and consider it at your leisure. But notice that nowhere is there an axis of reason-unreason. In fact, it is possible to apply reason in all these areas. It's just that below the x-axis there is a lot more potential for disagreement. And when you get over into the religion quadrant it's not even always possible to tell whether someone is being reasonable or not. This is because the relevant facts may be confined inside that single person's individual subjective experience. In fact, even they may later change their mind as to how reasonable they had been.I'm not sure how I feel about this diagram- by being paired with religion, freethought is placed in the subjective/spiritual section of the diagram. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of placing disciplines on a continuum that incorporates an unintelligible concept like "spirituality." In addition, the freedom of freethought shouldn't be confined to subjective reality- in my opinion, freethought should encompass the three-quarters of the diagram that are not congruent with religion, not the other way around.
Freethinkers make an effort to respect the natural boundaries of subjective and objective human experience and secular and "spiritual" - in a non-supernatural sense - kinds of problems and concerns.I think this is an admirable effort, but I'm still not sure what a "non-supernatural" "spiritual" thing would be. Perhaps the church should try to clarify their interpretation of this concept, but regardless, they're a fine group of individuals, and they're clearly appreciative of the fellowship and opportunity to exchange ideas, which is commendable. I'll probably be checking them out again.