Religion and Science: Lodge, “Faith and Science Can Find Common Ground”

1.      Is there a “religious anti-science movement?”

2.      Why might atheism be over-represented among scientists?

3.      Is the world view of a scientist more conducive to an atheist world view that to a theist one?

4.      Is belief in God compatible with being a scientist? Why might someone think not? Must one “choose between science and faith?”

5.      Can a biologist who believes in evolution be a Christian? Why or why not?

6.      Do you agree with the author that “nothing in the official teaching of Catholicism opposes evolution. Creationism is a recent Protestant invention, based on extreme, literal interpretations of the first three chapters of the Bible’s book of Genesis.”

7.      Explain--and then evaluate from your own perspective--the following anti-environmental religious arguments:

         a.      “Humans, because they are made in God’s image, have a divine right to exploit the natural world.”

         b.      “Human-caused climate change is neither a threat nor real because God created natural resources for humans and it is arrogant to think that we humans can affect God’s plan for Earth.”

         c.      “Environmental protection harms human welfare today and because the world is temporary, long-term protection is unnecessary.”

8.      What are some religious arguments for protecting the environment? Consider this one and what it might require of us: “The importance of loving and tending the gift of creation.”

Religion and Violence: Sacks interview, “'Not In God's Name' Confronts Religious Violence With A 'Different Voice'”

1.      Explain what Sacks means when he says “Dividing the world into saints and sinners, the saved and the damned, the children of God and the children of the devil, is the first step down the road to violence in the name of God.” Why might one think that many religious, including Christianity, do this?

2.      In your opinion, which is the greater cause of violence: Secular ideologies (nationalism, communism, Nazism, etc) or religion?

3.      Are any religions more violent than other religions? Why do some object to the phrase “Islamic terrorist?” Why do some insist it is important to use the phrase? Can you identify recent acts of violence inspired by Christianity? Are there “Christian terrorists?”

4.      Is religion growing or fading in its influence in the world? What does Sacks think?

5.      Can one “acknowledge the validity of another faith within the framework of one’s own faith?” Why might one think this is not possible? Does God want us to be tolerant of those with a different or no) faith?

6.      Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth and, God has spoken to mankind in many languages through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims.” Why or why not?

7.      Is this a fair criticism of the more radical atheism? “So much of the criticism of religion has come from fundamentalist atheists who are every bit as angry as some of their religious extremist counterparts. I'm not saying they commit acts of violence, but they do regard everyone who disagrees with them as less than fully sane.” What is a “fundamentalist atheist?”

Religion and Politics: “Conservative Christians Are Still Fighting Gay Marriage, But It's An Uphill Battle Against The Courts”

1.      Is requiring a public employee to do those aspects of the job that goes against her or his religious-based conviction a violation of our commitment to freedom of religion?

2.      Is allowing a public employee to not issue gay marriage licences (when the law has deemed them legal) a form of religious based unjustified discrimination and intolerance?

3.      Do the above two questions have different answers (in your opinion) when the job is not a government job, but a job performed by a private employee serving the public (such as a wedding vendor, photographer, baker, or florist refusing to serve gay couples?)

4.      Should a baker be forced to bake a gay wedding cake, Halloween cookies (or erotic pastries) even if this goes against his or her religious beliefs?

5.      Should a baker be allowed to refuse to bake a cake with “God hates Gays” written on it?

6.      Are gay rights a threat to religious liberty?

Religious Pluralism/Exclusivism: “Christian Split: Can Nonbelievers Be Saved?”

1.      If you are a Christian, must you believe that Jesus is the sole way to salvation? Or can you be a Christian and believe that Jews, Muslims and members of other religions can also get into heaven?

2.      From a Christian perspective, can non-believers (atheists or agnostics) be saved?

3.      Do nonbelievers face “hellfire?”

4.      Should members of one religion try to convert those of a different religion (or atheists)? Is not this the right thing to do if one cares about other people and one believes one’s religion is the only way to salvation?

5.      Evaluate from your own perspective: ''We do not know the limits of God's grace, and not knowing that, how can we possibly say we know these people are going to heaven, and these are not?”

6.      What do you think of this analogy aimed at explaining religious pluralism? “Consider the image of a cathedral with stained-glass windows. Inside stand groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Each group reads the story of its faith in a particular window. All the windows, he wrote, are illuminated by the light of God.”

7.      Would the Christian God leave people out of the kingdom of heaven if those people had never heard of Jesus and thus had no chance to believe?

Atheism: “Woodstock for Atheists”

1.      Are atheists discriminated against?

2.      Are many atheists in the closet? Should they come out? Does it require courage? Does one risk losing friends, family or jobs because of nonbelief?

3.      Would you want an atheist as your friend? Would you let your children play with atheists?

4.      Are atheists immoral people? Are they more likely to be immoral? Are they more likely to steal than a rapist?

5.      Are atheists electable?

6.      Explain the tension in the atheism community between the “firebrands” and the “diplomats.” Consider: “We certainly want to let people know we're your friends, we're your neighbors, we're good people," she says. "But I think it's also to our benefit to let people know that we're to be reckoned with, that we're not going to let ourselves be doormats, and that we're mobilized, we're organized, and when people get us angry, we're going to take action."

7.      Is atheism in America on the rise? Will secularism eventually be the norm?

8.      Is atheism an attack on religion? Is religion an attack on atheism?