A Secular-Confessional Society


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

In my view, secular spaces for society and community to develop, where we can confess our personal beliefs and understand each other, are of central importance in out moment. For this to be possible:

  1. We need to work against any notion or reality that installs atheism as a priveledged friend of secularism. Notice that many equivocate secular with atheist. That is an error that denies that secular spaces can be fair, but fairness is the guiding principle of secular here.

  2. We need to dignify and protect honest disclosure of personal belief in the secular square, even and especially when we strongly disagree. Explaining and defending our own views is encouraged.

This dual secular-confessional square model is what Peaceful Science is built around. More and more I see Christians, Agnostics, and atheists engaging each other with kindness, respect, and honesty. Continue this way, and I expect we will continue to grow, not just in numbers but also in influence. This serves the common good, even when we define the common good in different ways.

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(Dan Eastwood) #2

Just to make my position clear …

As moderator for an atheism community, I have encountered a lot of people who are essentially refugees from religion. IMO, coming to atheism (or agnosticism) should be a deeply personal choice, one made with careful considerations of personal reasoning and motivation. It should not be a forced decision brought on by being shunned from family and community.


Unfortunately, there are a lot of wonderful christians and potentially wonderful scientists who are driven away from a rewarding career because of the beliefs they have been taught. Atheist and theist scientists alike do not like to see artificial barriers being put in the way of future scientists.

I really have to wonder how YEC’s view the scientific community. I think they would be quite surprised by the amount of camaraderie that actually exists between believers and non-believers within the scientific community.

(Dan Eastwood) #4

I made an attempt to join a YEC group on Facebook and engage in sincere discussions. Among the first things said were usually “we’re not stupid”, “we love science”, and shortly followed by “true science begins with the Bible”.

By being very patient and very polite, I was able to have some good discussions, but I eventually ran afoul of a troll for whom no amount of patience would suffice. Even then, I suspect the comment that actually got me booted-out was for giving the medical definition of “intersex”. :wink:

(Neil Rickert) #5

I suspect the YEC view is that the camaraderie is between heretics and non-believers.

(Retired Minister) #6

And when they discovered that I used to get along just fine with atheist faculty colleagues and non-believer forum participants, I was regularly called “not a True Christian™” and “an enemy of the Gospel” and even “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” So many Christians I know (including a great many pastors) are obsessed with always labelling sides and promoting culture wars.

I’ve also gotten private messages on various forums demanding that I “start acting like a Christian” and “you should always present the Gospel in your posts.” It sounds like they have no idea what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about.


My best friend from middle school (age 15 to 18 in my country) is Muslim, hell, I mostly hung out with Muslims in middle school, we would go to the restroom every recess for a smoke, what would they say about me?

(Retired Minister) #8

It would say that you are an ecumenical smoker??

(Was it Spurgeon who was so baffled as to why American clergy were so obsessed with the evils of smoking? Apparently he was quite defiant about his smoking.)


Isn’t ecumenism dialogue among Christian denominations though?

(Retired Minister) #10

Traditionally, yes. Nevertheless, English lexicographers have noted a very strong movement in the language towards the word including almost any kind of inter-religious dialogue. The typical examples cited are sentences like “After 9/11, an ecumenical service was organized to bring Jews, Christians, and Muslim together for a time of silent prayer.”

I’ve also seen “ecumenical” used to refer to a Sunni & Shiite Muslim dialogue. Occasionally one even sees it applied to any gathering of a diverse spectrum of views, such as people with very different views on the environment. Of course, it can be difficult to define a boundary where denotation ends and connotation and casual/turn-of-phrase use begins. (For example, a turn-of-phrase tongue-in-cheek use would apply if I attached the word “ecumenical” to a meeting of vegetarians and meat-eaters. It would be considered a kind of light-hearted reference.)

Of course, my linguistic inclinations make me prone to think about such things. (And by the way, a skilled Biblical linguist must be very aware of these language options when confronted by overly dogmatic lexicographers of ancient languages. Even experienced Bible translators sometimes miss important ancient idioms and witticisms.)

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

This is not ecumenicalism. It does not require endorsing or accommodating beliefs with which we disagree. Nor is this a doctrinal statement about the relationship between ideas. However, it does require seeking the common good of a common society.


Of course not. In retrospective, maybe ‘dialogue’ isn’t the best term.