Is God a Figment of our Imagination?

Religion and Society Debate: Dr. Michael Shermer and Dr. Alister McGrath

“Is God a Figment of Our Imagination?”

Is religious belief a vestige of a past age, destined for extinction,
and are the many religious adherents of the world, merely ignorant and
misguided?  Or is there within the theistic framework a resonance with
reality that presses the notion of God beyond the mere subjective
musings of those that claim it to be so?

Join CFI Canada and Wycliffe College for a dialogue between two
leading thinkers who have thoughtfully wrestled with this question,
each not only having embarked on a personal pilgrimage, but each
bringing a lifetime of erudition, experience, and insights to bear on
this theme. Dr. Alister McGrath, the atheist who would become a
theist, and Dr. Michael Shermer, the theist who would become an
atheist. Join us at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto for an
engaging two hours of thoughtful dialogue on one of histories greatest
questions.

For a quarter century, Dr. Shermer has been a leader in the promotion
of Science, Reason, and Secular Values. He is the Publisher of Skeptic
magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a
Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism
101. He is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin
Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, and The Moral Arc. His next
book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife,
Immortality & Utopia.

Dr McGrath holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and
Religion at the University of Oxford. As a former atheist, McGrath is
respectful yet critical of the movement. In recent years, he has been
especially interested in the emergence of “scientific atheism”, and
has researched the distinctive approach to atheist apologetics found
in the writings of the Oxford zoologist and scientific populariser
Richard Dawkins. He regularly engages in debate and dialogue with
leading atheists, and is presently researching the iconic role played
by Charles Darwin in atheist apologetics.

The debate will be at 7:30 p.m., Friday 15 September, at University of
Toronto’s Convocation hall. Details and tickets available at:
https://www.wycliffecollege.ca/religionandsociety

Exclusive CFI members luncheon with Dr Michael Shermer

CFI Toronto is pleased to offer members the opportunity to attend an
intimate luncheon with Skeptics Society founder Dr. Michael Shermer.
The luncheon will be held at 12:00 noon, Friday 15 September, at the
Duke of York (39 Prince Arthur Avenue).

Dr. Shermer will be available for an exclusive lunch with CFI Canada
members ahead of his evening debate with Dr. McGrath.  Dr. Shermer
will be making brief remarks at noon, so it is recommended that you
arrive early. Funds raisied by this event will go toward CFI Canada’s
mission to promote science, reason, and secular values.

This event is only open to CFI Canada members in good standing.
Tickets are $75 per person. As part of the admission price, attendees
will be sent a $50 tax receipt (note that your full name and postal
address must be provided to receive your tax receipt).

Advance tickets available at:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/cfi-canada-member-luncheon-with-michael-shermer-tickets-37489084862

To become a member of CFI Canada, or to renew your membership online,
visit http://centreforinquiry.ca/support/)

A conversation, a challenge, a risk.

“Should women abandon religion?” Four female panelists face-off in a wild, whip-smart public debate about religion and misogyny. With opinions flying from a progressive Muslim lawyer, an Orthodox Jewish spiritual leader, an excommunicated nun and a lesbian atheist pundit, Unholy delivers a hilarious, no-holds-barred look at contemporary women in organized religion.

Gretta Vosper writes:

Join me at Unholy on Friday, February 2nd. I’ll be up on stage, not in the gripping conversation that is the responsibility of four awesome actors, but the one that will take place afterward, the one that will point to where we can go from here, as women, as citizens, as people who are tired of stories that tell us we aren’t good enough.

$20 rush tickets are available Tuesday-Thursday

$15 PWYC tickets are available for Sunday matinees.

www.nightwoodtheatre.net

 

 

unholy flyer

 

 

Meaning without a Maker?

Meaning without a Maker?

Sunday,  May 1
7:00 PM

Ottawa Little Theatre
400 King Edward Ave., Ottawa, ON

Dig & Delve, Centre for Inquiry Canada, and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries jointly present a public dialogue between a Christian and an atheist regarding the universal search for meaning.

Admission is free; donations will be accepted at the event to help defray expenses.

You can also donate directly to CFIC to support this event:

Space is limited – please sign up at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/dig-delve-dialogue-meaning-without-a-maker-tickets-24114286480 to reserve your spot.

 

The Speakers

Dr. Os Guinness is an author and social critic. A witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to Europe where he was educated in England. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of London and his D.Phil in the social sciences from Oriel College, Oxford. http://www.osguinness.com

Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is a philosopher, educator, and author. He currently teaches in the Faculties of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. He also teaches at Sheridan College in Brampton and Oakville, ON. http://www.cdicarlo.com

Space is limited; to ensure your spot, please click here to pre-register.

Blasphemy Laws Still Exist in the United States

A part of CFIC’s complicated mission(see it at the top of this page) is to provide education and training about secularism.  To understand secularism, is to understand the interaction between law and religion.  While there are a variety of ways that religion indirectly influences law (such as laws which have the same effect as enforcing a religious perspective on all people in the country), the most direct influence is through blasphemy laws.  CFIC encourages an understanding of all blasphemy laws and how they impact their local societies and people around the world.  In this article, CFIC examines blasphemy laws in the USA.  In 2011 Pew Research Center published a study indicating that 59 countries (30%) still have some form of legislation against blasphemy, apostasy or religious defamation.  While nationally the United States has deemed blasphemy laws unconstitutional, some states still have them on the books. In the 1952 case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court found that

 “the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them. . . . It is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine . . . .”

President Obama, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, made a statement that “the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.”

bible-and-flag

 It is surprising, after this Supreme Court decision and Obama’s speech, that six  states still have laws against blasphemy.

 

Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming, have laws which reference blasphemy.

For example, Massachusetts, General Laws, Chapter 272, Section 36:

Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.

It makes one wonder, if these laws are never enforced, why does it matter that they exist? They may rarely be enforced but their existence allows for some cases to be brought forward. A Pennsylvanian filmmaker was turned down in 2007 for a corporate name “I Choose Hell Productions”, based on Pennsylvania’s blasphemy law. States have symbolic power to enforce these laws. It’s a form of moral condemnation as stated by Sarah Barringer Gordon, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Blasphemy laws:

  1. Restrict freedom of speech
  2. Infringe on the right to freedom of religion
  3. Often lead to human rights violations during enforcement
  4. Can incite mass violence
  5. Fail to promote religious harmony which is supposedly the intention

The infamous Danish cartoons became so publicized because of the blasphemy laws attached to them. Raif Badawi faces physical brutality and the death penalty for a blasphemous blog posting. The Charlie Hebdo shooting is mass violence based on perceived blasphemy. There is no proof that blasphemy laws promote harmony, in fact, countries with these laws often have higher levels of religious tension.

 

Where does the United States stand today on blasphemy laws?

The United States has been fighting for religious freedoms and an end to blasphemy laws abroad, and has offered criticism on the intolerance of other cultures. The credibility of these actions will be seen as questionable until they put an end to the hypocrisy.

Both the American Humanist Association and the Centre for Inquiry (USA) are partners in the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws (ICABL); the purpose of which is to remove blasphemy laws wherever they exist.

The American Humanist Association, an organization with a long history of opposing blasphemy laws within the USA, has called for a repeal of blasphemy laws:

“Laws prohibiting blasphemy are a relic of the Middle Ages and are blatantly unconstitutional,” declared Mel Lipman, a constitutional lawyer and president of the American Humanist Association. “Blasphemy is a purely religious offense and hence the sole concern of religious organizations and their own members. By contrast, those people without religion, or who have religious beliefs that don’t condemn blasphemy, shouldn’t be affected.”

CFIC approves the work of AHA and other organizations who educate Americans about blasphemy laws in the USA and around the world.  Just as Canadians must direct their gazes to Criminal Code Section 296, so too should the residents of other countries investigate blasphemy regulations which violate the human rights of their citizens. Specifically in the US, this requires investigation of Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming, which today still have problematic laws against blasphemy.

 

This blasphemy update is provided by legal project intern Cassandra Martino with CFIC. 

Canada’s Outdated Criminal Code Provisions

PMB – Section 159 of the Criminal Code of Canada

A Private Member’s Bill (PMB) is useful, even if it is not passed, to bring an issue to the attention of government, Members of Parliament, and the public. This is what NDP MP Craig Scott attempted to do when he introduced PMB C-448 on October 4th 2012. This Bill called for the repeal of section 159 of Canada’s Criminal Code, thus removing the distinction between anal intercourse and other forms of sexual activity. This section of the criminal code may be viewed as the criminalization of one part of gay sexual activity beyond the age of consent – although anal intercourse is not a sexual activity exclusive to gay persons. It is the intent to criminalize homosexual acts that is not only stigmatizing and outdated but unconstitutional.

Section 159 has been found unconstitutional by three courts in Canada: the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.

In the explanation in the case of R. v. C.M., 1995 before the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Justice Abella stated:

Anyone who is 14 or older, whether married or not, can consent to most forms of non-exploitive sexual conduct without criminal consequences, whereas no one can consent to anal intercourse unless he or she is at least 18 or married. Sexual orientation is an analogous ground of discrimination prohibited under s. 15 of the Charter. Gays and lesbians form a historically disadvantaged group, and s. 159 violates s. 15(1) of the Charter because it arbitrarily disadvantages individuals in that historically disadvantaged group — gay men — by denying to them until they are 18 a choice available at the age of 14 to those who are not gay.

Section 296 of the Criminal Code of Canadacriminal code

Section 159 is not the only outdated provision in the Criminal Code of Canada. Recent events surrounding international religious violence and cruel blasphemy laws have provided Canadian organizations such as the Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC), public attention and outrage about attempts to stifle freedom of expression. The public has begun to critically examine and reject Section 296 of the Criminal Code, which states that “every one who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years”.

Our Stance at The Centre for Inquiry Canada

The Centre for Inquiry Canada has been instrumental in establishing the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws (ICABL) and the End Blasphemy Laws website.  As the Blasphemy Project Intern, for CFIC, I have reached out to MP Craig Scott and received the needed support to consider a PMB repealing Section 296. These outdated provisions no longer reflect our modern, diverse, and tolerant society. Not only are both section 296 and 159 unconstitutional, they are not reflective of Canadian values. Unfortunately, Canada is maintaining these outdated ideas by allowing them to remain in the Criminal Code of Canada. If you agree that section 269 should be repealed click here to join our Action List and keep in touch with the CFIC’s End Blasphemy Laws Campaign.

 

This blasphemy update is provided by legal project intern Cassandra Martino with CFIC.