We will seek to understand the rise of atheism, agnosticism, and nothing in particular (“None”) identities in our society. We will examine the historical, moral, and metaphysical arguments surrounding atheism. We will also look at criticisms of religion, as well as alternative ethical systems.
From St. Augustine to Thomas Paine, to David Hume to Richard Dawkins and others, thinkers have attempted to understand the role that religion plays in our lives. Why do these individuals reject theistic systems? Asking whether God exists, and whether religion is a benefit or a trap is not a new question. The U.S. is experiencing a striking demographic shift around the role of religion and the belief in God in the past several decades. Understanding how we and others can answer questions around belief and practice may help us personally, as well as in our communities. What takes the place of the belief in God? What ethical framework is the best alternative to organized religion? What does this shift mean for education, politics, and the “culture wars”?
A bibliography of suggested books appears as a supplement. None of these books are required reading, although familiarity with some of these works will be helpful. Recommended books will have an asterisk on this list. The moderator will share several essays, as well as PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) and Pew publications with participants ahead of the first meeting.