Principles of secularism

The right of private judgment, always in set terms conceded to us, means nothing, unless it leads to a new understanding as to the terms in which we are to be addressed, in the bible and the people, it is described as insolence to ignore Christianity. We do not understand this language. It would be insolence to a deity to ignore a message which we can recognize as coming from him, but it may rather imply reverence for god to reject the reports of many who speak in his name.  Were we to require Christians read our books or think as we think, they would resent the requirement as impertinence and we have yet to learn that it is less impertinence when Christians make these demands of us. If Christians are under no obligation to hold our opinions, neither are we under obligation to hold theirs.

By our own act, or at their solicitation, we may study sacred writings, but at dictation never! So long as secularists obey the laws enacted for the common security, so long as they perform the duties of good citizens, it is nothing to Christians what opinions they hold. We neither seek their counsel nor desire their sentiments – except where they concede them on terms of equality. The light by which we walk is sufficient for us; and as at the last day of which Christians speak, we shall there have, according to their own showing, to answer for ourselves, we prefer to think for ourselves; and since they do not propose to take our responsibility, we decline to take their doctrines.

Where we are responsible, we will be free; and no man shall dictate to us the opinions we shall hold. We shall probably know as well as any Christian how to live with freedom and to die without fear.

It is in vain for Christians to tell us that Newton and Locke differed from us. What is that to us unless Newton and Locke will answer for us?

The world may differ from a man, but what is the world to him, unless it will take his place at the judgment day? Who is Paul or Apollos, or Mathew or Mark that we should venture our eternal salvation on his word, any more than on that of a Mahomedan prophet, or a Buddhist priest? Where the danger is our own the faith shall be our own.

Secularism is not an act conceived in the spirit of pride or vanity, or self will, or eccentricity, or singularity, or stiff-neckedness. It is simply well understood self defense.

If men have the right of private judgment, that right has set them free; and we own no law but reason, no limits but the truth, and have no fear but that of guilt. We may say we believe in honour, which is respecting the truth, in morality which is acting the truth, in love which is serving the truth and in independence which is defending the truth.

Adapted from a speech by George Jacob Holyoake [1871] on The Principles of Secularism

Can god be a person?

I have lifted this who passage from Atheism Explained by D.R. Steele, I would like to hear the response of those who conceive of god as a person to tell me how they deal with the objections raised here.

God cannot be destroyed. He can’t be injured against his will or made to suffer against his will, and he knows this. If this is true, then God can’t be afraid of anything. He has never known fear at first hand, though he may have known fear in his imagination, the way we know fear by watching a horror movie . But if God has never been fearful, then God has never been courageous . The virtue of courage consists in overcoming or disregarding or perhaps suppressing one’s fear or one’s inclination to fear. Bravery, then, is a virtue that God can never achieve .

The same applies to most o f the human virtues. Most virtues, like courage, involve self-control and therefore have no application to God, who experiences not the slightest flicker of appetites or impulses which might cause him to deviate from doing whatever he infallibly decides is best. God cannot be tempted, so he earns no points for resisting temptation. Nothing, to God, is an effort, so he can never become lazy or irresolute, and deserves no praise for being steadfast!
If God is all powerful and almighty, then God has never faced any onerous tasks, has never shouldered any burdens, has never had to give up one thing in order to get another ( except where the alternatives are logically incompatible ) , has never felt involuntary pain or even a twinge of discomfort or anxiety, has never had to make a difficult decision, has never solved an intellectual puzzle ( since he knows all the answers in advance ) . God has no curiosity, since he knows everything instantly, without making an effort to find out.

God has never had to work hard at anything, has never been surprised or disappointed. God has never had to make a choice, since that would presuppose at least a moment where he had not made up his mind. God can never be careful or considerate. God can never pay particular attention. God has never experienced, at first hand, the joy of understanding an elegant theorem or experiencing a great work of art. He has heard it all before.
Creation of anything by humans, for example creation of a song or a book, has its joys and its sorrows . But for God, the Creator of the universe, there could be no joy, or sorrow, or sense of accomplishment. He created the universe just by willing it and before he willed it, he knew how it was going to turn out. Aside from that, joy and sorrow are characteristics of evolved conscious beings with bodies, forever enmeshed in the struggle to survive and reproduce.
Such emotional flurries could have no place in the life of. an eternal, indestructible Supreme Being. Theists say that God is wholly good. This implies that he has never known at first hand malice, lust, greed, or envy. Furthermore, God, defined as God who is wholly good, is held to be necessary. If it’s necessary that God is wholly good, then God could never go even slightly bad, he could never start toying with a bit of shadiness here and there . So God can’t do anything even slightly evil . No credit is due to God for being good; he can’t help
himself.

Only a very few theists are prepared to say that God could choose to do evil, and it’s easy to see why. If God is free to do something evil, then he might, at any moment, do just that. Being all-good would then be revealed as not necessarily true of God : it must have been a mistake all along to think of it as necessarily true & a practical matter we could no longer depend on God to be good. How could we ever know that God had turned bad? What evidence might we find to give us an indication of any such turn of events? It does seem to be essential to the God concept that God is impotent to commit evil. Even mild naughtiness must be beyond his powers. We begin to wonder whether this entity can really be a person .