Association of West Michigan
Meeting Minutes for October 24, 2001, #102
The balance of our 2001 calendar is as follows:
Ø NOVEMBER 14: "Keep Your Hands Off of My Genitalia;
The Biology and
Socio-political Controversy Surrounding Genital Modification (Mutilation)
Intersex (Hermaphroditic) Individuals," presented by Dr.
director, Science Education Center, Grand Rapids Community College.
Ø NOVEMBER 28: "The Jewish Approach to Living,"
presented by Rabbi David
Krishef, Ahavas Israel.
Ø DECEMBER 12: WINTER SOLSTICE PARTY. Location to be announced.
Ø No meeting scheduled for Dec. 26.
The above meetings and events are all scheduled for 7PM.
***PLEASE NOTE and plan on attending the FAOWM Halloween Party
on OCTOBER 27
at 7:30PM at Don Hansen's condo: 2713 Cedar Grove N., in Jenison,
is available on 28th avenue, halfway between Rosewood and Port
streets at the recreation center, across from the cemetery. Transportation
the condo from there will be provided. If your last initial falls
and L, bring a small snack to pass. If it falls between M and
Z, bring a
small dessert to pass. Coffee and tea will be available; otherwise
your own beverage. Halloween costumes are welcome. If attending
further info and directions, leave Don a msg. @ #662-9326, or
Note that an upcoming presentation by Karen Armstrong has been
G.R.A.C.E. is hosting an interfaith Thanksgiving gathering this
month. Due in
large part to Rabbi Krishef's (see Nov. 28 topic) suggestion to
ecumenical group, FAOWM was invited to attend along with the various
traditions. A representative from each religious organization
or group will
speak on their practices regarding Thanksgiving. Jeff S. will
non-belief perspective, giving us a voice and alternative viewpoint
An article in the "Religion" section of the Grand Rapids
recently, regarding the Robert Pennock presentation on October
10 at the
Calkins Science Center lecture hall. His lecture was based on
his book "The
Tower of Babel" which refuted the claims of the new creationists,
their diversity of beliefs, and exposed their strategies to circumvent
- State separation issues in public education.
The Michigan Atheists State Convention will be held November 3,
'01 at the
Holiday Inn, Levonia, West, in Levonia, MI. FAX #: 734-464-1596;
It was announced that the GRCC will soon begin charging us a $75
rental fee for our meeting space there in the Calkins Science
would severely limit our budget for attracting and securing special
speakers and other projects as well as basic operating budget.
Jeff asked for
suggestions of where we might relocate. Among the ideas offered
were the Kent
Community Hospital, the Wyoming Public Library, Schuler Books
and the Masonic
Library. Pros and cons were weighed. We are primarily looking
affordable place offering stability and reliability for two meetings
month at consistent times of each month.
GRTV has begun broadcasting the Dan Barker ("Losing Faith
presentation the former evangelical pastor and now atheist member
Freedom From Religion Foundation gave locally. A tape will be
distribution among FAOWM members, for those who cannot get this
Jeff mentioned that he visited the other individual (elderly and
health now) besides he and Don H., who 1st met at the nascent
gathering that would evolve into our group.
Our topic for this meeting was "A Calvinist Contemplates
Walking Away From
Faith" and was presented by Dr. Ruth Tucker, professor at
and author of 14 books. Dr. (Ruth) Tucker, noting the good attendance
this meeting (approx.55 ppl.), quipped that she hoped people had
her with the famous speaker on sex topics, Dr. Ruth W. One of
books, "Walking Away From Faith," regards those who,
like Dan Barker (
included in this publication), were once devoutly religious believers
broke from this perspective to one of non-theism. The content
of this book
and her personal anecdotes and observations formed the basis of
Tucker, who is the Associate Professor of Missiology, first felt
her call to
mission at age 13. The middle child of 5, she was the only one
immersed in the faith that her siblings had all walked away from.
to harbor festering doubts about certain doctrinal content, however,
Canons being the biggest instigator of skepticism. What ultimately
included in this body of ecclesiastical laws, she knew, had been
by fallible men. There was room for error and what if the "wrong
been inserted, she wondered.
Professor Tucker disclosed that she had had no other doctrinal
peripheral problems with biblically revealed truths. Rather, her
uncertainty zeroed in directly on the heart of the matter: the
God Itself. Findings by science seemed to continually push back
from a personal, proximal one-to a less and less involved entity
somewhere on the outskirts of the deep vastness of space. Its
tucked away somewhere among the billions of galaxies. These "Night
Sky" ponderings made her wish to live in the old, pre-scientific
the attendant beliefs of geocentrism and a small, personal system
of an Earth
lit by the greater and lesser lights of Sun and Moon, all for
the benefit of
Man. She had begun to teach religious tenets, but it wasn't until
and really critically investigated the subject matter that she
sharp challenges to her religious beliefs and practices.
The next big blow to test her faith was the death of her mother
in an auto
accident. Her mother, while a believer, never prayed aloud or
made any formal
testimony to her faith. Had she gone to heaven? Had Ruth failed
her, by not
saving her soul before her untimely demise? This single, acutely
event jelled her more nebulous doubts, powerfully challenging
her belief in
an All-Powerful God. She had witnessed a portrayal of a court
trial of God
for the events of the Holocaust. Tucker conducted her own trial
of the Deity
before her students, charging God with "manslaughter."
To her at this time,
the heavenly Father who sees every sparrow that falls had essentially
"killed" her blameless mother.
It was the "silence of God" that was most disturbing
to Dr. Tucker. She had a
friend who heard God's voice routinely but Ruth, herself, found
only a mute
deity that she could not closely connect with. Along these lines,
mentioned that about half of the Psalms deal with the apparent
and apathy of a God hidden from humanity. After quoting some examples,
said that very few Christian writers have dealt with the negative
doubt. Instead, they generally designate it as a "gift"
along with belief.
This forms the basis of her book; the progression from faith to
with many accounts of those who have left the fold feeling liberated
joyful in their departure. Professor Tucker said that she understands
but that she, herself, will not leave her faith. In an interesting
she said: "I would be doomed if my faith depended upon my
For Dr. Tucker, this "concoction of men" and "belief
in something you know
ain't true" to quote others regarding faith, is not based
on reason and
critical examination of doctrines but more upon tradition and
anagogical associations. She readily admits to the emotional aspects
faith, feeling that reason can take one only so far. She summed
this state up
by another quote: "(I am a) heathen in my reason and a Christian
whole heart." Dr. Tucker also gave us a few quotes and examples
of the now
buoyed, now sinking quality of faith and its analogy to a "life
the heart" that one clings to all the harder as the stormy
seas of reason
buffet it. "God does not depend on (her) faith or (her) doubt,"
Professor Tucker listed five myths about people who have abandoned
faith. 1) "They are angry and rebellious." She found
virtually no evidence
for this. Rather, people felt sorrow, initially. They experienced
anger. 2) "They can be argued back into faith." Because
the person leaving
his/her faith has carefully and painstakingly dissected the reasons
this major worldview change, the Christian who proffers apologetics
likely to convert into non-belief in such an exchange. 3) "Doubters
help at Christian colleges and seminaries." This is not seen
to be the case.
4) "They abandon their faith so that they can go out and
sin freely." Our
presenter pointed out that too many people who profess faith sin
than non-believers and that this argument was not a motivational
de-converting from faith. 5) "They were never sincere Christians
with." She has come across example after example of the most
devout of evangelical, fundamentalist believers who became non-theists.
Barker was mentioned as just one of these erstwhile believers.
She then listed some actual reasons given for "losing faith
Science & philosophy has eroded the faith of many former believers.
of absence of any caring God was another. Another reason was the
myth-shattering experience of the critical examination of the
Disappointment in God (Its apparent apathy or antipathy to Its
the hypocrisy of Christians were two other reasons listed. And
perception of a dogmatic anti-feminist and anti-homosexual stance
fundamentalist Christianity was given for why some relinquish
A Calvinist, Dr. Tucker believes in a "sovereign God"
that assumes doubt and
faith equally. Her faith is more a matter of "God's grace"
will." The meaning, purpose, comfort and fulfillment she
derives from the
story of Jesus, his death and resurrection is a key part of her
life and who
she is, going directly to her emotional/affective state of being.
Codifying once again. Dr. Tucker gave examples of responses to
the issue of
belief and non-belief: Christian faith is not proven by rational
apologetics. The faithful base their beliefs on a celebration
of the "mystery
of the Christian faith." It is the poetic, not the noetic
are called up. Faith is a response to the tensions and challenges
not a means to solve them. Tucker, borrowing from Flannery O'Connor,
the naturalness of unbelief and how the assault on a young mind
education can displace the faith instilled in childhood, but that
too young to decide on unbelief. She offered thoughts on the "winteriness"
faith that stands alongside the atheist in finding a silent God
but with this
cooler search uncovering a faith nonetheless, opposed to the "summery
plaudits" of those whose faith runs warmer. Professor Tucker
about the sense of community and familiar traditions-the hymns,
rituals that ensconce faith and the connection with ancestors
bridges built with younger relatives as being important elements
And she talked about the necessity of the apostate turning his
unbelief to the same degree as he does on belief.
There was a marvelous writing by Stephen Dunn that Dr. Tucker
shared with us
called "At the Smithville Methodist Church" that speaks,
in part, of
outgrowing faith intellectually but subsuming it emotionally.
One line from
it reads: "Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes. / You
can't say to your
child/ 'Evolution loves you.' The story stinks/ of extinction
exciting happens for centuries. I didn't have/ a wonderful story
child/ and she was beaming. All the way home in the/ car she sang
/ occasionally standing up for Jesus/ There was nothing to do/
ride it out, sing along/ in silence."
There was a discussion following Dr. Tucker's presentation. Bishop
Spong and his book "Why Christianity Must Change or Die"
were mentioned and
his dilemma of being in his official role in an Episcopal church,
folly in many faith claims. We discussed the importance of the
the structure- to believers. We can't change the institution,
so we must
change ourselves, or else walk away from it.
A psychologist in our group talked of the psychological needs
that are met by
faith. He said that non-believers can't say: "I'll pray for
you" or other
comforting (if devoid of meaning to the atheist) words. We can
feel the sense
of peace that a hymn offers but not honestly believe the message
or have this
message to impart to others. We have a harder time creating a
community, and have no deep traditions to hang onto.
The issue of predestination was brought up by one group member
and how to
reconcile this Calvinist tenet with genuine ethical considerations.
spoke of finding peace from a sovereign God and placing a high
"good works." When talking of the sense of praying to
a predetermining God,
she said that one does not so much alter the plan of the Creator
creates changes in him/herself. "We are in a partnership
with God," Dr.
Some other thoughts and questions posed to Dr. Tucker were regarded
defined "faith" as opposed to "belief," the
evil done out of emotional faith
to uncritical acceptance of religious doctrines (such as was seen
September 11 and all throughout human history), is faith itself
thing? Or is it only faith in what the given believer thinks is
"true" belief system? Is it a false dichotomy to set
up faith as either a
belief in God or not? Is there value in group prayer even if there
of a divine listener? Tucker spoke of the sense of community and
caring focused toward a person or issue and the intrinsic value
the believer hope his faith is true, or does he believe it on
faith? As she
stated earlier, the solving of vexing challenges to one's faith
is not the
core concern, rather it is the giving in to the mystery and giving
doubts and even unbelief to a sovereign God." With my naked
cannot believe." Professor Tucker was forthcoming in stating
that she swam
the shallow waters-enjoying the play of tensions, struggles, etc.,
surface, rather than trying to plumb the murky depths. Talk arose
faith emanating from an "accident of birth(place)."
How could all the diverse
belief systems just in Christianity, let alone other faiths, all
right? "There is truth in all religions but only one path
to Christ," was our
speaker's response. As to all the harm done out of dogmatic belief,
quoted another writer who spoke of how Christians have turned
many away by
their bludgeoning use of faith and would garner more sympathetic
if they "
didn't make Christianity so darned unattractive."
Another quip was
that just one week with Southern Baptists would ensure no new
Secretary: Charles LaRue.