Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Atheism and religion

Scheduled for 2:30pm–4:00pm Eastern Time, Plenary Session papers and panel discussion 2
Chair: Fr. Pawel Tarasiewicz (Adler-Aquinas Institute/ International Étienne Gilson Society)

Speaker: Benjamin Block (Catholic University of America): “Confirmation and the evidentialist objection against Christianity”

The evidentialist objection against Christianity, which concludes that one should not believe the truths of Christian faith, relies upon two powerful premises: (a) one should not believe what does not have sufficient evidence, and (b) Christian beliefs do not have sufficient evidence. The evidentialist objection is troubling, for the Christian defending his beliefs does not wish to say that they are founded upon mere human evidence; yet still, Christians generally also wish to affirm that “those who place their faith in this truth, for which human reason offers no experience, do not believe lightly, as those following unlearned fables” (SCG I.6).  In the midst of a vast plurality of religions, a Christian is committed to the proposition that only one religion is true and that it is certainly true, but if he does not wish to hold these beliefs lightly, then he must also have some reason why he believes what he does: a Christian must “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (2 Peter 3:15). St. Thomas Aquinas offers a unique and compelling solution to this objection, one which satisfies the Christian need to have faith be a gift from God, but which also respects the proper place of human reason within the believing life of men. In solving the evidentialist objection, it is especially helpful to focus on Aquinas’s teaching concerning the role of divine confirmation of revealed truths—for the nature of this confirmation and the extent to which it is necessary for Christian belief provides at least one important key to understanding the delicate balance between faith and reason within the Christian life.

Speaker: William McVey (Adler-Aquinas Institute) “Aquinas and Alcoholics Anonymous: ‘I-am-spiritual-but-not-religious’”

The paper examines the nature of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a program of recovery from the addiction to alcohol. AA was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob Smith on the belief that alcoholism was an addiction of a spiritual, mental and physical nature. The basis of AA recovery is the following of a 12 step program which is entirely a process of spiritual transformation. Successful recovering alcoholics, who diligently follow the 12 step spiritual program, describe themselves as being spiritual but not religious. The paper explores the meaning of being a spiritual but not religious type of person. These individuals are extremely serious about their spiritual life because it sustains their sobriety on a daily basis. I argue the 12 step recovery program is primarily a journey of profound spiritual renewal that demands a continuous (one day at a time) moral transformation. This transformation is best understood from the perspective of a Thomistic ethics that is most observable in the 12 steps. I contend that organized religion should give careful attention to the Born-Again Thomistic teachings on moral character essential to the Alcoholics Anonymous method of spiritual healing and the possible appeal to the “I am spiritual but not religious” type of seekers.

Livestream of video from the Conference will be at the Holy Apostles College and Seminary YouTube Channel.

Next session scheduled for 4:00pm 4:30pm.

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