Monday, August 3, 2009

Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul Presents - The Utility of God

Here are the details for the latest meeting of the Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul.


Location: Kelly Inn, Rice Street and I-94

Date: August 9, 2009

Time: 10:00 a.m. to Noon

Presenter: Greg Peterson

Subject: “The Utility of God.”

Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. Please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com.

In a poem, Voltaire wrote, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” But just how necessary is God? Not merely belief in a god, which seems to make some people behave better and some worse, but god as an actual being? Many theists claim that God is necessary to the existence of morals, and even an atheist like Woody Allen seems to believe that without God, there can be no ultimate meaning. Further, most religions claim God as a creator, without whom there could not be order and complexity in the universe. And finally, some people make the case that without a divine origin, human free will is impossible...that in a materialistic universe, everything must be determined, including our thoughts and actions. Greg Peterson maintains that while religion might have merit as a human enterprise, God cannot be our source of morality or meaning, is unnecessary to explain order and complexity, and provides no solution to the issue of free will. So how can humans retain whatever benefits we can find in religion while admitting that the theism behind most religions has outlived its usefulness?

Greg Peterson was born into a nominal Christian family in Red Wing, Minnesota. Following a radical conversion to biblical fundamentalism in his late teens, he attended Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN, where he earned bachelors degrees in biblical studies, written communications, and sociology. As a free-lance religious journalist he was published in Contemporary Christian Music, Christian Bookseller, and Twin Cities Christian, and provided marketing support for several church and parachurch ministries. He worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, helping to market the ministry’s books, films, and other materials. Over a period of many months in his late 30s, Peterson became more skeptical about some of the claims of Christianity and began reading more widely in critical, philosophical, and scientific literature, and seeking out the opinions of people of other faiths and of no faith. Now in his late 40s, with two adult children, Peterson formulates his position as, “I am unaware of any compelling reason to believe in the gods of the theistic religions.” While not ruling out the possibility of some type of supreme intelligence, perhaps along deistic lines, Peterson thinks he can show conclusively that the gods of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are unnecessary, unlikely, and unattractive. Peterson now makes his living in health care communications, enjoys reading and nature, and counts among his closest friends atheists, pastors, and theologians.

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