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September 26, 2005


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I would like to know if there are any congregations that represent this school of thought in the Grand Rapids area.

I was just on the program as a call-in guest. I was speaking as a 30+ year practitioner of Buddhism. When I commented on the non- theistic essence of Buddha's teaching, one of the guests commented and said that there were people practicing "worship" of all types of deities in Tibet and so on. This is not correct, it is an example of someone making assumptions about something he hasn't practiced himself. I have practiced deity practice (Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana) and though it may seem like worship it actually is an ancient technology for working with neurotic, confused aspects of the mind/body situation that are rather unaccessable to more casual (though not insincere) approches like prayer or general wishing and supplication. I don't claim to know everything about Buddhism but I do teach classes in it here in Michigan and to inmates in Federal and state prisons. I have been a meditation instructor in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition since 1978. thanks, Bob!

Nobody 'knows' whether God (god) exists, or not. We simply choose one way or the other, and go on faith.

Still, although I don't believe that there are zero atheists in foxholes, I DO believe that there are few. I suspect than most professed atheists, as they draw their last breaths, grit their teeth and hope they have been wrong.

I also think that many professors of atheism get a little thrill from the shock and discomfort they cause to believers.

I appreciate the show, but I'm disturbed by the thinly-veiled condescension that seemed to be shown by the guests and hosts towards those people who do believe in a personal God. The picture of these folks as 'children', unquestioningly dogmatic, throwing their hands in the air and retreating to a vague sort of higher power when confronted with difficult problems of life seems to me simplistic and unsympathetic. As a pastor, I have met many selfless, generous people, people who struggle with the questions of life and faith, people who volunteer exorbitant amounts of time and money to worthwhile causes and charities not in spite of their belief but because of their faith. The guests are correct in saying that the institutional church has not done all it could to improve the world, but secularism has hardly been a flaming success either. My United Methodist Chruch and others were among the first on the scene responding to Hurricane Katrina, as they are in disaster after disaster around the world. Do you need to believe in God to help make this world a better place? Of course not. But let's not assume that the opposite is true, either.

I didn't catch the first few minutes of your broadcast. Please list on the website the speakers' names and the name and location of their congregation - my family would like to attend a service.

In reference to Bob Brown's comment:

> I suspect than most professed atheists,
> as they draw their last breaths,
> grit their teeth and hope
> they have been wrong.

Suppose the assertion is true (though there is no reason to believe it is). What would it imply? I might be missing something, but I don't see that it informs us as to god's existence. It would just show that people in extremis reach out to whatever they can grasp.

> I also think that many professors of atheism
> get a little thrill from the shock
> and discomfort they cause to believers.

Suppose this is true (though, again, there is no reason to believe it is). What does that have to do with god's existence? Again, it seems to be more informative about psychology than religion.

Thanks for your show today. I thought I would never hear a religion show which would include me.

I learned that I was a Secular Humanist from the Religious Right of all people. They were decrying them as the cause of all the worlds evils, including 9-11 and various natural disasters. I looked up the term and realized ‘that’s me.’

It seemed I had been at war with Christians and didn’t know it. Seeing as 100% of our elected officials are Judeo-Christian, I though they had a little control in how America is governed. Guess not.

Any ways, I had never identified with Atheist or Agnostic, so it was nice to discover this rich history of freethinkers which shared my beliefs. Thanks Mr. Baker!


Those are Gregs comments you responded to, not mine.

thanks, Bob Brown

this is the host of the program, writing to say I appreciate everybody's comments -- and certainl was NOT trying to be condescending towards anyone, and am sorry if it seemed that way.

Our guests were:

Rabbi Sherwin Wine of the Birmingham Temple in Farmington Hills, and

The Rev. Harry Cook, of St. Andrew's Church in Clawson,

in response to Brent's question
re: other similar churches.
Christ community church in Spring Lake is on a related journey. They
ask similar questions, affirm diversity and embrace difference
as do Harry Cook and Rabbi Wine.

Loved the topic of today's show. Both guests patiently expressed the views of their studies eloquently.

I was taken aback by the tone of a few of the callers today. The caller from Sylvania that asked the panelists to "name" the God they didn't believe in, or the caller who asked how the panelists "dared" to contradict more scholarly people. I see these attacks as expressions of fear from the callers - the panelists were challenging something very personal to them and they responded emotionally, as if the opinions of these men were going to shake the bedrock of their lives. To that I say Good! I have no problem with whatever notion of God and faith and religion a person may choose, as long as they choose it and live it. If the comments of two people on the radio are going to shake your faith, then it is time to reflect on just what your faith is.

One of the many great things about this country is the ability to share differing viewpoints. Everyone can learn from everyone else. When people of faith close their minds to other ideas, we are all made smaller. However, if varying opinions can be shared openly, even those ideas that run contrary to your faith may contain some nugget of revelation that can enhance the faith of all of us.

Great show - good job, Jack!

Thanks for todays show. I, too, thought I would never hear on Michigan Radio or NPR a program devoted to the secular humanist point of view. As a group, secular humanists are one of the few minorities who are acceptable objects of dismissal and contempt in the media. The straight forward discussion of the guests' commitment to the scientific paradigm and their disavowal of the supernatural perspective of organized religion was heartening, and I am grateful to Jack for his willingness to present this subject and these guests. This was only my second time listening to the Jack Lessenberry Show. I heard the first one a couple weeks ago (the topic was something to do with the incongruence of the UP and the LP and was, to my way of thinking, very uninteresting. I was delighted with todays program and the way in which Jack helped bring out the guests' and the callers' thoughts. If this is an example of what we can expect (controversial, intelligent programming), I'll make it a point to listen often!

Great show today! It is great to know there are other people who feel doing the right thing is the right thing regardless of the existence of God. I go to Calvin and I often feel like throwing up when I hear students' hypocritical talk. I love this free thinking which unfortunately scares far too many people in general, but especially at my school. Great comments, great show! Peace.

I was delighted to hear Rabbi Sherwin Wine on Jack's show today! I have heard him speak at several Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations which I have attended.

For those looking for churches along the school of thought discussed today, I suggest looking into Unitarian Universalism. UUism does not require belief in a particular god (if any). There is no dogma, but rather principles to live by.

Many UUs come from other faiths, but have found a much better fit at a UU church. There are UU churches throughout the US.

I'm just wondering if, and suspecting that, the preachers on today's show who professed to merely "believe" no god exists, truly think they "know" it.

Dang. Should have said , , , merely believe no god exists (for all practical purposes)...

I didn't catch the entire show yesterday, but Harry Cook is an long time friend and colleague and I have enjoyed Rabbi Wine and his teaching on numerous occasions. For those who are looking for congregations that have much in common with such perspectives, they might look at The Center for Progressive Christianity at http://www.tcpc.org. This is an international association of congregations from all different denominations which currently lists five congregations in Michigan:

- Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ; Douglas, MI
- Journey of Faith Church (Episcopal); Garden City, MI
- Extended Grace; Grand Haven, MI
- United Campus Ministry; Kalamazoo, MI
- Christ Community Church; Spring Lake, MI

Their mission is stated on their website as:

» To reach out to those for whom organized religion has proved ineffectual, irrelevant, or repressive, as well as to those who have given up on or are unacquainted with it.

» To uphold evangelism as an agent of justice and peace.

» To give a strong voice both in the churches and the public arena to the advocates of progressive Christianity.

» To support those who embrace the search, not certainty.

Here in the Detroit area, at Journey of Faith, we are trying to begin a congregation that is open and inclusive of all, believers and agnostics alike. If you want to get a taste, I would welcome discussions like these at my blog - http://jorchurch.org/mark.

I missed the show yesterday, and I have gone on line, trying to listen via computer. Reading the comments and responses, I am even more intent on hearing the program, but "real play" is not making the connection. I would agree with the comments regarding the Unitarian/Universalist church. Having discovered this denomnation nearly forty years ago, my association with the church has continually encouraged me to live a very "Christian" life, based on reason, rather than supernatural fears or the need for redemption.

I just listened to the podcast of the show, and I wish I could have called in. I was interested in why the guests, who deemed themselves "secular," entered the ministry in the first place. Or was there a "loss" of religion at some point after that?
I tend to agree with the "truth in advertsing" caller. I have no backround in the Episcopal Church, but how could a mind which does not accept the idea of a god be comfortable in the role of Episcopalean (and therefore Christian, God worshiping, etc.) minister?
It seems to me that this clutching to Christianity is contradictory to the very ideals that I have heard expounded upon in the show. Why not come to terms with this, find some consistency and let go of the remaining vestiges of Christianity? Or are we witnessing a fundamental shift in the definition of "Christian?"
If my tone is hostile, forgive me, I'm just playing "Devil's Advocate." Ha!
I love the show, this episode in particular. Keep up the good work.

I'm not a scholar but I've read that the early followers of Christ had neither an organized church nor the notion that the man whose teachings they embraced was a god. Give me that old time religion!

In response to the last comment, first of all, that would certainly depend on what you mean by 'organized.' In the Book of Acts, which describes the spread of the early church, we see that local churches did have regular meetings and some organization (i.e., established leaders, rules for discipline, rules for theology). We can tell that the movement itself seems to have had some cohesion beyond the local church, as Paul attempted to raise funds for the church in Jerusalem in many of the other communities he visited (as far away as Rome). Matters of importance and controversy (such as how Gentiles were to be included in the church) led to early 'councils.'

As to whether Jesus was considered 'a god,' it's hard to read the letters of Paul (the earliest writings in the New Testament) or the gospels themselves without getting the distinct impression that Jesus was considered equal to the Lord God of Israel, and in some way also divine. This understanding does evolve some, from the earliest writings, and in the later writings it is quite well-developed (the Gospel of John has a very high notion of who Christ is).

A basic common thread shared by virtually every religion is a strong belief in the "power of prayer" or a similar type of meditation. Does God smile more kindly on an individual when others pray for them, or does God view all people as equals without respect to the prayers of others? ... What happens in this scenario? Two equal individuals are equally ill. One is part of a large congregation, and everyone in the congregation prays for their recovery. The other individual is alone, no one is aware of their illness and no one prays for them. Does God smile more kindly on the individual that so many people are praying for, and if so, how can it be said that people are equal in God's eyes? Or, does God treat both individuals equally, and if so, would that indicate that there is no true power in prayer? AND, if so many religions base so much of their tradition on prayer does that undermine their legitimacy? I believe it does, however I also believe that prayer or meditation is important, NOT important to the person that is being prayed for, but important to the individual doing the praying or meditating. Prayer gives an individual a chance to focus their thoughts and decide what is important to them. Only when actions follow does that prayer impact others. i.e. Those praying for hurricane victims are doing absolutely nothing to help the victims UNLESS their prayers are followed with action (volunteering, donations, etc.)

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