LOSING MY RELIGION: Advertising The Enlightenment

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INQUIRER: Mounted by a consortium of local atheists, it is an invitation to the area’s atheists, agnostics, skeptics, rationalists and religious freethinkers (no one label fits them all) to overcome their differences and form a coalition. “Our mission is not to convince fundamentalists to change their position,” Steve Rade, a Huntingdon Valley businessman, said last week. He donated the $22,500 needed to mount the billboard, which appeared May 1 and is to remain until the end of August [on I-95]. “What we want to do is give people questioning their beliefs aatheist.jpg place to go for more information and to meet like-minded people.”

No horns poke through Rade’s wiry gray hair. He is tall and bony, quick to laugh, and dressed for the office – he is president of Wireless Accessories Inc. – in shorts and sneakers. He has the restless energy of a teenager. He is 70. “I’d like everyone to believe what I do,” he said, referring to his “absolute certainty” that there is no divine being running the universe and no life after death. “I think it would be a better world if they did.”

The son of a West Oak Lane synagogue president who insisted that his children attend Shabbat services every Saturday, Rade was bar mitzvahed at 13 and confirmed at 16. But his youthful doubts about God and supernaturalism hardened while an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State University, where he was a finance major. “It was just my own critical, rational thinking,” he said Thursday with a shrug. “I accept that the universe began with the Big Bang, but I don’t believe there were snakes talking in the Garden of Eden. . . . If God shows himself to me, I’ll believe.” MORE

atheist2-e.jpgPHILLYCOR: PhillyCOR, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition of Reason, is a joint effort to help you connect to local freethought and humanist groups near you; to provide you with information and a sense of community; to give you a way to combine your voice with others who are ready to move society forward.While all of these groups share common ground, each has its own particular emphasis and atmosphere. Some are focused on scientific inquiry and education. Others are focused on ethics and community. All are committed to promoting wider acceptance of a more rational and contemporary view of humanity and the universe we live in. MORE

WIKIPEDIA: Prominent Enlightenment philosophers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and David Hume questioned and attacked the existing institutions of both Church and State. The 19th century also saw a continued rise of empiricist ideas and their application to political economy, government and sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology. The continent of Europe had been ravaged by religious wars in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. When political stability had been restored, notably after the Peace of Westphalia and the English Civil War, an intellectual upheaval overturned the accepted belief that mysticism and revelation are the primary sources of knowledge and wisdom. Instead (according to scholars who split the two periods), the Age of Reason sought to establish axiomatic philosophy and absolutism as foundations for knowledge and stability. MORE

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