Book Discussion: NonBeliever Nation

"NonBeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular America" is a terrific new book by President of the American Humanist Association, David Niose, JD.  It merits more than one evening of discussion, say Bill Weir (a retired UU minister) and Bob Tapp (a retired UMN prof), who will share in leading the discussion on three successive Tuesday nights--Nov. 20, 27, and Dec. 4--7pm-8:30pm. Reading and discussing the book a third at a time will allow for critical thought on the growing secular movement in the US and how we might further advance it.

Here's what the Library Journal said about the book: “Covering a wide range of territory in a reasonably condensed space, attorney Niose looks at the culture wars from the perspective of secular America. While confronting numerous commonly held misconceptions by believers about secularism (e.g., the religious Right implying that religious faith is part of patriotism), Niose admirably refrains from antireligious hostility, striving for equality rather than proving the superiority of his perspective. . . . This is a calm, informative, and positive portrait of the rapidly growing secular segment of the American population. Highly recommended for politically oriented readers of all religious persuasions.”

Contact Bill if you'd like to come to the Heritage Room early for a slice of pizza (or two) at 6:45pm:[masked]   The book is also available at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis' Bookstore (open Sunday mornings).

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  • Audrey K.

    Final set of questions.
    Questions for Chapters 8-10 NonBeliever Nation

    Chapter 10: A Secular Future

    3. Throughout the book and reiterated in his final chapter, Niose makes a strong case for the necessity of a secular future.
    a. He states: “Science, and the technology that flows from it, represents the best hope for the future of humanity.” Most of us probably agree, but what can’t science do for us and what is at the heart of distrust for science—even among some of the religiously ambivalent?
    b. How can secularists be more visibly present in society? What kind of community or organizational structure would serve us well?
    c. Niose posits at the end of the book that religion is the issue of the 21st century. Do you agree or disagree?

    1 · December 3, 2012

  • Audrey K.

    More questions.

    Questions for Chapters 8-10 NonBeliever Nation

    Chapter 9: A New Plan of Action

    2. In chapter 9, Niose suggests some new ways for secularists to assert their rights.
    a. Why has Niose come to the conclusion that seeking remedy through the “Establishment Clause” no longer is sufficient to protect the rights of secularists?
    b. Do you agree that seeking “equal protection” through litigation is a better strategy for secularists to gain rights and establish a stronger identity in society?
    c. Are we “suffering” as secularists—or is it really society as a whole that suffers from the grip of the Religious Right?
    d. Niose states: “Judicial and legislative victories are not safe without popular recognition of the secular demographic” (p. 193). But how can we gain that popular recognition/acceptance—so,for instance, a politician could run for office as an open atheist, humanist or secularist?

    1 · December 3, 2012

  • Audrey K.

    Here are some questions to consider for this last part of the discussion.

    Questions for Chapters 8-10 NonBeliever Nation

    Chapter 8: When “Happy Holiday” is an Act of Hostility
    Chapter 9: A New Plan of Action
    Chapter 10: A Secular Future

    1. In Chapter 8, Niose addresses some of the key issues in the “culture war” between secularists and the Religious Right: “Christmas,” prayer in school, textbook alternations in science and history, National Day of Prayer, the pledge, national motto (in god we trust), Boy Scouts and religious militarism.
    a. Do you agree with Niose that these issues cumulatively marginalize secularists?
    b. In what ways do you think it is most appropriate and effective for secularists to assert themselves regarding these issues?
    c. How would you respond to someone who thinks these issues are relatively benign—that no harm is done to nonbelievers by them?

    1 · December 3, 2012

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