Organizer For Teachers Addressing Theistic Arguments With Kids

Catholic thinker John Buck has shared this helpful graphic as one example of how different theistic arguments rank as evidence in favor of God/theism.

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This chart is helpful in planning a secularism unit, and in helping students understand that different arguments carry with them different weight in tipping the scales toward theism or secularism.

There are a wealth of resources both in print and on the internet for addressing each of these theistic arguments. I address the psycho/physical issue, as well as the moral knowledge (Right/Wrong) without God issue, in the kid’s section on this site.


Moral knowledge:

If we take one of Buck’s “S” or “Superb” level arguments, the fine tuning of the universe, this can be addressed fairly easily, because in fact just as godlessness would predict, the universe is almost completely inhospitable to life, and so is not specially tuned for it, but rather is the best possible universe for making black holes, which does not make sense from the theism hypothesis. Why would God fine tune the universe to make black holes? Richard Carrier explains it in this way:

Grade 5 Discussion Topic: Can There Be Right And Wrong Without God?

It’s clear to every padawan that some things are wrong.  For instance, it is wrong to steal from your parent’s wallet.  Now, this seems to have nothing to do with whether there is a God or not, and yet some religious people say without God there can be no right or wrong.  Why?  They say god is in charge, so things are right or wrong because God says so.  In other words, without God’s stamp of approval/disapproval, on whose authority, for instance, do we know that stealing is objectively wrong?

A long time ago, a thinker named Immanuel Kant explained this very well.  He said we exist in such a way that our minds unconsciously give us the rule that we morally accompany all our actions, unlike lower animals such as dogs who, with the intellect of a two year old, are not morally responsible like we are.  If the dog chews up the couch, the dog is not evil, because it doesn’t know any better.  This is also true of certain mentally challenged people. This unconscious rule we follow makes human ethical experiences and judgments possible.   A thinker after Kant named Schelling said it is our ability to be evil that is what is unique in humans among the animals.  We have evolved in such a way that we all have a circle of friends, however small, that we act in a caring way toward because we like them and this is how we would want to be treated.  This is the golden rule, which has been known and applied across place and time throughout human history, regardless of religious or secular context.

So, it’s not God saying so that makes morality possible, but rather the evolutionary combination of reason with the drive toward a circle of friends is eventually realized in the idea of universal human rights.  We are all innately benevolent to some extent because we inherently like friends and understand you treat friends with kindness and are being a better friend if you play the game your friend wants to rather than the one you want to – and you’re being a bad friend if you steal your friend’s girlfriend.

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  1. Is it possible for a God to exist and act responsibly if he is not unconsciously obeying the same moral responsibility rule humans obey?
  2. Can you make criteria to evaluate that the terrorist airplane attacks on 9’ll were evil, even though many Palestinians at the time felt they were tremendously good?

Poetry Study: Phantom Limbs

How amazing my person-ality is

As it becomes world

Boiling with anger

Frozen with fear

World/Self-mirroring metaphor made possible

As information translates from one sensory part of the brain to the other and back again

Where does it all go in a car crash, me still vegetatively there

But no longer there

Or does the injured body/mind also create,

Like the phantom hand the mind creates for the recent amputee

It’s as amazing as my upset stomach

Which causes the tv to go from appearing pleasantly to presencing irritatingly

So that I must go lie down in the dark and shut out the world

So simple it is to see that

As a body creates an immaterial phantom hand out of nothing

that it creates an immaterial mind as well

And as from dust to dust goes the brain

So too the mind

**** Adapted for kids in part from “Dead as a Doornail Souls, Brains, and Survival by Matt McCormick” in The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. eds MICHAEL MARTIN AND KEITH AUGUSTINE

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Why doesn’t this poem rhyme? There is certainly a rhythm to it, but not a rhyming one. John Milton first published his seminal epic poem, Paradise Lost, in 1667. A “Revised and Augmented” version, which is the one read more widely today, was published in 1674, with this following introduction. In it, Milton explains why he has chosen to compose his long poem in English heroic verse without the use of rhyme, following the models of Homer and Virgil. Milton argues that rhyme is particularly unnecessary in longer poems, and that its unquestioned use by his peers, “carried away by Custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worst than they would have exprest them.” Milton sees an inflexible application of rhyme and meter as in danger of becoming rote and mathematical, and he defends the liberty he found in releasing his poem from rhyme’s limitations. see: Introduction To Paradise Lost:

Poem Word Study:

Vegetative: Still alive but mostly or completely unresponsive, personality and awareness gone due to brain injury. Question, if everything of the personality and self can be destroyed, but the person is still alive, what would the characteristics of an eternal soul be?

Phantom Hand: An amputee still experiences their hand even though it is no longer there.

Presencing: the verbal appearing of something instead of the fixed characteristics of something. So, the beautiful person may seem like they are beauty incarnate, as though divine Beauty itself is shining through a person, even though the next person may not experience them as beautiful at all. There isn’t a divine goddess beauty that is incarnate in the person, it’s just a way of describing the experience. This is how the Greeks conceived it. Today we might say of the mansion “now this is a house!” it is exemplary of house-ness, though the next person may experience it as gawdy.

Article on The Question Of Teaching Respectful Citizenship In Schools (In The Face Of Objections, Such As Religious Ones)

This article examines the question of schools teaching students to be respectful citizens with a view to universal human rights.

From the article: “Teaching tolerance in schools cannot avoid controversy”

“The children’s picture book And Tango Makes Three (2005) tells the true story of two male penguins who raise a chick together at a New York zoo. Initially pulped in Singapore and then removed to the adult section of the country’s libraries, and the cause of protests in seven US states, this book by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell has been controversial. State schools in Birmingham, England, read the book with four- to six-year-olds as part of their ‘No Outsiders’ programme, leading to lengthy protests during 2019. The (predominantly, but not exclusively, Muslim) protestors bore slogans such as ‘My Child, My Right’ and ‘Say No to Undermining Parental Rights and Authority’. In the words of one Birmingham parent, Fatima Shah, who first raised the issue with her daughter’s school: ‘We don’t send our children to school to learn about LGBT. We send them to school to learn maths, science and English.’

Teaching programmes such as ‘No Outsiders’ are often justified as part of a wider drive to teach children the value of tolerance. In pluralist societies such as the United Kingdom – where there exist many different opinions on what is right and true – how should ‘tolerance’ as an aim of education be understood, and what does it imply in practice for what goes on in the classroom?”

See the full article here: