FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Simple questions and helpful answers

When are the Services?

Our Monthly Sunday Service is held on the first Sunday of every month. Our Service begins at 10:30 AM and ends well before Noon. Admission is always free, and everyone is welcome. Freethought Sunday School is provided for younger children. See specific info on time, date and location of our next Sunday Service in the calendar listing farther down on this page. Many of our Members enjoy lunch together immediately after our Service at a nearby restaurant. It's a wonderful way to get to know your fellow Metroplex Freethinkers!

Do you offer childcare?

Child care is offered at all of our services. For young children, we offer a Freethought Sunday School program, with the same intent as the main services, but at an age-appropriate level. Youngsters may learn about the world of nature, works of art and technology, geography, current events, and so forth, as well as about how to do the right thing, find happiness and get along in a world where facts and reason are too often ignored. Children also learn critical thinking skills and how they can be used to understand scientific concepts as well as many elements of the popular culture. They learn how a careful attention to facts and reason can be applied in their everyday lives to solve everyday problems, including how to get along with their friends and classmates who may be believers. Most importantly, they learn that they are not "religious nothings" but Freethinkers with an intellectual heritage as old as our kind. We also involve our younger members in the musical portions of our regular church services and in other church-sponsored activities such as bike rides and camping trips. Like the rest of us, they enjoy being around and interacting with others who share their sense of life and values.

Are gays and lesbians welcome in the NTCOF?

Absolutely! We don't discriminate on the basis of anyone's skin color, hairstyle, handedness, age, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, disability, or any other extraneous factors. Anyone who is committed to honest thought and inquiry is invited and welcome at the NTCOF.

Is the NTCOF tax exempt?

According to the IRS's Form 1023, Application for Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, churches "may be considered tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) even if they do not file Form 1023. Accordingly, we, like many other churches, have not sought - and under the law do not need to seek - formal IRS approval of our status as a tax-exempt organization.

Moreover, the NTCOF meets, without question, the IRS criteria of a church as outlined in their Form 1023. On page 23 of Form 1023, it is stated that: "The IRS maintains two basic guidelines in determining that an organization meets the religious purposes test: 1) That the particular religious beliefs of the organization are truly and sincerely held, and 2) That the practices and rituals associated with the organization's religious beliefs or creed are not illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy." In addition, "1) The organization's activities in furtherance of its beliefs must be exclusively religious, and 2) An organization will not qualify for exemption if it has a substantial nonexempt purpose of serving the private interests of its founder or the founder's family." The NTCOF easily meets all of these criteria.

Our status with the State of Texas, however, has been an interesting story. The Texas State Comptroller denied an application from the Ethical Society of Austin (ESA) for tax-exempt church status in 1997 because the group did not "worship a Supreme Being." We were also denied tax-exempt status by the state of Texas a few months later with it being asserted by the Comptroller's office that the NTCOF "appears to be a discussion or social group rather than a religious organization." An appeal made on our behalf by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State was also rejected. However, the Texas Supreme court ruled that the Comptroller cannot dictate what churches must believe or disbelieve, and in May 2006, the Texas State Comptroller granted our application for tax exemption as a religious organization.

How can unbelievers go along with being in a church?

Not every NTCOF member agrees with or is comfortable with our use of the word "church." Almost without exception, this is because it carries unpleasant connotations for them, chiefly those of superstition, unquestionable dogmas, and enforced conformity of thought. Since the NTCOF involves none of these things, and because they understand the reasons for the use of the word, most NTCOF members are accepting of its use and have grown to appreciate the many advantages of promoting Freethought as an alternative to faith-based religions.

Why do you call yourselves a church? Churches are only for Christians! You should rename yourselves!

The word "church" describes perfectly what the NTCOF is and what it does. The NTCOF's members are drawn together on the basis of their shared values and approach to questions and problems that are generally considered to be religious. The NTCOF sponsors regular meetings that are free and open to the public as well as other activities for its members. Marriages are celebrated, newborns are welcomed, children are instructed, personal crises are addressed, and the sick and dying are supported, all within the context of these same values.

If someone dressed in chaps, spurs, and a Stetson herded cattle mounted on a zebra, would we refuse to call him a cowboy? Of course not. The NTCOF is and does everything that any other church does but without supernaturalism and without imposing doctrines and dogmas on its members.

The objection would make more sense if it were true that all other churches are Christian. But the Church of Scientology and the Buddhist Church are certainly not Christian. Indeed, many Buddhists are atheists! Likewise, the Unitarian-Universalist Church does not promote Christian doctrines and, in fact, welcomes atheists and agnostics. Then there is the Universal Life Church (ULC), which sells ordinations by mail and over the internet. The NTCOF is much more like traditional churches than is the ULC.

The objection is irrelevant in any case. What other church would change its name to suit outsiders? Should the Catholic Church stop using the word "church" because some Protestants say that the Vatican is the "Anti-Christ" and the "Whore of Babylon?" Of course not. Even many Christians have pointed out to us that the ancient origin of the word "church" is the idea of people who are "called out for a purpose." We are certainly that.

What is the difference between Freethought and Atheism?

Atheism means nothing more than a lack of belief in god(s). That's all. Someone could believe in all sorts of magical and mystical powers, or even fairies and leprechauns. But, if they did not believe in god(s) then they would still be an atheist.

Freethought is discussed in the NTCOF's brochure "What is Freethought? What is a Freethinker?" that is included in a packet for each visitor to our monthly service. But, in essence, Freethought is opinions about religious questions that are formed independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethought relies instead on facts and reasons, while bearing in mind their limitations. So a Freethinker would not believe in god(s), fairies, leprechauns, or anything else for which there is insufficient evidence or that is contradicted by facts and reason. In addition, Freethinkers hold their beliefs conditionally, and are willing to reexamine them in the light of new facts and reasons.

How are you different from the Unitarians?

The NTCOF applauds the Unitarian-Universalist (UU) churches for their toleration of minority and unpopular religious views, including atheism and agnosticism. But in doing this they elevate tolerance of all opinions to the level of dogma. The result is that mysticism and superstition of all kinds is common in UU churches and it is considered impolite to seriously question them. The NTCOF, by contrast, rejects religious opinions that are at odds with facts and reason. We respect all people, but not all beliefs.

Isn't the NTCOF just making a religion out of science?

Absolutely not. The NTCOF recognizes that the approaches and methods of science are similar to its own advocacy of facts and reason concerning religious questions. But science deals in matters of objective reality and not in matters of religion. When it comes to religious questions of morality, meaning, and so on, scientists simply do not have access to all the relevant facts, many of which are highly personal and subjective.

How can you think freely if you are not free to believe in god(s)?

Freethought is not thinking whatever one likes. Thinking is much like many other things we do in that it is subject to certain rules and restrictions that we call reason or logic. Freethought consists of applying the tools of reason to problems that are generally considered "religious."

For thousands of years, those who have thought hardest about the question of god(s), carefully setting aside faith and other personal considerations, have been forced to the conclusion that the existence of god(s) remains speculative at best. At the same time, the efforts of believers to construct arguments to prove the existence of god(s) have all met with failure.

Therefore, until and unless new and relevant facts or reasons are introduced, Freethinkers remain unpersuaded of, and, in fact, are justified in strongly doubting any claims of the supernatural.

Don't you know it is impossible to declare with certainty that there are no gods?

Some atheists say that they are certain that no god(s) exist. When they do, they typically mean that a particular sort of god cannot exist because of some logical impossibility. For example, even ancient thinkers rejected the idea of a god who was both all-powerful and all-knowing, because these two attributes are mutually exclusive. The same difficulties apply in the case of a god claimed to be all-good and all-powerful.

Other atheists say that the notion of god(s) is incomprehensible, or too vague to be meaningful. They point out that the problem is not that one cannot prove a negative. After all, it can easily be disproved that the National Zoo has a unicorn exhibit. But one cannot disprove a claim that god(s) exist in the absence of any means of testing for such existence.

Each of these positions and others besides them come with their own set of arguments and objections. All are useful and instructive in understanding what it means to believe or know something. But atheism doesn't stand or fall on any particular interpretation of these subtleties. Finally, to the extent that certainty about the nonexistence of god(s) is not possible, certainty about their existence is equally impossible.

You have the right not to believe and be damned to hell for your unbelief, but why are you endangering the souls of your children?

This complaint/question could be made by adherents of any religious sect, especially any Christian sect, against anyone who does not conform to their faith beliefs. And it is mistaken for several reasons.

To begin with, the question is meaningless to those, like us, who do not believe in these things. It makes as much sense as confronting Christians about their karma and that of their children. It's also an intrusive and unwelcome charge. Just imagine what a believer would think of being asked "Why are you destroying the minds of your children with superstition?"

In addition, there is insufficient evidence to support a belief in immaterial souls, hell or damnation. Even if such things did exist, to ask this question is to assume that someone possesses god-like powers of precognition or actually knows the specific intentions and plans of God for us and our children. These assumptions are not consistent with either our rational understanding of the world or with many systems of theology.

Is there a Church of Freethought where I live?

Maybe. There are currently Churches of Freethought in Dallas/Ft. Worth and in Houston. If you don't live in these areas and would like to find out how to start a Church of Freethought, please contact us.

What is the NTCOF's position on State-Church separation issues?

The NTCOF supports the Constitutional separation of state and church.

The First Amendment begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In concert with the 14th Amendment, it forbids the government from interfering in any way into matters of religious conscience. It may not support or hinder one point of view over another. Thus, anyone's freedom of religion necessarily means everyone's freedom from other people's religions.

Likewise, Jefferson's Wall of Separation Between Church and State means that no government authority is entitled to determine which beliefs qualify as "religion" or who may form a "church." Every American's religious liberties depend on these principles.

Does the NTCOF challenge religion, sponsor protests, or file lawsuits?

No. We are not an activist group. Also, it would not serve our purpose - or our members - to provoke confrontations with other churches or their members. Any of our members who wish to engage in activism, as some do, have a wide variety of other groups from which to choose.

We certainly might engage in litigation if it became necessary for us to exercise our religious liberties on an equal basis with other religious groups. For example, we filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the famous "Pledge of Allegiance" case filed by Dr. Michael Newdow. We also filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Eklund v. Nyron Union School District (a case in which students were led to "simulate" being Muslims). But except in these instances we look to other organizations that make it their business to defend American civil liberties and the separation of state and church.

What is the NTCOF's position on abortion, gun control, welfare, the environment, and other political issues?

The NTCOF takes no position on such issues. The NTCOF is not a political organization. Moreover, Freethinkers are of many different political persuasions. The NTCOF trusts its members to make their own decisions on these subjects and that they will do so with due regard to relevant facts and the principles of reason.

What beliefs does the North Texas Church of Freethought promote?

As its name suggests, the NTCOF is not about believing but about thinking. Beliefs are very useful but limited. This is because all beliefs are - or should be - stopping-off places in a much more active process of thinking. It is thinking that shows us what we ought to believe. It is thinking that makes us human.

What do NTCOF members believe?

There is no conformity of belief among NTCOF members. But there is a long tradition of critical thought going back to the time of Socrates and earlier on a wide variety of religious subjects. From this has come the realization that claims about the existence of gods, devils, heaven, hell, and other supernatural entities are not supported by sufficient facts and reason. Indeed, in almost all cases, these claims run into insurmountable logical problems. This is why believers must rely on faith. Seeing many problems with the notion of believing in something simply because one wishes to, and being unable to keep from questioning doctrines and dogmas, NTCOF members all reject the idea of faith and, with it, belief in the supernatural.

The overwhelming majority of NTCOF members believe that it is the right and the responsibility of each one of us to make sense of our experiences and of our part in the human condition. We believe that we have an obligation to do this in ways that are fulfilling and meaningful for ourselves and that do not prevent others from doing the same for themselves. We believe that it is valuable for each of us, our families, and unbelievers generally, as well as the larger society, for us to create and maintain communities of fellowship for the purpose of cooperatively discussing, exploring, and practicing these shared values. We believe that this helps us to become more responsible, more effective, and happier in our lives.

Why are you trying to imitate churches, organizations that have wreaked untold harm on the human race?

In agreement with most unbelieving critics of churches and religion, the NTCOF holds that the peculiar harms wrought by religions and churches is and has always been the result of people believing that they possess absolute and ultimate truth when they do not. These beliefs, almost by definition, tend to be supernatural or mystical in nature. But the search for understanding by means of critical thought, with a due regard for both facts and reason while bearing in mind their limitations, has been the engine of human progress.

The NTCOF is based on the idea that it is helpful, not harmful, for people to honestly address the central questions of the human condition in a positive community that encourages critical thinking and attempts to supply people with the intellectual, social, and emotional needs that all of us have. Our organizational structure is that of a church because it is a proven and successful form of human social organization.

Is Freethought a religion?

Yes, the functional definition of religion on which the NTCOF is predicated clearly includes Freethought. But it's important to realize that this position incorporates the idea that "religion" is simply what people believe and think about questions that are generally understood to be "religious." These questions have to do with the ultimate nature of reality, the meaning and purpose of the human condition, good and evil, and other matters. It is not necessary for people to believe in the supernatural, to suppress their doubts and questions, or to "have faith" in doctrines and dogmas for their ideas to count as legitimate religious opinion or "religion." Even the courts have admitted this.

On the other hand, if one defined religion as a fixed creed, Freethought would not qualify. But neither would Unitarian-Universalism (UUism), which also has no fixed creed. In fact, unlike Freethought, which supports a standard of critical thinking that excludes belief in god(s) on the basis of available facts and reason, UUism embraces both theism and atheism. In this respect UUism is less a religion than Freethought.

Sadly, when it comes to religious issues, many people choose their words to advance an agenda or an argument and not to communicate a thought or idea. When it suits believers' needs to construe religion narrowly, such as when determining eligibility for tax exemptions, it may be said that "worship of a Supreme Being" is required. But when believers are upset about the absence of organized group prayers in public schools they may insist that this amounts to atheism and, atheism being a religion, the absence of prayer to god(s) violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Likewise, those who oppose evolution often claim 'falsely' that evolution is a religion.

Similar inconsistencies can arise among unbelievers. Many atheists, for example, know that European paganism, African animism, and American native religious beliefs were brutally attacked by Christians who supposed that they had the "true religion." Even those unbelievers who proudly refer to themselves as infidels know that both Christians and Moslems have regarded each other as "infidels." Most also know that Marxist-Leninists have had few qualms about crushing Christianity, Buddhism, and other religions. Yet it is often supposed that words can be narrowly defined and selectively applied in such a way that all the blame for wars and other inhumanities can be attached to religions and churches. Curiously, some unbelievers also insist that they are "not religious" even though they have very strong opinions on the subject of religion and may be more familiar with the intricacies of various theologies than those who say they believe in them.

You say the NTCOF isn't "faith based" but doesn't it take faith to say that god(s) don't exist?

To begin with, the NTCOF does not assert that god(s) do not exist. There is no faith required to say that one is not persuaded of something. Faith is needed only when the evidence does not support beliefs or is against them. The NTCOF's position is in agreement with W.K. Clifford's assertion that: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." [The Ethics of Belief (1879)] When there is sufficient evidence, then no faith is necessary.

Even when we "have faith" that a friend will be waiting for us at a given time and place, it is on the basis of our past experience that the friend can be relied on to keep promises. It has nothing to do with the kind of faith that is invoked in support of supernatural religious doctrines. Likewise, it is no "act of faith" to expect that the sun will rise tomorrow or to suppose that the information about our parentage recorded on our birth certificates is accurate. Experience teaches us that it is reasonable to have these kinds of expectations and make these kinds of suppositions. There simply is no comparable basis for believing in the supernatural.

What has made you angry with God?

Contrary to what some believers are inclined to suppose, most unbelievers did not become atheists because of some traumatic life experience that made them "angry with God." How could we be "angry with" something that we are not even persuaded exists?

It's also untrue that atheists reject the idea of god(s) because they did not receive divine help on some occasion when they personally wanted or needed it. The truth is simply that atheists find the idea of god, well, unbelievable.

The truth is also that Freethinkers are as happy and well-adjusted as anyone else. Though it certainly doesn't help when the occasional believer harasses, ostracizes, or otherwise persecutes us for our conscientious lack of belief.

Haven't you heard the 'Good News' of Jesus? Don't you know that God loves you?

Many Freethinkers are former believers. They come from a wide variety of mostly Christian and a few non-Christian sects. Some have closely studied scripture or earned degrees in religious studies. A few have been ordained or have had extensive experience "witnessing for Christ." Even most life-long atheists have read the Bible and examined the claims of Christianity with an open mind, often more than once. But all have rejected supernatural claims as false.

With regard to Jesus specifically, unbelievers find the evidence for his being anything more than a human being to be lacking. A coherent account even of the circumstances of his alleged resurrection cannot be constructed from the books of the New Testament. In some respects we find his teachings lacking, as he never, for example, spoke against slavery and the subordination of women, practices that were common in his day. Many of our members doubt whether Jesus ever existed, and in this they have the support of some scholars.

We certainly do acknowledge the fact that Jesus, whoever he was, if he was anybody, is credited with saying and doing some admirable things. We admire many of those things as well. But, like Thomas Jefferson, who edited the New Testament down to its most praiseworthy passages, we see no reason to suppose that the moral teachings ascribed to Jesus have anything to do with theological doctrines.

Can a Freethinker believe in God?

It is exceedingly doubtful that a Freethinker today could believe in god(s). There are three reasons for this:

There is essentially a complete lack of evidence for the existence of god(s), and all evidence once thought to be supportive of the existence of god(s) is better explained by other means.

There are many facts and reasons that weigh against the existence of most kinds of god(s).

There is strong evidence that god(s) were devised by human beings to meet human needs.

Essentially the only reasons left for believing in god(s) today are those of tradition, authority, and established belief, all of which Freethinkers reject as a means to discerning truth. Therefore, if a Freethinker did believe in god(s) it would be likely that he or she simply had not yet gotten around to examining the question. In this case, though, the belief would be held provisionally and not dogmatically.

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