MirageRe: Good questionSat Jan 28, 2012 00:3322.214.171.124I remember a thread about atheists not really congregating and we were all trying to figure out why. One of the things mentioned was that atheists don't necessarily share common beliefs really. A couple of atheists mentioned that atheism represents the absence of theism rather than specific shared beliefs such as how we should live, or whether life has any intrinsic meaning. Many atheists consider themselves secular humanists, but not all do by any means. I remember a couple of other threads that touched on possibilities why secular humanist centers have never really been popular. I'm not familiar with any non-humanist secular centers in my state, but they may exist.
I've seen a couple secular humanist centers and they were both always empty or closed. EH said the one near him was always closed. Perhaps there have been funding issues? I did notice that the two I have passed, in two different cities, were one in a strip mall that was very bare, had some cheap folding chairs, and looked more like some of the places self help groups meet. It didn't even have a prominent sign. The other one was on a popular shopping street and had some bookshelves inside, so I think it may have had a lending library. I had hopes that one might be open sometime when I passed, but it never was. Perhaps it was open by appointment. For awhile there was a secular Jewish temple in Northern California and that had a very polished website and seemed to have a very active membership. I am not sure if it still exists. That one did look like a temple, though it was too far away for me to check it out. The website had features I associate with church websites. Calendar, archived sermons, charity activity(raising money for a Jewish retirement home last I saw) pictures of the temple and members, and a profile of the rabbi. I do think there may be some merit to the suggestion de Botton has made that some people may be wanting features of a traditional religious institution but without God. I think my father did want something like that. Dad was not much of a joiner either but he was not so much a loner as he was lonely. Near the end of his life he really loved to talk about ethics, his views on the meaning of life, and pass on life lessons he had learned from experience. He took classes at a museum to meet others, sort of the way some people take Bible study courses partly to meet other believers and talk about the Bible.
A long time ago I proposed here that maybe religious proclivity and mystical/spiritual proclivity are two different intersecting scales. I still think that may be the case. My father was secular, but he was also very spiritual? or mystical? I don't know of any really adequate word to describe secular "mystics." It just didn't take any sort of religious form. The Guardian article mentions that atheists find their inspiration in other settings, in science, for example. My father did that. His response to modern art and jazz music was uplifting for him, and strikes me as very similar to my response to things I consider sacred. My father did clearly have a concept very similar to sacredness, and my husband also has a bit of that, though he finds it outdoors in nature. I've seen this in secular Buddhism as well. I don't think that all atheists share that, but then I have met churchgoers who aren't very mystical/spiritual either, really.
Dawkin's statement that the money could be better spent reminded me of disagreements I have had with people about space exploration missions and the importance of the space program in general. Some people feel strongly that the lunar landings were a huge waste of money and it would be even more wasteful to attempt a manned Mars mission. Most people who feel that way seem to feel that the money should have gone to education or the poor. My father was really upset that there was not going to be a manned Mars mission the year that Mars would have been easier to reach than it will be for a very long time. To him that was an almost criminal missed opportunity. It is entirely possible to be an atheist and also a "dreamer." Some people I think have a strong urge to seek ways to transcend ordinary life, and others find all that sort of silly. The others may absolutely love the symphony without having a sensation of being somehow lifted out of the mundane, like my father did. Maybe it's just a different personality scale.
I was always a bit mystical like my father, even when I was an atheist. Like Carl Sagan, as a teen I dreamt of mankind someday encountering other intelligent life, and I still hope someday that happens. It's interesting to me that in recent years the Catholic church has been preparing for this possibility and that the Church has really embraced the idea with great eagerness and curiosity rather than trepidation. If my father had been religious, I think he might have been pretty happy as a Roman Catholic. He shared some of their other views, actually. I'm guessing wildly here but I think some of the New Atheists might have been happier as Calvinists, had they been religious. Again, different personality types. I don't think one is "right" and the other is "wrong."
To outsiders, New Atheism is often viewed as a very "negative" movement, and angry movement, and this is what de Botton is trying to address with the temple, in a rather poetic manner. I feel I should say in fairness that I don't think Dawkins considers himself to be negative. I don't think Hitchens saw himself that way either. I don't think that those radical atheists who feel confident in saying there is no right and wrong, and life does not have any meaning consider themselves negative. I think to all of them, freeing people from what they consider dogma and artificial constraints is a grand cause, an attempt to liberate others from ignorance. I sometimes find their methods somewhat abrasive and I often feel individuals lack much understanding of the people they are trying to liberate, but really, I have had the same reaction to some religious proselytizers as well. Perhaps the very symbol of a temple is regressive to people like Dawkins, representing a longing in weaker atheists for a return to dogma and superstition. I just happen to disagree.
- Good question Frashavan, Fri Jan 27 19:51Hitchens developed into a frothing right winger in his later years, so one would have understood that he probably thought that the poor and ill should die -- like most Tories and Republicans. I'm not ... more
- Your bias against Atheists really shows thru.... Kasey, Sat Jan 28 05:33with your comments on Hitchens and Dawkins which are way off the mark. Yet many Atheiasts tend to keep it to themselves for obvious reasons in a partial theistic prejudiced and Christian society made ... more
- Re: Your bias against Atheists really shows thru.... Mirage, Sat Jan 28 08:48I had thought he may possibly have chosen the word temple because Buddhists may be either secular or religious and Buddhist temples in Western nations have been pretty welcoming to secularists over... more
- It's worth remembering however that Freemasons do have... Kasey, Sun Jan 29 05:32to recognize a [undefined] concept of a supreme being to become members....but without having to recognize any other association with it. This thus hints at a divinity concept....therefore a temple... more
- More likely it's my dislike of grandstanders Frashavan, Sat Jan 28 08:03Both Hitchens and Dawkins are major league grandstanders. His lurch to the right was noticed, and widely commented on; if you didn't read it, then do some research. If Hitchens hadn't chosen to... more
- Bias MN_Morgan, Mon Jan 30 12:52Most people get that tribe mentality (no matter what tribe they belong to) and attack anything outside of it, whether it is subjective or not. The ones with the bigger mouths are the ones that make... more
- I never got the whole "groupthink" thing Frashavan, Wed Feb 1 05:30And the more vocal people get in all expressing the same opinion, the more I want to question it. That's just me, I suppose...
- I can agree with you on the point of Hitchens.... Kasey, Sun Jan 29 05:46support of Bush for the Iraq war....both appear to have been ignorant of the lethal divisions below the surface within that religious nation among Sunni, Shia, Christian and other group which Saddam... more
- There are some biases. Mirage, Sat Jan 28 09:11There have been studies on that. I will try to find some links. There has never been a female President either, and given that women are a slight majority, it will be interesting to see how long... more
- Bias is inescapable. Frashavan, Sat Jan 28 09:29Everyone prefers some people to others; that's deeply psychological and can't really be changed. Bias becomes discrimination when it is expressed in action, of course. But, is it discrimination when... more
- Re: Bias is inescapable. Mirage, Sat Jan 28 10:20I didn't vote for him, even though it made me sad not to be a part of such an historical moment. The reason I didn't was that he was already sending too many messages to the hard right in his... more
- It's all part of the problem with... Frashavan, Sat Jan 28 11:35... a "representative" system, and one of the reasons I'm an anarchist. at the end of the day, whom does the representative represent? I agree Obama was sending messages before he was elected -- but... more
- You can be sure the moneyed supporters of the Republicans... Kasey, Sun Jan 29 05:55are doing everything they can afford, to undermine the good, humanitarian programmes Obama is trying to implement....regardless of the short term national consequences. Regards, Kasey
- Re: You can be sure the moneyed supporters of the Republicans... Mirage, Sun Jan 29 07:12He has tried, but let me put it this way, the promised reduction of healthcare costs left huge loopholes for insurance companies, and they have used them. Members of one insurance company here saw... more
- Any private system has to make a profit... Kasey, Mon Jan 30 02:25a national government run one might work better if the ALL health professionals did't try to rip off the system as they already do in the PHS. REGARDS, Kasey
- I'm not sure he wants to Frashavan, Sun Jan 29 08:22Obama raised a huge war chest, based on the donations of individuals, not corporations. That should have freed him from dependency on the moneyed interests, but seems to have had no visible impact.... more
- Re: Good question Mirage, Sat Jan 28 00:33
- Excellent post! Baruch, Mon Feb 20 11:09Music lifts me too. And secular Jews are an official group, Humanist Judaism, though I find secular ethno-centrism to be a bit sad. Shalom