The Church of Non-Stamp-Collectors

Goodness. The fleas are out in force. Greg Epstein suggested the other day that humanist “churches” could be a good idea, you know, you get the whole community and socialising experience, the pastors and preachers, just without the supernatural. What bollocks. Quoting PZ :

I think it is entirely true that that weekly church ritual has deep appeal to people, and that there’s something there that can grab people and draw them in. But it’s a cheat and a waste. Tapping into our psychology to get us to sit and get sucked into pointless ritual is not how I want to see the atheist movement evolve. I want us to think and act, not reassure ourselves by going through repetitive motions, through superstitious behavior.

Obviously, someone wasn’t paying attention. Rarely have I come across such a confused and outright wrong post outside of religious circles. But this one is from a blogger on Freethoughblogs !

There are no sins in the freethoughtverse, except offering up a shitty argument. Doing that breaks the unwritten commandment of being a rational person: thou shalt not be boring.

Wait. What has being boring to do with being rational ? I fear the worst already with this guy.

The inevitable outcome of a group of people all communicating with each other at the level of logical discourse is that oftentimes we see knock-down drag-out conflict over seemingly minor disagreements.

The what ? What on earth is “the level of logical discourse” ? I can’t say that it is my experience that discussions between atheists or humanists necessarily involve any Spock-like logic talk. Logical fallacies, sure, let’s point those out, but I have no idea what the author means by “logical discourse”. What follows now is utter insanity :

[Quote from PZ]Churches are full of tasks performed symbolically and mindlessly, based on superstition and outright lies. It is antithetical to the tenets of the freethought movement to engage in mindless practices of any kind – we are supposed to be encouraging mindfulness, not its polar opposite. By importing ritual from religion, we are being self-defeating.[End quote from PZ]

There is a great deal of validity to this concern; however, it ignores the existence of secular rituals that we engage in all the time. Perhaps the best example I can think of is a child’s birthday party. The kiddies are assembled around a table, the lights go down, and a flaming cake is brought into the room while everyone drones a song they all hate. It accomplishes nothing for the child or for the parents or the assembled throng, but it is a social rite of passage that is a cultural norm.

Blowing out a candle at a birthday party is comparable to eating a Jesus cracker ? What parents demand adherence to religious dogma as a prerequisite to having a go at blowing out a birthday cake candle ? Surely, this must count as the worst and wrongest metaphor ever made on the internet. It gets worse yet :

I still think there are some models of leadership that we see in the religious community that are not inherently bad. When I was still an attendee, our church had a deacon. He was employed full-time as a landscaper or builder or something, but on weekends he worked at the church, helping with mass or other church functions. He was invited to our family functions sometimes, and was a great guy. We didn’t have any particular reverence for him, but when I was having my major crisis of faith in my mid-teen years, he was who I went to (our parish priest was an asshole). He was well-read in the scripture and apologetics, he got me to read Kierkegaard, and generally just listened while I griped.

My point is that there are ‘liturgical’ roles that may be missing from skeptical groups as they are that could be imported from religious groups. I think a deaconate approach (or perhaps even a rabbinical one) would accomplish the good while leaving off the bad. An freethinking imam (please can we call them ‘freemams’?) could be simply that – a learned person who the community can call up when times are tough to help them work through issues.

Oh, so this is what this is about. A former religionist who fondly remembers the community, and the authority figures who told him how and what to think.
My view on this is, if you feel that you need guidance by an authority figure or a father figure, go see a psychologist. Those who have decided based on evidence or the lack thereof to not believe in gods, or to reject superstition in its many forms, do not need a church-like organisation of authority figures or chaplains to tell them what to think or what to doubt. It’s the antithesis of what our movement is about.

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