Atheists and Traditions
Religion has a lot different facets that different people find appealing:
- transcendence/awe/altered states of consciousness
- belief in the supernatural
And surely many others. It’s my impression that people tend to focus on a few of their favorites among these components and ignore the rest. It’s just as true of the devout as it is of the apatheists, agnostics, and atheists. It’s just that people tend to see each religion as a monolith, so the difference in focus from one believer to the next is not always obvious. By contrast, it’s very obvious that the non-religious have to pick and choose.
“I think it is very, very nice of Greg Epstein to want to ape religion, and maybe there will even be some people who find his ideas appealing,” Myers tells the Phoenix via e-mail. “However, I’d remind him that just as we can be good without god, we can also be good without rituals, good without sacraments, [and] good without priests and chaplains. I can appreciate that he’s offering a small step away from the old superstitions, but we can go so much further.”
Or, let me break it down further:
atheist #1: I love church! I don’t think that non-belief should be something that disqualifies you from going to church. Let’s reclaim church and show everyone that atheists go to church just like other good people.
atheist #2: WTF? Church stinks! I don’t have a “church-shaped hole” in me any more than I have a “god-shaped hole” in me. And I’m sick of people implying that you need church to be a whole person or that going to church is somehow superior to not going to church.
I had this same conflict with the novel Duck Egg Blue. I’m very happy that the Unitarian Universalists are there for the folks who like church and aren’t so interested in belief and theology. And I’d like to see the same acceptance the other direction, i.e. acknowledgement that lacking interest in church doesn’t make you defective or inferior. 😉
Personally, I think non-theism is orthogonal to all of the items on my “religion-facets” list except the last one. It neither encourages nor discourages them. Being an atheist doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating Christmas if you don’t want to, and it also doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to like Christmas (if you don’t) out of some misguided belief that there’s something wrong with people who don’t like Christmas.
Same for the others on the list. Some people like rituals more than others. People experience awe in different ways. Some people like to like to keep a connection with the culture of their youth (and read/write about it on blogs like this one), others hardly give Mormonism a second thought after giving up belief. And that’s OK.
p.s. What do you think of the new masthead?