Monday, December 24, 2012
Atheism as a religion
They sound like pretty uncertain atheists. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One wonders why they don't just attend their local Anglican church (e.g. the U.S. Episcopalians). They are nice people and you don't have to believe anything to belong there. And they have neat buildings too. I usually go along to the Christmas day sung Eucharist at the local Anglican cathedral myself. They put on a very good show
It isn’t often that one hears of atheists attending church, however a new movement seems to be gearing up, as non-believers search for ways to create secular community groups. A Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., is holding weekly services for atheists and humanists. And, now, in London, stand-up comics are launching their own house of worship — a secular project that is sparking international attention.
The Islington Gazette is reporting that comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans are preparing for what the outlet dubs “a godless congregation,” which will be located in Canonbury (a residential district in the north of London). The atheist church, called “The Sunday Assembly,” will provide secular weddings, funerals and monthly services (the first Sunday of every month).
Jones and Evans, a musical impov duo, will launch the church on Jan. 6 (on the Feast of Epiphany). According to the Gazette, the two decided to create the house of worship when they realized that, while they enjoy some aspects of religion, they do not believe in a higher power.
“We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement,” Jones told the outlet.
Rather than in-house reverends, the church will include speakers who will come in to talk about a variety of issues each month. And, much like deity-driven churches, the house of worship will include a house band led by Evans.
“We all should be ludicrously excited every single moment to be alive in one of the best countries in the world,” Jones noted. “If the church becomes a useful place for others, that would be a good thing. We just want people to feel encouraged and excited when they leave.”
While Jones’ and Evans’ new project is certainly curious, they aren’t the first non-believers to share an appreciation of church culture. Author Alain de Button, too, has noted that atheists can learn quite a bit from believers.
This Is Atheists’ Alternative Christmas ‘Holiday’ That Rejects ‘Supernatural Religious Beliefs’
When it comes to holiday celebrations, December is a busy time. Christians celebrate Christmas, Jews observe Hanukkah and many African descendants participate in Kwanzaa celebrations. While the month is already chock-full of cheer, it seems atheists have traditionally felt left out of the mix, so they’ve created “HumanLight,” their own holiday to commemorate secularism.
Generally celebrated on or around Dec. 23, HumanLight is meant to tout human potential and “peace.” Contrary to other holidays, this secular observance was founded as an alternative to “supernatural religious beliefs,” as non-believers search for a way that they, too, can take part in the winter holiday season.
An official web site setup to describe the endeavor reads:
HumanLight illuminates Humanism’s positive secular vision. In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During the winter holiday season, where the word “holiday” has taken on a more secular meaning, many events are observed. This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept. HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist’s vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.
While the non-theist celebration may seem odd to those hearing about it for the first time, Religion News Service (RNS) reports that it has been around for just over a decade and is gaining traction among non-believers in some areas of the country:
This year, at least 18 groups, from New Jersey to Florida and Pennsylvania to Colorado, have ceremonies planned. And at least one government building that displays holiday scenes has added HumanLight to the roster: the county courthouse in Wabash, Ind., displays a yellow, white and red HumanLight banner on the same lawn as the Christian creche.
The holiday, which was born in the late 1990s, developed after members of the New Jersey Humanist Network began asking themselves how they, as non-believers, could commemorate the holiday season. Eventually, HumanLight became the answer everyone was apparently searching for.
In an interview with RNS, Patrick Colucci, a non-theist who helped create HumanLight, explained that, rather than focusing upon a deity, HumanLight celebrates humanity and the ability for everyone to come together to build “a more just, more peaceful and a better quality of life for all.”
“The December holiday period is always a discussion for those of us who are nontheistic,” Colucci told RNS News. “What are we going to do if our families want us to go to church? Should we celebrate Christmas even though we don’t want to? The question came up: How come there is no holiday for the nonreligious?”
While HumanLight will certainly be new to many, it is in its 12th year of observance. Some atheists began celebrating back in 2001. It was at that time that a communal meal was held. Today, just a little over a decade after the atheist holiday commenced, new practices are included, as those who celebrate it light three candles to represent reason, compassion and hope. A fourth candle, as RNS notes, represents HumanLight itself.
Despite originating in New Jersey, other non-theist groups have adopted the holiday across America. Some hold book exchanges and charity endeavors, while others provide entertainment for children. Taking a direct page from Christmas, some celebrants even create HumanLight cards, holiday carols and ornaments.
But while some non-believers are hankering for their own reason to celebrate the season, not all atheists, agnostics and humanists are on board. In fact, Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, believes that these non-theists should simply shun all December holidays.
“Nonreligious people make themselves disappear when they cling to a ‘me too’ holiday so as not to be seen with nothing special to do towards the end of December,” he said. “We’d further increase our visibility by ignoring the holiday and pressing our employers to leave the office open on December 25.”
Why atheist scientists bring their children to church
The formula seems simple: parents pass down what they believe to their children. Atheist parents don’t believe in God or go to church, therefore…. Yet, a surprisingly large number of atheist scientists from elite universities raise their children in a religious community such as a church. Sociologists Elaine Ecklund (Rice University) and Kristen Lee (University of Buffalo, SUNY) found that these atheist scientists do so because they want to give their children religious choice, have a religious spouse, or think that religious communities will give their children moral bearings and community.
Unfortunately, very little research has been done concerning how atheists (and agnostics) treat religion when raising their children. Consequently, the researchers used data ready at hand—Ecklund’s Religion among Academic Scientists study (RAAS). This study surveyed over 2,000 randomly-selected scientists from the top universities in the United States. It then followed up the survey with over 500 personal interviews (also randomly selected).
While the main intent of the survey had nothing to do raising children, it still collected that data and enables, arguably for the first time, an in-depth look at how atheists negotiate religion for the sake of their children. For example, interview questions included: “In what ways was religion a part of your life as a child? How was religion talked about in your family setting? If you have a family now, are there ways in which religion/spirituality come up, if they do at all? What religious or spiritual beliefs do you hold? For example, to what extent is believing in God or a god important to you?”
The researchers found that agnostics attend religious services (e.g., church) at about the same rate regardless of whether they have any children. By contrast, the attendance rate of atheists with children jumps 70% compared to those without. Children constitute a statistically significant factor in atheists attending religious services and joining religious communities. It should be noted that the atheists and agnostics in this study are all top-tier scientists, so these findings may not hold for atheists in general.
Looked at another way, contrary to popular expectation, atheist scientists show a proclivity to join a religious community when raising children. Unlike many atheists who feel isolated in a region of heavy religiosity, scientists have ready access to a community of fellow, morally minded atheists, and yet choose to raise their children in a religious community. Several reasons account for this.
First, scientists feel that having a scientific mindset means being able to make choices for oneself. Even if the scientist parent does not believe in God, this does not mean that the parent should impose that decision on his or her children—the children should think for themselves. Many scientists interviewed explicitly stated that they did not want to indoctrinate their children into atheism and so exposed their children to a diversity of religious communities.
Second – the most dominant reason – many of the scientists had a religious spouse who had a strong influence on how to raise their children. While this naturally required some negotiation, most of the scientists came from religious upbringings themselves and did not oppose a religious upbringing for their children.
In many circumstances they favored a religious upbringing because, third, they believed it would provide children with moral orientation. One scientist, who does not have children, said he would raise his children in the Catholic Church because he was raised Catholic and believes Catholicism teaches children important values.
Finally, atheist scientists raise their children in a religious setting because of the community it provides. Religious communities have a strong moral outlook and allow for intimate relationships.
Perhaps surprisingly, very few scientists listed spirituality as a reason for having their children go to church. One couple stressed that they sought a religious community that practiced their own personal form of spirituality, but for the most part, the scientists interviewed did not stress spirituality or giving their children spiritual community as a reason for joining religious communities.
Some may view these scientists in a negative light, seeing them as “free-loaders” who take advantage of the resources of a religious community without giving anything back or genuinely holding to that community’s beliefs. While they certainly do not believe the religious doctrines, the study did not go into detail as to whether the scientists gave back to the religious community in terms of time or money. In short, it is not known either way, but one would hope that those seeking a moral community for their children would lead by example.
A Fatwa on Christmas
AN IMAM at Australia's biggest mosque has issued a fatwa against Christmas, warning followers it is a "sin" to even wish people a Merry Christmas.
The ruling, which followed a similar lecture during Friday prayers at Lakemba Mosque, was posted on its Facebook site on Saturday, according to media reports.
It appears the post is no longer on the page.
The head imam at Lakemba, Sheikh Yahya Safi, told the congregation during prayers they should not have anything to do with Christmas.
The fatwa reportedly warns: "Disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path."
It says Christmas Day and associated celebrations are among the "falsehoods" for a Muslim to avoid.
"Therefore a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them," it says.
The fatwa has been condemned by other Muslim leaders. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, was quoted by Fairfax media as saying the foundations of Islam were peace, co-operation, respect and holding others in esteem.
"Anyone who says otherwise is speaking irresponsibly," it quoted him as saying.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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