first to introduce myself. I am an Apostate from Roman Catholocism. At one time I was a Catholic apologist and seriously considered entering the priesthood.
I majored in Philosophy and minored in Religious science in university.
After I had children and just couldn't get the babies to sit through mass, I found that without the constant reinforcement of being in Church every week, my faith waned. Now, years later after wandering about in the desert of my own mind and exploring many different faiths, I am an avowed atheist.
But I find there's something missing. Often a hear people say things like they have faith but eschew religion (because apparently organized religion has a bit of a bad rep lately), and I think they have it backwards. We as humans seem to be hard-wired for religion. It was one of the very first things we used our intelligence to develop. It must have either had an evolutionary purpose, or was a by-product of our intelligence that didn't have an adverse effect on natural selection. We desire to have symbols, rituals, ceremonies, mark important events, etc.
So I want to start an atheist religion. I am writing a book with the premise that spiritual fulfillment can be achieved through a personalized system of symbols, rituals, ceremonies, etc. independent of any belief or dogma.
For example, I have written a liturgy for the menarche of my daughters.
We celebrate important holidays by honoring important aspects of humanity such as our inventiveness, our capacity for altruism, etc.
So far I have a chapter outline and have started writing bits a pieces here and there. I would love some input from this community.
do we realy need this? I mean...we got enough junk on the floor we are trying to sweep out now..!
we realy dont need one more, no matter how benign that espouses something like a metaphysics as a basis.
"spirituality" has no basis other than metaphysics.
now something based on recent research in brain chemistry and current psychology etc... stuff that can be proven....that would be a plus.
but I, myself would not welcome anything calling itself an "atheist-religion" (hu-duh-wha?!?!?)
and certainly not with "rituals and symbology". I and others try real hard to rid ourselves of superstitious nonsense and you want to reintroduce them?!?
are you mad or just not recovered from Catholicism yet?
I got out of catholosism early and have no wish to see anything like it ever again.
it leads to blind adherence, division, derision, separatism and a power strugle for the top that will lead to the same type of corruption that we see in the catholic religion today.
.....just my personal take....nothin serious.
Thanks Matt - whether you intended them seriously or not, you raise some good points that deserve addressing.
I think perhaps you misunderstood. (see my other comment on this thread below).
Rituals and symbols are not in and of themselves superstitious. Is a graduation ceremony superstitious? No, yet cap and gown and diploma are all symbols that one immediately associates with graduation and all the things it connotes. The same with corporate logos, etc.
A symbol is nothing more than a representation of ideas that says more in a simple visual (or sound) than words can. We use them every day. The have been extensively studied scientifically.
A ritual is not necessarily some superstitious magic spell. Many people have rituals in their every day lives - get up, brush teeth, eat breakfast. When done a certain way in a certain order, that constancy gives them comfort. Add symbols to that and you have something meaningful.
It is the dogma of religion that leads to division and corruption. Not the ceremonies. You don't condemn your neighbor to hell-fire because you ate a wafer and drank some wine. You do it because of what those things represent. If they meant something else, they would have a different impact.
As for spirituality resting on metaphysics... What I'm talking about when I say spirituality is nothing more than a social phenomenon; a very human - and therefore having at it's base neurobiological reasons (though I'm not versed enough to understand them and science hasn't fully explained them yet) - expression of our consciousness, creativity, desire for community and common ground, etc.
To me - it's a real and human desire that just isn't answered to by the intellectual exercise of atheism and humanism.
I believe the major draw to church is the social aspect. People feel they belong and fit in somewhere. They have a "club" so to speak. I posted in a forum several months ago stating that I believe if atheists had weekly social get togethers across the nation, pot luck dinners (lol), and basically a church without the god or the religion that our numbers would grow tremendously. Having been raised in church all my life, and married to a man who had considered being a youth minister (we're both atheist now) I can say the most important thing about church to me was friends and a social outlet. I mean who really likes listening to a preacher go on and on...blah, blah, blah. My teenage sons hate church with a passion but have attended with friends for some church social functions. They would love to have a place for friends and fun etc without the preaching, gay bashing, hell fire and damnation.
I'm rambling, I know...I said all that to say this, I get what you're saying and I agree.
Ever take a course of world religions in university? That's part of the "religious sciences" curriculum. Religion as a human and social phenomenon can be studied scientifically like anything else. Where does it come from? Why did it develop? What do different religions have in common and why? How do myths come to be and evolve Etc. Etc.
The work of Mircea Eliad and others in this area is quite eye opening.
I've heard of UU atheists before. I suppose you could go that route. There are parody churches (meetups) of the FSM. I get the same tingly feeling I used to get in church just by visiting a park or taking in a landscape. I get that tingly feeling when I learn about the universe. I just don't attribute it to a deity. To me, the universe is divine in its own right. We don't have to add any mythologies or rituals to it, you know?
I do miss the fellowship, but you can get that in other sorts of meet-ups without tagging religious labels on them. Pick up a hobby or volunteer. It's far more productive.
:D Thanks for the great replies everyone!
@Cane - why would you assume I have not discovered science?
The idea of it being a "religion" is perhaps a misnomer since what I'm talking about it basically creating meaningful traditions to celebrate important aspects of our lives WITHOUT ANY appeal to anything other than science (which I discovered long ago).
While many are content to "throw the baby out with the bath water" and become iconoclasts rejecting any trapping that would remind them of religion, I think many people can and do hunger for these things. It is my hypothesis that this sense of tradition and community is why a lot of people who really don't care much about their faith will still pay lip service to their religion and attend church, etc. This is also not about ethics... there are already plenty of humanist ethics organizations, etc.
Admittedly I am not very well versed in the neuroscience of why these things appeal to us as a species (I'm sure not to all of you personally), but I think that's rather a moot point. The appeal is there. I am contending that a large part of the appeal of religion is not the faith, but the trappings. It's quite likely that the evidence we see of the anthropological origins of religion - burial of the dead, art etc. Started as nothing more than these kinds of celebrations.
Think of something as simple as a birthday party, retirement party, graduation ceremony etc. These are non-religious things that we use to celebrate and honour important moments in our lives. Why not have a coming of age ceremony? Why not use occasions like solstices and equinoxes etc. to celebrate different aspects of our lives? People already instinctively do things like this all the time - they have rituals in their lives they unconsciously imbue with meaning.
Is it harmful? I don't see how it could be.
Is it needed - arguably yes, but not necessarily for everyone. It could also be something uniting. Like so-called non-denominational or ecumenical services except that it would not just be veiled monotheism watered down so as not to offend the various bickering sects, but instead truly humanist and inclusive.
I'm sure there are variations existent already (I will look into the Ethical Society - thanks for the links). But are these only small fringe (for lack of a better term) organizations? Are there published books - or just web sites? Anything in the mainstream?