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Atheism Religion ?
Posted: 03 November 2006 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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The Soviet system was set up to be both communist and atheist. However, one does not connote the other.

Hmm, I don’t know. The ‘working man’ was the ideal of communism; certainly God had no place in its ideology. Soviet Union, Poland, Yugoslavia, I am not sure about East Germany or Hungary, were always very religious countries (even though religion was practically illegal there). But it worked in Czechoslovakia (where I grew up). Communism did indeed replace all the ‘qualities’ that religion has to offer: faith, idiotic ceremonies, etc. We left the country because the communistic ideology was simply unbearable. It certainly felt like a religion to me. I agree with rationalrevolution on this one.

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Posted: 03 November 2006 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I say this as an atheist and a Marxist: Soviet and Maoist Communism was like a religion.

They had the ceremony, the “faith”, the doctrines, the mass movements, the rallies, the praise of the leader (which is really NOT an attribute of Marxism at all), the vision of a glorious new world that you had to have faith in as an ideal, etc.

They ventured off the path of rationalism, skepticism, and verification and into the realm of religion.

Again, I say this as a Marxist, so I’m not just trying to spout Cold War propaganda here.

This gets to the issue that Sam Harris brings up. “Faith” itself really is the problem. So, no, I don’t advocate any kind of atheistic religion, and I don’t think that people need such. I think that people only think they need it because they are brought up addicted to it from birth.

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Posted: 04 November 2006 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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rationalrev— There was an inherent danger in picking up a Hegelian system, and I’m sure Marx knew it, lol, but put it aside in favour of expediency—something which many militant [strong, and loud] athiests and secular humanists still do today. The root of the word “religion” tells us enough—that which continues to bind together.
I like to call religion—“the ties that bind”.

It’s the “binding” part that is necessarily worrisome—but binding principles are easily enough found as human activity engages reality—but they require a damn bit of time to learn. If it is social binding, the common project of freethought can serve—freethought inclusive to a wealth of human experience [where humanism, secular or religious, comes in].


(1) Ideology: The root of the word ideology expressed a salutary concern with the study of ideas. The methods of skeptical inquiry, when they take ideas as their subject matter, are necessarily “ideology” in that sense. That said, binding ourselves too strongly to a particular structure or approach is as antithetical to freethought as the social inertia that forces Kuhnian revolutions. [Though, to be fair, I think most Kuhnians harp a bit too much on “revolution” as an all-encompassing upheaval. I suppose that’s all right - the young like us do get concerned about getting jobs, tenure, etc.]

(2) Morality: I reject “morality” in favour of ethics—but a healthy understanding of the way things are [mores] helps the development of a skeptical and open-minded character[or personality, or disposition, as you will]—insofar as a skeptical or open-minded character does not limit the scope of human experience available to individuals and aggregates. The informal constitution of how successful and skeptical minds relate to each other best is a project to be written—but it exists in “the way things are” as we work together. Look for what works best in the long run in your talking to, aiding [and abetting, especially, heh] others—and pass it on.
Look into the study of character, and represent the best character you can form for yourself, given your circumstances.

Inspiring speakers, professionals, self-help folk—the village that raises the child—that’s enough embedded morality for anyone. The fact that secular civil society hasn’t created enough communities may reflect that so many exit our vocational training(education?) systems without a reasoned social consciousness (it needn’t be entirely rational—but reasonable).

That reasoned social consciousness? We get it from parents, teachers, and our heroes on the social front (none of us can choose the parents, most have little or bad choices in teachers/schools, and our heroes/models of virtue, in the Aristotelian sense… are usually a matter of our exposure to concepts of the individual in the society.)  The problem is not a matter of kind, but of degree—social consciousness, right now, is in danger of being mediated increasingly through a dogmatic lens again. Bad religion.

(3) Ceremonies: Is writing your first paper or a book a rite of passage? An example. Or perhaps your first executive position as a social activist—or getting a column in a magazine or paper? The need for ceremony, I think, is related to our need to recognise, and make memorable the transitions of our consciousness—our epiphanies. Usually, the only people who can sense those changes are our friends—and we don’t have parties or gatherings about these things—yet we may. And I do hope that the epiphanic experience is something we may share with each other.

The ceremony in my life? Sadly, a lot to do with tick marks on lists of things to do. ::grin:: Or my cup of tea in the morning, a hot dog after our midterms, etc.

Aha! How many of us has gone to a post-midterm party? A meeting of companions in misery—or success. The study group needs to be expanded into those functions as well.

Does that qualify as a product of “ceremonial” thinking?
I’ve found that math courses that allow you to rediscover the solutions and proofs to aporiae in mathematics… or the well-orchestrated book club or discussion group provide me all the ceremony I need as a matter of course.

Kids’ ability to form ceremony on their own isn’t quite as clear—but the reform of school to privilege the intrinsic values and joy of learning, as well as praxis—well, ceremonies that let kids get into “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi) shall serve. Let us inquire into ceremonial thinking, and provide freethinkers primers on the value and practice of little ceremonies in their lives—and see what happens.

(4) Place: Space, first. We used to have coffeeshops.
CFA members, find rented space or student lounges, even—if you set a time to meet up, you’ve got a “place” of conversation. The sort of networking we’re doing can turn any public, -open- space into one of ours—so spaces for contemplation, cultivating aesthetic sense, or simply thinking without distraction… are to be made. Consider the gaming rooms and oxygen bars of South Korea. Sure, it’s marketised—but the bills will need to be paid, somehow—incorporating your group, or having a charity help you pay the rent is a great way to get people into -your- public spaces. A thought.

I hope I’m not being excessively idealistic here—my goal was to be playful, at worst. : )

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Posted: 04 November 2006 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I agree with those things, but in the USSR and early PRC, and certainly now in the DPRK, there was intent to indoctrinate, and the attitude was just like that of a church, and I say that it was certainly NO WORSE than most present day churches in America, but luckily churches in America today don’t have the power that the Communists did in these countries.

They deeply encouraged faith in their core principles, without giving any room or instruction in free thought, free inquiry, skepticism, or other points of view.

You simply can’t do this and have a long term healthy society, which is why the Europeans went down hill under Christianity, and why things will go down hill again under Christianity if it gains power again in America, why things went down hill in the Middle East under Islam these past 200 years, and why things went down hill in the Soviet Union.

That’s also why we have this institute called “The Center for INQUIRY”, and it applies equally to all forms of inquiry.

The traditional religions have their taboos, and the Communists had their taboos as well, and this is the core of the problem.

I’m okay with many communist principles and with much of the early communist criticism and analysis of capitalism, but the system that they implemented were effectively state religions, that hindered inquiry, rationality, free thought, and certainly did not provide people will a well rounded understanding of certain subjects and current events.

But yes, we can have rituals and ceremonies, and I agree that we should reject morals in favor of ethics. I view “morals” as really just an instinctive social construct that, like all evolved behavior, is crude and does not necessarily fit in our modern world, but we have to be careful with these things, and that is where the problem comes in.

These social forces are really very powerful. To be honest and to do what is right and good for individuals and the future of our society, we need to take great care with the use of these social forces, but how do we #1 do that while upholding the right of free speech and free assembly, #2 do that as atheists in th face of “an enemy” that explicitly takes advantage of and exploits these very social forces?

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Posted: 04 November 2006 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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These social forces are really very powerful. To be honest and to do what is right and good for individuals and the future of our society, we need to take great care with the use of these social forces

Absolutely. My post was not for your benefit as much as for those who still would like an authentic religion without dogma—as with nontheist religions.

I’d guess that this is one of the reasons why Paul Kurtz saw the need to secularise humanism in the US—because the common bonds of a shared religion overcame the divide between deists, humanists and theists and fundamentalists—and made for a joint war on science and “eupraxsophy” in secular society. Indeed, it is to the advantage of coercive factions[usually the most powerful groups within] of religions that good sense be uncommon, and people forget how to communicate to each other the distributive wisdom that they do have.

Any “science” is distributive wisdom of a particular form, devoted to certain subject matter, and embedded in collective and individual history.

A “religion” that makes the generation of the wisdom of good practice its primary focus while attending to the two concerns you mentioned below… is possible.  I wrote what I did to show that it’s also accessible, and not as far from life as we live it as unfreethinkers would like others, and us, to believe.

~1: Just some ideas, thrown out there, since I haven’t the chance to think too deeply on it, and just about as much as I could while in the tub, lol.

1a. critical theory on gramscian hegemony is all about this—but I would say that we need not be certain of success, first off—and give up any undue attachment to striving on that score. The most important thing here is to make sure that those we work with hold those values in high esteem, and don’t ignore them in service of this cause.
1b.Freedom to speak and assemble is not “freedom to speak without cogent counterargument” and “freedom to coopt people (and use psychological coercion) when they’re desperate and not in a stable frame of mind that facilitates reasonable action [notice, I said “reasonable” and not “rational”—by “reasonable” here, I have in mind the juridical concept [deliberately fuzzy, I might add] of the “reasonable person”.

In short (a) a concept from aporetics for a procedures to point out when aporias come up—and highlight WHY they’re aporiae when debating our… rivals… for mediation of human social forces. (Even mediation strikes me as a bit arrogant, lol, but I’ve nothing better atm.)  (b) the concept of a human right to freedom from psychological coercion—which could be based on the writing on the freedom of movement—that could be championed. IF you want to use “rights” language, which is more popular among some circles in the states than others. It’s at least something even the most diehard liberal or libertarian might sign off on.

You might want to use different language if you’re talking to someone who forms the neocons target market—a political realist perspective on power structures, so they don’t worry that you’re an idealist yet to be mugged by reality.

2a. Mr. Kurtz must’ve neologised “eupraxsophy” for a reason. I take it to read “the wisdom of good practice”. Spread what eupraxsophy you’ve learned through your life, and as a society of individuals, concentrate fire on those discourses where the “enemy” is hobbled by their abuse of those social needs [that you call forces].

Is it fair to say that a social force is only a particular configuration of social and cultural mediation structures that facilitate certain psychological needs[social or otherwise] being met?

In that case, you’re asking me a version of the convergence worry that pro-democracy/participatory government forces had when facing competition from totalitarian or authoritarian states—“How can we compete with them and win if they can coordinate faster than we can, and force their people to do work for less, when we can’t coordinate well at all, and can’t even -convince- people to ask what their self and social interest is?” The temptation is, of course, to find ways to coerce the people who aren’t technocrats—by becoming closer to the enemy.

I think the key is what sort of biopolitical competition you want to undertake—and make sure you do it on your own terms.

The evangelicals have more kids, and they’re generally better educated for professions and academic performance as it is now measured(you don’t need to be a freethinker to help do genetic research, become a lawyer, engineer, broker, etc.), megachurches have [effectively] socialised daycare, healthcare, education [the core of their publication and distribution structures don’t consist of “employees”—they can shelter in a larger org that’s incorporated as a charity], financial services and advice…  well, frankly, that’s good practice, and a commitment to eupraxsophy might at least let us take those notes from their book—and spread them beyond their ability to -monopolise- those forces.

They’re monolithic by nature, as now constituted—that’s what gives them their coordinating power—and as we find out all too often these days, their leaders are often powerhungry. We need to try to undercut their expansion—whether we succeed, that is for history to decide.

we need to take great care with the use of these social forces


Yes. A start is to make sure that in whatever context in our social lives, when our friends and companions respond to those forces, that they remain mindful of how the complexes that drive those desires can well interfere with their liberty.

It’s the best that I can come up with—and I do know a book and approaches that help -me- do that, however imperfectly.

Those two questions are my personal focus, and why I’d like to make, once we hit critical mass in the org I’m working with now, the Secular Alliance, in Toronto, an affiliate of CFA that focuses on eupraxsophy and its mediation.

We can only hope that the human spirit shall prevail over that which limits it—and to minimise the suffering and slavery of thought to psychological coercion as we can, day by day, as individuals and networks.

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Posted: 09 November 2006 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Take a look at this The Church of Freethought

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Posted: 10 November 2006 01:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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[quote author=“faithfreedom”]Take a look at this [url=http://www.churchoffreethought.org/]The Church of Freethought”


Thank you faithfreedom. Very interesting.

Bob Reasoner

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Posted: 15 November 2006 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]But I for one begin to get antsy when it seems we are creating competition for the Unitarian Universalists or the Society for Ethical Culture or the Quakers or the Zen Buddhists. For those who feel they need a church-like atmosphere to practice their form of atheism, there are quasi-religions that already do a quite decent job at it.

I was at a musical performance at a Unitarian church last weekend.  There were tables set up in the main auditorium as if it were a cafe.  When it was over the MC said,“And now we’d like your help turning this back into a church,” and I thought, Wow, that’s a tough order!”  Luckily he just wanted us to help rearrange the chairs. :wink:

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Posted: 15 November 2006 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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[quote author=“Yonts”]I was at a musical performance at a Unitarian church last weekend.  There were tables set up in the main auditorium as if it were a cafe.  When it was over the MC said,“And now we’d like your help turning this back into a church,” and I thought, Wow, that’s a tough order!”  Luckily he just wanted us to help rearrange the chairs. :wink:

LOL  LOL

No animal sacrifices involved? Or wine and crackers?

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Posted: 16 November 2006 01:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Yonts”]I was at a musical performance at a Unitarian church last weekend.  There were tables set up in the main auditorium as if it were a cafe.  When it was over the MC said,“And now we’d like your help turning this back into a church,” and I thought, Wow, that’s a tough order!”  Luckily he just wanted us to help rearrange the chairs. :wink:

LOL  LOL

No animal sacrifices involved? Or wine and crackers?

There was wine and crackers, and I think turkeys and hogs had been sacrificed for the deli tray…but I’m happy to report that it was all digested normally without turning into anyone’s body and blood.

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