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What gives religions their strength.
Posted: 02 October 2012 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]
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This post is going to be a bit personal.

My 94 year old mother is now hospitalized with stage 4 leukemia and the prospects are not good.  She still has her mental facilities.  Amazingly she is being visited by her many friends.  They are giving human warmth and friendship.  Many of them are from the church she has belonged to for several years.  These people are not coming to see her because of their particular creed but because they are genuine friends that she made at the church and they are trying to make her end less lonely. 
I cannot thank them enough, even the minister who I have had a problem with in the past, has been more than helpful.  I had never thought about how these visiting clergy act as patient advocates.

What I am seeing here is theology but a social organization that promotes true friendship and care for each other.

There is more, much more, to life than material goods.

So my question is how are we atheists, secular humanists, etc. doing at building the type of social support organizations that develop these personal relationships among our fellow humans?  They are needed and it is something no government can provide.  {How’s that for coming from someone who thinks liberals are overly conservative. hmmm }

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Posted: 02 October 2012 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Excellent question, Gary, and one I think we all have to face. I’ve been thinking about it as well. One problem I see inherent in the scattered, individualistic nature of secularism/skepticism is that it makes any kind of unified support network all the more difficult to foster.

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Posted: 02 October 2012 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Doug:

That is our biggest weakness.  How do we create human mutual support without the use of mythology?

are/our grrh!! They sound alike. red face

[ Edited: 03 October 2012 09:17 AM by garythehuman ]
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Posted: 02 October 2012 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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garythehuman - 02 October 2012 02:11 PM

Doug:

That is are biggest weakness.  How do we create human mutual support without the use of mythology?

How about using natural human history.
A good way to start is “all men are created equal” and therefore “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
This argument can be made on the facts of recorded history, which proves that assuption of a divine command by a sentient god does not lead to a more peaceful world. Strict adherence to religious dogma tends to obscure the message itself by confusion over the “author”. Let man and woman be the authors of human morals and ethics.

Your’s is a most touching story, but you observed that her friends came out of friendship, not theism. And your gratitude for their kindness is just as sincere as if you were a theist and going to their church. Belonging to any human organization that involves personal contact and therefore personal relationships will beget you friends (if you deserve it). Belonging to a church is no different than belonging to the local bird watcher’s group.

[ Edited: 02 October 2012 03:52 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 02 October 2012 04:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Excellent question, Gary, and one I think we all have to face. I’ve been thinking about it as well. One problem I see inherent in the scattered, individualistic nature of secularism/skepticism is that it makes any kind of unified support network all the more difficult to foster.


In this case Doug, most of us on the periphery feel this way. Secular humanists in this neck of the woods are as scarce as hen’s teeth. We’re down to three in our immediate neighborhood, excluding my former student. I rely on those who know me as a friend and family member for physical and emotional support. It’s especially stressful when a close family member dies and we have to attend the funeral, usually in a church or orchestrated by a clergyman. It poses a problem for an isolated secularist but we deal with it in our own way. There are times when I want to shout out “hell no, he’s just dead”. I’ll leave that to my son when the time comes. Meantime, my sincere sympathies are with Gary. It’s a hard thing to go through even if we convince ourselves that it is inevitable.


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 02 October 2012 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m sorry to hear about your mom. Even at the ripe old age, mom is mom and it is hard to contemplate the loss. I am glad you both are finding comfort in her support system.  It would be a difficult project to try to get together a group of people who have nothing in common other than a lack of a belief in deities. Sort of trying to have a club of brunettes. I do believe we will figure out how to overcome this significant hurdle.

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Posted: 03 October 2012 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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How about instead of getting all philosophical here, we actually do something about it? Next time one of us gets sick and ends up in a hospital, we all pitch in money and buy an airplane ticket and one night at a hotel for the the person living the closest to the person in need. Our delegate will spend a day with our ill comrade at a hospital, updates him on the forum’s gossip, reads to him from one of Sagan’s books, informs him on the new lengths of the free will and the two envelopes problem threads, or whatever else he thinks can cheer up his spirits.

[ Edited: 03 October 2012 05:55 AM by George ]
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Posted: 03 October 2012 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’m not sure if you’re serious, George, but I think I’d actually be up for that.  I think we could, if we wanted to, choose to make this kind of commitment.  Religious people, unconsciously do that when they choose to believe that their religion is central to their lives.  The best aspect of some belief systems is the emphasis on empathy, (golden rule), and supporting their community.  When believers live these tenets it can be beautiful. 

There is no reason that only religious people can choose to make these values more important in their lives. I’m not saying that a secular outlook imposes these ideals, the lack of belief in the supernatural doesn’t impose or imply anything but a lack of belief, and in general secularists react fiercely to anyone making the argument that there should be a set of tenets associated with secularism; but, I see no reason why a group of secularists couldn’t choose to make such a commitment.  Such a group wouldn’t imply or impose any sort of commonality between all secularists.  I think the realization and function of such a group is complicated by the fact that we would have no imaginary authority figure directing the group, by the extreme diversity of secularists, and by the prejudice against secularism found in this society at large.  (Anyone up for an atheist’s bake sale?)

I suppose one could argue that there’s no need for such a group to embrace a secular perspective.  Any of us are free to form some kind of ecumenical aid society and include anyone.  But, for me, I think it would be a comforting thing to commit to and be able to turn to a group of people who shared a similar outlook on existence.  Oddly enough, even with the irascibility and diversity exhibited by the people who post here, there is clearly a sense of connection among the regulars, and a not uncommon theme is the sense of isolation many feel.  I’m terrible at joining groups, wary of commitments and obligations I guess, still, the idea seems worth kicking around.

My sympathies, Gary.  It may seem an odd thing to say, but you may be very fortunate to have this time with your mother.  My best to both of you.

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Posted: 03 October 2012 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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George’s idea is a good and noble one, but it doesn’t really solve the question. I mean, of course any group of friends—even internet forum friends—can chip in to help one another in a pinch. The question is how one institutionalizes this, though ... or whether it’s even possible to do so.

There are various smaller, secular/religious organizations such as the Society for Ethical Culture or the Unitarian Universalists that are large enough to be legitimate support institutions with buildings and congregations. At one time I wondered if CFI could approach such a thing, though without the religious trappings. Now I am more skeptical, and Gary’s OP raises the question of whether some religious trappings are even essential to the project. I.e. perhaps liturgy and ritual (let’s hope not ‘theology’) is what’s necessary to make a loose group of friends into a larger institution ...

Worth a thought.

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Posted: 03 October 2012 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Write4U - 02 October 2012 03:38 PM
garythehuman - 02 October 2012 02:11 PM

Doug:

That is are biggest weakness.  How do we create human mutual support without the use of mythology?

How about using natural human history.
A good way to start is “all men are created equal” and therefore “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
This argument can be made on the facts of recorded history, which proves that assuption of a divine command by a sentient god does not lead to a more peaceful world. Strict adherence to religious dogma tends to obscure the message itself by confusion over the “author”. Let man and woman be the authors of human morals and ethics.

Your’s is a most touching story, but you observed that her friends came out of friendship, not theism. And your gratitude for their kindness is just as sincere as if you were a theist and going to their church. Belonging to any human organization that involves personal contact and therefore personal relationships will beget you friends (if you deserve it). Belonging to a church is no different than belonging to the local bird watcher’s group.

Much of what you say is correct, but IMO you missed the point.  I’m not talking about theology.  I know ma’s friends came out of friendship.  The point is the friendships were built in a religious organization.  What I am asking is how we non-believers are going to create the organizations; clubs; pot luck dinner crews, etc. that build the same type of relationships that religions do when they organize people to meet on a regular basis and help people to grow their social networks. I think “natural human history shows if we don’t overcome our emphasis on extreme individualism and learn to build support groups we are going to lose out to the “religious organizations.” through intraspecies competition.

Okay enough “preaching” for now.  I’m off to he doctors.

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Posted: 03 October 2012 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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You said “These people are not coming to see her because of their particular creed”.  You answered your own original question (posed in the title). Religion doesn’t have any particular strength. I’m guessing these are just good people helping a friend. And if they ARE coming to to see her to score points with their god, then they’re acting selfishly. (I suspect most Christians do in fact do good deeds to score points, but just know how to not make it seem that way.)

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Posted: 03 October 2012 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Well, HERE is one idea absent of any religious flavour (based on the movie “Pay It Forward”) where people are inspired to commit good deeds for others: after doing something nice for a person in need, you will also give that person a bracelet hoping that he will “pay forward” the good deed along with passing on the same bracelet.

This guy, Charley Johnson, is actually a friend of my friends, and from what I know, the movement is spreading like a wildfire—and so, probably, even Charley Johnson’s fortune. But maybe that’s okay (I still haven’t decided): even if Johnson does make money on it, people are being inspired to do nice things for others. I just wish he could accomplish this without having to actually sell the bracelets, but people like rituals and this one seems to work just wonders.

It is a secular organization with a secular ritual. The danger here, of course, is that somebody may have found a way to make money on other people’s willingness to help others. Life is complicated …

[ Edited: 03 October 2012 11:22 AM by George ]
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Posted: 03 October 2012 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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garythehuman - 03 October 2012 09:43 AM
Write4U - 02 October 2012 03:38 PM
garythehuman - 02 October 2012 02:11 PM

Doug:

That is are biggest weakness.  How do we create human mutual support without the use of mythology?

How about using natural human history.
A good way to start is “all men are created equal” and therefore “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
This argument can be made on the facts of recorded history, which proves that assuption of a divine command by a sentient god does not lead to a more peaceful world. Strict adherence to religious dogma tends to obscure the message itself by confusion over the “author”. Let man and woman be the authors of human morals and ethics.

Your’s is a most touching story, but you observed that her friends came out of friendship, not theism. And your gratitude for their kindness is just as sincere as if you were a theist and going to their church. Belonging to any human organization that involves personal contact and therefore personal relationships will beget you friends (if you deserve it). Belonging to a church is no different than belonging to the local bird watcher’s group.

Much of what you say is correct, but IMO you missed the point.  I’m not talking about theology.  I know ma’s friends came out of friendship.  The point is the friendships were built in a religious organization.  What I am asking is how we non-believers are going to create the organizations; clubs; pot luck dinner crews, etc. that build the same type of relationships that religions do when they organize people to meet on a regular basis and help people to grow their social networks. I think “natural human history shows if we don’t overcome our emphasis on extreme individualism and learn to build support groups we are going to lose out to the “religious organizations.” through intraspecies competition.

Okay enough “preaching” for now.  I’m off to he doctors.

I don’t think we as individuals need to have those social settings to give rise to those kinds of relationships.  Tight friendships can flourish almost anywhere in life, given enough time.  Although, there is something to be said for sharing intense emotional and/or psychological experiences; it does build a bond. 

IMO, there’s a problem right there because it seems many rationalists stay away from intense emotional experiences.

OTOH, do we as non -  theists/humanists/rationalists, want those social settings….. that’s a different story.

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Posted: 04 October 2012 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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How do we create human mutual support without the use of mythology?

If something is important enough…and it seems to me that this is…you gather and organize like minded people and get ‘er done. You make it happen.

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Posted: 05 October 2012 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 04 October 2012 09:02 PM

How do we create human mutual support without the use of mythology?

If something is important enough…and it seems to me that this is…you gather and organize like minded people and get ‘er done. You make it happen.

I’ve been working on it, not by myself of course.  We do have been having potluck dinners at Amherst CFI for just over 10 years now.  The pot luck got started because after regularly attending lectures there for a couple of years and no one even ever said hello to me I got up a bitched. angry  IMO we still need social organization as much if not more than philosophical discourse. LOL

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Posted: 05 October 2012 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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CuthbertJ - 03 October 2012 10:28 AM

You said “These people are not coming to see her because of their particular creed”.  You answered your own original question (posed in the title). Religion doesn’t have any particular strength. I’m guessing these are just good people helping a friend. And if they ARE coming to to see her to score points with their god, then they’re acting selfishly. (I suspect most Christians do in fact do good deeds to score points, but just know how to not make it seem that way.)

Religion doesn’t have strength.  You don’t live in the US?  Religion doesn’t work by keeping score, it works by building beliefs in people.  I disagree with many Xtian beliefs, but love thy neighbor and help the poor, are to me key to living an ethical life,  and I learned those at the First Baptist Church.

Everyone:  We are supposed to be rational people here; recognize that religion is a social organizing tool with good points as well as evil ones, its reality.  Let’s give credit where credit is due as well as opposition when that is necessary.  The Xtians stole Xmas and we can steal their organizational knowledge.

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