We do have to be careful, in choosing alternatives for religious rituals, to not fall into the trap of simply constructing new religious rituals. I am not interested in building some sort of atheistic church. I am a freethinker, an individualist and am uncomfortable with social situations in which I feel that I have to pose or pretend or fake a sense of community in any way. I am only comfortable expressing affection toward others when I feel that it is genuine, and I feel the same way about receiving it. I am also weary of the political elements that surface in large groups.
But we do need to address the sorts of emotional and existential needs that many people fulfill through religious institutions. We need to do this without providing yet another religion. This is quite a bit more difficult than simpky debunking myths, but it is a challenge that I do believe can be met. It is not a fundamental or essential quality of human nature to need religion. I don’t need it and I am no Nietzschean Overman. I am not so special that I can do fine without religion in a way that others can’t. This is evidence enough. Nobody needs religion, and anyone and everyone who is victim to it would be better off without it.
So Charles, here’s my broad three constructive suggestions-
1. Promotion of humanistic ethics
I believe that numerous people who don’t know about humanistic philosophy would actually agree about most humanistic ethical positions, and many religious persons would probably even prefer them over their own religious ethical systems if they could examine them closely back to back.
2. Promotion of eupraxsophy
Model ways in which one can lead an independent and non-religious lifestyle that emanates with meaning, richness and reward. We need to demonstrate such lives by example and talk openly about humanism as a driving force. We also need to promote this in literature, film, art and music.
3. Provision of outlets for community and socialization between humanists that people can participate in on their own terms
I have attended some wonderful events hosted by the Ethical Culture Society, but I should say that I do prefer CFI’s approach to community building. I think that this is a more individualistically constructive approach, particularly in consideration of the sorts of activities that these Centers for Inquiry perform. I would like to see these Centers expand.
We need secular humanist cafes (someone else mentioned this at some point on this forum). Perhaps these could be located at or near our Centers for Inquiry. Unimposing open door public institutions that function much like this forum, but live. We also, again, need more literature, film, art and music with plain and clear humanistic content. In a thread a couple of months ago, Doug had mentioned that the simple act of building Centers for Inquiry was a means in-and-of itself of building momentum.
I hope that others will follow up on Charles’ challenge by posting a few suggestions of their own. Charles, what are your three?