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Why our movements are failing and how we can make them succeed
Posted: 06 April 2009 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Bryan - 04 April 2009 09:27 PM

Finding a label you don’t mind wearing is no doubt a fine first step.  I appreciate Paul’s willingness to make a set of concrete suggestions, even to the point of advocating a church-like social network, which I imagine might seem automatically distasteful to some Rationalists.  Note what he said about such efforts tending not to work well over time.  Using the Christian church paradigm as an example (and I’m pretty sure I could do so with other religions or even with political/ideological groups), such groupings tend to fail largely because of disagreements within the ranks.  What do we stand for?  In what direction do we wish to go?  What should we do next week?

Don’t the answers to those types of questions tend to ultimately spring from morals and ethics?

It’s a good question, and one I’ve thought about a bit, but I don’t think that there’s frankly much difference between the morals and ethics of us humanists here, I’m sure we’re not any more diverse than you’d find in a normal congregation of Catholics in some american city—and we may well be significantly less so.

There is a slight difference in our metaethics. Many people here are ethical relativists. I am not. But I very much doubt that agreement on metaethical principles have much sway on keeping groups together. Metaethics is geek-talk. (And again, is it really true that any given Catholic congregation agrees on the metaethics of their principles?)

Of course, as you suggest, the Christian church has had similar problems throughout its history, and continuing to today, on keeping its congregations united. Schism is hardly new in the church.

I think one plain difference between our movement and a church movement is that our movement is made up, pretty universally, of people who don’t much like organized religion. We’re rather like the people in Monty Python’s Life of Brian who decide that we are all different. And so even when we have rough agreement on issues such as ethics we tend to highlight our differences. Some like to do this simply to revel in their difference, others to argle-bargle, and still others to actively investigate the credibility of their own belief systems. But I think most of us are leery of belonging to some larger group that might well foster non-skeptical groupthink.

That is, I think structurally that skeptics are leery of belonging to groups.

[And why did you make those two letters brown?]

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Posted: 06 April 2009 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Mriana - 05 April 2009 06:14 PM

I am not saying Rev is taboo.

I realize you don’t know who I am.  I just told you a little about me.  And again, I ask you, IF the Humanist movement is not working, then what explains Humanists like me and other like me?  “No religion” or “None” has doubled or nearly doubled since the last census.  Do you really believe all those people did not move on to some other social network?  I would surmise some became Humanists just as I did and thus I say we must becareful not to put on too many garments of religion.

All of that is fine, but that’s not the only way to do it. The growing number of people who say they have no religion may just have grown dissatisfied with their former religion and haven’t found anywhere else to go; they wouldn’t necessarily agree with the arguments you are making here. If they have moved on to Humanist organizations, then why don’t we see a corresponding increase in our numbers? We’ve seen growth, but not that much growth.

And if they have moved on to Humanist organizations, isn’t that making my point exactly? Aren’t such organizations taking the place of former religions? What’s the difference what you call them, except insofar as a word might emphasize similarity or distinction? You insist that we can only emphasize distinction. I say we can emphasize what we have in common.

And it would be fine with me if more people said they were not religious. I’m not saying that everyone has to see religion as I see it. But you should be aware that one can hold a view like mine and fully share your commitments to CFI’s stated goals. I belong at the non-theistic table of scientific naturalism and Humanism every bit as much as you do. I’m saying there’s a place for my view. You’re saying there’s not. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’m pushing back, relentlessly and zealously. Your argument is tantamount to saying that I don’t belong here.

Here’s the point: I want everyone with a world view of scientific naturalism and non-theism working together. Your stance shuts too many of those people out and there’s no good reason to do it that way.

[ Edited: 06 April 2009 05:58 AM by PLaClair ]
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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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We still do not need religious overtones because that would just drive some people away and impede growth.  I stand by this and I do not believe for a moment that humanists have shut anyone out, not even those who see themselves as Cultural Humanists, Religious Humanists, or even Christian Humanists.  IMHO we are all humanists and I don’t exclude anyone who views themselves as a humanist.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Mriana - 06 April 2009 08:10 AM

We still do not need religious overtones because that would just drive some people away and impede growth.  I stand by this and I do not believe for a moment that humanists have shut anyone out, not even those who see themselves as Cultural Humanists, Religious Humanists, or even Christian Humanists.  IMHO we are all humanists and I don’t exclude anyone who views themselves as a humanist.

That’s not true. I know many Humanists who want nothing to do with our organizations because of these very things. This includes people who have been high up in Humanist organizations but left because they couldn’t take the rigidity. They tell me because they know that I have a sympathetic ear. I’ve asked them to tell others but they don’t like conflict. It also includes people who come to a meeting or two, find it off-putting and don’t come back. This is anecdotal and derived only from my personal experience, but if your claim is that this approach doesn’t exclude anyone, I know that to be false.

So what if I use these words, which I will do? Where do I fit at CFI, if at all, in your view?

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Posted: 06 April 2009 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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PLaClair - 06 April 2009 08:19 AM

So what if I use these words, which I will do? Where do I fit at CFI, if at all, in your view?

I really don’t care, just don’t impose it on others.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 06 April 2009 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Mriana - 06 April 2009 08:35 AM
PLaClair - 06 April 2009 08:19 AM

So what if I use these words, which I will do? Where do I fit at CFI, if at all, in your view?

I really don’t care, just don’t impose it on others.

OK. Assume someone who was being put forward as a spokesperson for CFI used the words religion and faith in a public speech on CFI’s behalf, taking great care to make clear that these words were not being used to refer to belief in a god or anything supernatural. Assume that the person observed that the life of religion is complex and variegated, and that within the realm of religion are groups like Ethical Culture, which describes itself as a Humanistic religious organization whose faith is in the capacity of human beings to live decent lives and thereby help create a better world? Let’s say that the speaker pointed out our affiliation with Ethical Culture and its inclusion in our fold. What would be your position on such a person being a spokesperson for CFI?

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Posted: 06 April 2009 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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dougsmith - 06 April 2009 04:23 AM
Bryan - 04 April 2009 09:27 PM

I appreciate Paul’s willingness to make a set of concrete suggestions, even to the point of advocating a church-like social network, which I imagine might seem automatically distasteful to some Rationalists.  Note what he said about such efforts tending not to work well over time.  Using the Christian church paradigm as an example (and I’m pretty sure I could do so with other religions or even with political/ideological groups), such groupings tend to fail largely because of disagreements within the ranks.  What do we stand for?  In what direction do we wish to go?  What should we do next week?

Don’t the answers to those types of questions tend to ultimately spring from morals and ethics?

It’s a good question, and one I’ve thought about a bit, but I don’t think that there’s frankly much difference between the morals and ethics of us humanists here, I’m sure we’re not any more diverse than you’d find in a normal congregation of Catholics in some american city—and we may well be significantly less so.

There is a slight difference in our metaethics. Many people here are ethical relativists. I am not. But I very much doubt that agreement on metaethical principles have much sway on keeping groups together. Metaethics is geek-talk. (And again, is it really true that any given Catholic congregation agrees on the metaethics of their principles?)

Of course, as you suggest, the Christian church has had similar problems throughout its history, and continuing to today, on keeping its congregations united. Schism is hardly new in the church.

That’s my point.  If churches split where the metaethics are more likely to be found in common then why should Humanist congregations fare better minus a more consistent metaethical foundation?  What does help keep communities cohesive, IYO?

I think one plain difference between our movement and a church movement is that our movement is made up, pretty universally, of people who don’t much like organized religion.

There’s the rub.  Community life is pretty much a system of organization.  Isn’t it?

We’re rather like the people in Monty Python’s Life of Brian who decide that we are all different. And so even when we have rough agreement on issues such as ethics we tend to highlight our differences. Some like to do this simply to revel in their difference, others to argle-bargle, and still others to actively investigate the credibility of their own belief systems. But I think most of us are leery of belonging to some larger group that might well foster non-skeptical groupthink.

That is, I think structurally that skeptics are leery of belonging to groups.

I’m inclined to agree with you, though we can’t exactly ignore the existence of folks like Paul who appear to advocate organizing into groups.  smile

[And why did you make those two letters brown?]

I try to keep to the habit of making my subsequent edits clear to see, simply in the interest of transparency.  Even if I get the edit done very promptly after posting.  It came out “such” on the first attempt, which didn’t make sense!  smile

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Posted: 06 April 2009 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Mriana - 05 April 2009 05:39 PM

I concede that Humanist Celebrants call themselves Revs.  I’m well aware of that.  The question is, does anyone have a better title?

Some Christian groups stick with “Pastor” because it carries less connotation of a clergy/laity distinction.  I think time has at least somewhat eroded its advantage on that point, but at least in etymological terms “pastor” has to to with shepherding and an idea of guidance rather than of leadership.  The term “elder” carries a somewhat similar tradition based on the understanding that age tends to impart wisdom.  And there’s nothing strictly wrong with calling a relatively young person who happens to be wise an “elder” in terms of being wise.  The LDS church is all over that (those bicycle-riding missionaries are usually “elders”).

I would think that Humanists could appropriate “elder” more easily than “pastor” since it carries a relatively weak religious stigma.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Bryan - 06 April 2009 09:23 AM

That’s my point.  If churches split where the metaethics are more likely to be found in common then why should Humanist congregations fare better minus a more consistent metaethical foundation?  What does help keep communities cohesive, IYO?

I don’t know; my guess is that there are a multitude of things that keep communities cohesive. But I wouldn’t put ‘metaethical principles’ in my top 10.

Some things that help keep communities cohesive:

—Unity of aims
—Charisma of leadership
—Effectiveness of marketing
—Strength of opposition

... among others. The last one should not be overlooked.

Bryan - 06 April 2009 09:23 AM

I think one plain difference between our movement and a church movement is that our movement is made up, pretty universally, of people who don’t much like organized religion.

There’s the rub.  Community life is pretty much a system of organization.  Isn’t it?

Well, certainly there’s an aspect of organization to community life. Yes. And that’s going to be hard for any humanist organization to replicate, IMO. But there’s also community life, for instance, in libraries, clubs and sports teams, that display systems of organization that are somewhat looser than (or at least fundamentally different from) religious systems of organization.

So it may be that secular organizations have as much to learn from secular community organizations as they do from religious ones.

Bryan - 06 April 2009 09:23 AM

That is, I think structurally that skeptics are leery of belonging to groups.

I’m inclined to agree with you, though we can’t exactly ignore the existence of folks like Paul who appear to advocate organizing into groups.  smile

Yes. Another example of how “we’re all different” in this loose community. He’s welcome to try; I’m not going to stop him from his proselytizing. But I don’t expect he’ll have much success in his quixotic quest. (That said, the NY Society for Ethical Culture does have its membership. And more power to them; I’m not going to badmouth their organization. But not only do I want an explicitly non-religious alternative to NYSEC, I think most humanists of the skeptical sort who inhabit fora like ours do as well).

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Posted: 06 April 2009 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Bryan - 06 April 2009 09:37 AM

I would think that Humanists could appropriate “elder” more easily than “pastor” since it carries a relatively weak religious stigma.

Agreed, but as you note, it also has an LDS connotation ...

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Posted: 06 April 2009 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Doug, with all due respect I don’t think your characterization of what I am trying to accomplish as “quixotic” is well-taken. I did post an idea about a grand vision for our movements; that could be seen as quixotic.

But the more basic point I’m making is to request that our members be more open to the numerous ways in which secularists can appropriately present our ideas. I’m not insisting that others do my way, but I do insist that any of us should be free to do it our way so long as we’re not at odds with basic principles such as scientific naturalism and non-theism; and that our members should understand the variety of ways in which particular words are being used on a daily basis throughout our culture. I do not believe that openness or that understanding is currently present but would me most delighted to learn that I have been mistaken. This is a view that others within our ranks share.

mriana and no doubt others are concerned that more openness to words that people use every day would result in a mass exodus from CFI. If that is true, then it strikes me that this discussion is all the more imperative.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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dougsmith - 06 April 2009 09:47 AM
Bryan - 06 April 2009 09:23 AM

That’s my point.  If churches split where the metaethics are more likely to be found in common then why should Humanist congregations fare better minus a more consistent metaethical foundation?  What does help keep communities cohesive, IYO?

I don’t know; my guess is that there are a multitude of things that keep communities cohesive. But I wouldn’t put ‘metaethical principles’ in my top 10.

Some things that help keep communities cohesive:

—Unity of aims

I think unity of aims is increased where metaethical foundations are shared.  The more you think like somebody else the more likely it is that you share their aims.

—Charisma of leadership
—Effectiveness of marketing
—Strength of opposition

... among others. The last one should not be overlooked.

Fair enough, but while I think Barack Obama (for example) has ample charisma I wouldn’t follow him to the 7-Eleven even if I wanted to buy lottery tickets.  wink
He leads in a direction I do not want to go, so I think it still comes down to aims.  Same goes for your other two bullet points.  It’s hard to sell aims without appealing to other aims in turn.

Well, certainly there’s an aspect of organization to community life. Yes. And that’s going to be hard for any humanist organization to replicate, IMO.

Well, I don’t really see why that would be the case If aims are shared then you have the foundation for following a charismatic leader who is going in the “right” direction.  You perceive opposition in a similar way based on how it affects your aims.  You market the ideas in order to make your aims more popular in various ways.  Humanists are foremost people, I expect.  I don’t see any natural bar to the formation of community life.

But there’s also community life, for instance, in libraries, clubs and sports teams, that display systems of organization that are somewhat looser than (or at least fundamentally different from) religious systems of organization.

So it may be that secular organizations have as much to learn from secular community organizations as they do from religious ones.

Sure.  I think I brought up political and ideological groups earlier.  Either can be secular, and form on the basis of shared aims.  The greater the sharing, the more enduring the community, I think.  Though obviously severe types of opposition might extinguish an otherwise enduring community.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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PLaClair - 05 April 2009 05:56 PM
Mriana - 05 April 2009 05:39 PM

I concede that Humanist Celebrants call themselves Revs.  I’m well aware of that.  The question is, does anyone have a better title?  I don’t and there in lies the problem.  What I’m wondering is if you think I left Christianity 6 or 7 years ago, leaving behind a lay minister’s license, that I’m trading one for the other?  I know I’m capable of doing the job, but I hardly view myself as trying to trade one (supernaturalism) for another (non-supernaturalism).  I guess on one hand I am, because I realize we don’t need superstition, but we do need social ceremonies and rites of passages, even the need for hospital visits, if requested.  Even so, I do not view it as being part of the clergy.  More of a social service.

What problem? Is “Rev.” taboo too?

To answer your question, I never gave a second’s thought to your background. I don’t even know who you are except that you are a moderator and a participant on this forum.

This is my 2 cents: Yes the title Reverend is taboo. This borrows everything from organized religion that I find repressing, and outdated. What’s left? Now we have a “New” group of “Non-theist” leaders who will Ordain rites?
Guess what. There are plenty of perfectly fine Theist organizations which perform these Social Ceremonies and rites. They do it perfectly well within the confines of community,and in the context of Social needs. All you need to do is get in line now with all the competing religious organizations. ” Our rites are more sanctimoniuos than yours” We have all the “true answers”.
If we take a look at what defines atheism, and Humanism, we will find that the reason to oppose these religions are not due to the fact that christianity(for example) doesn’t do a good job of administering social community,or rites. No we must take a look at how religion has been used to form political and social thoughts in society, and how this has been deteriorating humankinds ability to live in a world that is free from strife.
We/I could easily envision a world where theists can live amongst secularists. In fact, in my opinion, any humanist worth his or her salt must be willing to embrace how everyone wishes to go forth in life. What they choose to have faith in, and how they wish to obtain spirituality. Theists and Atheists alike can converge and determine what dogmas and Doctrines,(and the exploitation of said doctrines) are having a negative effect on the continued peaceful, and rational existance of Humanity.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 04:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Bryan - 06 April 2009 09:37 AM
Mriana - 05 April 2009 05:39 PM

I concede that Humanist Celebrants call themselves Revs.  I’m well aware of that.  The question is, does anyone have a better title?

Some Christian groups stick with “Pastor” because it carries less connotation of a clergy/laity distinction.  I think time has at least somewhat eroded its advantage on that point, but at least in etymological terms “pastor” has to to with shepherding and an idea of guidance rather than of leadership.  The term “elder” carries a somewhat similar tradition based on the understanding that age tends to impart wisdom.  And there’s nothing strictly wrong with calling a relatively young person who happens to be wise an “elder” in terms of being wise.  The LDS church is all over that (those bicycle-riding missionaries are usually “elders”).

I would think that Humanists could appropriate “elder” more easily than “pastor” since it carries a relatively weak religious stigma.

When I get to that point, I’ll decide between the titles they give me to choose from.  I’m not sure what I’ll decide at this point.  I have a couple more things I need to get lined up before I can even think about applying.  One of them being finding another Humanist for a reference and that isn’t very easy in this area.

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Posted: 06 April 2009 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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The Word Police.

How is it possible not to see how debilitating and disastrous this “strategy” is?

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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