A new kind of atheism?
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
15-09-2011, 05:12 PM
A new kind of atheism?
This article was featured on the front page of today's online New York Times:

Beyond 'New Atheism'

From the article:

Quote:Led by the biologist Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” atheism has taken on a new life in popular religious debate. Dawkins’s brand of atheism is scientific in that it views the “God hypothesis” as obviously inadequate to the known facts. In particular, he employs the facts of evolution to challenge the need to postulate God as the designer of the universe. For atheists like Dawkins, belief in God is an intellectual mistake, and honest thinkers need simply to recognize this and move on from the silliness and abuses associated with religion.

Most believers, however, do not come to religion through philosophical arguments. Rather, their belief arises from their personal experiences of a spiritual world of meaning and values, with God as its center.

In the last few years there has emerged another style of atheism that takes such experiences seriously. One of its best exponents is Philip Kitcher, a professor of philosophy at Columbia. . . .

Kitcher takes seriously the question of whether atheism can replace the sense of meaning and purpose that believers find in religion. Pushed to the intellectual limit, many will prefer a religion of hope if faith is not possible. For them, Tennyson’s “‘the stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run’” is a prospect too bleak to sustain our existence. Kitcher agrees that mere liberation from theism is not enough. Atheists, he maintains, need to undertake the positive project of showing how their worldview can take over what he calls the ethical “functions” of theism.

Kitcher's work sounds like something I want to get to know, since among other things it promises to address what I see as one of the key problems faced by atheism: once we toss the "god delusion," we also abandon ritual and ceremony that can add dignity and beauty to life, in particular to life's big moments of transition. I don't see that we have much right now to fill that void.

Thoughts?

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
15-09-2011, 05:42 PM
RE: A new kind of atheism?
(15-09-2011 05:12 PM)cufflink Wrote:  Kitcher's work sounds like something I want to get to know, since among other things it promises to address what I see as one of the key problems faced by atheism: once we toss the "god delusion," we also abandon ritual and ceremony that can add dignity and beauty to life, in particular to life's big moments of transition. I don't see that we have much right now to fill that void.

I have been an atheist all my life so I can assure you, there is no void that has to be filled.

I have known many Christians who have become atheists and they had no trouble discarding the churches ritual and ceremony. Neither did they lose their dignity, nor their appreciation of beauty.

Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like Joe Bloe's post
15-09-2011, 07:36 PM
RE: A new kind of atheism?
(15-09-2011 05:12 PM)cufflink Wrote:  Kitcher's work sounds like something I want to get to know, since among other things it promises to address what I see as one of the key problems faced by atheism: once we toss the "god delusion," we also abandon ritual and ceremony that can add dignity and beauty to life, in particular to life's big moments of transition. I don't see that we have much right now to fill that void.

Thoughts?

The problem I see is when you add ritual and ceremony and a void filling ideology then you get.... well... religion. I don't understand why Atheism has to provide some form of framework for those who toss the "god delusion." I do realize were you are coming from though... I know of 2 atheist that still go to Church every Sunday because they enjoy the ritual and ceremony.

“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.” Orson Welles
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
15-09-2011, 11:39 PM
RE: A new kind of atheism?
People who write this kind of blather apparently want atheists to suffer for abandoning belief in the tribal supernaturals. When we clearly don't suffer, they accuse of us shallowness and insensitivity to whatever they want to put in the supernaturals' place.

Apparently they resist the idea that we can give up the god delusion with little or no cost to human well being. I draw the analogy to children who give up the Santa delusion: They get over it in a day, without suffering from Nihilism, Despair, Existential Angst, Meaninglessness and other big words the overly educated apply to their stereotypes about atheists. (They must imagine us as a bunch of drama queens or something.)

In fact, if you met a newly enlightened kid who lamented that he had based his hopes on a lie, and he had nothing to live for without a Santa substitute, you would find the situation pretty absurd, like an episode of South Park.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
15-09-2011, 11:57 PM (This post was last modified: 16-09-2011 12:13 AM by cufflink.)
RE: A new kind of atheism?
When I mentioned ritual and ceremony, this is the example I mainly had in mind:

I grew up in a “Modern Orthodox” Jewish environment. Although I stopped believing when I was in my teens (a long time ago), my parents remained observant, and for the last years of their lives lived in a strictly religious community in New York. When they died—ten years apart—I went through the orthodox Jewish ritual for death and mourning in their home, among their friends and our relatives, for a week each time, even though I’m an atheist. Not to have done so would have created a scandal and, according to the beliefs and standards of their community, dishonored my parents’ names. Hypocrisy? Screw it. It was little skin off my back to go through the motions, say the words, do the required actions. It’s what my folks expected of me when they were dying. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t give it to them.

During those times I discovered something I wasn’t prepared for. Even though I have no belief whatsoever in its theism, I found that the customs and ceremonies of Judaism surrounding the death of a loved one were often meaningful and occasionally even comforting. This was one place, I found, where Judaism “got it right”—at least for me.

I’ll give you some examples.

At the funeral, the close family members are called up to the front; the rabbi takes a razor blade and starts a cut in the lapel of your jacket, then rips your lapel vigorously so it hangs down, torn and jagged. (You don’t wear your best suit that day.) The tear in your clothes is supposed to symbolize the tear in your heart. You’re required to wear your torn clothing the entire week of mourning.

At the cemetery, after the prayers are said and the casket has been lowered into the grave, the crowd doesn’t simply walk away and leave the job to the gravediggers. Rather, the closest male relatives grab shovels and begin filling in the grave themselves with the earth that’s been piled alongside. Only when the casket can no longer be seen is the job turned over to the cemetery personnel.

When you get home from the cemetery, food has appeared in the apartment (the neighbors have been busy), among which are symbolic foods like eggs (hard-boiled), which represent the renewal of life.

One change to the apartment is that all the mirrors are covered up with cloths. I believe it has to do with the idea that this is not a time to be thinking about your appearance.

During the mourning week (“sitting shiv’a”), you sit on a low stool, as close to the ground as possible, unshaven and unbathed. The front door is left unlocked, and people come to pay their respects the entire week. They don’t knock or ring the bell, and you don’t get up or acknowledge them when they enter. There’s no greeting at all—no hello, no how-are-you-doing. People simply come in and sit with you, at first in silence. Eventually you start talking. This comes from the Book of Job, where Job’s three “comforters” arrive and sit in silence with him before the speeches begin.

Throughout this period, certain ritual lines are spoken in Hebrew to the mourners, in particular, “May the Omnipresent comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” But in conversation, nothing is ever said along the lines of, “She’s in a better place.” One thing I can say in favor of Jewish theology is that although it includes the notion of an afterlife, it’s vague and entirely without emphasis. What matters is what happens in this life.

In retrospect, one thing that impressed me about the experience was the fact that at this devastating time in life, I didn’t have to decide what to do or how to conduct myself. Should it just be “business as usual”? Should I go out to eat? Watch TV? Read a book? Talk to friends? Go back to work? I didn’t have to make any of those decisions. My behavior for the period was all spelled out for me. And I found that—for me—there was wisdom in the tradition. It’s not business as usual when a loved one dies. It’s a time unlike all others, and special behavior is called for. I found that the ritual I went through added gravity and dignity to the circumstances that seemed entirely fitting and appropriate.

One consequence of getting older is having to go to more and more funerals and memorial services, and I’ve been to my fair share. Some of the religious ones (mostly Christian) have had their own kind of beauty; others, with their oily talk of heaven for believers and the “certainty of the Resurrection,” made me gag. The secular ones were sometimes moving, especially when people shared remembrances of the person who had died. But a lot of them seemed pale and bland. “Wind Beneath My Wings”? C’mon.

You’re the kind of non-believer who finds all religiously based tradition and ceremony a load of crap? Cool. Different strokes. But I can tell you that some of us who have turned from belief because we can’t accommodate it to reason can still experience the absence of tradition as a loss. Not everything in religion is bad.

Maybe in time secular traditions will develop that are equal in beauty and dignity to the best of the religious ones. In my experience, however, that hasn’t yet happened.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
16-09-2011, 12:19 AM (This post was last modified: 16-09-2011 12:40 AM by Organon.)
RE: A new kind of atheism?
(15-09-2011 05:12 PM)cufflink Wrote:  Kitcher's work sounds like something I want to get to know, since among other things it promises to address what I see as one of the key problems faced by atheism: once we toss the "god delusion," we also abandon ritual and ceremony that can add dignity and beauty to life, in particular to life's big moments of transition. I don't see that we have much right now to fill that void.

Thoughts?

I understand what you are saying, but atheists can lead full and complete lives without the ritual and ceremony offered by religions. Much of the ritual and ceremony is fluff and frills that have little to do with the real World.

Life itself offers supreme dignity and beauty and a walk on the beach or in a forest produces more of each than any church ritual could ever offer.

Talk to someone who has been married in a garden setting or on a beach. I'm sure they felt the dignity and beauty of life at that time as much as anyone having their ceremony in a church. I can talk from experience here, as my 1st marriage was in a church and my second in our own garden.

There is not one person in my large, entire family and extended family who is religious or a believer(unless it's in secret!) and we all lead or have led extremely good, interesting, fulfilling, rewarding and successful lives.

I appreciate that if someone has spent their entire life as part of a religion and church that they have possibly built their network of friends through their church and could feel at a loss once they reject their church or belief and lose their network of friends.

It's a matter of attitude and looking around and building new friendships, if the old ones have gone along with belief. I realise that in the USA many people who become atheists find it tough, even with close family, who seem to regularly "disown" even sons and daughters who have made the announcement that they no longer believe. If belief in a god and being part of a religion can produce people who can feel that way then I am totally glad that I and my loved ones are all atheists.
(15-09-2011 11:57 PM)cufflink Wrote:  The secular ones were sometimes moving, especially when people shared remembrances of the person who had died. But a lot of them seemed pale and bland. “Wind Beneath My Wings”? C’mon.

Maybe in time secular traditions will develop that are equal in beauty and dignity to the best of the religious ones. In my experience, however, that hasn’t yet happened.

My brother-in-law died recently and I attended his funeral ceremony/service, a cremation.

As an atheist, he had a secular service and I can assure you that it had beauty and dignity that far surpassed any religious funeral that I have attended.

There were about 10 to 15 songs or pieces of music played, but no Wind Beneath my Wings, lol! Probably one of the best was "We're on the Road to Nowhere". Fabulous!

Bro-in law was dressed in his old fishing clothes, as was his wish and the whole thing was a good balance of remembrance and respect, dignity, humour and good music.

"To think of what the world has suffered from superstition, from religion, from the worship of beast and stone and god, is
almost enough to make one insane."

Robert G. Ingersoll
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: