7 July 2009

The community of the faithless

William Lobdell, the author of Losing My Religion, recently gave a talk in Portland. The following comment, from a summary of the talk, caught my eye and really resonated with something I've felt for a long time:

Although he was an atheist, Lobdell had a message for the 90% non-theist crowd of 40 that was critical of the atheist establishment. Instead of merely critiquing religion, freethinkers need to find something positive and constructive to put in its place. In other words, there needs to be an atheist alternative to the community and charity that are a foundation of organized religion.

6 comments:

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

Education?

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Why can't we just be selfish, keep our money and good works to ourselves? Why should we copy religion by trying to do good works? Should we also launch wars with people of different faiths? ;-)

Karlo said...

We could burn fellow athiest who have a slightly different take on reality . . . (;

I guess the part of the comment that I could relate to was the need for some telos--some overarching vision--that might serve to guide human culture in a positive direction. I'm reminded of Carl Sagan's positive humanism, for example. A more static (but perhaps, more realistic) vision can be found in the writing of Mencius or in the Taoist philosophical works such as the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang-tsu. Mencius would agree with Ole Blue that education (a truly humanist education aimed at self-development and high culture) would be in order. Pursuit of self-interests ends up being narrow and in the current environment, means little more than buying the plastic gizmoes paraded about on TV.

CyberKitten said...

karlo said: I guess the part of the comment that I could relate to was the need for some telos--some overarching vision--that might serve to guide human culture in a positive direction.

Isn't that just replacing one fantasy with another? Do we really need to do that? Is the answer merely an atheist version of Christianity - without all of the God stuff?

Karlo said...

I don't think we need a formula, if that's what you mean, or a set of commandments or watered-down goals published on in a UN pamphlet. On the other hand, what it means for an individual to live a beauiful life doesn't strike me as straightforward at all. Doesn't that question explain our fascination with personal biographies or fictional characters. And when viewed collectively, what it means for a culture to be beautiful and flowering is also a perenniel question. If we don't ask and answer these questions in a meaningful way, I think we'll simply end up with an irrational default version, provided to us by the latest marketers, motivated by base emotions and greed.

Comrade Kevin said...

Goes back to knowing only to oppose without really being willing to propose. Oppositional thinking by itself is easy. Proposing something different/better is difficult.