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Atheism is a religion with or without God

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2/7/2016 5:38:47 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
When the Atheist Builds a "Church"

Now the new atheists want to be spiritual. Godless churches are popping up and getting attention, especially from The New York Times. These atheists are seeking fellowship and a sense of transcendence. While the first wave of the movement was anti-God and anti-religion, the second wave wants to reclaim religion, but in a godless shell. "Awake is a new book by atheist Sam Harris, whose first book, The End of Faith (2004) excoriated all religions. Spirituality, for Harris, should draw on non-theistic traditions, particularly Buddhism, a religion bereft of a personal deity. Philosopher Alain de Bottom claims that religion needs nothing of God in Religion for Atheists. Community, ritual, and good works can stand on their own"and be given a sacred cast"without any aid from traditional religion.
While the first wave of the movement was anti-God and anti-religion, the second wave wants to reclaim religion, but in a godless shell. " Groothuis

Anthropologist of religion, T. M. Luhrman notes in The New York Times that "Atheist services have sprung up around the country, even in the Bible Belt, many of which are associated with Sunday Assembly." This church, non-church was founded"perhaps appropriately enough"by two British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. Sunday Assembly gathers number around 200. They draw "thousands of people to events with music, sermons, readings, reflections and (to judge by photos) even the waving of hands," according to Luhrman. Another New York Times story speaks of an atheist leader admitting that their services are still looking for "a sense of transcendence." Ex-clergy man Jerry DeWitt presides over Community Mission Chapel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Their statement of purpose says in part:

Our mission is to gather community while promoting a foundation of hope, trust, and love thus bridging tolerance through common secular values. We will bring the excitement into the hearts of freethinkers without exposing them to any supernatural aspects. We can provide all of the music, merriment, and ministry to our passionate growing secular crowd and still have it devoid of supernatural praise.

I could go on. Religion Without God, by the distinguished philosopher Ronald Dworkin (d. 2013) was his last philosophical statement. Barbara Erehfeld, the best-selling social critic, recently released a memoir of a spiritual experience she had long ago as a child. Taming a Wild God goes to great length to chase God out of this experience, lest her atheism be violated.

Atheist spirituality is a movement worth watching. This surprising and significant development merits some hard thinking.

When atheists refer to spirituality, they mean some natural state of being which is conducive to human fulfillment. Since atheists do not believe in the soul or in any non-material reality, "spirituality" cannot mean something pertaining to the soul or life in God-directed world. Prayer, for example, is not part of it. Neither is worship, since there is no one there to receive it. However, atheists may celebrate the greatness of humanity or revere certain secular saints. Their basis for spiritual gatherings and personal spirituality is anthropology and psychology, not theology. How might this be justified?

First, the atheist worldview is grim indeed, as many atheists admit. Humans need some philosophical adrenaline to go on, in order to ferret out some meaning somewhere. These atheists, then, are seeking solace in a universe that is "just there," as Bertrand Russell put it in his debate with Frederick Copplestone in 1948. It was not put there for anyone by anybody. "A Free Man"s Worship" had to face these unforgiving facts:

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man"s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins"all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul"s habitation henceforth be safely built.
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