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Atheists trying to replicate church

posted by Susan Johnson

Without the God part of course. Parents want an environment to raise their children with like minded people. They want an community that meets regularly where they learn to raise their kids:

They are not religious, so they don’t go to church. But they are searching for values and rituals with which to raise their children, as well as a community of like-minded people to offer support.
Dozens of parents came together on a recent Saturday to participate in a seminar on humanist parenting and to meet others interested in organizing a kind of nonreligious congregation, complete with regular family activities and ceremonies for births and deaths.
“It’s exciting to know that we could be meeting people who we might perhaps raise children with,” said Tony Proctor, 39, who owns a wealth management company and attended the seminar at Harvard University with his wife, Andrea, 35, a stay-at-home mother.
[...]
The seminar’s organizers wanted to reach out to people like the Proctors — first-time parents scrambling for guidance as they improvise how to raise their daughter without the religion of their childhood.

Nothing like organized religion to raise your kids, huh?
And then there’s this:

People often ask, “How do you expect to raise your children to be good people without religion?” said Dale McGowan, the seminar leader and author of “Parenting Beyond Belief.” He suggested the retort might be something like, “How do you expect to raise your children to be moral people without allowing them to think for themselves?” He advocates exposing children to many religious traditions without imposing any.

How are these children thinking for themselves? If they ever expressed a belief in God or that there was a divine Creator, wouldn’t they stamp out that thought, not encourage it?
(via)



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Karen Brown

posted December 22, 2008 at 9:13 am


You know, next time that I hear of some small group of Christians (regardless of denomination) do something, I’m going to write some article on ‘Christians are…’
Even at the low-ball estimate of 10 percent of the population describing themselves as atheist, that’s 30 MILLION people.
But something with ‘dozens of parents’ involved, and its’ something that ‘Atheists do’.
I could find as many Christian fruitarians, I imagine, if I made the effort. Is being a fruitarian a big Christian trend?
Sorry to say, but they aren’t calling it church, themselves, there’s NOTHING in there about ‘rituals’. Though there is about teaching kids ABOUT religions. Which I did, myself. They’re going to be exposed to them, I teach my kids about just about anything they’re likely to be exposed to.
When parents get together to talk about how to raise their kids, which often is about how to encourage good behavior, and there’s no ‘God’ involved, its called a ‘parenting group’, not ‘church’. Even those who DO go to church can tell the difference, because many Christian parents engage in both.
By the way, if the kids do convert on their own, how the parents might react? Well, maybe like theist parents react, when their kids stop believing, or start believing in something else.
As individuals. Some to stomp it out, some might go into denial, or some might accept it as a choice that kid has made.
So, how would YOU react if your kid started talking about being an atheist, or a Hindu, or a Muslim, or… insert anything but what you are here…



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Stan

posted December 22, 2008 at 9:15 am


I worked with a guy who was an atheist, but couldn’t go without his “church”. He raised his kids in the Universal Unitarian church which specifically included all beliefs including atheists. I suppose that would be the perfect spot for “exposing children to many religious traditions without imposing any.” I suppose, that is, if they aren’t too concerned about exposing children to rational thinking (you can’t have multiple “true religions” when they claim to be exclusive) or the truth (if one is actually true and exclusive, its claim to truth and exclusivity is accurate, and offering it as “one of many” would be misleading to children).



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Iris Alantiel

posted December 22, 2008 at 9:43 am


How are these children thinking for themselves? If they ever expressed a belief in God or that there was a divine Creator, wouldn’t they stamp out that thought, not encourage it?
Ah, but to express a belief in God just means that one of the world’s many invasive religions has gotten into your head! That’s not thinking for yourself at all, so of course as a parent you’re justified in stomping it out.
I don’t believe all atheist parents would react this way – after all, my own dad is an atheist, but he defended to the death my right to be a Catholic if that was what I wanted. But there is a particular strain of fundamentalist atheism that would react very much like fundamentalist religion in this way. I wouldn’t want to be trying to be a Catholic as Richard Dawkins’ kid, for instance.



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Karen Brown

posted December 22, 2008 at 10:17 am


So, she’s justified in treating a small subset of what is already a small group as if that is the norm?
I also wouldn’t want to be an atheist kid being raised by Jerry Falwell, but it’d be rather unfair to claim that all Christians are Jerry Falwell… wouldn’t it?



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Dale McGowan

posted December 22, 2008 at 11:02 am


“How are these children thinking for themselves? If they ever expressed a belief in God or that there was a divine Creator, wouldn’t they stamp out that thought, not encourage it?”
I’ll assume that’s non-rhetorical.
It’s funny and sad that this is always assumed. In fact, freethought is the heart and foundation of my parenting — freethought, not atheism. I am completely honest about my point of view, but then I make it clear to my children that I am inviting them to differ from me, inviting them to ask questions about what I believe and why, and inviting them to talk to others, to actively explore other beliefs, and ultimately to choose their own.
Key to this is the refusal to label children. My kids believe in God for months at a time, but I do not call them Christians. Likewise, when they lapse out of belief, I don’t call them atheists, any more than I would call a child a “Republican child” or a “Marxist child.”
I have spent the last two years in conversation with hundreds of nonreligious parents, and I can tell you with considerable confidence that this position is the norm. I spend tremendous amounts of energy helping nonreligious parents to avoid precisely the response you suggest is inevitable.
And for the record, I was misquoted. The quote from my speech was as follows: “When someone asks, ‘How are you going to raise your kids to be moral without religion?’, you can calmly reply, ‘Why, by avoiding moral indoctrination, of course, which research has shown to be the least effective way to encourage moral development.'” Indoctrination, not religion itself, is the problem — and as you note, indoctrination is possible from all perspectives. But it’s worth noting that one group seems to be trying particularly hard to avoid it.



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Boris

posted December 22, 2008 at 2:50 pm


I’ve read that Pope John Paul II thought Catholicism is the greatest humanist force in today’s world. This is a fine example of the kind of creative semantics religion has resorted to from its beginnings. John Paul’s and our definition of humanism butt each other like two male steers in heat. Although he didn’t state it, the Pope’s definition clearly includes God and the supernatural; ours emphatically does not. Secular humanism has no truck with the supernatural or superstition. Being scientifically oriented, secular humanism is focused on this world, not the next. Religion has told so many lies that you couldn’t believe its spokespersons even if they told you they were lying!
Secular humanism is completely people-oriented. It;s convinced that we’d be better off by ignoring the pie-in-the-sky rewards “guaranteed” by clergy, faith healers, and religious con-artists. It is politically democratic. Its emphasis and demand for constitutional rights – free inquiry topping the list – stems from the bloody and repressive history of Western religions. It’s a sad fact that today we are faced by many anti-secularist trends: dogmatic, authoritarian religions; fundamentalist, literalist, and muscular Christianity; rabid and uncompromising Islam; nationalistic Jewish Orthodoxy; and the resurrection of the so-called New Age religions.
We deplore the growth of religious groups that foment hatred and religious intolerance. No religious organization must be allowed to impose its biased views about what constitutes proper morality, education, sexual behavior, marriage, divorce, birth control, or abortion – or legislate these private concerns for the rest of us. Our ethics is based on critical analysis.
Secular humanists think those who want to require that creationism be taught in science classrooms are either ignorant, mad, or charlatans, or a combination of these. Instead, we insist that evolution, as well as all other scientific disciplines, be taught.
We trust head rather than heart. Yet, we uphold the emotional side of life by supporting the arts and humanities in all their glory. Some of the most noteworthy personalities in history have been secularists and humanists: Lucretius, Epicurus, Spinoza, David Hume, Thomas Paine, Diderot, Mark Twain, John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Margaret Sanger, H.L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, Ernest Nagel, D Sidney Hook, Walter Kaufman, Isaac Asimov, B.F. Skinner, and Francis Crick. These and many other notables furnish a brilliant genealogy of our movement. We have much to celebrate, but there is still much to be done.
Here are some notes I’ve gathered just for you on how secular writing became more dominant than religious writing:
Broadly speaking, before and during the same period as Aquinas, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Christian literary theory revived. This is well illustrated by a poem titled Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In the Celtic myth and the conventions of ancestral romantic narrative were blended with themes from the New Testament. In the fourteenth century the writing of its foremost poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, although rich in biblical references, moves from simple allegory and biblical paraphrase to more worldly tales. In Langland’s apocalyptic Piers Plowman simple moral and political allegories are projected from the Gospels and Pauline epistles onto contemporary crises in church and state. Authors urge readers toward direct, personal reading, personal reading of the Scriptures. This was the time of the famous Wycliffe translation, allowing the common man to read and study the Bible.
Wycliffe’s Bible was condemned. A person could actually be arrested for owning a copy of the Canterbury Tales! The sixteenth century saw more translations of the Bible. The rise of science led to religious skepticism and a critical attack on the scientific reliability of the biblical texts themselves. Skepticism began to trickle in works such as Lord Herbert, founder of Deism and author of pro-Deistic De Veritate (On Truth 1623). Coupling this to biblical criticism such as Richard Simon’s Critical History of the Old Testament and the philosophical writings of John Locke, we find a growing flood of challenges to the authority and relevance of the Bible.
Writers of major influence were Anthony Ashley Shaftsbury (greatly influenced by John Locke), Henry Bolingbroke (Essays Philosophical and Theological), who took special delight in discrediting the various church creeds, and later, king of the skeptics, David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion), Thomas Paine (the highly influential The Age of Reason), and Edward Gibbon. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) celebrated the re-institution of Roman as opposed to biblical models and values, as well as the English evolution in literature from an era dominated by Christian and biblical influences to one that is now mostly secular.
Our humanist movement originates from a very eminent cast of founding fathers who sparked the transition from religious to secular literature. many of the authors mentioned in the last two paragraphs were the progenitors of the humanist movement ans, as such, should compel i us to be familiar with their highly provocative and productive ideas.



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MH

posted December 22, 2008 at 3:40 pm


When I saw the title I had a hunch it was about Gregory Epstein and his group at Harvard. He’s really good at getting media coverage, at least in the Boston area.
Personally I think he’ll find that the bulk of the 16% of the non-religious population don’t want to replicate church. If they did there’s already the UU and Ethical Culture which are pretty the same thing already.
Iris Alantiel, funny you should mention Dawkins. In 2005 an interviewer asked how he would feel if his daughter became religious. He said he thought she was much too intelligent to do that, but that’s her decision. The text of the interview is online.



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ZZ

posted December 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm


It’s official. Boris is DEFINITELY unemployed.



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Moonshadow

posted December 22, 2008 at 7:18 pm


Personally I think he’ll find that the bulk of the 16% of the non-religious population don’t want to replicate church. If they did there’s already the UU and Ethical Culture which are pretty the same thing already.
I agree with all that.
it’d be rather unfair to claim that all Christians are Jerry Falwell.
Well, sure. Yet some do, especially in the media. See how ridiculous it is?
Although he didn’t state it, the Pope’s definition clearly includes God and the supernatural;
If that’s the reality of things, why shouldn’t he have included them?
We trust head rather than heart.
I’m not any different on that. In fact, my heart does no thinking at all, as far as I can tell.
Peace.



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Moonshadow

posted December 22, 2008 at 7:35 pm


If they ever expressed a belief in God or that there was a divine Creator, wouldn’t they stamp out that thought, not encourage it?
Certain thoughts are taboo, I think you have to admit.
Anyway, my husband doesn’t stamp out religious thoughts his children express … but he doesn’t encourage them either. Or rather, he doesn’t confirm them with any of his own, right?



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Karen Brown

posted December 22, 2008 at 10:22 pm


You can’t complain what ‘some in the media’ if you’re doing it too.
And I guarantee, atheists are more characterized by Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens than Christians by Falwell.
Example.. name ANY other atheist.
I bet I can name a few dozen other Christians that you can see consulted by the media as ‘experts’ in that area. You know, from Graham (both of them) to, heck, this Warren fella, etc.



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Boris

posted December 22, 2008 at 11:08 pm


Karen Brown
December 22, 2008 10:22 PM
Example.. name ANY other atheist.
Okay here are a few:
Douglas Adams, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Woody Allen, Lance Armstrong, Darren Aronofsky, Isaac Asimov, Dave Barry, Ingmar Bergman, Lewis Black, Richard Branson, Berkeley Breathed, Warren Buffett, George Carlin, John Carmack, Adam Carolla, John Carpenter, Asia Carrera, Fidel Castro, Dick Cavett, Noam Chomsky, Billy Connolly, Francis Crick, David Cronenberg, David Cross, Alan Cumming, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, David Deutsch, Ani DiFranco, Micky Dolenz, Harlan Ellison, Brian Eno, Richard Feynman, Harvey Fierstein, Larry Flynt, Dave Foley, Jodie Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Gates, Bob Geldof, Ricky Gervais, Ira Glass, James Gleick, Robert Heinlein, Nat Hentoff, Katharine Hepburn, Christopher Hitchens, Jamie Hyneman, Eddie Izzard, Penn Jillette, Billy Joel, Angelina Jolie, Wendy Kaminer, Diane Keaton, Ken Keeler, Neil Kinnock, Michael Kinsley, Richard Leakey, Bruce Lee, Tom Lehrer, Tom Leykis, James Lipton, H.P. Lovecraft, John Malkovich, Barry Manilow, Todd McFarlane, Sir Ian McKellen, Arthur Miller, Frank Miller, Marvin Minsky, Julianne Moore, Desmond Morris, Randy Newman, Mike Nichols, Jack Nicholson, Gary Numan, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Camille Paglia, Steven Pinker, Paula Poundstone, Terry Pratchett, James Randi, Ron Reagan Jr., Keanu Reeves, Rick Reynolds, Gene Roddenberry, Joe Rogan, Henry Rollins, Andy Rooney, Salman Rushdie, Bob Simon, Steven Soderbergh, Annika Sorenstam, George Soros, Richard Stallman, Bruce Sterling, Howard Stern, J. Michael Straczynski, Julia Sweeney, Matthew Sweet, Teller, Studs Terkel, Tom Tomorrow, Linus Torvalds, Eddie Vedder, Paul Verhoeven, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Sarah Vowell, James Watson, Steven Weinberg, Joss Whedon, Ted Williams, Steve Wozniak,



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Karen Brown

posted December 23, 2008 at 12:17 am


Boris.. I know them, and YOU know them.
My question was, does any THEIST know any of them, or that they are atheists? Or the media, for that matter, when an ‘atheist’ is brought on to talk about things.



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Robert

posted December 23, 2008 at 4:11 am


Frankly, my experiences with adherents of various Reformed manifestations has from time to time led me to muse that atheism might have some advantages as a lifestyle, not that I’d care to hang out with Hitchens on a regular basis. But we are what we are (which is kind of a Reformed position in itself).



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Boris

posted December 23, 2008 at 9:48 am


Karen Brown,
It’s funny when theists find out that people they’ve been quoting to support their views are actually atheists. Abraham Lincoln was an atheist for example. I once had a theist praise Lincoln to me as a great American but when he found out Lincoln was an infidel he was very humiliated and embarrassed. The same goes for infidels like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. Quotes from these two Christian haters are always good for torpedoing Christian lies about the founding of our nation.



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Cy

posted December 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm


Boris,
“John Paul’s and our definition of humanism butt each other like two male steers in heat.”
A few problems here: 1) females go into heat, not males; 2) ALL steers are male; 3) steers have been castrated to avoid the fighting.
I was also wondering where you got your list of atheists. I noticed you had them in alphabetical order, and left out the three you mentioned later, Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin. What leads you to believe Franklin and Jefferson were Christian haters?



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Karen Brown

posted December 23, 2008 at 6:26 pm


Cy, are you saying that atheists are ‘Christian Haters’?
Are Christians ‘atheist haters’?
Last I checked, atheists are defined as not believing in God. Not as ‘hating Christians’.
But, if you look up some quotes, you can say that, those two specifically, didn’t always look on Christianity favorably, nor speak of them flatteringly. But that isn’t specific to being an atheist.



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Boris

posted December 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm


Cy,
You said: I was also wondering where you got your list of atheists. I noticed you had them in alphabetical order, and left out the three you mentioned later, Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin. What leads you to believe Franklin and Jefferson were Christian haters?
Boris says: Oh I don’t know. Their OWN words maybe:
“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.” – Thomas Jefferson
“The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel vengeful and capricious… One only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man… perverted into and engine for enslaving mankind… a mere contrivance [for the clergy] to filch wealth and power to themselves.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” – Benjamin Franklin
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” – Benjamin Franklin
Before he became involved in politics Abraham Lincoln wrote a treatise against Christianity, arguing that the Bible was not God’s revelation and Jesus was not the son of God. After his assassination, his former law partner said Abraham was “an avowed and open infidel, sometimes bordering on atheism… He went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard.” Lincoln was assassinated by a Bible believing Christian.
“It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to infidelity.” – Abraham Lincoln



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Cy

posted December 30, 2008 at 11:04 am


Sorry for the confusion, Karen. I should have put quotation marks around Christian haters to indicate I was quoting Boris. I would never make the assertion that an atheists is necessarily a Christian hater.
Thanks for the quotes, Boris. While they clearly speak to Jefferson’s and Franklin’s antipathy towards 18th century Christianity, “hate” is too strong a word to apply, at least based on these statements.
Ad hominem arguments aren’t convincing for me. John Booth was a “Bible believing Christian” (is there another kind?), and Josef Stalin was an atheist. Now we’re back where we started when we weren’t calling each other names.
I apologize for taking so long to reply. I bookmarked the page on my work computer, and we’ve been on holiday schedule since. I couldn’t remember where this conversation was happening.
Cy



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FundamentalCharlie

posted January 3, 2009 at 3:05 pm


It seems odd that they are trying to find something that works to try to teach their children the difference between right and wrong and yet, want to exclude the standard, (God), that establishes this very distinction. All our morality i, is an attempt to come as closely as possible to the ideal, which is absolute morality. Where else can an example of absoulte morality be found aside from God?
God Bless



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Rance Mohanitz

posted January 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm


Charlie,
As an atheist and parent of a two-year-old, I would like to find places with the sense of communtity that I had in my childhood church. However, I do not want my child to be exposed to the fear of eternal torture, or the irrational belief of extraterrestrial rewards for their behaviors. I am teaching my son to behave rationally, to take the role of the other, and to own his choices. I think that these are the bedrock of morality, not anyone’s conception of a god. I think tha tyour comments beg the question, since those that don’t believe in the Christian (or any other religion’s) god also don’t believe that morality is based on any god. Personally, I believe the exact opposite; gods were invented to personalize the morality that people had already (correctly or incorrectly) rationalized.
Thanks,
Rance



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Manny

posted February 13, 2009 at 4:50 am


I don’t want kids, but if i did, i wouldn’t want them near a church. If its not the priest, its a sports coach, or Sunday school teacher. not just men, but women too. Its easier for these things to be done when no one will accuse a person of the church of any wrong doing ( although lately, things are changing ). Although People are people everywhere, ( age, sex, color, country, religion and non religion ), its easier to do these things hiding behind the idea of god ( no caps ).
FundamentalCharlie
January 3, 2009 3:05 PM
http://www.thefundamentalist.info
It seems odd that they are trying to find something that works to try to teach their children the difference between right and wrong and yet, want to exclude the standard, (God), that establishes this very distinction. All our morality i, is an attempt to come as closely as possible to the ideal, which is absolute morality. Where else can an example of absoulte morality be found aside from God?
God Bless



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