Tag Archives: secularism

The Dawning of Hope

medium_life-after-god-1458021600When I was young, there was only one place that I grew to enjoy: Church. People made fun of me at school and I was brow beaten and put down at home. The one solace I had was Church. People there treated me like a peer. They seemed to value my input and seemed eager to let me help to shape small parts of how the whole functioned. It was one of the very few places where I felt safe, where I felt at home, and where I commanded some small modicum of respect.

So, as you can imagine, as I began to lose my faith, it felt like my whole life was unraveling. My source of friends, my source of entertainment, my source of standing in the community, and the source of my wife were all tied to the Church. And since the time I left the Church I have clung to my Facebook and Tumblr communities looking for something similar.

In that time I’ve managed to forge some new Internet-based friendships and even a bit of community but it felt like a pale and weak replacement for what I had before. I had lost the feeling I’d had before that I was an important and valuable part of a vibrant community.

My wife will tell you that I don’t do anticipation well. I try not to think about holidays, trips, or special occasions too much or too far in advance. So I was trying to keep my expectations in check when I started listening to Bart Campolo and Ryan J Bell but I felt a small stirring inside. I continued to try keeping those expectations in check when I heard about Sunday Assembly and, especially, the Oasis Network. But I couldn’t help it any longer. Those small, small sparks of possibility began to run away with my imagination.

I began to think that perhaps I could once again be an important part of a vibrant community again. So, I looked for another option and I’ve now been exploring Unitarian Universalism for a few weeks now. It looks like a promising possibility.

Yet, I couldn’t help but tear-up with happiness today when I listened to the latest Life After God podcast. Gretta Vosper, the atheist cleric from Canada, has joined forces with the Oasis Network. Put that together with the growth of both Bart and Ryan’s work and I can’t help but feel a little giddy and excited. Maybe I’m not doomed to be an outlier insurgent barely eeking out a social existence. Maybe the day will come when Sunday Assembly‘s goal of providing a place for fellowship in every town that wants one is met.

I don’t know. It’s still a small and faint hope. But it’s growing much faster than I ever imagined it could. I only hope I can contain myself as I wait for it to reach us here. In the meantime, I’ll explore with enthusiasm Unitarian Universalism and be trying to keep in check that small, small hope that there will come a day when a secular fellowship exists here in the Piedmont.

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US State Department Admits “We Cannot Kill Our Way Out of This War”

Apparently the political and religious right are pitching a fit about the admission by a spokesperson for the US State Department that America, or indeed anyone, can win this battle by trying to kill all of the violent and fundamentalist Muslims.

The fact is that the more violent Muslims that are killed, the more new violent Muslims will be created.

It’s likely that even many on the left here in the United States will not agree with this solution but it is, so far, the only thing that makes sense: The real solution is to show the violent and fundamentalist Muslims that truth can’t be found in a holy book but in the continued expansion of our knowledge about our Universe through scientific experimentation and analysis.

The root of the problem is that these people believe that their senses are lying to them and that the words that were written in a book more than 1,000 years ago, by someone who had no more insight than anyone else who lived at that time, carry more weight than what they can observe and and experience.

The reason we’re not talking about that fact here in America is that a large percentage of the American public believe the same thing. They simply adhere to a different holy book.

There is no real difference between fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians so far as where they look for their understanding of reality. They each look to a book that was written more than 1,000 years ago by people who had no more insight into how humans think and act than anyone else who lived during that time.

This cycle of killing will continue until everyone is willing to admit that you cannot learn about humanity or the Universe we inhabit through a holy book. In the meantime, the problem may go away for the moment or may shift to the fundamentalist believers of a different religion, but the problem will continue so long as there are humans who believe that ancient books filled with what is, at best, conjecture, grant their readers more insight into the human condition and how to live in and care for the Universe than the rigorous testing of what we experience.

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Rethinking Western Secularism in Light of our Muslim Populations

The Intersection of Religion and PoliticsSince the Protestant Reformation began, Europe had been plunged into war after war. One nation against another, countrymen at each others throats, and even family members torn apart because of the perceived need for government to have what each side felt was the “right religion.” The United States was among the first to embrace the bold idea that those of differing religious convictions could live together in peace by stripping religion from the government and giving it a secular character.

A secular government was a bold and radical idea that was untested but unless such an idea could be embraced, the American British colonies would never have been able to form and maintain a single nation since each colony had a distinct religious culture all its own. Not everyone was necessarily on board with the idea but enough were that our fledgling nation embraced it as necessity and we made it our own.

In the more than two centuries since the United States was formed, most of the major nations where some form of Christianity was its main religion, have come to embrace the idea. After several centuries of pointless wars being fought over whose version of Christianity the government would embrace, the endless bloodshed finally came to a close. Because of the wondrous results the West has obtained from this philosophy we have come to guard it rather jealously. In fact, so jealously that we have begun the cycle of violence again except this time it’s Islam against Western Secularism.

The question those of us who have grown up in this era of secular dominance must ask ourselves is whether this war is inevitable. We can’t say that Muslims just have to get used to it. We are several generations too late to effectively make that argument. We have to remember that Muslims did not endure centuries of wars amongst themselves and so are not at the point of exhaustion that the West was at when we created Secularism.

Many Muslims around the world today honestly believe that they can form an Islamic nation without it being oppressive. And they will not be swayed no matter how many examples we show them of the likelihood that such a venture will not only fail but fail spectacularly. I see it as being similar to telling a kid about why they shouldn’t do something. Some kids will listen to the wisdom handed down from their parents but the overwhelming majority in every generation believe that it will be different for them. And so most parents eventually resign themselves standing to the side, letting them try, and hoping that their lives are not completely broken by the experience.

That means that Western nations need to find a way to give Muslims some space. And that’s true not only on a global scale, but its going to have to be true in the Western nations to which we’ve allowed them to emigrate. Steps such as those France has undertaken to safeguard the country’s secular character will do nothing but fan the flames of those Muslims who don’t understand why mixing religion and politics is a bad idea.

What will that space look like? Quite frankly, I have no idea and it’s possible that, whatever we come up with, the West may completely collapse in the process. But the alternative is the further alienation of the Muslims who live among us and we are seeing right now the consequences of such policies.

A good place to begin is with this article posted on Wednesday over on The Atlantic‘s website that explores these ideas and helps us to see the issues involved from multiple perspectives. After reading it, feel free to leave your thoughtful ideas and/or comments below.

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