Thanks, but no

Do atheists crave a replacement for church?

Atheism’s great awakening is in need of a doctrine. “People perceive us as only rejecting things,” says Ken Bronstein, the president of a local group called New York City Atheists. “Everybody wants to know, ‘Okay, you’re an atheist, now what?'”

Nah, thanks – I’m not in need of a doctrine. In fact the very idea is kind of…how shall I say…idiotic? Part of the point of being an atheist is not having to sign up to a ‘doctrine.’ It’s not a matter of thinking those other doctrines are no fun but our doctrine is just the ticket. It’s a matter of not liking doctrines in the first place.

The most successful movements in history, after all—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.—all have creeds, cathedrals, schools, hierarchies, rituals, money, clerics, and some version of a heavenly afterlife.

Yes…but atheists don’t want creeds, hierarchies, clerics, or fairy tales about the afterlife. I’m down with pretty buildings, schools are good, some rituals are okay if I always have a right of refusal, money is just fine if anyone wants to give me some, but the rest of it is a good deal too churchy for me, thanks.

The article goes on to give a toe-curling picture of pseudo-church (Secular Jewish church; go figure) that illustrates just why the idea is so unappealing. Singing secular hymns…noooooo thank you.

When Tim Gorski, a Texas physician, approached Paul Kurtz, an influential atheist who now chairs the Center for Inquiry, an atheist think tank, about his plans to start the North Texas Church of Freethought in the nineties, Kurtz discouraged him, on the grounds that atheists don’t need church.

Just so. Tim Gorski should have started an atheist think tank, instead. Did I ever tell you about the library at the Center for Inquiry? Biggest library of free thought in the country, or the world, or something. I liked to wander around it drooling slightly.

Dennett sees value in atheism’s great awakening, in the energy and money that come from organizing, but he counsels caution. “The last thing atheists want to see is their rational set of ideas yoked up with the trappings of a religion,” he says. “We think we can do without that.”

Although, as I mentioned, money and pretty buildings are always gratefully accepted if offered.

“In the larger war against supernaturalism, frankly, it doesn’t help to fraternize with the enemy,” [Dawkins] says.

Fraternize with or imitate.

24 Responses to “Thanks, but no”