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Atheist church? NO THANK YOU.

Grrr. Epstein. I guess he’ll play his games, but I just find them so irrelevant. He’s exploring ways to structure atheist meetings modeled after religion.

“People get a lot of benefits from their religious communities including profound ways of filling existential needs, like commemorating significant events in their lives,’’ said James Croft, a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education who is heavily involved with the Humanist Community Project. “Just because they leave behind their religious beliefs doesn’t mean they stop having those needs.

“But secular society has not yet come up with a way to give them moments of significance with the same level of beauty and care that goes into religious ceremonies. That is a big gap.’’

I think it is entirely true that that weekly church ritual has deep appeal to people, and that there’s something there that can grab people and draw them in. But it’s a cheat and a waste. Tapping into our psychology to get us to sit and get sucked into pointless ritual is not how I want to see the atheist movement evolve. I want us to think and act, not reassure ourselves by going through repetitive motions, through superstitious behavior.

Ceremonies to mark major events in our lives, sure; that’s a celebration or a remembrance and entirely appropriate. But freethinkers ought not to be shackled by rote and rites. And they especially should not be led by “chaplains” or whatever the hell they’re going to call them. No gods, no masters, no dogma, and no goddamned priests…not even atheist priests.

Comments

  1. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    South Park covered this years ago, didn’t it? It didn’t turn out well for anyone but the …Otters. Otters!

    No gods, no masters, no dogma, and no goddamned priests…not even atheist priests.

    Damned right!

  2. John K. says

    The social aspects are nice, but surely we can find other ways besides services to socialize.

    The security blanket may be comforting as a small child, but we are going to need to find new ways to be comfortable as we grow up.

  3. Ing says

    Shoot wait…that’s not the right word. A Scrab is an Oddworld critter.

    What’s the term for someone who refuses to take advantage of a legal move in a game “because it’s not fair”?

  4. Physicalist says

    If atheists want quasi-religious ritual, they should just join a Unitarian Universalist church. Aethists & Humanists welcome.

    (Though sometimes you have to be willing to tolerate Wiccans and various new-agey folks. And it is, of course, accomodationist to the core.)

  5. says

    If people needs weekly meetings after leaving their religion, why not make a charitable foundation? It is more useful and can help others and not just their collective desire for approval.

  6. Ing says

    If atheists want quasi-religious ritual, they should just join a Unitarian Universalist church. Aethists & Humanists welcome.

    That’s not ENTIRELY true in my experience.

  7. says

    Some people find it daunting to organize events to mark passages such as deaths and marriage, etc. Belonging to some sort of mutual benefit society, that owns a meeting hall, hosts lectures and discussion groups, and has infrastructure to gin up a memorial or a celebration might be worthwhile. It wouldn’t need a chaplain, but maybe a part-time administrator/event planner, a membership structure and a steering committee. Doesn’t seem like a terrible idea. I’d appreciate something like that when a parent dies, for example — right now there’s no place to go but the church. When my father died we were forced by the preacher to include some Jesus mumbo jumbo if we wanted to use the building. And while I and my family had the literary and performance chops to put together a worthy and dignified event, not everybody will feel comfortable doing it on their own.

    So I’m not so dismissive.

  8. says

    I think you’re making a mistake criticizing this. There are numerous studies showing that going to church more often improves life satisfaction and other mental health criteria (I’m sure you’ve seen the studies that say religious people are “happier”). CFI did a study and found this was U-shaped curve and that non-religious people who meet with people who have similar metaphysical frameworks do as well when they meet as often. This shows that there is some behavioral aspect that works for religious (and non-religious) communities that doesn’t have to do with the content of the beliefs.

    I think in some ways, academia fills this role for some atheists, but as atheists diversify and become more highly represented among the masses, there just isn’t an opportunity for the same type of supportive community, discussion of existential questions, and even moral exultation. Humans reason best in diverse groups, and atheists have their own kind of diversity…but with enough common ground to actually have a real discussion. My own mental health has improved since starting a local atheist meetup group, and I think there may be some lessons I can learn from inquiry in this area. Don’t dismiss it out of hand because of the source. Evolution works on religious communities too as part of cultural evolution, and they have a lot of things “right by accident”.

  9. Blondin says

    Hmmm. At the end of the article they quote sum guy as saying

    Some people seem to want [groups like Epstein’s], and I’m not going to stand in their way.

    What’s wrong with joining an astronomy club or volunteering to help a FIRST Robotics team or something like that?

  10. Matt Penfold says

    The best funeral service I have been to (if best is the best term) was a non-religious funeral conducted by a retired Anglican woman vicar.

    I got a chance to talk to the retired vicar after the service and she explained that her training and work as a priest had taught her a fair bit about how to organise a service so it flowed well, and that she had no problem performing a non-religious service as she saw the purpose of such services as being to benefit the friends and family of the dead person.

    The actual service consisted of some poetry and prose readings, some music and his two daughters giving an eulogy. All rather touching, and more personal than many funerals I have been to.

  11. Cartomancer says

    That’s a very American way of thinking he has there. It’s a somewhat baffling idea to most godless Europeans why you’d want to get together for an official weekly session of tea and pointlessness. What’s wrong with just going to the pub with your friends regularly?

  12. says

    I’ve thought about this quite a bit, but I’ve always ended up rejecting it. Do people really need a place to go to feel all soft and wonderful? Physicalist #8 is right – Want a no-God church go to a UU church.
    I’m still thinking about it.

  13. Matt says

    I don’t see anything wrong with using churches (and other religious meetings) as a model for some kind of secular (not atheist) replacement. I can see a lot of value in getting people together as often as once a week to socialize and talk about morality and philosophy and current events and how they effect our lives.

    There are certainly aspects of churches I would jettison, including the idea of a priesthood, but if we’re going to argue that there isn’t anything good religion gives us that can’t be provided by a secular alternative we have to think about providing a replacement for religions meetings.

  14. ktnevl says

    For everything a church provides there are secular (read better) alternatives. It’s just more work to seek out each service independently, making it more difficult than opting for the combo meal that is a church. If thinking for yourself were easy, everybody would be doing it.

  15. Brownian says

    It’s always A Confession with some people. “What do the plebs do? They seem happy. Perhaps if we do what they do, we’ll find the same fulfillment.” It’s like a cargo cult, but the goal is to resume the flow of spiritual, whatever that is, rather than of goods.

    On the other hand, the way they’re running this atheist church is more like a salon than any service I’ve attended. Sounds like it might be a lot of fun. Find some better chairs—uncomfortable seating may be a staple of religious gatherings, but not every little detail needs be recreated with such fidelity (!)—toss in a nice bottle of wine or some pleasant coffee and tea into the mix, and we’re off to commune with, er, notgod.

    But not on Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are when I engage in the sacred ritual of Reconstructing Last Night’s Drunken Blackout Activities, Invoking Legal Counsel If Necessary. It’s a very solemn, spiritual time of reflection for me.

  16. Sajanas says

    I really don’t get why people found the weekly church services comforting. All I ever found them was tedious. Oh sure, Christmas and Easter are nice, there’s lots of bells and singing, but most of it is just bland and half assed, with amateur singing and high school grade essays about how God is related to what’s on TV, and it repeats all over again the next year. And its not like there is any socializing going on during the church service itself, you’ll just get yourself shushed. The organization around the church is what people really enjoy. Its like everyone has been convinced to watch Battlefield Earth every week because of all the charity work, supper clubs, and pleasant conversation that happens before and after the movie plays.

  17. says

    I’d say the obvious way to mark significant events like weddings and funerals are to invite your friends. I suppose it is comforting to some to pad the pews with additional warm bodies, who share no other relation to you than the shared (lack of?) belief in something, but we should really get over our insecurities.

    I’m sure atheists can figure out something to do with their Sundays.

  18. Robotocracy says

    Epstein leading the “trying to turn atheism into a religion” front, as always. And I thought we had moved past clinging to pointless rituals designed to stop critical thinking…

    There is no void in my life left by the absence of religion. I have neither necessity nor desire to go to any kind of church, be it an “atheist” church or otherwise.

  19. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    It’s a somewhat baffling idea to most godless Europeans why you’d want to get together for an official weekly session of tea and pointlessness. What’s wrong with just going to the pub with your friends regularly?

    I wouldn’t speculate whether it’s an American or European thing, but otherwise I would agree with you. And it’s not only about meeting friends, I don’t see why you can’t simply meet with your fellow atheists occasionally, without giving some special religious-like structure to those meetings. Same goes for celebrating important things in your life. You don’t have to follow a certain pattern. I see it as one of the benefits of ditching religion. Why would we need some special humanist customs? The whole point is that you can celebrate in any way you wish.

  20. Ing says

    The only way I could like an atheist religion is if they did some “zen” things and did rituals designed to promote thinking rather than shut it down. That could be actually fun.

  21. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    Aren’t most of the “significant moments” celebrated in church only significant because they’re church-related? I’ve never had a birthday party in church. I got married in a church the first time, but I never had an anniversary party there, or even had it acknowledged. I’ve never seen a church celebrate someone getting a promotion or a great new job.

    I got baptized in church. I had first communion in church. I had confirmation in church. None of these are significant outside the church, though.

    But secular society has not yet come up with a way to give them moments of significance

    Give people significant moments? Like an atheist baptism? I don’t get it.

    How many people really find this stuff significant, anyway?

  22. Pan says

    Just for the sake of not behaving like religious people want me to behave, I refuse to go to weekly atheist meetings.

    I am interested in atheist topics. I’m reading various atheist blogs to have the necessary knowlegde to discuss things like church tax, faith schools and religious education, religious extremism, leaving the church etc. etc. I am willing to fight the ridiculous privileges the christian churches have in Germany and to make this country a more secular place.
    Under no circumstances I’m going to live the atheistic clichee of religious people. I haven’t left the church “because I didn’t like some of the church leaders”, I’m not “craving company” and I definitely don’t “need a substitution for a faith” I’ve never had.

    I understand the need for a non-theist funeral ceremony (and maybe even marriages), but I won’t be a member of the church of the godless. Never.

  23. Ewan R says

    Methinks PZ doth protest too much – knowing full well that telling a bunch of free thinkers to do something is a non-started he is relying on telling us not to do it so as to form his own many tentacled mega church.

    Very soon he shall have 10% of our income and will no longer have to rely on Christian Mingle to fatten his wallet.

    No gods, no masters, no dogma, and no goddamned priests…not even atheist priests.

    /drone voice and unto you /drone voice

    Even has the startings of his cultish chanting.

  24. Anath says

    Eh, going to an “Atheist Church Service” is not really what’s happening. The language in the article is a bit misleading. The group only really takes away service elements of church and the idea of creating “atheist” weddings and funerals, not attending a “mass” where you kneel, sit, and stand at specified times and recite select passages from the God Delusion. The meetings are more panels for discussion around a specific topic.

    I do fault the author of the article for their overuse of religious terms. Again it’s not the meetings themselves modeled after churches but the idea of having a community center focused on service and celebrate life events. I’ve read a number of articles and comments on this blog discussing this specific lack…

  25. electrabotanical says

    I think a lot of people have a need for cermony, marking the seasons, fellowship and opportunities for service work. The UU church provides a lot of these for this atheist. And it’s a good place to expose your kids to various religious theories without the pressure to make them beleive any of them. They also have a great sex ed program for teens. It’s not for everyone, but a useful thing for many.

  26. Brownian says

    Aren’t most of the “significant moments” celebrated in church only significant because they’re church-related? I’ve never had a birthday party in church. I got married in a church the first time, but I never had an anniversary party there, or even had it acknowledged. I’ve never seen a church celebrate someone getting a promotion or a great new job.

    That’s a great point, and it counters the directionality of these lines of thinking. People aren’t saying, “Hey, something important’s happened! Call up Father Macready and let’s have us a mass!” but rather the church telling people that certain important events fall under its domain.

    So, however it is that atheists celebrate important events, I’d bet it’s not much different than how the religious celebrate important events that aren’t weddings or funerals or directly religious events like baptisms.

    Are people really arguing that our lives are bereft of meaning because we don’t have atheist baptisms?

    Just for the sake of not behaving like religious people want me to behave, I refuse to go to weekly atheist meetings.

    I’m kind of like this. Outside the atheist community I know a lot of hippies, and both groups claim the solstices and equinoxes like they’re the children at the root of a bitter custody battle. Have all the pseudo-pagan fun you want, but I didn’t give up Catholicism so I could adopt a slightly different calendar of religious observances. I don’t look forward to an atheist future where I’m still wracking my brain to find the time to scrounge up two potluck dishes for dinner with my family and dinner with the Significant Other’s, only now it’s not Easter we’re ‘celebrating’ but the Perseids.

  27. Cuttlefish says

    Weekly ritual, community building, tribalism, etc.? Sounds like organized sports to me. All the fanaticism, prejudice, and insanity of religion, without the need to invoke some supernatural entity. Yankees? Man U? All-Blacks? Steelers? NASCAR? Lakers? These are the functional equivalent of religious communities, in that they promote ritual, community, identity, etc. Sure, the riots have a ways to go before they match religious conflict, but with a few exceptions, most would call that a good thing.

    Believing that Messi is a god is mostly metaphorical, so as stupid as fans can get, this has got to be a step up from transubstantiation.

  28. consciousness razor says

    What sort of funny hats would atheist clergy wear? I think that sort of information might influence my opinion on the subject.

    ——

    Just for the sake of not behaving like religious people want me to behave, I refuse to go to weekly atheist meetings.

    Um, you refuse? I mean, if they’re just meetings, not quasi-religious Epstein-style ceremonies, and if no one is demanding that you go, what is there to refuse?

    Also, wouldn’t religious people want you to not attend atheist meetings (because, you know, baby-eating is generally frowned-upon by the religious), in which case, you should go to them?

    I haven’t left the church “because I didn’t like some of the church leaders”, I’m not “craving company” and I definitely don’t “need a substitution for a faith” I’ve never had.

    Therefore, you refuse to attend meetings? How does that follow? The act of meeting like-minded people, perhaps to socialize or discuss issues in which you have a common interest, doesn’t imply anything about why you have certain views.

  29. Matt Penfold says

    I think a lot of people have a need for cermony, marking the seasons, fellowship and opportunities for service work.

    There is no evidence of that. If it was true, church attendance in Europe would not be so low, and continuing to decline.

    In the UK only around 6% of the population regularly attend church. That is not a “lot” by any standard.

  30. Barbara says

    Ritual*, music, and fellowship are important. There’s nothing wrong with this, and there’s something good about getting these needs met in a non-theistic manner. Of course, Croft doesn’t have to invent his own humanistic, non-theistic church unless he wants to. Unitarian Universalist churches already exist.

    * Is ritual not important to you? How do you feel when friends and relatives neglect birthday party rituals? Don’t graduation ceremonies matter, at least to your relatives? How do you feel when your individual morning rituals get interrupted?

  31. Matt Penfold says

    Ritual, music and fellowship do not require a church service of any description. Going down the pub can give you all of that.

  32. says

    “People get a lot of benefits from their religious communities including profound ways of filling existential needs, like commemorating significant events in their lives,’’

    Why do they keep repeating this nonsense? Have they never been to a nonreligious celebration, party, or memorial? It also seems to me that they believe religious people are so dull and one-dimensional that they have no other (potentially-)social interests.

    I suppose they think throwing in “profound” and “existential” makes their case, when really all it does is falsely trivialize any nonreligious events and rituals.

  33. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Is ritual not important to you? How do you feel when friends and relatives neglect birthday party rituals? Don’t graduation ceremonies matter, at least to your relatives? How do you feel when your individual morning rituals get interrupted?

    No one wants to forbid birthdays, as far as I know. You just don’t need specific atheist rituals to celebrate them.

  34. Boko999 says

    I think it would be fun to get PZ really drunk, stick a pointy hat on him, wrap him up in a shower curtain, put the rod in his hand, and parade him around as the Atheist Pope.
    Free crackers for everyone!

  35. Craig McGillivary says

    Suppose a group a people decides to meet at a neutral location every other Tuesday. They read a nice short secular passage about friendship and then they light a candle. Then they take turns introducing themselves and talking about what they’ve been doing lately and then they have a loosely structured conversation lead by a different person every week. At the close of the meeting they read another secular passage and blow out the candle.

    The group in the paragraph above actually exists. Its called a chalice group. It meets at a Unitarian Church in Cincinnati. There is not requirement or expectation that you join the church or give any money to it. We did help them renovate the space, but that was because it was fun and we were the main ones using it. I not saying this is totally perfect, but its been great for me personally. Does anybody have any examples of similar groups?

  36. Eric Houg says

    PZ, I would recommend you join my new faith, the Church of Sleeping Late and Naked Breakfast in Bed. The basic theology is explained in the title. And there are just a few etiquette rules to follow

    1) Must be 18 or older to join (yeah, yeah I know, you’re European, your still a perv. Keep your clothes on around the kids)

    2) The number of members in a congregation is best limited to 2 as more members tend to aggravate one or more of the other members and things get sticky (literally if you are having pancakes with syrup).

    3) Agree ahead of time who is making breakfast and who has to clean up after The Sex.

    I sincerely hope you join my new faith. I would say I hope to see you on Sunday morning but if I do I’ll be getting the gun. Good news is that you and the trophy wife have everything you need to start your own congregation (assuming you have eggs, bacon, and toast).

  37. says

    I should correct that statement. I am a secular celebrant. I am very happy to perform marriage/commitment and baby welcoming ceremonies in a completely secular way. My point is that CFI branches provide intellectual and as well as social events for non-theists without the church vibe. If you want that, you can go to Ethical Culture or UU.

  38. says

    I think it is entirely true that that weekly church ritual has deep appeal to people

    Not this person, nor is my husband this way. I’m an introvert. I don’t really get the whole idea of spending an hour or two with a bunch of people I may or may not like, listening to someone tell me how to live my life. For one thing, I don’t feel like I lack for direction in my life and for another, being with a bunch of people is work for me. I can enjoy it, and I can be social, but it’s not something rewarding for me. It’s like adding in a few more hours of work to my week.

    I know that a lot of formerly religious people miss aspects of their religious past and try to recreate it in a secular way but making secular churches is not the answer and it certainly doesn’t make it easier when trying to explain to the mormon on your doorstep that atheism doesn’t take more faith than religious belief and that no, atheism isn’t a type of religion.

    Most cities have non-religious groups of likeminded people. Atheism, on its own isn’t really enough to maintain a group. It would be like planning a regular gathering for, say, non-musicians. Once you are past the point of fully agreeing that none of you are religious, there’s not much else you can count on agreeing on.

    Better to find groups and activities for people who share your interests and values. Sign up for adult ed classes, go to events for things that interest you, sign up for ballroom dancing class, whatever. If you crave social interaction, there are options. Atheist church is just Tofurkey at Thanksgiving; a terrible idea that leaves no one satisfied.

  39. ManOutOfTime says

    Why do I always feel like the person writing this kind of essay wants to be the guy wearing the special vestments – and the hat! Don’t forget the big hat! Congregants get “something,” but clergy get the BIG “something” of being the daddy (or mommy) getting the attention. I lost a very good friend yesterday to leukemia and I have no idea if she was a believer or not, but I am looking forward to honor her at whatever memorial her family puts together; I tune out the woo and focus on my loved one. If asked to give a reading, I always go with the eulogy from Cymbaline or “Do not go gently into that good night,” essentially godless odes which shame just about any religious mumbojumbo.

  40. uncle frogy says

    well I have to agree on not wanting to “design” some replacement for church services because they fulfill some need in people is ridiculous. I thought this was a rational exercise with a decided science bias. The idea of making up some replacement without answering any of the questions is ignorant and pretentious.
    What “function’ does religious ceremony serve? Is it the services themselves or the community so engender by the regular practice with “the group”?

    If there is a survival benefit so derived from such a group and practice then the question is what will evolve to replace it. I do not think that the structure nor the form used today by “religion” was designed as is nor is it the same as it was at the inception though religious ceremony are very traditional and are resistant to change but they do change.
    Something will develop probably more than a just a few replacements. For some the Pub is not going to work not everyone drinks alcohol nor should. Discussion groups may be able to do some of the work now done by religious services but not all of it and not for everyone.
    If we need something like that then we should look to “village life” to life in the smaller cultural groups to see how they fill those needs now served by “organized religion” in our modern industrial-post industrial society. Not with the idea of replicating it but to discover what might grow to replace it.

    personally I enjoy live theater, it hits many of the same notes as religious ceremony as does live music concerts.

    uncle frogy

  41. says

    Hi there!

    Since this post was sparked by a quote of mine, I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts on this issue. I first would ask all the posters here to read the actual article PZ is responding to before coming to a judgment.

    If you do so, you’ll notice how we are not talking about creating “dogma” or “pointless ritual” as PZ suggests. Rather, we are looking to form groups of people formed around shared human values to provide the same sort of “existential” benefits that religious communities offer. Further, we want to make Humanism into a potent civic force, in order to promote and spread the values we share across this country and the world.

    I don’t know where PZ gets the idea we would be interested in dogmatic displays or ritual for the sake of it – we certainly don’t mention anything of the sort in the piece. What we are interested in is what I call “rational ritual” – the conscious fashioning of shared community practices which have symbolic resonance and which move people to action in the world.

    Some examples:

    At the HumanLight festival participants frequently light three candles, representing the light of reason, the warmth of compassion and the glow of hope. I think that’s charming and inspiring rather than dogmatic – it’s simply a way of communicating what we care about non-verbally.

    When couples wed in a civil ceremony they often craft their own vows and create a shared ceremony. This often involves some ritualistic aspect. Often these ceremonies are far more potent and meaningful because they are created by the participants themselves, but there is no doubt that a ritualized form of practice is going on there. I think Humanist communities could help shape such events.

    I recently attended the funeral of the father of a good friend. Funerals are, of course, highly ritualistic. This one was exceptionally powerful and beautiful and fitting because my friend crafted certain aspects himself, quite consciously, to memorialize his father.

    These are the sorts of things we’re thinking about – I see nothing dogmatic or empty about any of them, and the burden of proof is on those making that charge to make it stick.

    To respond to some of the reader comments:

    Regarding the Unitarian Universalist tradition, there are indeed Humanistic congregations and groupings and ministers of that church. But, as some have mentioned, there isn’t a perfect fit between Humanist values and UU values. The main area that is lacking in UUism, in my view, is a clear commitment to reason. This is an important part of my worldview, and I want communities who share and promote that value. Therefore, I wan’t to build Humanist communities, which will be distinct in some ways to UU ones.

    Why wouldn’t you just occasionally meet in a pub or something? Because we want something more than a social organization. We (at least I) want a political force. A progressive, secular movement of like-minded individuals who are inspired to make change. Basically, we hope to build a values-based community, not a loose affinity group for people who happen not to believe in gods. Our ambitions for Humanism are bigger than that.

    I think the last thing to note is how positive many respondents have been. There is strong evidence from our surveys and interviews that many nonreligious people want this, and that many of the people who would attend such an institution do not currently attend atheist meetup groups.

    In short, it is our judgment that the process of building fuller communities based around shared secular values will make our movement much larger, much stronger, and much more diverse than it is currently. Of course, no one HAS to attend. But you will all benefit from our hard work when we get atheist politicians elected, pro-science laws on the books, the government out of people’s bedrooms and an end to religious privilege.

    You can thank us later.

  42. says

    I stopped going to church when I learned the mass calender goes on a 3 year cycle and did the math to conclude I had heard every mass and reading they are ever going to give in church, thus I had finished church and could graduate.

  43. The Ys says

    But secular society has not yet come up with a way to give them moments of significance with the same level of beauty and care that goes into religious ceremonies. That is a big gap.

    Wait, what?

    Beauty and care? Says who? People (men) who weren’t repeatedly informed that they had fewer rights based on not being able to piss standing up? People (men) who weren’t treated as inferiors in basically every religious ceremony ever invented?

    Moments of significance are what you make of them. You don’t need an organised group to tell you how to celebrate them.

  44. Gregory Greenwood says

    No gods, no masters, no dogma, and no goddamned priests…not even atheist priests.

    Agreed. As maggie says @ 3, The only thing the creation of an atheist church analogue would achieve is a seeming validation of the theist cannard that ‘atheism is a religion too’.

    There are other ways to socialise.

  45. Glodson says

    I don’t think the ritual part is important whatsoever. But I do think that more local organizations for atheists(and other free thinkers) are a good thing. A really good thing. These would do a world of good to someone what is shaky about being an atheist. Nothing sucks more than feeling completely isolated. Sure, the internet helps a bit, but having living and breathing humans around you is a step up.

    Having an organization of local groups that get together once a week to encourage rational thinking, and to support the members of the community in times of personal crisis, is a good thing. That’s one of the few things that religion has going for it: it fosters a real sense of community on a local level(as long as you are part of the in-group). I would imagine that we could easily take the best bits of that, and leave out the bad bits, to form something that would do young atheists a great deal of good.

  46. Mattir says

    I like rituals and pageantry, candles, reading of poetry and other stuff aloud, music, group singing, regular potluck dinners, group volunteer work, book discussion groups, and occasional lectures or retreats. I see no reason why I should be considered not-a-real-atheist if I get together with other non-theists to figure out ways to do such things on a regular basis in a semi-organized way without mentioning a Magic Sky Fairy. It’s like saying I can’t be a Real Atheist™ if I do cos-play* or read the Epic of Gilgamesh and find some of the advice useful, or sing in a christmas choir.

    I’m uncomfortable with taking advantage of the R-word privilege, but in a lot of ways I think it’s silly not to, especially in contemporary USAnian culture. Doing so highlights the social role of religion in our culture and emphasizes that those social functions can be met without the Magic Sky Fairy. And it would be interesting to see how the Christian folks try to make a distinction between the non-god groups and the god groups and insist that only the latter should have the special R-word privileges.

    If you don’t want it, don’t go. But stop making up rules for how other people should do their own atheism.

    This afternoon I am off to one of my favorite types of “religious” observance – visiting the American Museum of Natural History in the company of DDMFM. Much meaning will be found.

    *At the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, Sili saw a nun in a full habit. He gasped and asked for confirmation that she was engaged in cos-play. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure the answer was no. (Also, later on, we floated the prospect of taking cephalopod communion in a kneeling calamari ritual. Unfortunately, we forgot to order takeout when we left the restaurant.)

  47. consciousness razor says

    Why wouldn’t you just occasionally meet in a pub or something? Because we want something more than a social organization. We (at least I) want a political force. A progressive, secular movement of like-minded individuals who are inspired to make change. Basically, we hope to build a values-based community, not a loose affinity group for people who happen not to believe in gods. Our ambitions for Humanism are bigger than that.

    Other than religions, I’m having a hard time thinking of any kind of political force which also presides over weddings and funerals. Also, those who want loose social organizations (or none at all) don’t necessarily have lower ambitions for humanism.

    Of course, no one HAS to attend. But you will all benefit from our hard work when we get atheist politicians elected, pro-science laws on the books, the government out of people’s bedrooms and an end to religious privilege.

    And give grandma that nice, secular funeral she deserves. Please. This does look like you’re trying to gain some privileges of your own.

    You can thank us later.

    *eyeroll* I promise everyone delicious candies and a free pony two free ponies. You can thank me later.

  48. Ubi Dubium says

    UU can be a good fill-in for those who actually liked the rituals of church and still find that sort of thing comforting. Ethical Societies can also do that. I think either one is far superior to someone returning to a church because they miss the routine.

    I’m participating with our local UU because they let me teach critical thinking to the kids. And my own children have found some good friends there. But I don’t like and don’t attend the services myself, way too churchy and vaguely theistic for me. Too much tolerance of woo.

    Of course, Pastafarian services Friday nights at the Olive Garden would be a good choice too!

  49. Georgia Sam says

    Apologies if this is redundant with what others have written, but there is one big hole in Epstein’s reasoning as far as I’m concerned: A lot of us DON’T need rituals or ceremonies like those that religion provides. I dropped out of church years before I began identifying myself as an atheist, and I never missed it. On the contrary, I was glad to have the extra free time.

  50. says

    I used to like the weekly liturgical ritual, but after 25 years I just got bored. So I became an atheist (mostly joking!). Though there’s still something to be said for rituals surrounding rites of passage (birth, wedding, death, whatever). Doesn’t stop us getting together with the local CFI bunch for book club, various discussion groups, Skepticamp, etc — mostly held in pubs (except for the Secular Sobriety group, of course ;-)).

  51. Allegra says

    Re #8 and others. I know some UU churches are hard on atheists, but mine is not one of them. I’d say that most of us fall into the Militant Atheist or Who the Hell Cares, it’s not a Meaningful Question Anyway categories. One of our atheist members yells out rude things when Gawd language comes up in hymns, which always cracks me up, and I love that he feels free enough to do it. I know that by PZ’s standards I’m the most dreadful kind of accomodationist dreckhead, and I am okay with that. I just substitute ‘the laws of physics’ in my head for Gawd.

    I totally get that for plain speaking atheists, the abominable stench of woo and twee and the straitjacket of accomodationism in even the UU church is too much; for those of us who want a social framework which deliberately sets high standards for the hard work of becoming a better person, church is awesome. I certainly know that without the UU church I wouldn’t have been able to deliver homilies on Epistemology, Cognitive Bias (I gave away a tshirt that read “Everyone has cognitive biases; mine are smaller, cuter and rarer than yours” as a door prize), Atheism, Garbage, and other topics which don’t usually occupy a pulpit.

  52. says

    Re #8 and others. I know some UU churches are hard on atheists, but mine is not one of them.

    Which unfortunately does not help the rest of us who were advised to try a UU

  53. says

    At the HumanLight festival participants frequently light three candles, representing the light of reason, the warmth of compassion and the glow of hope.

    Blech. Gah. Puke.

    Empty nonsense, exactly what I’m complaining about. No thanks.

  54. Mad says

    I was actually thinking the same thing. Maybe not like weekly sermons, but rather “blog” style, maybe some talks about current events, more like a dialogue, and stuff like marriages, funerals etc.

  55. Cartomancer says

    #53

    “Why wouldn’t you just occasionally meet in a pub or something? Because we want something more than a social organization. We (at least I) want a political force. A progressive, secular movement of like-minded individuals who are inspired to make change. Basically, we hope to build a values-based community, not a loose affinity group for people who happen not to believe in gods. Our ambitions for Humanism are bigger than that.”

    But this political lobbying force you talk about already exists. There are humanist societies and secular societies and groups dedicated to lobbying for humanistic causes already. What has any of this got to do with ritual or the empty trappings of religious pointlessness? Why should the social organisation be the same thing as the political lobbying group? That sounds dangerously collectivist to me. Animal rights activists don’t suggest that there should be a ritualistic pseudoreligious aspect to their movement, and that that would make it more powerful. The gay community does socialising and political lobbying (as separate enterprises) but it doesn’t need or want or campaign for the kind of empty nonsense being touted here.

    “In short, it is our judgment that the process of building fuller communities based around shared secular values will make our movement much larger, much stronger, and much more diverse than it is currently. Of course, no one HAS to attend. But you will all benefit from our hard work when we get atheist politicians elected, pro-science laws on the books, the government out of people’s bedrooms and an end to religious privilege.”

    And this is why I say that’s such an American point of view. We already have atheist politicians and pro-science laws and very little religious privilege in Britain and even more so in Europe. And we didn’t need weird ritualistic pseudochurches to get them.

  56. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    At the HumanLight festival participants frequently light three candles, representing the light of reason, the warmth of compassion and the glow of hope.

    Blech. Gah. Puke.

    I’d probably restrain myself at blech, but to be honest, it’s making me uncomfortable much more than disgusted. I have nothing against symbolism, but this seems like a pretty showy, yet empty move. I’m guessing I would be pretty weirded out if I went to a secular event that had this sort of a candle lighting ritual. I don’t know if it’s a side-effect of being a former Catholic, but any kind of ritual including a great mass of people doing something seemingly senseless makes me twitch.

  57. KG says

    I think this could only happen in the USA – because only there does church membership have such a huge social role. To a European atheist, it is positively bizarre that many American atheists join a wooist group like the UU, and this attempt to set up Humanist pseudo-churches seems just as weird and unnecessary.

    Because we want something more than a social organization. We (at least I) want a political force. A progressive, secular movement of like-minded individuals who are inspired to make change. – James Croft

    Yeah, that’s what political parties, trades unions and pressure groups are for.

  58. calliopejane says

    As someone who does research on stress, well-being and social support, it seems so blatantly obvious to me what the source of the increased-happiness-for-churchgoers effect is. It’s nearly all just frickin’ SOCIAL SUPPORT. It’s really pretty simple: Having social support sources improves psychological well-being. Just getting together with other people on a regular basis improves happiness. Regular meetings or events that encourage getting together with people who share your perspective or interest in something, even if it’s only once a month, is associated with substantial improvements in subjective well-being.

    Thus, I do think it’s important that atheist organizations provide a way for people to meet those needs. But I am not in favor of modeling it after a church, or calling it a church, or anything along those lines.

    I actually think our local secular humanist group does a good job of this – every month we have the following:
    — 1 meeting with a speaker, Q&A, and mingling afterwards. Often several of us go get dinner together afterwards.
    — 2 “happy hours” (6-9 on 1st Wednesday & 3rd Tuesday of the month) at local bars
    — 1 “Heretics’ Brunch” on a Sunday morning at a local eatery.

    There may be other non-regular events too (like a group movie venture or party for some happening), but just having those 4 regular monthly opportunities to get together with like-minded people is really valuable. I know it’s done wonders for my sense of belonging & support. So I am very much in favor of regular events, but please please don’t make it seem ANYTHING like church >gag!<

  59. says

    Ritual and repetition can be grounding and celebratory and invigorating. Superstitious rituals are irksome because they make noise about nonsense, but that’s not the only kind of routine celebration. Serving emotional, visceral needs is probably pretty important for any kind of cultural movement, even one that prizes dispassionate prominence for facts, reason and evidence. A good suite of celebrations that honor our values and get the blood stirring is probably the first thing New Atheism or what-have-you needs to inch into the mainstream. Don’t be so squeamish PZ!

  60. says

    @KG #70

    I think this could only happen in the USA – because only there does church membership have such a huge social role. To a European atheist, it is positively bizarre that many American atheists join a wooist group like the UU, and this attempt to set up Humanist pseudo-churches seems just as weird and unnecessary.

    It really doesn’t happen here in any great number and there are people around the world who attend church despite having no belief. And there plenty of americans who are anti-woo and plenty of woo to be found around the world.

    Don’t use this to dismiss all american atheists. We are as diverse as any other group of atheists.

  61. khms says

    * Is ritual not important to you? How do you feel when friends and relatives neglect birthday party rituals? Don’t graduation ceremonies matter, at least to your relatives? How do you feel when your individual morning rituals get interrupted?

    Neglect birthday party? Fine. I’m no fan of birthday parties.
    Graduation ceremonies? Never had one in my life.
    Morning ritual interrupted? It happens occasionally. Slightly irritated, as it throws off the timing even worse than I throw it off randomly anyway.

    Now can I conclude that I’m no fan of ritual?

    (Not entirely true, but I certainly don’t like the most common ones, and I am pretty flexible about those I like – or there’s a good reason to have things a certain way and the ritual is just a simple way of making them be that way.)

    As for atheist meetings – the one regular meeting in my life seems to be mainly with a few people who happen to be atheists, from what little they have said … but that’s not what the meeting was originally about (that was computers and modems and BBS software; these days it’s about anything and everything).

  62. says

    At the HumanLight festival participants frequently light three candles, representing the light of reason, the warmth of compassion and the glow of hope.

    Just the same as lighting candles at Catholic church. Or any church. Meaningless and pointless as prayer. Don’t get me wrong, candles are good, if they have a nice scent and the power is out, but as ooga-booga-feel good symbols? Nah.

    I find actual reason, compassion and hope to be good. Reality is always good. As soon as you start turning things into symbols, you get a lot of people paying lip service and ignoring reality.

  63. says

    Why wouldn’t you just occasionally meet in a pub or something? Because we want something more than a social organization. We (at least I) want a political force. A progressive, secular movement of like-minded individuals who are inspired to make change. Basically, we hope to build a values-based community, not a loose affinity group for people who happen not to believe in gods. Our ambitions for Humanism are bigger than that.

    But doesn’t CFI do that? I’m honestly asking, because, as an introvert, I have no use for weekly meetings and the like. However, I do understand that everybody is not just like me, and that some people may benefit from joining groups. I just thought that there already was a group to accomplish the goals set forth in the quoted passage. Am I nutty, or is this idea kind of redundant?

  64. Jayden Reynolds says

    @Ing #6

    The term you’re looking for is “scrub.” To use an example from Super Smash Bros., a scrub would be someone who considers wavedashing (an advanced, slightly glitchy technique) unfair.

  65. khms says

    Suppose a group a people decides to meet at a neutral location every other Tuesday.

    Fine so far …

    They read a nice short secular passage about friendship and

    … and I’m running running away, screaming. (The rest of the paragraph certainly didn’t improve the first impression.)

    That’s exactly the kind of ritual I detest.

  66. says

    I greatly appreciate the discussion this is generating – we are very interested in hearing people’s views on this, both pro and con. We learn a lot from the discussion.

    #59:

    I think you may be getting a little too hung-up on the weddings and funerals aspect. This is a very small part of what any religious organization does, and a small part of what we intend our Humanist community to look like. The main effort is to bring people together who share a set of values, enable them to explore those values together, and help them act on those values: in other words, basic community building. I don’t think there should be much controversial about that.

    “This does look like you’re trying to gain some privileges of your own.”

    I’m not certain what you mean by this, but if you mean we’re seeking to make Humanism a true civic and political force, able to promote our agenda on the world stage, you’re absolutely right.

    “*eyeroll* I promise everyone delicious candies and a free pony two free ponies. You can thank me later.”

    Oh, I DO love ponies! =D

    I never said this was going to be easy. It’s going to be extraordinarily hard work. Transitioning from an almost completely irrelevant counterculture grouping into a political movement will be quite the hardest thing Humanists have ever tried to do, I’m sure. There are no guarantees…

    #65, #69:

    “Blech. Gah. Puke.

    Empty nonsense, exactly what I’m complaining about. No thanks.”

    “any kind of ritual including a great mass of people doing something seemingly senseless makes me twitch.”

    I’m not sure what you’re both objecting to. What is empty, nonsensical or senseless about it? It seems to me a reasonably simple and somewhat compelling way to symbolically affirm a commitment to a particular value-set (which has benefits for group bonding, developing the ‘echo chamber effect’, etc.).

    #68:

    “this political lobbying force you talk about already exists. There are humanist societies and secular societies and groups dedicated to lobbying for humanistic causes already. What has any of this got to do with ritual or the empty trappings of religious pointlessness? Why should the social organisation be the same thing as the political lobbying group? That sounds dangerously collectivist to me. Animal rights activists don’t suggest that there should be a ritualistic pseudoreligious aspect to their movement, and that that would make it more powerful. The gay community does socialising and political lobbying (as separate enterprises) but it doesn’t need or want or campaign for the kind of empty nonsense being touted here.”

    There are some very valuable and insightful questions here. First, I’d question the premise: the sorts of lobbying community I imagine does not exist. Yes, there are (very small) lobbying groups for secular causes. But they cannot reliably draw on a constituency. That’s why community-building is so very key. Without communities committed to social action, people can lobby all they want, but won’t be able to show that there are VOTERS behind them. All the evidence shows that people who regularly attend religious communities are more likely to vote. That is a HUGE disadvantage for secular progressives and their lobbying organizations. Our voice, frankly, is feeble compared to that of the religious right, and a significant part of that weakness comes from our lack of community organizing (and communities waiting to be organized).

    Now, the social group needn’t be the same entity as the lobbying group. But the lobbying groups need to be able to point back to the social communities in order to say “These are the people who will not vote for you again if you pass that.” Think of the Moral Majority. That’s the sort of secular constituency I want to help build, just with (very) different values. Right now, the AHA, for instance, doesn’t have the same sort of strength – it can’t point back to thousands of Humanist communities and say “these are the people who are backing us up.”

    Your mentioning the gay community is particularly important, partly because of its inaccuracy. In the early gay rights movement it was precisely the social spaces – bars, clubs, bookshops etc. – which hosted those who fought for change, and provided the turnout necessary to enact it. Think of that part in Milk when Cleve Jones goes into the gay bars around the Castro and yells for all the folks to join the rally. Think, for that matter, of the Castro itself – a values-based community if ever there was one! At the moment, in stark contrast, there aren’t even Humanist ‘bars’, let alone hundreds of people in them ready to be mobilized. We’re trying to fix that.

    Finally, your mentioning the UK is amusing because that’s my home and where I cut my teeth as an activist. Of course, the UK went through a prolonged experience of gradual secularization which made the religious landscape hugely different. Religious privilege is still alive and well in the UK of course (Bishops in the House of Lords? Established Church?), and even the UK could benefit from some more thoroughly Humanist policies. The BHA also has VASTLY more support than the AHA – it’s precisely that model we are trying to follow.

  67. captainchaos says

    When my brother got married they had a very nice ceremony. Very traditional, hundreds of guests, beautiful location, a presiding official, very moving marriage vows, the works.

    And not a church or a priest in sight! This is extremely common in the Netherlands. You have a civil ceremony and are married by an official from the city council. That makes it sound terribly dry and bureaucratic but it isn’t. The official takes time to get to know you, and you don’t have to get married at city hall (no one does), there are thousands of beautiful places you can choose from.

    Religion doesn’t enter into it, yet you can make it as profound and moving an experience as you want.

  68. Dhorvath, OM says

    There is nothing about my life that calls for church, religious or otherwise. NOTHING. And this doesn’t mean I don’t respect social events for acknowledgment of life changes or regular observance of that which the world presents to awe us. Just don’t need for any building to do so.

  69. Tom Hail says

    Twice a month I go to an Experimental Aircraft Association chapter or board meeting where we have aviation talks, socialize what we are up to, celebrate good events, memorialize our deaths, gossip about the airport politics, organize and plan our next charitable event, thrash out our finances and budget. It is a lot like I imagine church might be without the mystical stuff (having never been a church goer, I don’t know). Other than a chapter president to lead the meetings, there is no “priest”. There is a purpose for meeting and we typically get good (25-30%) turnout of the membership. We all have a common interest in aviation and community support. I see an atheist version as a little more formal than skeptics in the pub, but not a “church”. It is an association working in the local community to some goals. To me the Secular Student Alliance chapters are the closest thing. Just a thought.

  70. says

    Look, James, if you want to start different types of organizations, that’s swell. Some of us might think your plans sound unappealing, unproductive, and unlikely to have the effects you hope for, but we all appreciate that there are different people with different needs who are drawn to different sorts of groups. The problems with how you’re going about it, and they’ve been expressed to you repeatedly, are:

    – You knock gnu atheists, contrasting yourselves favorably with us and arguing that our actions are bad and negatively affect your efforts. (Even if the latter is true, tough.) There’s no need to do this

    – You suggest that the group of people who are or might potentially be interested in your efforts represent all or a vast majority of atheists or former believers, leading people to say things like: “But those who leave their denominations – or aren’t raised in one to begin with – are searching for a fulfilling alternative.” you could easily just say that you’re there for people who do want a religiousy atheism-humanism.

    – You keep making declarations about how successful you will be, including to the very people responsible for the emergence of a large and active atheist community in the first place. For you to say

    But you will all benefit from our hard work when we get atheist politicians elected, pro-science laws on the books, the government out of people’s bedrooms and an end to religious privilege.

    You can thank us later.

    to PZ, on this blog with the readership it has, is unbelievably arrogant and dumb, and not likely to lead many to think highly of your understanding of social movements.

    At the moment, in stark contrast, there aren’t even Humanist ‘bars’, let alone hundreds of people in them ready to be mobilized. We’re trying to fix that.

    I will lead that effort. Grant from Harvard, please.

  71. says

    Hi SC. I think you’re perhaps reading my rhetoric a little too literally. Part of what I’m trying to do here is get people (and not necessarily you people – often we’re reaching out to people who have never been to a Humanist meeting before) excited about what we’re working on. so I’m going to use a little hyperbole and a some heightened language to try to get the point across. I generally assume that people read these things with a certain amount of critical distance.

    As for your other points, I would like to say, for my own part, that I have never knocked New Atheists as a group and I have a lot of respect for what I see as an essential precursor to what we are trying to do. I’m not sure where you got another impression. Certainly I have had specific disagreements with individuals, but I have not, and will not, attack such people as a group.

    We are, absolutely, looking to provide a service for those who want it. As I’ve said here a number of times, this won’t be for everyone. That’s fine. But “this won’t be for everyone” is a different position to that expressed by some, who seem to be suggesting “this shouldn’t be for anyone”.

  72. Rieux says

    Apropos of the mention of Unitarian Universalism on this thread, I think it needs to be stated more explicitly that a large portion of the UU world contains very serious levels of religious privilege and (largely as a consequence) anti-atheist prejudice. UUism in North America is congregationally organized, which is to say that congregations largely govern themselves, with little-to-no authority exerted by outside authorities such as the (U.S. national) Unitarian Universalist Association. As a result, there are certainly UU congregations in which atheists are respected, and a few in which we actually hold sway. (Adam “Ebonmuse” Lee, proprietor of Daylight Atheism, attends one such congregation on Long Island.)

    However, gnubashing and general anti-atheist nastiness are frequent features in numerous other UU congregations, as well as within national organizations like the UUA and UU World, the national magazine.

    I was a UU atheist for seven years; I left when my congregation hired two ministers in a row (one “interim,” one permanent) who brutally bashed atheists in writing and from the pulpit, and no one in the congregation said a word in protest. Then, some months after I left, UU World ran a Freedom From Religion Foundation ad that included some historical quotations from famous atheists. After eight, count ‘em, eight readers complained that the ad attacked religion (oh noes!), the magazine’s ad manager promised that it would never run such an ad again.

    I have to wonder why any self-respecting atheist would donate money to an institution that so frequently sponsors nasty attacks and censorship targeted at us. That UU World censor, like the numerous atheophobes among the UU clergy and UUA administration, is paid in large part by atheist donations.

    I’ve written quite a bit on this broader topic; you can take a look here and here.

    Looking at the religious aspects of many intergroup conflicts, at the violence carried out by zealots in the name of religion, some people conclude that the world would be safer “religion-free.” They may even try living this way themselves. But too often they only practice a form of self-delusion. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the human spirit. As C.S. Lewis said, the opposite of a belief in God is not a belief in nothing; it is a belief in anything. Sweep the demon of religion out the door and, like the story in the Gospels, you may only succeed in making room for an evil spirit worse than the first—this one accompanied by seven friends (Luke 11:24-26; Matt. 12:43-45). Zealous atheism can perform this role of demonic pseudoreligion.

    [….]

    One cost of avoiding religion altogether may be spiritual isolation. Too often today couples are already socially isolated. … Having raised their children in a spiritual vacuum, apart from any religious discussion or community, committed secularists are sometimes shocked when their offspring suddenly join a high-demand cult or follow a seductive guru. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the human spirit. The lure of the various isms, though hardly unknown to religious people, may be even more intense for those who avoid religion.

    – UU Rev. and national UU Association President (1993-2001) John A. Buehrens, in A Chosen Faith, published by the UUA’s Beacon Press and billed as “the classic introduction to Unitarian Universalism”

    Life is a miracle that can’t be explained without explaining it away. Our most profound encounters lead inexorably from the rational to the transrational realm.

    Many leading scientists are far ahead of us in this regard. Some recent discoveries in physics and cosmology make no apparent sense according to known canons of rationality. Probing the mysteries of the universe and the mind, researchers on the cutting edge of knowledge find themselves moving freely between the rational and transrational realms. Where does that leave the poor camp followers, who believe in science but don’t embrace mystery? Having traded God for truth, they are left with neither.

    – UU Rev. Forrest Church, “Universalism: A Theology for the 21st Century,” UU World national magazine, November/December 2001

    Who are these people who still think that it’s special and unique to reject traditional images of the Deity? Are they the same guys who sit with me at weddings and let drop the bomb that they respect what I do [as a UU minster] but, rilly, they’re “spiritual but not religious??” “That’s fascinating and special, dear,” I tell them. “But I’d love it so much if we could conclude this conversation right this minute and you’d go fetch me another cocktail.”

    […]

    For an atheist to expect CHURCHES to pander to the a-theistic search for truth and meaning is like hiring a dental hygenist with no arms to do your cleaning, and expecting her to do a good job of it.

    – UU Rev. Victoria “Peacebang” Weinstein, nationally published and prize-winning UU minister

  73. says

    To me the Secular Student Alliance chapters are the closest thing. Just a thought.

    Ah, but those aren’t acceptable to Epstein’s crew:

    That’s not to say there aren’t homes for atheists on campus. Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance, said his organization now has 306 chapters nationwide, up from 195 two years ago.

    But those groups are loose-knit. They have no official format for meetings; some do service projects while others are as likely to hold an “atheist prom.’’ Most are led by students, not chaplains, and they have no institutional memory, since their membership turns over every four years.

    Epstein wants to create something more permanent with a carefully thought out infrastructure.

    Everything the Harvard chapter does will be carefully documented, spread to sister groups by social media, and eventually written up as a book that will be more how-to manual than Bible.

    The groups will also engage in community service.

    Led by students and not chaplains? Engaging in a variety of activities important to them? This can’t continue!

  74. says

    Hi SC. I think you’re perhaps reading my rhetoric a little too literally. Part of what I’m trying to do here is get people (and not necessarily you people – often we’re reaching out to people who have never been to a Humanist meeting before) excited about what we’re working on.

    Hi, James. That’s a bit disingenuous. It’s not like this is the first time you’ve written anything.

    As for your other points, I would like to say, for my own part, that I have never knocked New Atheists as a group and I have a lot of respect for what I see as an essential precursor to what we are trying to do. I’m not sure where you got another impression. Certainly I have had specific disagreements with individuals, but I have not, and will not, attack such people as a group.

    I was talking about your whole group, but you personally have attacked this blog and its commenters. You’ve spent a good deal of energy defending Chris Stedman on I think more than one occasion when he was being criticized for attacking us as a group. You’ve not said one word when people portrayed Epstein’s efforts as the good alternative to the nasty gnus. And look, you’re doing it here. We’re not a “precursor” to your nonexistent movement.

    As I said, I’d have no problem if you all just did your thing, minus the barbs, grandiosity, and arrogance.

  75. cyberCMDR says

    Recently PZ posted an article where the American Cancer Society turned down money from an atheist organization. Atheists face prejudice in society and the workplace. We do need more organizations that society recognizes, because as individuals it is easier for us to be labeled as “other” and therefore not acceptable.

    There is also the mutual support aspect of having an established local community group, where you can get together with like-minded people. We are effectively a minority (and not a popular one, at that), and minorities have historically banded together for mutual support.

  76. says

    87:

    And here’s where you step from reasonable criticism, SC. What in the article suggested we have anything but the greatest respect for the SSA? What remotely suggested that we don’t think very highly of their efforts? Nothing. We just recognize (and I know this can’t be a new thought) that the vast majority of people (including many who found great significance in their SSA organizations) are not students. We want to make sure they have an opportunity to continue to be a member of such groups.

  77. barbarienne says

    We already have large, non-religious ceremonies where people come together for mutual spiritual ecstasy. There is a giant administrative organization that dictates the customs and practices of the ceremonies. These rituals are performed by elite groups wearing special vestments, overseen by other elites wearing other vestments.

    Members of the congregation often also wear special clothing that mimics that of the priesthood, and sometimes participate in smaller, local services where many of the same rituals are practiced; albeit in clumsier, if no less enthusiastic, fashion. In some sects, there are supporting clerics who lead portions of the congregation in ritual prayer-like statements.

    One denomination even has a designated moment when everyone is expected to stand up and walk around for a bit. At this time, they often sing a special song–specific to this denomination–wherein they sing of the joys of attending their rituals.

    The large ceremonies are performed in giant stadia, much like those used for Megachurches. Members who attend just for a day are expected to pay a fee. Those who wish to join for an entire year are charged a tithe, but they do gain greater status and privileges. Special food and beverages are also a significant part of these rituals.

    However, like so many religions, most people are only seasonal practitioners. The majority of members of these faiths only pay attention during the playoffs.

  78. Vicki says

    I make my own rituals at home.

    Well, we make them. My partners made it quite clear a couple of years ago that they would be unhappy if I wanted to do something over Thanksgiving weekend other than spend the holiday with them, cooking a meal together (yes, with a turkey), and generally just being a family. The day after, we might go to the aquarium or a museum or such, or we might just take it easy and eat leftover turkey sandwiches.

    I don’t need any sort of larger organization for that, and the structure is inherited from the larger culture: the particular day, and a menu that includes turkey and cranberries, and an onion dish that was always on the table when my husband was growing up, and so on.

  79. Anath says

    Really #87? What makes you think that Epstein’s group is opposed to student leadership or student-led decision making? Have you ever attended a meeting Harvard chapter?

    I have attended the Graduate Student chapter. The chaplain takes the same role a faculty adviser would, and its the students that run the meetings and direct the topics. The advantage of being associated with the chaplaincy and having aspects of leadership that don’t turn over every 4 years is building long-term relationships and projects that would otherwise be significantly more difficult. Specifically, it’s the service-oriented segment of the group that benefits from the chaplaincy, not the meeting structure. We don’t sit in a circle, hold hands, light candles, and listen to Epstein preach “The God Delusion”.

    Just because a journalist happened to use some symbolically charged language involved doesn’t magically make what we’re doing “church”.

  80. says

    What in the article suggested we have anything but the greatest respect for the SSA? What remotely suggested that we don’t think very highly of their efforts? Nothing.

    I don’t know, maybe the fact that Epstein wants to create an entirely different, parallel organization at the same time SSA chapters are sprouting like mushrooms? This is an example of there being humanist ‘bars’ across the country, and you all opening churchy meeting halls across the street from them.

  81. says

    95:

    maybe the fact that Epstein wants to create an entirely different, parallel organization at the same time SSA chapters are sprouting like mushrooms?

    You do know that we’re offering services for people who are not students, right? And that those which are for students could be affiliated with the SSA? These are not serious criticisms.

  82. says

    The chaplain takes the same role a faculty adviser would, and its the students that run the meetings and direct the topics. The advantage of being associated with the chaplaincy and having aspects of leadership that don’t turn over every 4 years is building long-term relationships and projects that would otherwise be significantly more difficult.

    This is garbage. Plenty of student-run organizations can do this on their own. Even if it were a significant advantage, it’s fairly foolish to think that it’s best to try to form a parallel organization to a very successful and rapidly expanding organization rather than just try to work with them.

  83. says

    Anath #93:

    What makes you think that Epstein’s group is opposed to student leadership or student-led decision making?

    Most are led by students, not chaplains, and they have no institutional memory, since their membership turns over every four years.

    Please read things before you respond to them in the future.

  84. Anath says

    #97
    You don’t get it do you? The Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy HOSTS the Harvard SSA clubs. Epstein is not looking to create a “parallel” organization but to increase the structure and consistency of a pre-existing one, and add room for graduates.

  85. Anath says

    And 98,
    That is not what the quote means. To isolate that sentence is to take it out of context.

  86. says

    You do know that we’re offering services for people who are not students, right?

    You don’t get it do you? The Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy HOSTS the Harvard SSA clubs. Epstein is not looking to create a “parallel” organization but to increase the structure and consistency of a pre-existing one, and add room for graduates.

    Please explain to me what the plan is.

    The article says:

    Epstein wants to create something more permanent with a carefully thought out infrastructure.

    Everything the Harvard chapter does will be carefully documented, spread to sister groups by social media, and eventually written up as a book that will be more how-to manual than Bible.

    The groups will also engage in community service.

    It seems to me that either he wants to force the existing groups – at Harvard, for the time being – into a single mold (is this up for democratic debate?) or he wants to create a separate organization under this mold. What precisely is the plan? And is the chaplaincy simply a host, or does it have the power to dictate to the groups it hosts what activities they chould engage in?

    The problem seems to be that Epstein has an authoritarian attitude, which comes through in a lot of what he says:

    It’s the title of his 2009 book, which ends with a call for humanists to unite around the values they share: scientific rationalism, progressive politics, community service, and respect for the dignity of others.

    “When I wrote that,’’ said Epstein, who was appointed the university’s humanist chaplain in 2005, “I didn’t feel prepared to tell people what they should build or to give them a venue.’’

    He feels more prepared now.

    …Using his group as a sort of laboratory, Epstein plans to spend the next three years investigating how humanist groups should function.

    I can’t get over how often the word “should” is used by you guys in talking about (other people’s) organizing and political action.

  87. says

    Hello, to James, from my desk “across the river.”

    I think that, logistically, it makes sense to support the development of an organizational structure like the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy with the infrastructure and personnel to efficiently provide regular intellectual, cultural, and social programming for its community of constituents. Such a thing would be comparable to a “church”, not to “religion”, since it doesn’t involve any kind of belief system.

    Atheist church, I’m all for — but only if we can successively spread the idea that a “church” is the place where people come together for their common purposes, and is not equivalent to the word “religion”, meaning “a belief which in many cases is a motivating factor in church attendance.” To my eyes, equating Humanism to a “church” — with its subtext of having an infrastructure and a staff and a schedule — is much better than equating it to a religion.

    That being said, I have to challenge the wisdom of “building fuller communities based around shared secular values” in order to “make our movement much larger, much stronger, and much more diverse than it is currently.” I think you’re reversing the motivational order here. To make my point, I’ll look to my experience.

    I was raised as a Catholic, and came to appreciate having somewhere to go to see members of my community, especially in the areas where we lived — neighbors didn’t know each other there.

    When I realized at the age of 17 or so that my lack of theistic zeal corresponded to an absolute absence of evidence for the existence of gods — and when I thereafter realized I was an atheist — I found myself disenfranchised from what I had come to know as an effective form of social participation, church.

    When I looked for alternatives, nothing really scratched that itch — pub nights and public lectures were all well and good, but I was looking for something in addition to those. The phrase “Atheist church” really does describe what I was looking for. My initial involvement in the Boston Atheists, and my later contact with the Ethical Society of Boston and the Massachusetts Humanists, was motivated BY that seeking out of such a thing.

    In other words, I was motivated to get involved in the secular movement, in order to find a secular church(ish) community.

    What is the point of such a movement, if not to provide people with such forms of association? Thinking of such entities as a mean to the end of the strengthening OF the secular movement, suggests to me a strange kind of priorities.

    But that is a rhetorical criticism, sort of a nudge: “Watch your message, it is confused.” Of course it is the case that the social bonds which grow through participation IN church(ish) organizations will catalyze the kinds of attention and effort needed to push forward on those other fronts, the election of atheist politicians elected, the passing of more pro-science laws, the eviction of the government from people’s bedrooms, and the abolition of religious privilege.

    You write, James, that we can thank you later. Who is we, who is you? There are no tribes here. I dare say everyone in this message thread is as desirous of those goals I list above as you are.

    Greg Epstein and his folks are doing good work. I do wish that those who want to communicate the value of such work, also take the time to acknowledge that it is not the ONLY work being done. Every pub night being scheduled (the Boston Atheists have their First Friday coming up for November — everybody is welcome), every blog post extending an argument, every letter written by the secular introvert who has no interest at all in weekly atheist church — these are all essential components.

    The common cause is making our culture a more rational place to be, which includes eliminating prejudice against secularists as well as proving such existential benefits as secular people choose for themselves. We’re all in it together, yes?

  88. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Barbara #38

    How do you feel when your individual morning rituals get interrupted?

    If I don’t have my morning dump I feel constipated all day.

  89. says

    Zachary Bos:

    I dare say everyone in this message thread is as desirous of those goals I list above as you are.

    No they aren’t. You might try something simple, like reading what the people in this “message thread” have to say.

  90. says

    Matt Penfold #37:

    In the UK only around 6% of the population regularly attend church. That is not a “lot” by any standard.

    What’s this? Numbers? Evidence?

    Pah! Who needs evidence? Church is good for you! It makes people happier!!! People need ritual to give their lives meaning!!111!!! eleventy!!

    [/sarcasm]

    Here in BC, Canada, StatsCanada counted 3% of us turning up in a Protestant church of any stripe on a typical Sunday, back in the 1990s. I don’t remember the percentage for Catholics; probably fewer still. I haven’t noticed that we are any less fulfilled for it.

    khms #78

    They read a nice short secular passage about friendship and

    … and I’m running running away, screaming.

    Hold the door for me!

  91. Anath says

    If Epstein has an authoritarian attitude, I have never experienced it in my interactions with him. He has ideas and goals, but is always willing to debate and listen to those around him. From my observations, his conclusions are drawn from years of working with a variety of people in a variety of situations and observing what does and does not work. I do not think that every atheist / humanist group forms with a clear goal and agenda, and the “should” is there in order to provide those ambiguous groups with an agenda, not to dictate one universally. Otherwise he would say “what humanist groups must do”.

    Also from what I gather, the “something” is more unity and consistency between groups (undergraduate groups vs undergraduate groups, undergraduate vs graduate groups, student groups vs non-student groups) than either a parallel organization OR any sort of “mold”. The goal is universal GUIDELINES not universal DICTATION. Church-based youth groups are more uniform than atheist groups, only because they have an infrastructure in place that allows them to keep up activities regardless of the current members of the group at any given time, and throughout all ages without a university as a backbone.

    In the graduate student organization, the Chaplaincy is largely a host. Student officers determine before the semester begins what the topic of each weekly meeting should be, and the student who chose the topic runs the meeting. Someone from the chaplaincy is there but if you don’t know who they are you’ll mistake them for just another member as they discuss issues alongside everyone else. At the weekly meetings we eat food and talk about stuff. No ritual, no candles, just pizza/burritos/sandwiches/etc, coke/sprite/rootbeer/wine/beer and discussion. I want a similar organization when I am no longer taking classes, because its fun to hang out and have a thoughtful discussion in real life.

  92. EvoMonkey says

    I read the article at the link and the meetings Epstein is organizing don’t sound half bad to me. I would probably go and check such a meeting out.

    It doesn’t sound as flaky as a UU service. I once went to a Sunday meeting of a nnotheistic “creative spirituality” group with candle lighting and recitations. That generated a blech gah puke from me.

    It sounds like the meetings Epstein is organizing are similar to monthly meetings of a local chapter of AHA. At a minimum, organized meetings like these provide a forum for finding like-minded people. It sounds like Epstein is trying provide some infrastructure, focus and continuity to the group. That might be good. Since atheists are such a diverse and contentious group of people with no tolerance for empty authority, dogma and ritual, I don’t think this organization will ever evolve into anything like a church with pointless “secular rituals”.

  93. says

    On a recent Sunday, as millions of Americans met to celebrate their belief in God, 18 people met in Harvard Square to celebrate their lack of religious conviction.

    18. 18 people. I don’t mean to be insulting about numbers – everything has to start somewhere – but I think you all are pretty big for your britches.

  94. says

    No they aren’t. You might try something simple, like reading what the people in this “message thread” have to say.

    XXXXXXX, I don’t think I saw anything in the thread advocating against the election of nontheist politicians, the passing of pro-science laws, the eviction of government from bedrooms, or the abolition of religious privilege. I thought it a pretty safe generalization to say that Pharyngulans are generally in favor of such things. If YOU aren’t in favor of such things, I’d think the generalization still pretty sound, even if it isn’t universally applicable.

  95. says

    Mary Carmichael (the Boston Globe reporter who wrote the article) has just let me know that she and Greg will be doing a Twitter chat on the article and related topics tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the hashtag #humanistcommunity. She’s @mary_carmichael; he’s @goodwithoutgod. I am told PZ (@pzmyers) may chime in as well.

  96. says

    Greg Epstein and his folks are doing good work. I do wish that those who want to communicate the value of such work, also take the time to acknowledge that it is not the ONLY work being done. Every pub night being scheduled (the Boston Atheists have their First Friday coming up for November — everybody is welcome), every blog post extending an argument, every letter written by the secular introvert who has no interest at all in weekly atheist church — these are all essential components.

    We try to do this all the time – we’re constantly propping other groups and there work. We certainly did during the interview on which this article is based. The work you have done with Boston Atheists is absolutely CRITICAL to our shared success.

    Please explain to me what the plan is.

    That’s a fair question – I realize the article does not give such a full picture if the plan. The Humanist Communities Project is basically a three-part strategy to assist the development of real Humanist communities in the US and beyond. The first part is research: we have begun interviewing members of different atheist, skeptic, Humanist and other groups to see why people attend, what they want, what they care about etc. Some of this research will be available soon to the public. The second part is using our existing community, which is a connected network of student, alumni and public Humanist groups (all of which are autonomous in terms of the events they choose to do, but who are supported logistically and financially by the Chaplaincy), as a laborotory to determine what works in terms if Humanist communities. Basically we want to experiment with events, ceremonies etc. and see what sticks. The third part is disseminating what we find out to other Humanist groups, so they can use what we’ve discovered to build their own groups.

    It doesn’t sound that sinister, does it?

  97. says

    Zachary Bos:

    XXXXXX, I don’t think I saw anything in the thread advocating against the election of nontheist politicians, the passing of pro-science laws, the eviction of government from bedrooms, or the abolition of religious privilege.

    We aren’t discussing those things. Again, you seem to be ignoring the thread completely. By the way, if you want to go nosing about in regard to me, fine, however, I use a nym here for a reason. Try using it next time, it’s conveniently located right above every comment I make.

  98. says

    We certainly did during the interview on which this article is based.

    Well, Mary Carmichael IS a higher ed reporter, not the Globe’s assigned Religion reporter. Whatever you may have mentioned in the interview, there isn’t any reason in the article to understand what’s happening at the Harvard chaplaincy as part of a widespread change. As a highly visible initiative, the HCH attracts disproportionate media attention. All the more reason to take every chance — this message thread being one — to apologize for the skewed reporting, and to remind people that you guys aren’t trying to correct the rabid excesses of us gnu atheists, or to tell secular communities how they “should” organize.

    Perhaps much ill will could have been avoided, if the article had said more — hell, said anything — about the Humanist Communities Project, instead of focusing on the apparent singularity of the Harvard chaplaincy and its chaplain.

    NB: It isn’t the work I’ve done with the Boston Atheists; it’s the work we’ve done as a social organization.

  99. says

    I’m not, for the record, going by this single article. I’m forming my views based on reading a number of things by James, Stedman, and Epstein. They share common characteristics.

    Also from what I gather, the “something” is more unity and consistency between groups (undergraduate groups vs undergraduate groups, undergraduate vs graduate groups, student groups vs non-student groups) than either a parallel organization OR any sort of “mold”.

    How does this make sense? How is “consistency” not a mold? Who decides on the form of consistency? It certainly sounds like he wants the existing or new group to be led by him and that he’s decided it/they will focus on community service. If this pertains to new groups that are mainly nonstudents, OK. But then I don’t see the fuss about a supposed lack of consistency, since they wouldn’t have the turnover that student groups do. I think his main issue, though, isn’t that but that existing groups aren’t churchy enough for his taste, which I see as a good thing, but best of luck to him.

    The goal is universal GUIDELINES not universal DICTATION. Church-based youth groups are more uniform than atheist groups, only because they have an infrastructure in place that allows them to keep up activities regardless of the current members of the group at any given time, and throughout all ages without a university as a backbone.

    First, I don’t believe that existing student groups lack all infrastructure and record-keeping. They have ongoing projects and activities. Second, the last thing I would want to see is atheist youth groups being pushed in the direction of church groups. The “infrastructure” of church groups is often based on hierarchy and submission to authority.

    Whatever the current model SSA has, it’s working. They’re spreading and they’re making a lot of noise. If Epstein and crew starting separate groups for nonstudents and some interested students, as I said, whatever (but I wish they’d collectively knock off the other stuff). If he wants to impose his vision on existing groups, especially concerning the activities they wish to undertake, I don’t think that’s right.

  100. says

    We aren’t discussing those things. Again, you seem to be ignoring the thread completely.

    I don’t understand your hostility. I was *presuming* to communicate a generalization about Pharyngulans, and I don’t how you’ve challenged that point. I wasn’t summarizing the thrust of comments being made in THIS thread, and I didn’t say I was.

    By the way, if you want to go nosing about in regard to me, fine, however, I use a nym here for a reason.

    I’m all for respecting a desire to remain anonymous, but that’s not what you’re doing. If you want to post anonymously, don’t use a name connected with your identity. Otherwise you’re using a costume, not a mask. I’d feel silly addressing a costume.

    As for nosing about, my reason for checking the results on your name was to try to understand where you’re coming from. If you’d turned out to be a habitual flame-baiter, I wouldn’t have bothered responding. There is so much lost in online conversation, that is of real use IRL conversation — tone of voice, etc. A little Google context does wonders.

  101. Dustin says

    I would welcome a weekly meeting place wherein the “chaplain”, for lack of better word, teaches and discusses various current events in the purview of the scientific process and skeptical, free thought.

    Then again, I suppose that’s what they call “school” outside of the bible belt.

  102. says

    I would welcome a weekly meeting place wherein the “chaplain”, for lack of better word, teaches and discusses various current events in the purview of the scientific process and skeptical, free thought.

    Seconded. Maybe they can work a little Muddy Waters, a little Beethoven, into the program. And a lovefeast afterward (at, in our neighborhood, Cambridge Brewing Company.

  103. says

    Zachary Bos:

    I’m all for respecting a desire to remain anonymous, but that’s not what you’re doing. If you want to post anonymously, don’t use a name connected with your identity. Otherwise you’re using a costume, not a mask. I’d feel silly addressing a costume.

    As I said, I use a nym here for a reason. Use it. Keep in mind that I don’t know you and I sure as hell didn’t give you permission to use my real name here. You’re acting the arrogant asshole.

    I don’t understand your hostility.

    It’s hostile to point out what people are actually discussing and that you’re ignoring that discussion is hostile? My my. So, in other words, anyone who disagrees with you is hostile. Got it.

  104. says

    I admit to not having read the comments, so I don’t know if this has already been brought up:

    “But secular society has not yet come up with a way to give them moments of significance with the same level of beauty and care that goes into religious ceremonies. That is a big gap.’’

    It ain’t true. Humanists have come up with rituals to comemorate significant events in their lives, like child-welcoming/naming ceremonies, rites of passage, secular mourning culture.
    Only they did so over there in Europe. So stop inventing the wheel anew and then claim copyright.

  105. says

    That’s a fair question – I realize the article does not give such a full picture if the plan. The Humanist Communities Project is basically a three-part strategy to assist the development of real Humanist communities in the US and beyond. The first part is research: we have begun interviewing members of different atheist, skeptic, Humanist and other groups to see why people attend, what they want, what they care about etc. Some of this research will be available soon to the public. The second part is using our existing community, which is a connected network of student, alumni and public Humanist groups (all of which are autonomous in terms of the events they choose to do, but who are supported logistically and financially by the Chaplaincy), as a laborotory to determine what works in terms if Humanist communities. Basically we want to experiment with events, ceremonies etc. and see what sticks. The third part is disseminating what we find out to other Humanist groups, so they can use what we’ve discovered to build their own groups.

    What the…? I’m lost. That’s not what the article’s about. It’s about the launch of a “nationwide network of groups like his, designed to offer atheists the fellowship and ceremony of churchgoing without any belief in the transcendent.” Then there’s stuff about some alleged failings of the SSA and how these new groups will differ, implying that they’re campus groups. On this thread, it’s been suggested that he’s making some changes to existing campus groups. I’m still unclear about the nature of this nationwide network and its relationship to existing campus organizations at Harvard or elsewhere.

    But you’re talking about research and studying what groups are doing to understand the best approaches. That doesn’t seem consistent with his declarations that he feels confident to tell people what they should do or your “You’ll thank us later” boasting. Nor does it seem to have anything to do with the goals we’ll allegedly be thanking you for accomplishing.

  106. says

    As I said, I use a nym here for a reason. Use it.

    I don’t need your permission to use your name; you aren’t being outed (and certainly I didn’t address you by name with the intention OF outing you). Given that your comments have been curt and corrective, I don’t think you’re in a position to be complaining about etiquette.

    It’s hostile to point out what people are actually discussing and that you’re ignoring that discussion is hostile?

    You didn’t do that; you wrote “We aren’t discussing those things” when I hadn’t stated you WERE discussing those things. I pointed this out in two subsequent comments.

  107. says

    All the more reason to take every chance — this message thread being one — to apologize for the skewed reporting, and to remind people that you guys aren’t trying to correct the rabid excesses of us gnu atheists, or to tell secular communities how they “should” organize.

    I’m not sure if the reporting was “skewed”, but it of course didn’t represent the entirety of our long and fascinating conversation. As for reminding people that we are in solidarity with the rest of the movement, it frankly gets rather tiring having to issue apologia due to the ungenerous assumptions of people who seem to think everything we do has an ulterior motive.

    The Chaplaincy is staffed by people who are extremely dedicated to the cause of creating a more reasonable, humane and secular society. We work alongside everyone who shares those goals, and are proud to do so. I don’t think that there is anything creepy, weird, authoritarian, or otherwise disturbing in our plans as described in the article and at greater length here. I would invite anyone who’d like to see what we’re doing to watch our programs on YouTube, listen to our upcoming podcasts, read our magazine (thenewhumanism.org),and come visit. I’d be happy to schedule time for anyone who wants to discuss our plans in detail, by phone if desired. I think you might be excited and intrigued by what we have to offer.

  108. says

    Otherwise you’re using a costume, not a mask. I’d feel silly addressing a costume.

    Why? Orac doesn’t hide the connection between his pseudonym and his real name, and I don’t feel silly calling him Orac. If someone prefers to go by a name in this context, just use it. Sheesh.

  109. says

    Zachary Bos:

    I don’t need your permission to use your name;

    Actually, you do. At least most people wouldn’t presume, however, you being an arrogant asshole think your views are above all.

    you aren’t being outed

    How would you know?

    (and certainly I didn’t address you by name with the intention OF outing you).

    You had no business using it at all, no matter your intentions.

  110. Anath says

    #116
    I have mentioned in nearly every post here that the point is not to start a group separate from the SSA, that SSA groups are merely hosted through the chaplaincy, and that these SSA groups are student-run. Yet you persist in insisting there’s something “else” going on.

    Consistency is different from molds in the sense of cake. The batter should have a consistency regardless of what mold it goes into, and the mold is determined by the baker in regards to the function of the cake. Epstein’s work is to suggest the best way to make a batter consistent, then the group that applies his suggestions gets to pour it in whatever mold they want to depending on the combination of members at the time. Maybe a nonstudent group would be more stable than a student group, but perhaps there is an advantage to having some permanent staff (i.e. Humanist chaplaincy) as work, life, kids, etc. might prevent other well meaning participants from actively engaging in administrative and organizational duties.

    Epstein might be focused on community service, but he doesn’t force it on anyone in the group. Don’t want to/can’t attend a service event? Fine, because there are other things going on too. I also don’t see our group as churchy, or Epstein moving to make it fit any sort of vision he has, so I really don’t see your “main issue” point…

    First, I don’t believe that existing student groups lack all infrastructure and record-keeping. They have ongoing projects and activities.

    This depends on which student group you are a part of. I have belonged to both student groups that are solid and have been so for many years and ones that are wishy-washy and fall apart after the original founders graduate or generate an entirely new function every few years. I don’t believe that all student groups need a system or suggestion, but I do believe that some can only stand to benefit from a strong adviser or external assistance. For the list of SSA affiliated groups, I wonder how many kids wanted to start one, or tried, and had the idea fall apart or seem unattainable?

    Second, the last thing I would want to see is atheist youth groups being pushed in the direction of church groups. The “infrastructure” of church groups is often based on hierarchy and submission to authority.

    I agree, and I don’t think this will happen. My point with mentioning church groups has to do with the stability of the infrastructure, all set up through a consistent adviser. You have someone who is the “youth organizer” (etc) and a large portion of the job is to advise the youth group over time. My experience with church youth groups is that while they are more hierarchical than college based groups, the students still get input as to what they want to do, its just limited to church based activities. Atheist groups would never have that limitation.

  111. says

    When I say my response to this group is based on much more than this single article, I have in mind posts like those from Chris Stedman over the past year, which Ophelia Benson has contended with. Here’s one response to Stedman:

    That last is a funny question. “Who knew that calling people to the ideals of love and compassionate action could ignite controversy?!” Think about it.

    Ok I’ll bite; I knew. I can explain why, too – one reason is the implied claim that the speaker is good and the recipient of the message is not; that the speaker is loving and compassionate and the recipient is something else. There are others: the suggestion to stop doing one thing and do another instead; the backround campaign of vilification of gnu atheists which makes this kind of positioning seem at least suspect; the fact that that kind of pious advice has more than a whiff of churchy missionary sanctimonious versions of “compassion” that not everyone admires; and so on.

    Here’s another:

    There’s another thing about Stedman’s campaign “to find common ground between the religious and the secular.” It’s that all his finding and common grounding and affirmativing and positiving is directed toward the religious while he is in effect quite unfriendly toward the nonreligious. He goes about his work of saying what should be done, by throwing a little dirt at atheists.

    …Little jabs, one after the other, all over-general and subtly unpleasant, all just the kind of thing that appeals to existing prejudices which have been getting systematically stoked for several years, all directed at atheists.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/an-easy-target/

    It’s not just what they’re doing, it’s that they’ve worked consistently to build themselves up and self promote like nobody’s business at the explicit expense of gnu atheists.

  112. says

    SC – Chris works for the HCH, but as he would be the first to tell you, he doesn’t write with the voice of the HCH. We all have a variety of opinions on the staff, and we often vociferously disagree! It’s the diversity of our own opinions which convinces us that we need to find a structure for our community which is welcoming to and challenging to all perspectives. Take a look at some of Joh Figdor’s writing, our second in command, and you’ll probably like it a lot more ;)

  113. Waffler, of the Waffler Institute says

    Poking around on the internet to find the real name of a pseudonymous commenter, and then using that name to reply to said commenter, is inexplicable and creepy. Inexplicable, because you lose everybody else in the conversation — they haven’t rummaged around to find out a person’s name, so won’t know who the hell you’re talking to. So why do it, except to say ‘I don’t respect your boundaries’. Creepy.

    On another note — I’m not anti-symbol, but lighting three candles? Twee. Symbols should have some oomph.

  114. truthspeaker says

    Anath says:
    17 October 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Eh, going to an “Atheist Church Service” is not really what’s happening. The language in the article is a bit misleading. The group only really takes away service elements of church and the idea of creating “atheist” weddings and funerals

    Why create something that already exists? There are already secular weddings – I’ve been to a few over the years, and am having one myself in Minneapolis City Hall next April – and funeral parlors offer secular services.

    It sounds like someone is reinventing the wheel.

  115. says

    I have mentioned in nearly every post here that the point is not to start a group separate from the SSA, that SSA groups are merely hosted through the chaplaincy, and that these SSA groups are student-run. Yet you persist in insisting there’s something “else” going on.

    No, I’m trying to understand what’s going on. The article presents the new organizations as an alternative to the SSA. Someone else then said no – it’s about changes to existing student groups. Which is it?

    Consistency is different from molds in the sense of cake. The batter should have a consistency regardless of what mold it goes into, and the mold is determined by the baker in regards to the function of the cake. Epstein’s work is to suggest the best way to make a batter consistent, then the group that applies his suggestions gets to pour it in whatever mold they want to depending on the combination of members at the time. Maybe a nonstudent group would be more stable than a student group, but perhaps there is an advantage to having some permanent staff (i.e. Humanist chaplaincy) as work, life, kids, etc. might prevent other well meaning participants from actively engaging in administrative and organizational duties.

    Is this supposed to be serious? I’m asking what is meant by consistency, amongst which new or existing groups, and who’s making the decisions.

    Epstein might be focused on community service, but he doesn’t force it on anyone in the group.

    I should hope not. But the question wasn’t about individuals, but organizations.

    Don’t want to/can’t attend a service event? Fine, because there are other things going on too. I also don’t see our group as churchy, or Epstein moving to make it fit any sort of vision he has, so I really don’t see your “main issue” point…

    Really?

    This depends on which student group you are a part of. I have belonged to both student groups that are solid and have been so for many years and ones that are wishy-washy and fall apart after the original founders graduate or generate an entirely new function every few years. I don’t believe that all student groups need a system or suggestion, but I do believe that some can only stand to benefit from a strong adviser or external assistance. For the list of SSA affiliated groups, I wonder how many kids wanted to start one, or tried, and had the idea fall apart or seem unattainable?

    Well, they’re growing rapidly. But I’d think that if you thought this was a problem, you’d have researched it, rather than presenting it as an established problem that people want changed and not something you’ve decided is a problem. If student groups or those looking to form one want more advising on campus that should be easy enough to fix (and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be a chaplain). They could also be helped with organizing and record-keeping if they wish. But only if that’s what they decide they want.

    I agree, and I don’t think this will happen. My point with mentioning church groups has to do with the stability of the infrastructure, all set up through a consistent adviser. You have someone who is the “youth organizer” (etc) and a large portion of the job is to advise the youth group over time. My experience with church youth groups is that while they are more hierarchical than college based groups, the students still get input as to what they want to do, its just limited to church based activities. Atheist groups would never have that limitation.

    But you haven’t shown that student groups are asking for this sort of consistent advising. If they haven’t democratically decided that they want an advisor like that, then it’s an imposition. If we’re talking about new groups, then I think it’s foolish to be duplicating in many ways the established SSA rather than assisting them in the areas you specialize in (e.g., community service).

  116. truthspeaker says

    People have already mentioned sports and music concerts. I would add participating in a musical group to that list – it has socialization and structure, and it can be fun.

    There’s also a weekly meeting involving music ritual nearly every Saturday night at my house, open to anyone who plays Magic: The Gathering who isn’t bothered by people smoking a hell of a lot of weed. We do play for ante.

  117. says

    SC – Chris works for the HCH, but as he would be the first to tell you, he doesn’t write with the voice of the HCH. We all have a variety of opinions on the staff, and we often vociferously disagree!

    Oh, give me a break. I argued, including with you, on several of those threads. If you vociferously disagreed with Stedman on those issues it must have been on another internet.

  118. says

    To me, trying to argue for an “atheist church” is like telling people of color that they should aspire to be more like white people, or that women should be more like men. Seeking equality is not the same as seeking to be like another group.

    As an atheist, I want to be respected and I don’t want to fear for my safety or rights. I don’t, however, want a knockoff of something I reject outright so it’s inexplicable to me that I would seek out some sort of organized religion minus the supernatural.

    I had a secular wedding. I have been to secular funerals. I don’t need a group to meet and decide how that should be done.

  119. says

    I think it would assuage your concerns somewhat, SC, to know that it’s not like we’re trying to build a franchise or something. When it says we want to build a “network” , we mean precisely that – we want to connect groups together and offer them the benefit of our research and experiments. That’s why the article talks about us writing a book and making a website. We are not trying to A) parachute in and take over local groups or B) create competing alternate orgainizations. We are looking to provide resources which supercharge what is already there, often in fledgeling form.

    That you have this misconception from the article is very useful for us to know, as it helps us understand we need to be clearer in our messaging.

  120. truthspeaker says

    I’m not sure what you’re both objecting to. What is empty, nonsensical or senseless about it? It seems to me a reasonably simple and somewhat compelling way to symbolically affirm a commitment to a particular value-set (which has benefits for group bonding, developing the ‘echo chamber effect’, etc.).

    Lighting candles in a ritual to symbolically affirm a commitment to a particular value-set is the part that’s empty and senseless. Soon you’ll have people who participate in the ritual but not the value-set, but other people who participate in the ritual will assume they do because they participated in the ritual.

    And the “echo chamber effect” is not a benefit – it’s part of the problem!

  121. Flora Poste says

    “At the HumanLight festival participants frequently light three candles, representing the light of reason, the warmth of compassion and the glow of hope. I think that’s charming and inspiring rather than dogmatic – it’s simply a way of communicating what we care about non-verbally.”

    Pure Kitsch. Blech X eleventy.

    What’s wrong with celebrating culturally appropriate holidays in a secular way?

    I think secularists can work for building more “third places” in our local communities. Home is the first place, work is the second, the third place is the local hangout, or the lively public square, the nightly ritual of la passegiata. The third place is where you can go to meet and interact with others, without having to plan or arrange a meeting. Church is really *not* that good a model for the third place, IMO.

  122. says

    Lighting candles in a ritual to symbolically affirm a commitment to a particular value-set is the part that’s empty and senseless. Soon you’ll have people who participate in the ritual but not the value-set, but other people who participate in the ritual will assume they do because they participated in the ritual.

    Why do you say this? I feel the effect is likely to be quite the opposite – that the consistent, explicit reaffirmation of the value-set will reinforce the community’s commitment to those values.

  123. truthspeaker says

    James Croft says:
    17 October 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Why do you say this? I feel the effect is likely to be quite the opposite – that the consistent, explicit reaffirmation of the value-set will reinforce the community’s commitment to those values.

    Then you have a lot to learn about human nature.

    Once you ritualize something, you remove the meaning from it. Kids in school recite “The Pledge of Allegiance” every week or every day, but few of them know what it means. People in church recite things every week without thinking about what they really mean. Once you turn something into a ritual, the focus passes to the ritual itself from whatever the ritual was supposed to remind you of.

  124. says

    I think it would assuage your concerns somewhat, SC, to know that it’s not like we’re trying to build a franchise or something. When it says we want to build a “network” , we mean precisely that – we want to connect groups together and offer them the benefit of our research and experiments. That’s why the article talks about us writing a book and making a website. We are not trying to A) parachute in and take over local groups or B) create competing alternate orgainizations. We are looking to provide resources which supercharge what is already there, often in fledgeling form.

    OK, now we’re getting somewhere. The article refers to the “launch of a nationwide network of groups like his, designed to offer atheists the fellowship and ceremony of churchgoing without any belief in the transcendent.” That to me suggested new groups, as did “The groups will also engage in community service.” But you’re saying that’s not the case. So what do you mean by “connect groups together” (which groups?) and “provide resources,” in practical terms? I’m not trying to grill you. I’m honestly just completely confused about what was launched.

    Do you mean that you’d have a web site, interested groups would join your network, and you’d provide them with help and information? If so, I’d have no problem with that, except that the SSA has an umbrella organization. Have you been working with them to set this up?

  125. Flora Poste says

    truthspeaker – absolutely. I like to think I’ve passed on some good values, like compassion and truth=telling, to my daughter. But very little of it has been in the form of explicit instruction and certainly no rituals celebrating these values. Rather by example as much as I can, and pointing out others that are moral exemplars of these values, by the things they DO and not the things they talk about.

  126. says

    Why do you say this? I feel the effect is likely to be quite the opposite – that the consistent, explicit reaffirmation of the value-set will reinforce the community’s commitment to those values.

    You know what constitutes the consistent, explicit reaffirmation of our value set? Living it, fighting for it. What we do.

    I can’t wait to see these data you mentioned.

    OK, going out for a bit.

  127. Anath says

    132

    No, I’m trying to understand what’s going on. The article presents the new organizations as an alternative to the SSA. Someone else then said no – it’s about changes to existing student groups. Which is it?

    What James Croft said is correct. The article is not particularly informative or well written, it’s an outsider’s perspective of what they think is happening. It emphasizes elements that are not emphasized in the group, overuses religious language, and then not only claims Epstein is starting groups, but then fails to mention even what these groups might be called (if they existed) and equates the Harvard SSA chapter to one of these new groups. Rereading the article after your complaints illuminated how misleading it actually is, after you highlighted the sentence : ‘It’s about the launch of a “nationwide network of groups like his, designed to offer atheists the fellowship and ceremony of churchgoing without any belief in the transcendent.”’

    The launch isn’t a new group, its the launch of a three-stage group evaluation project.

    Is this supposed to be serious? I’m asking what is meant by consistency, amongst which new or existing groups, and who’s making the decisions.

    Eh, I was trying a sort of metaphor but that failed apparently. ~Consistency; common projects, goals, events, themes, blah blah blah all that stuff that might guide two groups on opposite ends of the states to be more similar; The prom group tries out some service ideas and the service group tries out a prom; because these ideas worked / were popular somewhere else.
    ~Amongst which? Any that choose to try out the consistency formula/suggestions.
    ~Who make the decisions? Leaders of groups that choose to try out the suggestions.

    Even if your question was on organizations instead of individuals I’d answer the same; this group does service but other things as well, and members get to choose what activities they participate in. I don’t see why this idea SHOULDN’T be universal?

    Really?

    Yes. I really and honestly don’t see that “his main issue [is] that existing groups aren’t churchy enough for his taste”. Not once have I gotten this impression, especially in real life encounters during group meetings.

    Well, they’re growing rapidly. But I’d think that if you thought this was a problem, you’d have researched it, rather than presenting it as an established problem that people want changed and not something you’ve decided is a problem. (to end)

    I’m not just talking about just secular groups, I’m talking about all student groups in general, many student groups have these problems at one point or another. During my undergraduate studies, many new groups would form each year, then fizzle out the next year or two years down the line, when their founders graduated or got too busy to deal with the group anymore. Some student magazines and newspapers start out strong, produce 3 issues, then die. Most student groups are remarkably fickle, and its the minority that have long term membership and stability.

    Some students NEED the help getting off the ground and staying off the ground, and the ideas presented (and to be presented) by Epstein are just an OPTION for the students looking to form a group, specifically those that lack the knowledge and experience to form a keep and keep that group going. And again, NO ONE is saying groups formed with Epstein’s suggestions would not be affiliated with the SSA, but rather that they would also have strong affiliations with pre-existing humanist groups, i.e. chaplaincy.

  128. claimthehighground says

    OK, back to the original issue: It was Groucho Marx, I believe, who said, “I would never be a member of an organization that would have me as a member.” So, since i don’t play football, I don’t buy from drug stores, I don’t play the violin, I don’t read Agatha Christie novels, and I don’t believe in gods, angels, devils, ghosts, and lots of other things, I don’t want to join a group of afootballist, adruggist, aviolinist, achristieist, atheist, agangleist, adevilist, aghostist, a-what-ever-ists. If you do, knock yourself out. But don’t try to brand a non-belief as belief.

  129. says

    Flora Poste:

    the nightly ritual of la passegiata

    Now that’s something I can get behind. I love evening walks and I’m usually out and about on a photo walk every day anyway.

    James Croft:

    Why do you say this? I feel the effect is likely to be quite the opposite – that the consistent, explicit reaffirmation of the value-set will reinforce the community’s commitment to those values.

    I said the same thing as truthspeaker and others in #75. Rituals equal lip service, they end up utterly meaningless. Rituals tend to be things which are used to keep people brainwashed (at least those religion and churches use). I dislike all of it.

  130. Margaret says

    Can somebody explain this supposed religious “sense of community” to me? My mother dragged me off to church every Sunday until I started college, but I can’t see how being crammed in a big building with a bunch of strangers provides a “sense of community.” Does shared boredom equal a “sense of community?” I certainly would have been shushed if I had been stupid enough to try to actually talk to somebody, even just to find out their name. Some “community.”

    A weekly get-together for a good lecture on some science/critical-thinking/woo-bashing, followed by a bit of generalized socializing would be worth attending now and then, but if you light any candles or do a standard reading of any sort, I’m outta there. Shudder.

  131. says

    claimthehighground:

    But don’t try to brand a non-belief as belief.

    Yeah. All of this strikes me as a massive effort at gaining approval “look, we go to church too! We aren’t bad!”. Bleargh. It’s also assuming that all people truly miss church rituals and going to church, yada, yada, yada. Not me. I don’t miss it in the least, I do not want a substitute and I don’t want to sit around with candles and talking like I’m in group therapy. Nothing appeals at all.

    I don’t much care if others want that sort of thing, however, I resent the effort to put all of atheists and atheism under this milquetoast umbrella.

  132. Louis says

    Are you going to the people who hate people party?

    Yeah? Well I’m not fucking going!

    ;-)

    Louis

    P.S. Ahhh the late lamented Bill Hicks. As for the rest, well if people want to have atheist churches, get togethers, tambourine banging sessions, humanist charity whist drives and all comers fellatio parties, have at it. Just make it very, very clear you are not speaking for me, or anyone but yourselves, and you are golden. And don’t be all excited if I a) point and laugh, b) tell you you’ve missed the point, c) get on with “good works” without your help just as I always do, and d) disagree with you.

  133. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    It’s a somewhat baffling idea to most godless Europeans why you’d want to get together for an official weekly session of tea and pointlessness. What’s wrong with just going to the pub with your friends regularly?

    .
    I’m with Cartomancer, I’d rather go to the pub.
    .
    I can’t remember now who it was who looked up and cited the reference, but if it’s the case that regular churchgoing in the UK is indulged in by only 6% of the population (I hope that 6% includes all the mosque-going, synagogue-going and temple-going as well) then there doesn’t seem to be any burning need to “replace” it with anything anyway (or rather, any one thing). And the percentage is probably even lower in a lot of other, more secular countries.

    No gods, no masters, no dogma, and no goddamned priests…not even atheist priests.

    Too bloody right.

    And as for ceremonies, if people weren’t being pressured into the one-size-fits-all church funerals and weddings etc. maybe a lot more of us would create our own. (co-arranged two funerals and attended two others, all 100% thought up and run by family, with a funeral company providing tactical support in the form of the coffin, hearse, crematorium booking etc. Music, poetry, eulogies, jokes – good funerals).

  134. says

    Orac doesn’t hide the connection between his pseudonym and his real name, and I don’t feel silly calling him Orac. If someone prefers to go by a name in this context, just use it.

    Fair enough; I suppose I wouldn’t have felt defensive if his first response to me hadn’t been so merely hostile. If someone tells me their preference, I’m happy to oblige. But his correction was etiquette-trolling, I’d say, meant to hammer home his accusation that I wasn’t reading the thread.

    Poking around on the internet to find the real name of a pseudonymous commenter, and then using that name to reply to said commenter, is inexplicable and creepy.

    It might put things in a different light if I clarify that I didn’t look up “Caine, Fleur du Mal” today, but rather a considerable time ago when I wanted to get a bit of context for his comments in an earlier message thread.

  135. says

    Rituals tend to be things which are used to keep people brainwashed (at least those religion and churches use).

    They certainly CAN be. They needn’t be, however.

    I dislike all of it.

    But it is okay if others like it, right? We should say both:

    That it is okay to come together in secular social groups or congregational communities, and it is okay to eschew such kinds of association in favor of individual pursuits, or just spending time with friends; and that both are valid, and neither is the superior, ways for secular people to interact with each other.

  136. Ray says

    PZ, weren’t you Mr. “Atheism is sooooo much more than not believing in gods” just a few months ago? The irony is palpable.

  137. Carlie says

    I don’t need your permission to use your name; you aren’t being outed (and certainly I didn’t address you by name with the intention OF outing you). Given that your comments have been curt and corrective, I don’t think you’re in a position to be complaining about etiquette.

    Seriously, no. Hell no. Fucking hell, no.

    There are a lot of reasons people use pseudonyms on the internet. Here is a list that explains just some of the reasons why. They range from simply wanting to keep parts of their lives separate to trying to keep obsessed stalkers from killing them and everything inbetween. And guess what? You do not get to decide for someone else whether their reasons are important. You especially don’t get to use “You’re rude” as a reason to out them. Using a “real” name for someone who is pseudonymous isn’t a breach of etiquette, it’s violating their life. And as such, in my opinion someone who deliberately outs someone else has forfeited the right to have anyone pay attention to them in that sphere at all, ever, again. Outing someone deliberately is evidence that that person is entirely untrustworthy, as well as boorish and entitled and generally an ass. Also that person is probably a real creep, if that person went searching for that information on purpose to out someone. So yeah. Fuck off.

  138. Crudely Wrott says

    C’mon over to my house! We can have music, food, drink, enjoy good company, argue the pros and cons of professionals and convicts (professors and concierges, too), and start traditions that may or may not stand the tests of times, form new friendships and lasting bonds and all kinds of other really social stuff.

    Kind of like coming here, to PZ’s house except not virtual.

    Churches? We don’ need no stinkin’ churches.

    I was lurking on TET last night and was delighted to learn that several of the regulars here had gotten together and, by all testimony, not only had a very nice time but would like a repeat. In a sense, the atheist mumble already exists and we are its congregation. I see a natural progression here and I find it intriguing.

    *Full disclosure — if such a place should appear near my house I’d show up at least once and maybe return frequently if I found the effort rewarding and the company entertaining like I find it here.*

  139. says

    Can somebody explain this supposed religious “sense of community” to me? My mother dragged me off to church every Sunday until I started college, but I can’t see how being crammed in a big building with a bunch of strangers provides a “sense of community.”

    I think the aim of, e.g., the Harvard folks, and the Concord Area Humanists, and the Ethical Society of Boston (to name just groups I am familiar with) is a little different. They want to assemble (not be crammed together) as people who know and care about ecah other (rather than as strangers), to do things like learn about or think about matters of common significance, IN the spirit of community, rather than in ORDER to be provided with that kind of a spirit.

    I for one am thoroughly against apathetic, comulsory, or boring assemblies of all flavors, religious, secular, and so on.

  140. Carlie says

    If someone tells me their preference, I’m happy to oblige.

    They do, by the name they fucking use in that environment. Seriously, you can’t possibly be this dense. “Do you want me to use the name you keep putting as you on your comments right here, or the name that I secretly searched the internet for you until I found it out? Gosh, I just don’t know which one you’d prefer!”

    It might put things in a different light if I clarify that I didn’t look up “Caine, Fleur du Mal” today, but rather a considerable time ago when I wanted to get a bit of context for his comments in an earlier message thread.

    And kept it in reserve to use the next time you got irritated. Yeah, that puts it in a different light, all right. A worse one.

  141. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why bother with just atheists? Seems like you’re limiting yourself. And here is a web site for gathering people of all interests, people like yourself, including atheists: Meetup.com. No need for any new groups…

  142. says

    I’m not sure if the reporting was “skewed”, but it of course didn’t represent the entirety of our long and fascinating conversation.

    Not skewed in the sense of being inaccurate; rather, skewed in the sense of omitting the newsworthy information, namely, the announcement of the communities project.

    As for reminding people that we are in solidarity with the rest of the movement, it frankly gets rather tiring having to issue apologia due to the ungenerous assumptions of people who seem to think everything we do has an ulterior motive.

    We all have our crosses to bear. Ask me how often I have to explain why my atheism isn’t merely an expression of my hate for religious believers…

    In any case, repeating yourself, clarifying yourself, as often as your message is called into question, doesn’t cost much (other than wearing on your patience) and has huge dividends in good will. When so many people are voicing the concern that your organizational message seems to claim the moral high ground at the expense of other players in the secular community, perhaps the thing to do is not to defend yourself.

    I think, in a general sense, that relations between the Humanists and the atheists, between different outlooks in the secular community, could take a lesson from Elevatorgate. Replace “misogyny” with “factionism”. In which case, the thing to do may be to just listen, to say, okay, perhaps our respective positions made it difficult for me to see how things look from your point of view. And then to make an effort to purge the alienating or antagonistic language from your playbook.

  143. says

    Zachary Bos:

    It might put things in a different light if I clarify that I didn’t look up “Caine, Fleur du Mal” today, but rather a considerable time ago when I wanted to get a bit of context for his comments in an earlier message thread.

    You really are a contemptible asstoad. (No offense to toads.) By the way, for all your poking about with the intent to out me (nope, I don’t believe you, quelle surprise!) you’d think you would have managed to figure out I’m not a him. Idiot.

  144. Crudely Wrott says

    Zachary, peoples sense of self and of security of self is important. To threaten that is like an attack.

    Before you do so again, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Honoring the privacy and security of others is one of the things that sets secular society apart from the sectarian.

    I guarantee you that you will not persuade anyone here, let alone Caine or I, that exposing someone is not a major breach of tact, respect and good manners.

    Go sit in the corner. Wait, put this on first; [offers cone-shaped hat].

  145. jason lozano says

    yikes a good part of the whole point of being an atheist is not having to go to church. whats next specifically atheist music? I assure you it will be as sucky and boring as it’s foul christian equivalent. What we do need is a beneficial order of the godless (insert ungulate) a nice nonprofit bar and nexus of charitable activity. Great for networking and raising awareness of goodness minus the god. plus beer on Sundays

  146. says

    But don’t try to brand a non-belief as belief.

    This is very, very important: we are a Humanist organization. Humanism is a set of beliefs and practices – a worldview – and it is not simply a lack of beliefs about god. We are explicitly and proudly Humanist. This is the stance we are trying to promote.

    Once you ritualize something, you remove the meaning from it. Kids in school recite “The Pledge of Allegiance” every week or every day, but few of them know what it means. People in church recite things every week without thinking about what they really mean. Once you turn something into a ritual, the focus passes to the ritual itself from whatever the ritual was supposed to remind you of.

    I am open to the possibility that you are right about this, but I think you’re assuming what you need to prove. Certainly, there are rituals which are empty and have lost any meaning. At the same time, there are also extremely potent, effective and significant rituals. So the question we’d have to ask is what separates one from the other. The reason I emphasize rational ritual is to make sure we are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of the rituals we choose to adopt. If they do in fact ossify, then I’m all for ditching them. And if they don’t function at all as we expect, I think we can rightly get rid of ritual altogether.

    The reasons I expect we might want them are numerous, but I look to the experience of the Ethical Society (probably the closest model for what I hope we achieve that currently exists), which initially quite forcefully rejected ritual, but came to integrate some, in a conscious way, as they found it was valuable to symbolically express their values. I wonder what you think about, for example, starting each meeting with the reading of a Humanist poem – do you think that would necessarily become distracting and empty?

    Croft is a moron. The REAL WORLD and human social interaction are already atheist church, thank you very much.

    This is the sort of crisp, insightful critique that is of real value to us. ;)

  147. says

    And kept it in reserve to use the next time you got irritated. Yeah, that puts it in a different light, all right. A worse one.

    Actually, I didn’t use his name in a punitive way. I knew his name, and I was adopting a personal tone in my message. Then when he called me out on it, I pointed out that I wasn’t outing him.

    I did state my respect for online anonymity, and point out that I didn’t violate anyone’s. Oviously I stepped over a line that more than one reader here on FTB thinks should be respected. I have a different view on it, but I’m happy to observe community standards.

  148. says

    “But secular society has not yet come up with a way to give them moments of significance with the same level of beauty and care that goes into religious ceremonies. That is a big gap.”

    I recommend Dungeons & Dragons.

  149. says

    whats next specifically atheist music? I assure you it will be as sucky and boring as it’s foul christian equivalent.

    Oh, we’re working on this right now. I’ll send you a CD ;). You know, an awful lot of Christian Music is very good indeed…

  150. says

    Crudely…

    I guarantee you that you will not persuade anyone here, let alone Caine or I, that exposing someone is not a major breach of tact, respect and good manners.

    I agree fully that outing someone is a serious offense. I exposed no one; his identity is public.

    If he would not like others to know his name, he should take the basic step of not associating his name IRL with his username. I am indisputably in breach of a community principle here on FTB; what I won’t do is apologize for knowing someone’s name and using it, when they didn’t take any action to make it private.

  151. says

    Zachary Bos:

    What are the banworthy offenses? Violating privacy. It takes very bad behavior to get me to expose a poster’s identity; you aren’t allowed to do it at all. Posting phone numbers or addresses, unveiling real names behind pseudonyms…the banhammer comes down, along with comment deletion.

    From here. You can shut the fuck up now.

  152. Crudely Wrott says

    I am indisputably in breach of a community principle here on FTB; what I won’t do is apologize for knowing someone’s name and using it . . .

    Caine uses a screen name here. That should indicate to you, as it seems to indicate to others, that she does not want her real identity to by widely known by everyone and their dogs.

    Your refusal to apologize shows that not only are you posting without regard to tact, respect and good manners but that you are sorely lacking of those qualities.*

    Stay in the corner, and straighten up that hat!

    *Perhaps you do have those qualities. In miserly quantities.

  153. The Ys says

    If he would not like others to know his name, he should take the basic step of not associating his name IRL with his username. I am indisputably in breach of a community principle here on FTB; what I won’t do is apologize for knowing someone’s name and using it, when they didn’t take any action to make it private.

    He was asking for it, was he? He just wanted you to violate all those internets niceties because you know who he is. It was all his fault that you couldn’t be fussed to observe internets protocol and address him by the username he chooses to use here. He should just shut up and take it like a good little boy because you shouldn’t be held accountable for your own actions…it was all his fault for not protecting himself.

    /sarcasm

    Yes, your argument really is that ridiculous. I’ve lost count of the ways people use some version of this to attempt to justify their stupidity or hatefulness, disown responsibility for their actions, and/or attempt to avoid punishment. What he did or didn’t do elsewhere is irrelevant. What you have done here on this site is what’s relevant.

  154. Louis says

    Oh Caine, for the purposes of this discussion you’re a good little boy. How does it feel? Now make sure you exercise that privilege while you have it. Mmmmmm lovely privilege. Also, tell lots of people you know better than they because you have a willy.

    ;-)

    Louis

  155. says

    He was asking for it, was he?

    My point was that the user wasn’t concerned with anonymity, only with an identity.

    He just wanted you to violate all those internets niceties because you know who he is. It was all his fault that you couldn’t be fussed to observe internets protocol and address him by the username he chooses to use here. He should just shut up and take it like a good little boy because you shouldn’t be held accountable for your own actions…it was all his fault for not protecting himself. Yes, your argument really is that ridiculous.

    That wasn’t my point, no.

    I’ve lost count of the ways people use some version of this to attempt to justify their stupidity or hatefulness, disown responsibility for their actions, and/or attempt to avoid punishment.

    I owned up to my misstep in the very comment you were responding to. I didn’t apologize, because I didn’t out anyone; and I didn’t express regret, because the user’s initial response to me was antagonistic.

    What you have done here on this site is what’s relevant.

    Fair enough. What I did here was use someone’s publicly available first name, since that is how they’re known to me. What I didn’t do, and what I agree shouldn’t be done, is violating someone’s wish to remain anonymous.

    I’m happy to apologize, but not for being discourteous to the poster (I wasn’t), and not for violating a rule of the forum (though if a moderator feels that my use of that publicly available first name is out of bounds, I’ll follow those local rules in the future. Please don’t interpret my specificity as defensiveness; it isn’t.

  156. truthspeaker says

    James Croft says:
    17 October 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I am open to the possibility that you are right about this, but I think you’re assuming what you need to prove. Certainly, there are rituals which are empty and have lost any meaning. At the same time, there are also extremely potent, effective and significant rituals

    Are there? Can you name one? Even more challenging – can you name one that stayed potent and effective throughout most of its lifetime?

    Many rituals start out as meaning something, but by dint of being rituals, they eventually become meaningless.

  157. The Ys says

    Well, I would except I’m an adult. And a woman.

    I’ve done so well at following these comments that I actually thought he was referring to someone else and not to you…and I was confused by people mentioning you specifically at the end.

    I fail! :)

    That actually makes my point even more ironic, however, if you rewrite that as “she” and “her”.

  158. says

    Oh Caine, for the purposes of this discussion you’re a good little boy.Oh Caine, for the purposes of this discussion you’re a good little boy.

    Actually, I do now remember seeing before that she is a female user. It didn’t come up in this discussion, though, so I without thinking used the male pronoun. Perhaps I should have nosed around a little deeper in order to be sure about her gender?

  159. truthspeaker says

    I wonder what you think about, for example, starting each meeting with the reading of a Humanist poem – do you think that would necessarily become distracting and empty?

    Absolutely.

    It would also ensure that I purposeful showed up late for each meeting. If I want to go to a poetry reading, I go to a poetry reading.

    And that’s part of my objection. If I want ritual, I’ll go to a sci-fi convention, or a music festival, or a sporting event. If go to a meeting with the purpose of contributing to social or political change, that’s what I want to do at the meeting, not participate in or observe ritual.

  160. says

    I’m not missing the point, Caine. The truth is, I wasn’t acting vindictively. My follow-up comments have been to clarify that and other points, not to defend the principle that the act of revealing someone’s identity is within bounds. I know about the forum rules; it’s just that I honestly wouldn’t have thought my post is in violation of it. I was using a first name rather than a whole name, and (here’s the disagreement of opinion which I assure you is honest) I didn’t reveal anything. I would have thought revelation or unmasking is for anonymous users, rather than pseudonymous users. No need for the mod clarification; I’ll just not do it in the future (provided the ban hammer doesn’t come down in this case).

    You’d be making a good point if I was getting my jollies using your name, or if I’d thought I’d done a good sneaky job in unmasking you with my Google fu. I know what your name is, and since I was adopting a personal tone, I used it as one does when adopting such a tone. If you’d responded by asking me not to do that, I like to think I would have responded in turn by apologizing for the inadvertent misstep, and agreed that it is better to be on the safer side of the anonymity policy. Instead, you called me out for something I couldn’t easily see to be the rude or antagonistic thing you said it was. It seemed, seems, to me that follows from the attitude I think I read in your first post, that of corrective antagonism (which was, however little it matters, off base).

    What’s your goal — that I feel unwelcome participating in Pharyngula conversations? That I understand your original intentions not to have been hostile? That I agree that the use of someone’s first name is out of bounds in the way I used it? You’ve had some fun with the finger-wagging and flaming, okay. I’m sure it was deserved, foot in mouth deserving what it does. So now what?

  161. Flora Poste says

    “Many rituals start out as meaning something, but by dint of being rituals, they eventually become meaningless.”

    Right. Look at it from the standpoint of anthropology and history. First there were social activities like hunting, singing, storytelling, drumming, music, dancing. Often these were essentially leaderless as the group coordinated itself to the rhythms of the activity. The “meanings” people assigned to these activities were flexible and malleable. Then came hierarchies and priesthoods which abstracted the meanings from the activities, ritualized them, assigned fixed roles, told people what they were doing wrong, etc.
    So I would argue, folk dancing or any kind of social dancing, garage bands, drum circles, outrigger canoeing, are all closer to the archetypal “religious experience” than some crap made-up ritual.

  162. The Ys says

    No, you don’t. You were just confused.

    Is this a bad time to admit I’m blonde? :D

    The only person who has failed here is Zachary Bos, who still doesn’t get the point.

    Aye. When someone’s using a particular nym on a particular site, you use that nym. That’s a simple netiquette rule respected by…oh, pretty much the entirety of the internets.

    Or at least the entirety of the internets that doesn’t wished to be viewed as a steaming pile of hyena feces.

  163. says

    Anath, from your response I conclude that either a) nothing at all has been launched or b) the HCH has no idea what it’s doing (other than its usual habit of pointing out supposed flaws in successful groups and organizations). I don’t see how any other conclusion can be drawn. No one seems to want to answer the simplest concrete question.

  164. says

    Look at it from the standpoint of anthropology and history. First there were social activities like hunting, singing, storytelling, drumming, music, dancing. Often these were essentially leaderless as the group coordinated itself to the rhythms of the activity. The “meanings” people assigned to these activities were flexible and malleable. Then came hierarchies and priesthoods which abstracted the meanings from the activities, ritualized them, assigned fixed roles, told people what they were doing wrong, etc.

    I can see your point, but don’t think this process of a spontaneous and meaning-filled act being ossified over time, and co-opted, by hierarchies of authority, is necessarily universal. The human beings participating in any particular rite may be apathetic or just going through the motions; then again, they might bring an energy and attention to it that revitalizes the practice. Maybe a good metaphor sees the difference between thinking of rituals as sources of energy (and then, when you plug in… nothing), and thinking of them as vessels or conduits for energy (and the participants provide the energy). I don’t mean any woo-woo vital force, either; I just mean emotional activation.

    The anthropologist Malinowski says some valuable things I think about these topics, in his essay “Magic, Science, and Religion.” Though his scholarship could have used the clarifying effects of greater skepticism…

  165. says

    When someone’s using a particular nym on a particular site, you use that nym. That’s a simple netiquette rule respected by…oh, pretty much the entirety of the internets.

    You’re moving into dangerous territory when you begin to argue that how you do things ’round here is how things are doing everywhere. I post frequently at Slate magazine, and in many of the circles there, it is a common practice to address users by their given names as well as their usernames. I’m happy to follow the local practice, and was glad to have it brought to my attention that my instance of using her first name was probably a violation of the forum rules.

  166. says

    @Zachary Bos #189 would those be names they’ve listed in their profile or that are easily accessible when you click a link to their page or do you all scour the internet to find each other’s legal names?

    It seems disingenuous to claim that hunting down someone’s name when they haven’t offered it up, is somehow par for the course.

  167. Anath says

    #186

    Well, mostly you’ve been accusing Epstein of forming a parallel organization, which he is not doing, or trying to take over the way other groups operate, which is not what he’s doing either, so it’s been hard to pick out the actual concrete questions you want answered without clearing up those two large points first.

    James Croft explained the plan in post 112 and refined in 136. This confused you in post 122 and 132 because the article was not “really” about what he explained. In post 144 I reread the article based on your complaints and found the journalist HAD misrepresented the project described in post 112.

    Therefore:
    A) You are partially correct in saying nothing has been launched because yes, there are no new groups, but incorrect in the sense that there IS a new project going on… we just already have the groups available to conduct the project.
    B) HCH knows what it’s doing, the author of the original article does not, and the groups it will be evaluating are those already affiliated with HCH.

  168. says

    No scouring. A simple search, undertaken some time ago when I wanted to learn more about the person who had written a comment I found interesting.

  169. consciousness razor says

    James Croft, #79, thanks for responding, but if all you’re going to do is blow smoke, then I won’t bother with the conversation much longer.

    Also, <blockquote> is your friend. So is </blockquote>.

    “This does look like you’re trying to gain some privileges of your own.”

    I’m not certain what you mean by this, but if you mean we’re seeking to make Humanism a true civic and political force, able to promote our agenda on the world stage, you’re absolutely right.

    No. You even used the word “privilege” in the correct sense in the same comment, in reference to religious privilege. I meant undue privilege, and unwarranted interference in people’s personal lives, not merely giving them a voice. Is your brand of humanism meant to be a dessert topping or a floor polish? Both?

    #165:

    I am open to the possibility that you are right about this, but I think you’re assuming what you need to prove. Certainly, there are rituals which are empty and have lost any meaning. At the same time, there are also extremely potent, effective and significant rituals. So the question we’d have to ask is what separates one from the other. The reason I emphasize rational ritual is to make sure we are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of the rituals we choose to adopt. If they do in fact ossify, then I’m all for ditching them. And if they don’t function at all as we expect, I think we can rightly get rid of ritual altogether.

    Why assume that it depends on the type of ritual, than on the people involved with it? It even varies for a single person, who will be in a different mindset at one time or another. The problem is there’s no reason to think there are some ideal rituals, presumably known only to the esoteric few, which have that magical je ne se quais that compels most people to thinking rationally (or doing X) when performed. That isn’t what rituals are.

    As an anecdote: I was raised Catholic, and I can tell you without contradiction that as a child the rituals did influence my thinking. As a child, though, I recognized they were empty bits of show and hand-waving, only giving the feeling of accomplishing something. You do a ritual about love or compassion, think you’ve gotten something out of the experience, yet you don’t become more loving or compassionate.

    I’ve also belonged in a number of other organizations — social, philanthropic, educational, etc. — and in no case have I ever seen a group of people, or a single person, respond to any kind of “ritual” consistently. Even if it’s “rational,” or if it would be useful for people to do the things for which you intend the ritual to stimulate, it will in fact ossify for a large proportion of people a large percentage of the time. So you’re all for ditching them or not? Or is there it acceptable that it will be ineffective or backfire?

  170. chigau () says

    Zachary Bos #189
    Yeah. ’cause it is so fucking hard to copypaste someone’s ‘nym.
    Without clicking on their link.

  171. The Ys says

    You’re moving into dangerous territory when you begin to argue that how you do things ’round here is how things are doing everywhere.

    And you’re moving into dangerous territory by assuming this is the only site I frequent.

    I post frequently at Slate magazine, and in many of the circles there, it is a common practice to address users by their given names as well as their usernames.

    That’s interesting. I regularly read Slate and haven’t seen much of that over there. I also haven’t seen any of that on other forums I frequent. Please list off some others that use this interesting and privacy-violating practice so I can continue to avoid them.

    I’m happy to follow the local practice, and was glad to have it brought to my attention that my instance of using her first name was probably a violation of the forum rules.

    If by “probably” you mean “definitely”, then yes. Nice way to continue to dodge responsibility for your actions.

  172. says

    Please list off some others that use this interesting and privacy-violating practice so I can continue to avoid them.

    I’m referring specifically to the Poetry boards at Slate.

    A username isn’t preserving anonymity if the identity is publicly known. Caine made it clear that as far as SHE is concerned, the forum policy here prohibits the use of names as I did. I can agree that this might be the case in the view of the mods; and that the safe thing to do, having heard now from several users here. Well enough. But the matter isn’t cut-and-dry. Privacy is not the same as anonymity; the latter is a bright-line distinction. What we’re talking about is less cut and dry.

  173. Ichthyic says

    What’s your goal — that I feel unwelcome participating in Pharyngula conversations? That I understand your original intentions not to have been hostile? That I agree that the use of someone’s first name is out of bounds in the way I used it? You’ve had some fun with the finger-wagging and flaming, okay. I’m sure it was deserved, foot in mouth deserving what it does. So now what?

    I’m curious why you think it appropriate to address someone you don’t even know on a first-name basis to begin with?

    Is that custom in your locale?

    typically, from my experience, if someone introduces themselves to you with a given name, that’s the name you respond to.

    If I introduce myself as “Professor Jones”, I wouldn’t expect someone I don’t even know to look up my personal details and then address me by my first name instead.

    Seems a bit creepy to me, but then, maybe that’s just me….

  174. consciousness razor says

    Sorry, I tried editing my previous comment, but the draft got copied into the comment box anyway. Particularly embarrassing is “je ne se quais,” which I think is Turkish for “I don’t like quails.”

  175. says

    Caine does offer her name up — it is right there online. I’m not saying that this means she isn’t allowed to ask people to respect her privacy here. My point is that my use of a publicly available first name isn’t equivalent to violating someone’s anonymity.

    The language you’re using, “hunting down someone’s name”, implies some kind of malign intention. Am I barred from looking for more information about a poster whose comments were of interest?

    This conversation about names strikes me as strange. Is it is really thought to be the case that a username can’t be Googled? Or that pseudonymity is equivalent to anonymity? Or that I couldn’t have been user her first name as a kind of inflection, and not as an implicit threat?

    I’m curious why you think it appropriate to address someone you don’t even know on a first-name basis to begin with?

    It isn’t unusual in my experience online. Oftentimes I’ll first address someone by first name with a kind of polite acknowledgement that this IS the first time, as in “Bob (if I may)”.

    typically, from my experience, if someone introduces themselves to you with a given name, that’s the name you respond to.

    Caine didn’t introduce herself to me; she responded to a post of mine with a curt and corrective admonition that I “read the thread.” Which isn’t why I used her first name — I did that without thinking, since that is how I recalled her from having following other conversations here in which she’s participated, and having Googled her at that time.

  176. says

    @The Ys… if you frequent Slate, you might have seen, maybe a year and a half ago, a thread started by Robert Pinsky about the issue of online anonymity. Separate from the question of actively respective the privacy implicitly requested by one’s use of a pseudonym, but related to this here Nymgate.

  177. says

    @Zachary Bos

    The reason it’s not ok is the same reason it’s not ok to post someone’s home address or phone number here. You may be able to find both online but that doesn’t make it appropriate to post in a forum. Regardless of your intention it comes across as agressive when you post personal information that someone has not offered up.

  178. jfigdor says

    Come on PZ. Be a little more open-minded. Don’t atheistic students deserve the same resources and same help running their student groups that religious students enjoy? In my mind, it is about equality, and so long as their are religious chaplains, there is a need for irreligious chaplains such as myself and Greg Epstein. I consider you a strong ally in the fight against conservative and fundamentalist religion and find articles like this disconcerting.

  179. says

    Well, mostly you’ve been accusing Epstein of forming a parallel organization, which he is not doing,

    I’ve been trying to figure out if that’s what he’s doing, because that’s the impression given in the article this post was about – as you acknowledge – and neither you nor Croft said anything initially to correct it.

    or trying to take over the way other groups operate, which is not what he’s doing either, so it’s been hard to pick out the actual concrete questions you want answered without clearing up those two large points first.

    Let me sum it up in one: What exactly has been launched? Do you have a link to the project that describes it in any concrete detail?

    James Croft explained the plan in post 112 and refined in 136. This confused you in post 122 and 132 because the article was not “really” about what he explained.

    Nor was anything you had said. That vague description sounds like a research project, and something of a strange one if it’s only going to include the organizations that are already in your network. I would need to know a lot more about it to know how sound it is. It’s also not really consistent with the ‘confident advice’ aspect of the comments here and in the article.

  180. says

    Regardless of your intention it comes across as agressive when you post personal information that someone has not offered up.

    I can see that. Importantly to me (though this will seem to some to be trivial defensiveness) I didn’t post someone’s contact information. I address them by first name, when I was writing a post addressed to them. I won’t be doing so again.

  181. Ichthyic says

    Caine does offer her name up — it is right there online.

    no, it isn’t.

    she addresses herself her by the Nym you see.

    If you know who I am, you can look my name up in the phonebook easily enough.

    does that fucking mean I want you to address me by my first name?

    I was right; you’re creepy and have boundary issues.

  182. consciousness razor says

    Dipshit (if I may), is there anything substantive you have to offer other than trolling?

  183. says

    does that fucking mean I want you to address me by my first name?

    That would be pretty creepy, in real life. The mores aren’t as cut and dried online, however. No boundary issues; just a lack of shared etiquette. In real life, I probably address others more formally than most people do. It is unreasonable to assert that the use of first names among people who don’t really know each other is unusual in all online settings.

  184. says

    When I write an email to someone in a professional context, for example, I’ll often begin by writing “Dear NAME (if I may)”; by drawing attention to my use of their first name, I’m giving them the chance to specify how they’d prefer me to address them.

    I’m certainly not trolling; but I will be more judicious in which posts I respond to.

  185. Ichthyic says

    Caine didn’t introduce herself to me

    yes, she did.

    she introduced herself in any thread she has posted in, and provided everyone exact name she wishes to be responded to with.

    again, you have some boundary issues that need work.

    Hell my partner occassionally posts here, and even I don’t respond with her actual first name, but to the nym she uses.

    again, you’re not getting it; this is not so much an issue of privacy, as it is of common courtesy.

    Oftentimes I’ll first address someone by first name with a kind of polite acknowledgement that this IS the first time, as in “Bob (if I may)”.

    and, in those instances, is that person using that as part of the name they use to identify themselves?

    as if I were to be responding, for example as “Bob Smith”.

    then, if you responded with “Well, Bob…” that would indeed be no different than you responding with: “Well, Caine”, since that’s part of the name she uses to identify herself to everyone HERE.

    sorry, but using someone’s first name when they haven’t even posted it is quite creepy.

    you should nip that habit in the bud, seriously.

  186. Ichthyic says

    No boundary issues; just a lack of shared etiquette.

    have you ever considered that the reason nobody has called you on this behavior before is simply that maybe there were more polite or shy than we are?

    not that you haven’t violated a boundary issue, but that they simply see it as not worth identifying to you that you have?

    happens all the time.

    here, we are highlighting that it is indeed a social faux pas in any circumstance not to reply to someone with the name they actually GIVE you to reply to.

    we’re doing you a favor.

    take a hint.

  187. says

    Ichthyic:

    Seems a bit creepy to me, but then, maybe that’s just me….

    No, it isn’t just you. It struck me as creepy immediately. This asshat searches me (it’s easy enough to simply click my nym, but this doesn’t reveal private info. You can, of course, hit ‘about’ and follow further links which do indeed reveal my name, because I do business on the net.) at a previous time then uses my real name to seem intimate, as if we were friends and knew one another.

    Creepy is an understatement. Especially as he didn’t do this to anyone else who has their blog or other site in their nym.

  188. says

    sorry, but using someone’s first name when they haven’t even posted it is quite creepy.

    I’d agree with you, if I was attempting to make some kind of point by doing so, or was standing on principle to justify the continued use OF a first name.

    There isn’t any need to psychoanalyze. I happened to have known this user’s name; I’m not a frequent contributor here; and the tone of my post was trying to be conversational. Those are the reasons I used her name — it is what came to mind.

    I pointed to the availability of Caine’s name online as a response to the assertion that I’d violated her anonymity; not because I think the availability of someone’s identity online is an invitation to use their first name in all venues.

  189. Ichthyic says

    I pointed to the availability of Caine’s name online as a response to the assertion that I’d violated her anonymity

    still not getting it.

    I suggest you spend way less time trying to explain your behavior, and much more time simply fixing it.

  190. says

    Fine, for people who want it. Me, I’m finding far too much joy in the freedom from groupthink to have any interest in joining the Church of the Absence of God.

  191. says

    Have you ever considered that the reason nobody has called you on this behavior before is simply that maybe there were more polite or shy than we are?
    What behavior? You’re talking about a single instance, which I’ve already said wouldn’t be repeated. Again, no need to psychoanalyze.

    It is indeed a social faux pas in any circumstance not to reply to someone with the name they actually GIVE you to reply to.

    Except that the way people relate to the internet isn’t as homogenous as you’re claiming. When I used to post on the Ag/Atheism boards at About.com, no one addressed me by my username; they used my first name. Which isn’t to say THAT is a universal practice! My point is, seeing someone’s name associated with their posts is not equivalent, cognitively, socially, to being introduced to someone with the name they prefer to be addressed by.

    we’re doing you a favor; take a hint.

    You’re attempting to extrapolate from my use of a person’s first name in a single instance (which I didn’t defend on principle, only having explained that I didn’t mean to presume anything by it, or to express any kind of malevolence) to the conclusion that I don’t respect mores in any context. That’s not a hint, that’s an overreaction.

  192. says

    From the web site:

    The Humanist Community Project seeks to unify millions of nonreligious Americans and develop a comparable social and cultural experience to that of a religious congregation. We are convinced, based on history, sociological research, and personal experience, that the success of the Humanist and secular movement depends almost entirely on our ability to build strong local communities. In a society where 25% of Americans born after 1980 identify as nonreligious (according to a recent Pew Forum study), the Project seeks to support the formation and growth of Humanist communities with a four-pronged approach, which will be detailed at the NYC event.

    It will also feature the formal launch of Values in Action at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard (VIA at HCH), our interfaith community service program. The word ‘via’ means ‘by way of’ or ‘through,’ which gets at the heart of VIA at HCH’s three-fold goal: to better the conditions of life for others through service to humanity, build alliances between religious and nonreligious individuals and communities, and combat the misconception that the nonreligious do not contribute to society.

    So I guess I’ll have to wait till November.

    This event will be co-sponsored by the Harvard Humanist Alumni and major NYC-based atheist, religious, and LGBT organizations: GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Faith House Manhattan, World Faith, Groundswell, Auburn Seminary, Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, Bronx Community College Secular Humanist Club, and others TBA.

    Lots o’ faith there.

  193. Ichthyic says

    You’re attempting to extrapolate from my use of a person’s first name in a single instance (which I didn’t defend on principle

    actually, you’ve been continually attempting to defend it “on principle” (though I think you’re confused about what that means), and the WAY you’ve tried to defend it is BY SAYING YOU DO IT ELSEWHERE.

    How can I NOT start trying analyze why you are doing this?

    What is there left to say, really?

    I’m not expecting any actual contributions from you here other than you continuing to inanely defend yourself, yet again, even though the person who took offensive spelled out for you exactly why it was inappropriate, and she was hardly unique in thinking so.

    here’s another tip for you:

    when this kind of thing happens? rather than trying to dig yourself an ever deeper hole, you might want to just add a quick apology like: “Oh, sorry, that was stupid of me! Won’t happen again!” and move on, rather than trying to explain why you did it.

    because, in spending an entire thread trying to explain why you are creepy, you are only accomplishing 2 things:

    1. You make yourself look even more creepy

    2. You bore the fuck out of everyone else, who otherwise might have listened to any positive contribution you had to make on the actual thread topic.

    *shrug*

    good luck with your hole digging exercise.

  194. Anath says

    206:

    Post #99 I get the message you think he’s forming a parallel organization and address the issue; my third post in the discussion and immediately after you made the claim in post 97. Previous to 97 you gave the impression that you believed Epstein was against student run groups, not that he was forming an alternative organization. My initial problem with the article was the way the journalist seemed to equate everything to a church format, even though that’s not true. I had skimmed over the sentence that bothered you in my initial reading; the only reason I didn’t address it in my first post.

    Let me sum it up in one: What exactly has been launched? Do you have a link to the project that describes it in any concrete detail?

    No, because it is still in the works to some degree and mostly involving Humanist Chaplaincy people. I’m not directly involved with the project, but Croft is, and he’s already offered to take your questions directly, even by phone, in post 124.

    And what do you mean by ‘”confident advice” aspect’? Most of my focus has been to try and address directly the issues you have with Epstein wanting to make things “churchy” because I have personally engaged with these groups, and issues with student groups in general because I have extensive experience forming, joining, leading, and participating in student groups and know some of the troubles they face. I don’t know how sound the project will end up being, all I know is its not forming new groups, not a conspiracy to take over other groups, and what meetings are and are not like.

  195. says

    I suggest you spend way less time trying to explain your behavior, and much more time simply fixing it.

    There isn’t much to fix, Ichthyic. I used a name I knew, and the user let me know they didn’t appreciate that, and I stopped doing it. I haven’t been defending my use of her first name in an absolute sense — I’ve been defending against the insinuation that it is creepy to look up someone’s username in a moment of curiosity, and against the assertion that I don’t respect anonymity, and against the general tone of bullying. I know it is a rude forum; but rudeness shouldn’t displace honest engagement over a difference of opinion.

    Why was Caine’s first comment about my use of her name disdainful — “nosing about” — instead of just straightforward: “By the way, please don’t use my first name. It’s considered a faux pas.” I suppose the answer might be that it is thought creepy to search for someone’s username; I agree that it can be, depending on the motivation behind the search. Also, it might be that she needed to push back a bit, defensively, against what might have seemed (must have seemed, given what she’s written) like a kind aggressive gesture. If that’s the case, that’s unfortunate. I didn’t mean to convey aggression. Let me assure you, Caine, I’m not aggressing. I wish I hadn’t made the misstep; it was an honest mismatch between my online habits and those prevailing around here.

    I’ll drop the topic now; I’ve said what I want to say about it, and appreciated many of the points people made. Caine, though, I hope you’ll let me know how things seem to you now.

  196. Anath says

    So I guess I’ll have to wait till November.

    Me too. They don’t talk about the project at meetings, just some people hinted at it a couple times so I know the jist, not much more than what the websites says, but enough to tell you that the article was wrong.

    Good now?

  197. Judy L. says

    Yes, there should be atheist churches, by which I mean beautiful buildings and outdoor spaces that offer attractive venues to atheists for their weddings, naming cermonies, and for hosting scientific, political, and academic talks, events, etc. And because these venues will be churches, they can enjoy all the tax-exempt benefits that churches do, and also receive ‘faith-based initiative’ money for providing faith-free support services to their communities. Run by a volunteer or voted-for board of directors, these churches would be a great place for those without faith to come together and raise money for worthy causes, and be a sanctuary for young people escaping FLDS and Quiverfull families. And perhaps such places could start their own versions of 12-step treatment programs that DON’T require those looking to change their lives to include the acknowledgment of any kind of higher power as part of their recovery.

  198. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Zachary Bos —> killfile for terminal insipidity and over-frequently posting, like trolls do.

  199. says

    Nerd of Redhead —> would go in killfile for useless hostility if I weren’t able to simply skip over posts which don’t contain content of interest to me. (For what it is worth, I’m not glad that there’s been such a dogpile here tonight. I don’t mind a little back and forth, but I don’t like seeing what I write misconstrued.)

  200. Rey Fox says

    Am I unusual for placing very little importance in ritual in my life? I hated everything about church, including the obligatory aspect of it, which strikes me as a very important aspect of ritual. So it’s kind of hard for me to engage this argument because I just can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to come to a certain place at a certain time every single week.

  201. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Am I unusual for placing very little importance in ritual in my life?

    I think most people have very little need for ritual in their life beyond the need for wind down for sleep habits. I know I don’t. But I do feel people have a need for socializing and community formation. I just prefer that it be something more more in common than agreeing that deities are bullshit. The Redhead has several knit and game groups. I have Pharyngula.

  202. says

    Post #99 I get the message you think he’s forming a parallel organization and address the issue; my third post in the discussion and immediately after you made the claim in post 97. Previous to 97 you gave the impression that you believed Epstein was against student run groups, not that he was forming an alternative organization.

    As I’ve said several times, the article gives the impression that the HCH is either forming a new group or changing existing organizations in accordance with its vision. I still don’t have a clue what exactly it is doing, but I think if the article’s presentation is so misleading, someone should have mentioned it from the start. Frankly, the write-up I just quoted from gives a similar impression. I seriously have zero idea what this project is, and as polite as James is being I don’t think I should have to call him personally to get very basic information.

    And what do you mean by ‘”confident advice” aspect’?

    I mean the many comments expressing confidence in a particular vision and criticizing others’ that I’ve read over the past several months and that appear in the article and that I’ve quoted. FFS.

    Most of my focus has been to try and address directly the issues you have with Epstein wanting to make things “churchy” because I have personally engaged with these groups, and issues with student groups in general because I have extensive experience forming, joining, leading, and participating in student groups and know some of the troubles they face. I don’t know how sound the project will end up being, all I know is its not forming new groups, not a conspiracy to take over other groups, and what meetings are and are not like.

    And I have experience reading the Stedman/Croft version of what they’re doing and how it contrasts with what others are doing. (And stop using the word “conspiracy.” No one’s suggested anything of the sort.)

    Me too. They don’t talk about the project at meetings, just some people hinted at it a couple times so I know the jist, not much more than what the websites says, but enough to tell you that the article was wrong.

    Good now?

    No. :) I feel like I’ve wasted time. There was some big launch which this article was allegedly about, but we can’t have a real public discussion of it till next month.

  203. says

    zakbos@youknowwhere.tld, would you like me to post your email in this thread?

    It’s not like it took me any more clicks for me to find it than to find Caine’s professional name. (Which may or may not be her real name; I don’t presume to know that.)

    Seriously, you have made a faux pas, and followed it up by exacerbating it with several posts of wordy self-justificatory notpology. Community? I don’t think you know the meaning of the word.

  204. Anath says

    The article gives a lot of impressions. You considered forming new groups / project launch the most important misleading impression, I considered misrepresenting meetings as “church” the most important misleading impression, and that’s also what PZ was griping about in his post. That’s why I didn’t address the ambiguous launch? *shrug*

    I mean the many comments expressing confidence in a particular vision and criticizing others’ that I’ve read over the past several months and that appear in the article and that I’ve quoted. FFS.

    I might read Pharyngula regularly but I rarely jump down to the comments section, so I still have no idea what you’re talking about. The “particular vision” that you mention doesn’t mean anything specific to me… so you don’t need to act as though I should just “know”– that’s why I asked for a definition. I still don’t even know if I participated in any “confidence advice”.

  205. says

    Alethea — if I wanted my information private, I would make an effort to keep it so. You’re creating a false analogy. As for the rest, read the thread — I’ve taken some pains to make distinctions that you’re glossing over.

  206. says

    I didn’t say it was apology; I was just observing (by wondering if you’d read what I’d written) that we aren’t communicating. You were doing a drive-by correction, and I’m standing here with an exasperated look on my face.

  207. consciousness razor says

    Anath:

    I mean the many comments expressing confidence in a particular vision and criticizing others’ that I’ve read over the past several months and that appear in the article and that I’ve quoted. FFS.

    I might read Pharyngula regularly but I rarely jump down to the comments section, so I still have no idea what you’re talking about. The “particular vision” that you mention doesn’t mean anything specific to me… so you don’t need to act as though I should just “know”– that’s why I asked for a definition. I still don’t even know if I participated in any “confidence advice”.

    I think SC is referring to things like this, from the article:

    “When I wrote that,’’ said Epstein, who was appointed the university’s humanist chaplain in 2005, “I didn’t feel prepared to tell people what they should build or to give them a venue.’’

    He feels more prepared now.

    Or how about this, from James Croft in comment #53:

    In short, it is our judgment that the process of building fuller communities based around shared secular values will make our movement much larger, much stronger, and much more diverse than it is currently. Of course, no one HAS to attend. But you will all benefit from our hard work when we get atheist politicians elected, pro-science laws on the books, the government out of people’s bedrooms and an end to religious privilege.

    You can thank us later.

    (Or a number of other public statements they’ve made in recent years regarding their view of and goals for atheism and humanism.)

    Confident, sure, but about what? What is Epstein prepared to do, and exactly what process is Croft describing? The implication is that there is already some known method for achieving these goals; but the research stage hasn’t begun, nor has the project even been formally and publicly launched, nor is it even clear what the project is supposed to be, which indicates that such confidence in having a particular vision about what advice to give is at least exaggerated. I’d also add that not every campus is like Harvard, nor every community like Cambridge. What reason is there to think their model (or the research they may conduct on it) would or should apply to diverse communities in the U.S. or other countries?

  208. says

    There have been a lot of very reasonable questions about the Project in this thread – so many that I think it’s worth posting a full description as a blog post, which I’ll get hosted at a couple of different places so people don’t need to go to my website if that perturbs them.

    Essentially, the project is about researching, experimenting with, and building Humanist communities – building in the sense of providing existing communities resources to grow and develop which they might not have before. If you’ve had any involvement with the SSA, think of it as creating a group-running guide for community groups that are not student groups, which includes a far broader range of resources than a normal group running guide.

    The things we hope to offer include educational programs in Humanism and freethought (I’ve investigated all existing offerings I can find and we think there’s space in the market for something more), advice and resources to create life-cycle ceremonies, training for Humanist leaders and celebrants, a vault of cultural resources (music, poetry, artwork that expresses and explores Humanist values), and more.

    We will be offering these resources drawing on our experience using our own community as a laboratory to try out new things, and documenting what works. We are also conducting research into other thriving Humanist communities to see what they do that is effective. We are not looking to replace or compete with any existing groups.

    We are committed, strongly, to building Humanist groups which are dedicated to the promotion of the full range of Humanist values. That means science and secularism are one part of the picture (in a way they are foundational), but are not our total concern. This puts us rather more in line with organizations like the Ethical Culture Society than some other organizations that describe themselves as “atheist” or “skeptics” groups (I say this for clarity, so you know what we care about, not to suggest that those sorts of groups aren’t marvelous and absolutely essential to our shared success).

    We believe that a significant part of making progress politically is building a strong values-based community, and we believe that the arts, ceremony, and forms of ritual might well help in that effort (we are guided here by numerous studies from multiple disciplines which suggest just that, as well as case-studies of effective values-based organizations). Above all, though, we are committed to empiricism – if something simply doesn’t work, we’re happy to try something else.

    I hope this gives a clearer sense of the project’s aims and goals.

  209. says

    In response to consciousness razor’s eminently reasonable points in 237, which came in as I was typing, our confidence that this is worth trying comes from our initial research. While it is correct that much of the research into Humanist communities themselves has yet to be performed, we have conducted research over the past year into community-building and social movements in general over the past year. This research has encompassed reviewing demographic statistics relating to believers and non-believers, analyzing work like the American Grace studies, reading histories of other freethought movements – the whole gamut. We have put a lot of serious thought into this.

    We also are drawing on a staff with a valuable combined skill-set: John Figdor is the first person to graduate with an MDiv in Humanism from Harvard, which is completely unique – he’s given serious dedicated thought to building Humanist communities over the past couple of years; we have one of the most experienced young campus freethought organizers in the country in Sarah Chandonnet; someone with huge experience in interfaith work and activism in Chris Stedman; I provide a my experience in education, research and political activism; and of course Greg is a well-known voice in the community. So we are confident that we have a very good team who are working hard to create something that will be valuable to us all. \

    Of course it would be dumb to think we’ve got it all figured out – this is all something of a gamble. But we think we have a very solid basis for making that gamble, and we have been able to convince enough people that we’re right to get the ball rolling. Discussions like this are very valuable to us because they let us gauge the feelings of the community towards this sort of endeavor. Of course, it helps if we explain it well in the first instance…

  210. crissakentavr says

    I would say, ‘why does it have to be empty ritual’?

    There is something about doing things every day – because I know that it’s the good thing to do. So maybe a weekly clean-up or soup kitchen isn’t enough.

    But it’s worth a thought. Organizations have benefits of, well, having other people and being organized. Things can be done that you can’t do alone.

  211. consciousness razor says

    Discussions like this are very valuable to us because they let us gauge the feelings of the community towards this sort of endeavor. Of course, it helps if we explain it well in the first instance…

    Indeed, you might want to include “explain it well” in one of your group-running guides. Compared to your recent comments, that Boston Post article is utter garbage. To be fair, compared to most journalism, the article is only mostly garbage.

    No further comment about rituals? They don’t do what you seem to claim they do. And I don’t think we need even more people doing pointless things out of a sense of “tradition.” If they are effective in any way, they’re good at getting people mindlessly rallying around a cause for the wrong reasons, and I want less not more of that, even if the cause is humanism or secularism.

  212. The Ys says

    Well, this mushroomed a bit.

    Zachary, do you go through your neighbour’s mail too? Because the bag sits on the sidewalk or at the end of the driveway, right, and if it’s not padlocked into a container, then that person isn’t trying to safeguard his/her privacy!

    You’re still trying to dance around the fact that you screwed up…and from the way you’re skating around the issue, it seems like you did it on purpose to be creepy and try to unsettle Caine a bit.

    You have serious boundary issues. For the sake of everyone else, I hope you work on them.

  213. chigau () says

    Caine #197

    yeah, ’cause typing Caine is ever so difficult. Really.

    I, myself, am fully capable of spelling “Caine” as “ciane”, “Caien”, “Acine” and other variations.
    I ♥ copypaste.
    —–
    Gee. That James Croft writes really long comments.
    It’s almost like he doesn’t have his own blog.

  214. says

    Chigau:

    I, myself, am fully capable of spelling “Caine” as “ciane”, “Caien”, “Acine” and other variations.

    Don’t forget the ever popular “Cain”. ;D

    Gee. That James Croft writes really long comments.
    It’s almost like he doesn’t have his own blog.

    My thought exactly. Someone likes the sound of his own voice sight of his own typing. I’m tempted to think he doesn’t know about linking.

  215. says

    No further comment about rituals? They don’t do what you seem to claim they do. And I don’t think we need even more people doing pointless things out of a sense of “tradition.” If they are effective in any way, they’re good at getting people mindlessly rallying around a cause for the wrong reasons, and I want less not more of that, even if the cause is humanism or secularism.

    You haven’t provided any evidence to support your claim, and I recognize I haven’t done so either. I have a post written on this very issue which I’ll direct people to when I publish it – I want to marshal as good an argument as I can.

  216. tomh says

    Zachery Bos wrote:
    I pointed to the availability of Caine’s name online as a response to the assertion that I’d violated her anonymity;

    Seems like this is all just done to provoke. Nobody could be this dumb.

  217. says

    James Croft:

    You haven’t provided any evidence to support your claim, and I recognize I haven’t done so either.

    You’ve had a lot of people in this thread say the same thing about rituals, myself included. It’s fair enough to say that rituals can be a draw and some people are attracted them, however, I’d say the amount of atheists who would find them a draw and continue to find them meaningful would be quite small.

    Part of what makes me happy to be an atheist and a skeptic and a humanist is not only dispensing with such nonsense, but being able to use my brain to critically inspect such things.

    I think your desire for certain ideas and goals is causing you to lose sight of what a lot of us are saying, to dismiss it because you don’t want to look at such things critically. Most all the atheists/skeptics/humanists I know (yep, I know it’s anecdata) enjoy thinking and learning. Rituals tend to be on the opposite side of those things, something you can give mindless, repetitive lip service to, nothing more.

  218. MGM says

    consciousness razor did a fine job articulating my concerns about this group, so I won’t try and add to hir points. What I will say is that the candle-burning ritual reminds me (unfavorably) of the way meetings were conducted at my old church. The meetings began with an invocation to God, asking that He bless us with the wisdom to act in accordance with His will, or whatever. It came off instead as giving divine sanction to whatever decision the church came to, and people who tepidly supported the endorsed position were far more zealous and confident in it afterwards, often for no rational reason. I’m concerned that rituals like this, that imbue the community with something special, imbue the decisions made BY the community with something special, which makes them less reproachable.

    I like the idea of meeting with people to promote skepticism, I just don’t want to emulate mindless religious practices I never much cared for anyway. I’d rather not try and replicate the flaws of religious ritual if I didn’t have to.

  219. consciousness razor says

    You haven’t provided any evidence to support your claim, and I recognize I haven’t done so either.

    My claim is that there’s no evidence rituals have the sort of magical effects you describe. The burden is on you to provide such evidence. I’d also argue people remember and internalize the experience of a ritual, not the ideals it is meant to symbolize. They may develop a habit of repeating the ritual, but not necessarily habits directed toward whatever the ritual is supposed to be about.

    I have a post written on this very issue which I’ll direct people to when I publish it – I want to marshal as good an argument as I can.

    Then I’ll check again tomorrow.

  220. says

    Like others have said, I also think that rituals are meaningless, at least on a weekly basis.

    There could something be said for a secular rite of passage into adulthood. There is a custom like this in Germany known under the name of Jugendweihe, though this practice was abused ideologically under the Communists in East Germany. And some might also argue that it is a meaningless substitute for similar religious ceremonies such as communion or confirmation. But if Japan can have a SECULAR, public holiday and ceremony for adulthood (成人式), then why not Western countries. I would be interested to hear the opinion especially of ritual-adverse people on this thread about this.

    For birth, marriage and funerals, there are already plenty of options for celebrating those in a secular way, and that’s fine. And birthdays, anniversaries etc are secular anyways (though in some cultures, the tradition of “name days” is undoubtedly a religious one in origin).

    Now, I find the idea of a weekly ritual with candles etc ridiculous too, but I think it would be nice if more people actually did get together to organise themselves. Not just for the community building aspect, as some have mentioned, but because atheists/the non-religious need their voice to be heard better. Even in good ol’ Europe, plenty of religious privileges persist, and most politicians don’t have the political will to abolish them.

    Finally, a word to Zach: if you can’t find it in yourself to apologise (and I’m not talking about a non-apology here), then stop digging and just shut up about it. You’re not doing yourself any favours by going on and on about this.

  221. says

    I think your desire for certain ideas and goals is causing you to lose sight of what a lot of us are saying, to dismiss it because you don’t want to look at such things critically.

    Caine, I’m not sure how you could possibly substantiate this claim from my posts here. I’ve invited people to submit their argument and evidence in favor of their position, offered to present my argument in a fuller form (after accepting I haven’t articulated it fully here), and have stated that if we’re wrong we’ll change our minds. What about that is dismissive or uncritical?

    My claim is that there’s no evidence rituals have the sort of magical effects you describe. The burden is on you to provide such evidence. I’d also argue people remember and internalize the experience of a ritual, not the ideals it is meant to symbolize. They may develop a habit of repeating the ritual, but not necessarily habits directed toward whatever the ritual is supposed to be about.

    I haven’t made any claim that is remotely “magical” – I’ve made some quite minor claims regarding the benefits of certain sorts of intelligently-devised, tested group practices, while accepting I might be wrong. You have not just contested this claim but made a positive claim of your own – that rituals “If they are effective in any way, [are] good at getting people mindlessly rallying around a cause for the wrong reasons”.

    I think you would want to provide evidence that this would be the likely outcome with the sort of things I’ve proposed here.

    More later :)

  222. tomh says

    James Croft wrote:

    But you will all benefit from our hard work when we get atheist politicians elected, … and an end to religious privilege.

    Do you think this is an achievable goal in your lifetime? That is a serious question, because most people don’t realize just how deeply ingrained religious privilege is in the US. State and federal laws and regulations contain thousands of exemptions and privileges for religious organizations, privileges that go far beyond the tax-exempt status for churches that most people are familiar with. Tax laws, zoning laws, employment, civil rights, copyright law, child abuse laws, health and safety laws, immigration … it is very difficult to find an area of law that doesn’t include exemptions and privileges for religion. Some of these give huge advantages to church-run businesses over similar secular businesses, others place a heavy financial burden on ordinary citizens.

    In the face of that reality, I’d be very interested to know just how your plans will put “an end to religious privilege” in America?

  223. says

    Yikes, that got annoying pretty quickly. Reading some of the above felt like I was going through a thread full of comments posted by a particularly annoying creationist or MRA.

    Sigh, I think this is going to be fairly long and rambling as I just read through all of the comments and have lots of things bobbing through my head. Sorry about that.

    A basic faux pas on the internet is outing people. It gets done but many people will look pretty badly upon that person. I am pretty active in the local kink and fetish community and often use Fetlife to keep in touch with other people. Now, this is an area where outing people is considered especially bad. There are a lot of people that are very concerned about their family, friends, or co-workers finding out that they like to be beaten, wear women’s clothing or whatever floats there boat. So outing of others is considered a rather serious offence. To out someone is a great way of finding yourself rather unpopular with everyone else. The issue of names really comes up when I know the real name of someone but also know the name they go by in the community or online. When I am talking to someone and another person comes up I use their chosen name unless I know using their real name is acceptable. Why? Because that is what they want and I respect their right to privacy. I am not going to be an ass and assume that using their real is okay before I know it is what they want.

    As for rituals. I am with PZ and many others here: Blech!
    I do not understand the need for candle lighting, chanting, incantations, moments of silence or anything of these things. They have never held any meaning for me and they usually just make me field weird and uncomfortable because they are so empty and devoid of actual meaning. They do not strengthen my understanding of these issues, they do not make me think more about them, or remember various ideas. I have never been a member of a church (well, as a kid I did go to an Anglican church but to be honest all I remember is colouring Jesus and pals with my favourite crayons, the metallics), so perhaps I also am a little lost to these concepts. The social aspects also seem weird. Why not just make some like minded friends? Maybe things are different in many places in the US when compared to Canada but I did not need a church to find other atheist and skeptical friends, have potluck dinners and enjoy myself. The internet, school, skeptic pub nights and science clubs all made this rather easy.

  224. Koshka says

    I am not a fan of mass rituals. Even secular ones. Why do they play the national anthem at the football? Why am I expected to stand up for it?

    My partner and I never got married. It appeared to me to be a ritual to satisfy the family (even a family that is largely non religious).

    I also don’t like the symbolic lighting of candles. To me it is just a big wankfest about showing every one how much you care.

  225. Otrame says

    Ah, now I get it. The “market” has room.

    Well, fine. Y’all got to meetings and light candles. I mean that. You enjoy it, then go do it. Have fun.

    But I’m with Louis. Do not claim to speak for me. I feel no need for your “structure”. I don’t believe your “arts, ceremony and forms of ritual” will accomplish anything, least of all build a “values-based community” (whatever the hell that means–and a side note here: you might want to avoid that phrase because it has been very badly abused by some very not-nice people in recent years).

    I’m getting cynical in my old age. This whole thing feels like a boy band put together by a bunch of record company execs. It might make some money, but it ain’t rock and roll.

  226. says

    James Croft:

    I’ve invited people to submit their argument and evidence in favor of their position, offered to present my argument in a fuller form (after accepting I haven’t articulated it fully here), and have stated that if we’re wrong we’ll change our minds. What about that is dismissive or uncritical?

    Yes, you’ve invited people to “submit their argument and evidence in favor of their position”, however, you seem to happily ignore what people say in favour of continuing to say, in effect, “no, no, it will be great! Wait and see!” You also don’t seem to quite grok how condescending “submit your argument and evidence” happens to be. You haven’t presented any evidence yourself, you know.

    People who are atheists are telling you how they feel, which I would assume is at least somewhat important in regard to your goals. People have been presenting their arguments, over and over and you read them and simply launch into another blog post. You aren’t communicating with people, you’re communicating at them.

    As has been said by many people, including myself, if you want to turn your atheism into a church complete with happy dance magic rituals, have at it. I don’t think anyone honestly cares about that, however, don’t include me under your umbrella. One thing is clear – you really need to stop this talk of sweeping all atheists under your umbrella, especially when many of the people you’re allied with spend an inordinate amount of time whining about us nasty Gnu atheists. Many people in this thread are telling you they don’t like the idea and why they don’t like it. From where I sit, you’re more intent on talking over people than listening to them and considering what they say.

    It’s not just the rituals I dislike or consider meaningless. It’s this sense I get that it’s all a game, look, we go to church too! We really are just like you! I don’t want to be involved in anything like that. I don’t need a church, atheist or not to be good, I’m not going to go through the pretense of churchgoing to appear good to theists, etc. I’m fine the way I am, being an outspoken gnu atheist. I can take care of socializing myself.

    I think the whole notion is misguided, at best.

  227. says

    Otrame:

    least of all build a “values-based community” (whatever the hell that means–and a side note here: you might want to avoid that phrase because it has been very badly abused by some very not-nice people in recent years).

    QFT. I tend to stay very far away from people with the “values ___” gleam in their eye. Never turns out well.

  228. says

    Pelamun:

    But if Japan can have a SECULAR, public holiday and ceremony for adulthood (成人式), then why not Western countries. I would be interested to hear the opinion especially of ritual-adverse people on this thread about this.

    :shrug: That sort of thing wouldn’t bother me if people want to indulge in it in the first place. It’s a one time occasion and a serious event for a lot of people*.

    I view that very differently than I do an attempt to mimic churchgoing and church rituals on a weekly basis.

    *I don’t have kids and that sort of a thing would have embarrassed the hell out me when I was young.

  229. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    @Zachary Bos

    Actually, I didn’t use his name in a punitive way. I knew his name, and I was adopting a personal tone in my message. Then when he called me out on it, I pointed out that I wasn’t outing him.

    What a load of fucking tripe. “adopting a personal tone,” my arse. No, what you did is contemptible, creepy shit and strongly suggests the conclusion that you are a contemptible, creepy piece of shit. Also arrogant as hell. Fuck off.

  230. anuran says

    I don’t believe in God the Father Almighty,
    Because he didn’t make heaven and earth:
    Nor in Jesus Christ his fictional Son and nobody’s Lord,
    Who wasn’t conceived by anyone,
    Nor born of the Virgin Mary,
    Never suffered under Pontius Pilate,

    Sorry, it just doesn’t work.

  231. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    I’m actually thinking of going to the Dance Church. Which isn’t about religion, but dancing in a group improv, contact optional, which can be a very meditative and sometimes intense experience. For me, the point of dance is that it’s not only about social bonding, but getting comfortable with my body and its abilities, and keeping fit, and self-expression. So there’s another secular alternative, in spite of the name.

  232. says

    Author: opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces
    Comment:
    @Zachary Bos

    What a load of fucking tripe. “adopting a personal tone,” my arse. No, what you did is contemptible, creepy shit and strongly suggests the conclusion that you are a contemptible, creepy piece of shit. Also arrogant as hell. Fuck off.

    This is what I mean by a bullying manner, as opposed to engagement with what I wrote by way of an after-the-fact explanation. Of course my thought process wasn’t, “Hmm, let’s see, how do I turn this response into a form of personal address? Oh yes, I’ll use the poster’s name.” It was a reflexive decision, available to me BECAUSE I knew the name. What I did was innocent, and would have been a faux pas if persons didn’t insist on there being in my motive some willingness to flaunt local standards of privacy. There wasn’t. If you can say otherwise, you’re a better mind-reader than most. There is a difference between rude and vociferous disagreement (well within bounds) and a bullying, coercive which relies on mutual legitimization to “win” an argument as subtle as what another user’s intentions one. I’m pretty dispassionate about online discussion, so there isn’t any venom (just some disappointment) when I say that my final on things is that Caine rudely issued a corrective statement to someone she saw as a naive newbie, and when that user (that is, me) responded naively with her first name rather than her pseudonym, she latched on that as a point of principle. Others came to her defense, on principle, but the principle wasn’t at stake. I’m not arguing for the use of full names without limitation. That’s evident from my replies to all the responses, responses which have ranged from condescending to hostile. “Do you through your neighbor’s mail?” No, but I did at one time use someone’s first name in an unthinking fashion. They aren’t the same.

  233. Matt Penfold says

    Zachary Bos,

    Tell me, were you an insufferable arsehole when you were a Catholic, or is it something you have learnt since ?

    You were asked not to use someone’s real name. That should have been it. You should have acceded to the request.

    If you cannot be bothered to follow the rules here, leave. We will not miss you, since we have little time for self-serving pompous fuckwits such as yourself.

  234. Matt Penfold says

    Zachary Bos,

    And quit pretending you are being bullied. No one here is fooled by that bit of dishonesty. It is you who are the bully.

    Please just fuck off.

  235. Carlie says

    It was a reflexive decision, available to me BECAUSE I knew the name. What I did was innocent, and would have been a faux pas if persons didn’t insist on there being in my motive some willingness to flaunt local standards of privacy.

    Then why did you immediately justify it on the basis of her having just been rude to you, if there was no motive behind it?

  236. Otrame says

    Sorry, my Sundays are taken up playing MMORPGs in my underpants.

    Yeah, me too.*

    *For the Horde!!!

  237. Otrame says

    Zachary

    1. It is clear that you haven’t read the comments on this blog very long or you would know that complaints about rudeness get nothing but scorn.

    2. Nobody believes your intention in using a real name was anything but an attempt to bully Caine.

    3. The fact that you tried to bully Caine, of all people, shows that either you really, really haven’t read here much or that you are every bit the idiot you appear to be.

    4. When a number of people tell you that you appear a certain way, you really should stop and think that maybe you come off that way, whether you meant to or not (although, see #2).

    5. The people who kept telling you to stop digging were actually trying to help you.

    6. Please stick the flounce.

    7. No, really.

  238. Matt Penfold says

    The excuse that using Caine’s real name was a simple mistake is bollocks.

    I know the real names of a good number of people who comment on this blog. Others here know the real names as well.

    We all know better than to use them on this blog, unless the person has specifically said we can.

  239. says

    You were asked not to use someone’s real name. That should have been it. You should have acceded to the request.

    And it was “it”. I had more to say, because I thought was useful to make a distinction between acceding to someone’s request not to use the first name, and conceding that I’d outed them.

    If you cannot be bothered to follow the rules here, leave. We will not miss you, since we have little time for self-serving pompous fuckwits such as yourself.

    You’re confusing rules with manners. I’d apologize for a faux pas, if you’d stop insisting it was a violation of the rules instead.

    <And quit pretending you are being bullied.
    I don’t know how to interpret “Please just fuck off” as anything other than bullying.

    Then why did you immediately justify it on the basis of her having just been rude to you, if there was no motive behind it?

    It wasn’t a justification, just a bit of context.

    He did not behave like someone who had made a genuine mistake.

    Quite right; I would have behaved that way only if I’d been alerted to having made a genuine mistake. Instead I have behaved in response like 1) someone who made a genuine mistake and 2) who has been accused of a flagrant, hostile violation.

    It is clear that you haven’t read the comments on this blog very long or you would know that complaints about rudeness get nothing but scorn.

    I haven’t complained about the rudeness. That the rudeness was there from Caine’s original response onward, suggests a lack of willingness to believe, from the outset, that I (an outsider, maybe, or in your eyes, a newbie) could have made a genuine mistake.

    Nobody believes your intention in using a real name was anything but an attempt to bully Caine.

    I’ve gathered as much. Even so, I wasn’t.

    <<The fact that you tried to bully Caine…
    This is your belief about my state of mind; it isn’t a fact.

    … that you are every bit the idiot you appear to be.

    This is the kind of rudeness (which doesn’t bother me) which amounts to bullying (which does). The reason I’m continuing to participate in this exchange is because I think it is important to resist bullying, and to call it out.

    When a number of people tell you that you appear a certain way, you really should stop and think that maybe you come off that way, whether you meant to or not (although, see #2).

    I wonder if you’d thought as much about whether I’m being sincere, as I’ve thought as much about how my comments appear to others.

    The people who kept telling you to stop digging were actually trying to help you.

    I can appreciate that. Some of those people were also helping to prop up a kind of group-think, which has now transformed a suspicion of my motives into a “fact”.

    We all know better than to use them on this blog, unless the person has specifically said we can.

    Well, yes. That’s how that would work. I don’t often participate in threads here, and didn’t on the old Pharyngula, so I wouldn’t have known that. But in some of the places I do participate more frequently, it hasn’t been unusual to address someone by first name. Or even to do it, for the first time, by inviting them to explain their preference (e.g., by asking, “if I may”).

  240. John Morales says

    The Chaplaincy is staffed by people who are extremely dedicated to the cause of creating a more reasonable, humane and secular society.

    Surely, surely it’s a Poe!

    (The fucking Chaplaincy?!)

  241. echidna says

    ZB@273

    And it was “it”.

    No, you’ve not let up at all. You are behaving like a mangy terrier. You’re even making me feel uncomfortable, and this is the first time I’ve commented in this thread.

    Just go away.

  242. Matt Penfold says

    And it was “it”. I had more to say, because I thought was useful to make a distinction between acceding to someone’s request not to use the first name, and conceding that I’d outed them.

    There was nothing more to say, accept admit you were in the wrong and apologise. You did neither, which tells us your claims it was a simple mistake are not true.

    You’re confusing rules with manners. I’d apologize for a faux pas, if you’d stop insisting it was a violation of the rules instead.

    It was a violation of the rules. That you refuse to accept that tells us that you are not genuine in your claims it was a mistake.

    You broke the rules, and you were rude. You refuse to admit you did either, and refuse to apologise. As a result you are no longer welcome here.

    Quite right; I would have behaved that way only if I’d been alerted to having made a genuine mistake. Instead I have behaved in response like 1) someone who made a genuine mistake and 2) who has been accused of a flagrant, hostile violation.

    No, it was not a genuine mistake. If it had been you would have admitted as much, apologised and if you were really decent, left. You did none of those things.

    If you will not behave like a decent person, and you seem to be admitting you will not then fuck off.

  243. Anath says

    237

    Maybe? That might make sense but (s)he just seemed to be using the term in a very specific way, then became somewhat condescending when I didn’t know exactly what (s)he meant. I’d like to know from them whether or not the stuff you posted is ‘right’.

    As for your final bit, I feel as though a lot of the comments about the project are just a kneejerk reaction. People cite how some of the members waffle about being friendly with religion, or are “mean” to gnu atheists, etc. but the project description doesn’t have anything to do with either of those things… so how is that criticism valid? Just because you don’t like a person’s stand on one thing means they’re always wrong and incapable of conducting a successful project? Whether the findings work elsewhere is a worthwhile question to pursue, not an argument against the project.

    I’m as skeptical as anyone else but I’m optimistic. Why not? If it helps just one group it will be worthwhile.

    (and for the record, I consider myself a gnu atheist)

  244. says

    No, it was not a genuine mistake.

    You’re not in a position to know this.

    If it had been you would have admitted as much
    I wish I’d have done so. I made a faux pas, and offered someone context for why it happened in order to make clear that I wasn’t saying so in order to evade the accusation of hostility.

    Instead of making right the faux pas which users alerted me to, I engaged with their hostility, letting them know that their other explanations were off base. I’d be happy to apologize for a faux pas… if I’d be allowed to admit I made one, instead of being held accountable for (a short list) pomposity, evasiveness, disregard for anonymity, idiocy, and so on. I’m acting appropriately defensively for the show of hostility here.

    That’s all from me about this. apologised and if you were really decent, left. You did none of those things.

    Sorry, no. I chose to engage in a conversation, and try to explain my point of view, as against conceding that I’d had some motive I didn’t. I’m not inclined to wilt in the face of bullying. Maybe that’s naive of me.

  245. John Morales says

    Zachary, if you’re gonna keep posting, at least change the channel from your boring whining.

    On-topic: What do you say about the fucking Chaplaincy?

  246. says

    When someone is engaged in an earnest discussion, and you rouse yourself to call that “boring whining”, you seem to be wearing your bully-hat. I can take it; I just don’t understand it.

    Changing the record: I think the chaplaincy is doing good work that engages their folks. I do think there is a problem with factionalism: that there is one way of doing things, the Harvard way, and other groups or individuals or points of view may be thrown under the bus if they don’t agree. They could be doing a lot more to avoid the appearance of such an attitude.

  247. Matt Penfold says

    You’re not in a position to know this.

    I am in a position to look at how you responded. The way you responded is not how a person who made a genuine mistake would have responded.

    It is true I cannot be certain, but I am not looking for certainty.

    Instead of making right the faux pas which users alerted me to, I engaged with their hostility, letting them know that their other explanations were off base. I’d be happy to apologize for a faux pas… if I’d be allowed to admit I made one, instead of being held accountable for (a short list) pomposity, evasiveness, disregard for anonymity, idiocy, and so on. I’m acting appropriately defensively for the show of hostility here.

    You have not offered an unqualified apology as of yet. That tells us you are not being genuine in claiming you made a mistake.

    You are being accused of being dishonest because you are being dishonest. If that upsets you, good.

    Sorry, no. I chose to engage in a conversation, and try to explain my point of view, as against conceding that I’d had some motive I didn’t. I’m not inclined to wilt in the face of bullying. Maybe that’s naive of me.

    No, it is just pathetic.

    Let’s say you did just make a mistake. What you should have done, preferably before having others alert you to the fact, is own up to that mistake. An example:

    “I realise I just used Caine’s real name when I should not have done. I am truly sorry, and apologise unreservedly to Caine. I hope my mistake has not caused her any inconvenience.”

    You offered nothing like that as an apology. And fuck off with the bullying claims. You are the bully.

  248. says

    Zachary Bos:

    You’re not in a position to know this.

    I just read the bits in which you first used a real name associated with a ‘nym. You did in fact intentionally use a real name, and then attempted to justify this in the ensuing posts.

    First, it’s creepy piercing even the token anonymity used here. If you’d desired to see what kind of poster a regular might be, you could do something other than stalk them — say, check their posts right fucking here, on Pharyngula. Or you could hang out before posting, observe the character of regular posters.

    No. Your initial use of a proper name was blatantly intentional, a signal that you had found out the real person behind the identity. I am in a position to know this because of your actions that followed. You did not behave as a person who had made a simple mistake. That person would’ve said, “Sorry — I apologize. I wasn’t thinking. It won’t happen again.” And if you thought the other person was an asshole, you might have posted that opinion, as well.

    All of that would be within etiquette.

    What you did goes against all etiquette on every board on the fucking internet. That’s not a rule invented here on Pharyngula. So you have no excuse. Not one. And if your character is not of sufficient quality to admit you did something wrong, you deserve no quarter.

  249. John Morales says

    Zachary:

    Changing the record: I think the chaplaincy is doing good work that engages their folks.

    Bah — I’ll spare you what I think of your conceit.

    (Do you even know what a fucking chaplain is?

    (Why not call them fucking witch-doctors, while you’re at it?))

  250. says

    The way you responded is not how a person who made a genuine mistake would have responded.

    And yet…

    It is true I cannot be certain, but I am not looking for certainty.

    Between the natural inclination to defend those you know against those you don’t, and your lack of certainty, you’ve actually ended up barking up the wrong tree.

    You have not offered an unqualified apology as of yet. That tells us you are not being genuine in claiming you made a mistake.

    No; it tells you that you’ve been hostile to someone who would have apologize for a faux pas, but don’t apologize for… what you’re saying is going on.

    You are being accused of being dishonest because you are being dishonest. If that upsets you, good.

    Sorry, no. I chose to engage in a conversation, and try to explain my point of view, as against conceding that I’d had some motive I didn’t. I’m not inclined to wilt in the face of bullying. Maybe that’s naive of me.

    Let’s say you did just make a mistake. What you should have done, preferably before having others alert you to the fact, is own up to that mistake.

    Please don’t tell me what I should have done, “if”. I did make a genuine mistake. You’re missing the context I keep reminding you of — Caine’s original message to me was hostile, and the messages since have all been hostile. An apology would be dishonest, because it would be, I don’t know, political.

    The path to detente would need you to back off the hostility — no, it actually needn’t concern you. I’ll see if Caine wants to respond to my invitation above (“Will you let me know how things look know?”).

  251. John Morales says

    Zachary:

    The path to detente would need you to back off the hostility

    detente?! So, you’re a fucking accommodationist, too.

    (Your path, not mine. You want to grovel at the foot of religion, your prerogative; we’re not as craven as you)

  252. says

    Zachary Bos:

    An apology would be dishonest, because it would be, I don’t know, political.

    Did you do something wrong? If you did, an apology is in order, whatever your feelings towards the one you wronged. If you did not do something wrong, no apology is in order.

    You apparently feel you did nothing wrong. This bolsters the case your “slip” was intentional.

  253. says

    nigelTheBold:
    Comment:
    Zachary Bos:

    I just read the bits in which you first used a real name associated with a ‘nym.

    Not first; the only time.

    You did in fact intentionally use a real name…

    With what intention, is a relevant question.

    … and then attempted to justify this in the ensuing posts.

    This isn’t the case. I explained why it came that I *did* use the name… that I’d known it before, that I had no hostile intention, that it didn’t occur to me that not using the pseudonym would be taken as a serious trespass.

    First, it’s creepy piercing even the token anonymity used here.

    Now I know. Hence, faux pas.

    If you’d desired to see what kind of poster a regular might be, you could do something other than stalk them — say, check their posts right fucking here, on Pharyngula. Or you could hang out before posting, observe the character of regular posters. No.

    Actually, I’ve been a reader of Pharyngula for years. And I believe I came to search for Caine’s name when I learned she was a photographer.

    I don’t believe “stalking” is an appropriate term for this.

    Your initial use of a proper name was blatantly intentional…

    Actually, it wasn’t. It was offhand. I don’t know what makes you so unwilling to believe that I couldn’t have made a genuine faux pas.

    … a signal that you had found out the real person behind the identity.

    No, a consequence that I happened to know the real name behind the identity.

    “Sorry — I apologize. I wasn’t thinking. It won’t happen again.” And if you thought the other person was an asshole, you might have posted that opinion, as well.

    I would have apologized to a complaint; I couldn’t honestly apologize to antagonism.

    What you did goes against all etiquette on every board on the fucking internet. That’s not a rule invented here on Pharyngula. So you have no excuse.

    You’re simply wrong in thinking that this is a universal rule. You shouldn’t need to claim the universality of a practice in order to justify your sense of outrage. I’m happy to follow the rules on FTB; I hadn’t realized I was violating them, and certainly wasn’t doing so intentionally.

    And if your character is not of sufficient quality to admit you did something wrong, you deserve no quarter.

    That’s about as menacing as it gets.

  254. says

    John Morales:

    detente?! So, you’re a fucking accommodationist, too.

    What is this, sarcasm? Civility is not the same as accommodation. And interpersonal relations are not the same as inter-group identity dynamics.

    I don’t like rewarding bullying behavior; that’s the opposite of accommodationism.

  255. Matt Penfold says

    Between the natural inclination to defend those you know against those you don’t, and your lack of certainty, you’ve actually ended up barking up the wrong tree.

    It is true I do not know you, and given your behaviour here I have no desire to get to know you.

    However you are simply being dishonest, and that is not acceptable. You made a stupid comment that I could not know whether you had made a genuine mistake or not.

    Well in that I cannot access your mind to check you are correct, but to accept that as an answer would be to deny we could ever know a person’s motivations. The only way we have of knowing is to do what I did. Look at what the person says, and how they behave.

    You did not offer an apology, which someone who made a genuine mistake would have done. So why persist in expecting us to believe it was a genuine mistake. You are not fooling us, so why keep trying ?

    No; it tells you that you’ve been hostile to someone who would have apologize for a faux pas, but don’t apologize for… what you’re saying is going on.

    You have offered no apology. I simply do not believe you when you say the reason you have not is because we have been hostile. That does not matter. You owe Caine an apology, and you should have made it regardless of any hostility.

    Please don’t tell me what I should have done, “if”. I did make a genuine mistake. You’re missing the context I keep reminding you of — Caine’s original message to me was hostile, and the messages since have all been hostile. An apology would be dishonest, because it would be, I don’t know, political.

    I am telling you to behave decently. It seems you object to being asked to do that.

    And stop the lying. It was not a mistake on your part, so quit pretending it was.

    The path to detente would need you to back off the hostility — no, it actually needn’t concern you. I’ll see if Caine wants to respond to my invitation above (“Will you let me know how things look know?”).

    No, you can fuck off. Or maybe it is time PZ banned you. Using someone’s real name is a banable offence after all.

    If really did make a genuine mistake then the next post I expect to see from you is an unreserved apology to Caine. You owe her one, so there is no reason not to offer one.

    Prove me wrong by your actions.

  256. John Morales says

    Zachary, I don’t give a shit about your self-justifications, but I note you evade the implication of the nomenclature.

    (Coward, you are)

  257. says

    John Morales:

    (Your path, not mine. You want to grovel at the foot of religion, your prerogative; we’re not as craven as you)

    Nor as intellectually dishonest.

    That’s what disturbs me about accomodationism — it’s not just caving to aggressiveness from the “other” camp, it’s an outright betrayal of the very ideas for which we stand: intellectual rigor and honesty, personal commitment to a well-lived life, and an unwavering dedication to reality.

    These are ideals I hold dear. I’m not about to sacrifice them just because the majority wish the false comforts of unexamined faith, and hope to foist their theidiocy* on the rest of us.

     

    * This is like theodicy, only it’s the problem of god evidenced by the stupidity of his followers.

  258. John Morales says

    Zachary:

    [1] What is this, sarcasm? [2] Civility is not the same as accommodation. [3] And interpersonal relations are not the same as inter-group identity dynamics.

    1. It is what it appears to be — my pointed opinion.

    2. No, it ain’t — nor is compromise with a problem the solution.

    3. Irrelevant.

    I don’t like rewarding bullying behavior; that’s the opposite of accommodationism.

    You are so very disingenuous.

    We are both but commenters here; you write whatever you want, I do likewise.

    (In what sense do I have a power imbalance over you, so that I can bully you?

    (No victim, you))

  259. says

    nigelTheBold:

    You apparently feel you did nothing wrong. This bolsters the case your “slip” was intentional.

    I agree, it does. Even so, the conclusion that the case is driving toward happens to be wrong. I’m not blind to the way my persistence in this conversation may be taken up as a sign that I’m being “merely” defensive. Truth is, that a person who is antagonized may react reasonably to defend their behavior. That’s what I’m doing; well, explaining it.

    I didn’t say it was a “slip”, I said I meant nothing by it.

    I’ve just found an email I wrote to Caine some time ago (here I’m reconstructing my reason for getting in touch with her) with a question about using some of her photography for a publication. You’ve no reason to believe it… but then, you have no reason to believe that my faux pas was a hostile (or idiotic, etc.) as some have stated.

  260. Anath says

    280

    I think the title is stupid. I did argue with Stedman about it, but I’m not totally convinced by the reasoning; which is more or less that they do basically the same thing as religious chaplains (weddings, counseling, organizing programs, etc) so assuming the title a good way for outsiders to understand what they do rather than making up some new obscure term. It’s my understanding that they go through similar training to Christian chaplains in terms of the counseling types of things as well.

  261. says

    Matt Penfold
    Comment:

    It is true I do not know you, and given your behaviour here I have no desire to get to know you.

    You’re free to that opinion. You’re not making such a case for yourself, either, Matt, but I’m prepared to learn that I’m wrong about that.

    However you are simply being dishonest, and that is not acceptable.

    Patently untrue, I’m sorry.

    You made a stupid comment that I could not know whether you had made a genuine mistake or not. Well in that I cannot access your mind to check you are correct, but to accept that as an answer would be to deny we could ever know a person’s motivations. The only way we have of knowing is to do what I did. Look at what the person says, and how they behave.

    I’m content that I’ve said enough to answer the question of why I used Caine’s first name.

    So why persist in expecting us to believe it was a genuine mistake. You are not fooling us, so why keep trying ?

    Idealism, I suppose. I’d like to believe that persistent, clear, and frank communication can break through.

    You owe Caine an apology, and you should have made it regardless of any hostility.

    I actually disagree with that on principle. If you can’t think of an example where someone who has made a faux pas may be right in withholding an apology until they’re received some sign of good will, you’re not being very imaginative.

    Please don’t tell me what I should have done, “if”. I did make a genuine mistake. You’re missing the context I keep reminding you of — Caine’s original message to me was hostile, and the messages since have all been hostile. An apology would be dishonest, because it would be, I don’t know, political.

    I am telling you to behave decently… Prove me wrong by your actions.

    If what I’ve written already won’t persuade you to drop the hostility, I don’t know what will.

  262. says

    Precisely what consciousness razor says in #237. (Which reminds me that I meant to add cr to my Molly nomination list.)

    The article gives a lot of impressions. You considered forming new groups / project launch the most important misleading impression, I considered misrepresenting meetings as “church” the most important misleading impression, and that’s also what PZ was griping about in his post. That’s why I didn’t address the ambiguous launch? *shrug*

    The article misdescribed the project, and I would think that would be something to clarify and correct from the start. I don’t think you actually read the article until a while after you started responding to me. And your comments about unity and consistency don’t appear consistent with James’ description.

    I might read Pharyngula regularly but I rarely jump down to the comments section, so I still have no idea what you’re talking about. The “particular vision” that you mention doesn’t mean anything specific to me… so you don’t need to act as though I should just “know”– that’s why I asked for a definition. I still don’t even know if I participated in any “confidence advice”.

    “Confident advice.” I quoted from B&W above and supplied a link. (Google “Chris Stedman Butterflies & Wheels” or do a search there to get some of the flavor.) I’ve quoted some of the overconfident and arrogant comments on this thread and in the article, and so have others.

    Maybe? That might make sense but (s)he just seemed to be using the term in a very specific way, then became somewhat condescending when I didn’t know exactly what (s)he meant. I’d like to know from them whether or not the stuff you posted is ‘right’.

    What are you talking about? The things cr quoted are among those I quoted above. Yes, it’s right.

    ***

    We are committed, strongly, to building Humanist groups which are dedicated to the promotion of the full range of Humanist values. That means science and secularism are one part of the picture (in a way they are foundational), but are not our total concern. This puts us rather more in line with organizations like the Ethical Culture Society than some other organizations that describe themselves as “atheist” or “skeptics” groups (I say this for clarity, so you know what we care about, not to suggest that those sorts of groups aren’t marvelous and absolutely essential to our shared success).

    This implies something inaccurate. Science and skepticism are not the total concern of all of the other groups or, of course, of the larger community. And given that when it came to a fundamental humanist issue (Sojourners and the LGBT ad), Stedman bashed those defending humanist values, I question whether your understanding of humanism matches mine. You seem to be more interested in declaring your version of humanism the thing and insinuating that humanism isn’t important to others. And your ideas about humanism have a lot of faith faithy faith faith about them.

    While it is correct that much of the research into Humanist communities themselves has yet to be performed, we have conducted research over the past year into community-building and social movements in general over the past year.

    I’ve conducted research into community-building and social movements for a lot longer than that. But like I said, I look forward to seeing this when you make it public (soon?).

    This research has encompassed reviewing demographic statistics relating to believers and non-believers, analyzing work like the American Grace studies, reading histories of other freethought movements – the whole gamut. We have put a lot of serious thought into this.

    Well, I hope you had time to go beyond American Grace and dive into the whole Templeton catalogue.

  263. says

    nigelTheBold:

    That’s what disturbs me about accomodationism — it’s not just caving to aggressiveness from the “other” camp, it’s an outright betrayal of the very ideas for which we stand: intellectual rigor and honesty, personal commitment to a well-lived life, and an unwavering dedication to reality. These are ideals I hold dear. I’m not about to sacrifice them just because the majority wish the false comforts of unexamined faith, and hope to foist their theidiocy* on the rest of us.

    We agree entirely on this.

  264. John Morales says

    Anath,

    … but I’m not totally convinced by the reasoning; which is more or less that they do basically the same thing as religious chaplains (weddings, counseling, organizing programs, etc)

    Nor should you be; a chaplain is a religion’s representative in a lay organisation; they say they’re not religious whilst calling themselves a religious name and indulging in religious thinking with religious rituals.

    (How plausible is that?)

  265. says

    Zachary:

    With what intention, is a relevant question.

    I can only surmise, but from you passive-aggressive personality, I’d guess it was used for intimidation.

    Now I know. Hence, faux pas.

    How long have you been posting on the internet? As I said, this isn’t new to Pharyngula. This is a common bit of etiquette. It should be one of the first things you understand when posting on-line.

    And I believe I came to search for Caine’s name when I learned she was a photographer.

    Then you are either lying now, or you lied when you said:

    As for nosing about, my reason for checking the results on your name was to try to understand where you’re coming from. If you’d turned out to be a habitual flame-baiter, I wouldn’t have bothered responding.

    Which is it? I’d like to know which lie I’m supposed to believe.

    I would have apologized to a complaint; I couldn’t honestly apologize to antagonism.

    So, this is antagonism?

    Caine wrote:
    By the way, if you want to go nosing about in regard to me, fine, however, I use a nym here for a reason. Try using it next time, it’s conveniently located right above every comment I make.

    That doesn’t seem very antagonistic to me.

    You’re simply wrong in thinking that this is a universal rule.

    Really? So it’s common practice to use people’s real name when they have a pseudonym on a board? Especially boards which cover sensitive topics like politics and religion?

    I guess I’ve been doin’ it wrong.

    That’s about as menacing as it gets.

    Really? I thought you said you were a long-time reader.

    But yes, that’s about as menacing as I get. In case I have frightened you, I’m very mild-mannered. The “no quarter” was in reference to the “hostile environment” here. You pretty much deserve the hostility directed at you, and your further actions haven’t mitigated that at all.

    Also, in case you think you can intimidate me by outing me, my real name is Tony.

  266. says

    John Morales:

    To observe that your behavior is bullying (it may unintentionally be so) is not the same as saying that I believe myself to be a victim. It would be disingenuous for someone to claim that the members of a message thread can’t be either welcoming or unwelcoming in their collective tone, or even in the tone of a sub-set of their members. Being frankly unwelcoming, using personal epithets, and so on, is a form of bullying. I mean, you know this, right?

    blockquote>(i>In response to my comment that I think the chaplaincy is doing good work that engages their folks.I’ll spare you what I think of your conceit. Do you even know what a fucking chaplain is? Why not call them fucking witch-doctors, while you’re at it?Conceit? If you assume without cause (as Caine did at the outset) that I’m not posting in good faith, you’re going to fall victim to the tendency to view everything I write as confirmation of that assumption. If you aren’t aware of that pitfall in the narrow-bandwidth world of text conversation, you haven’t read the manual.

    Yes, I know what a chaplain is: someone who works in a chapel. I’m happy co-opting the use of the word “chapel” (and likewise the word “church”, for a lack of persuasive alternatives) to mean “a place where members of a values- or outlook-sharing community get together to do the kinds of things they want to do there.” I’m participating in a chance of the word’s usage, from “a place of Christian worship” to “a place where congregations congregate.” Secular culture hacking. This isn’t to say that this is the kind of change the HCH folks are working for; I’m just laying bare my own intentions.

    If you assume that the word “chaplain” means “the leader of a hierarchical theistic sect” (which, you and I agree, is not different in character from an animistic “witch-doctor”), you’re missing the point. I’m actively expanding the meaning of the word. We already have UU chaplains, who are open about their atheism. Are they witch-doctoring?

  267. says

    I would also like to disagree with you. I moved from the US to Europe a year ago. I moved to a country where I literally didn’t know anyone. When I lived in the US, I was involved in several community service projects. I also used to, ya know, have a social life.

    “Atheists churches” would be really beneficial for someone like me. I’d love to have a place to go to a monthly potluck supper. I would love to have an easy way to volunteer. Atheist church would be a great way to meet new, like-minded people. It would also be a wonderful place to host workshops, etc. Screw Sunday school, let’s have an atheist book club discussion every Sunday afternoon.

    I’ve been to religious institutions that offer wonderful services to the community. Many places of worship have well stocked libraries, offer reduced costs babysitting, hold singles events, cook for elderly members, etc. Can’t we take the positive aspects of religion and utilize them in an organization not based around a sky fairy?

  268. Matt Penfold says

    You’re free to that opinion. You’re not making such a case for yourself, either, Matt, but I’m prepared to learn that I’m wrong about that.

    I think I have made rather a good case you are not being genuine. Of course, given that you are the subject of my argument I hardly expect you to agree.

    Patently untrue, I’m sorry.

    Well we only have your word it is untrue. We have evidence that suggests it is, specifically your lack of apology. I am going with the evidence.

    I’m content that I’ve said enough to answer the question of why I used Caine’s first name.

    Your contentment is not the issue. Your behaviour is.

    Idealism, I suppose. I’d like to believe that persistent, clear, and frank communication can break through.

    Well persistent, clear and frank communication is not getting through to you.

    I actually disagree with that on principle. If you can’t think of an example where someone who has made a faux pas may be right in withholding an apology until they’re received some sign of good will, you’re not being very imaginative.

    You made the mistake, it is for you to apologise. No one can force you, but be assured, we will judge you on the fact you refuse to apologise.

    That you think wrongs done to you excuse the wrongs that you have done to others tells us you are not a very moral person.

    If what I’ve written already won’t persuade you to drop the hostility, I don’t know what will.

    Yes you do. I have told you. You could have apologised to Caine.

    To be honest, it is too late now. Even an apology from you will not dissuade me you are a contemptible scumbag.

    It really is quite simply. Decent people say sorry when they make mistakes. You made a mistake and refuse to say sorry.

    Please just fuck off. Let the Boston Atheists put up with you. The rest of us would prefer you crawl into a sewer.

  269. Anath says

    297
    Cool, makes sense now. Mostly my issue was with the FFS tagged on at the end, I mean I don’t know what you do and don’t read, haha. And yeah, I read the article but I skimmed over the parts where they talked about the project because I already knew there was a project so I didn’t view those parts from a fresh perspective.

    I’m also really not interested in interfaith so I tend not to care much what is said about it, so the depth of what you meant by confident advice was a bit lost on me.

    299
    I agree to some extent. I don’t care as much what they call themselves, as long as they’re willing to accept I think it’s a stupid title. What would you call them?

  270. John Morales says

    Zachary:

    I’m happy co-opting the use of the word “chapel” (and likewise the word “church”, for a lack of persuasive alternatives) to mean “a place where members of a values- or outlook-sharing community get together to do the kinds of things they want to do there.”

    Because you grovel to religion.

    In the real world, we call them ‘clubs’ and likewise ‘club events’, (or other variants e.g. ‘societies’).

    We already have UU chaplains, who are open about their atheism. Are they witch-doctoring?

    What part of “they say they’re not religious whilst calling themselves a religious name and indulging in religious thinking with religious rituals” was unclear to you?

  271. Matt Penfold says

    Molly,

    You did not say where in Europe you moved to, but I find it hard to believe that it was somewhere that has no other local groups.

    For example here in West Wales there are no end of local groups. There are groups for walkers, for those interested in conservation, archaeology, astronomy, fishing, climbing, running, cycling, knitting, quilting, gardening, dogs. There is absolutely no shortage of opportunities to volunteer. The local papers have many requests for volunteers every week. The local libraries maintain a list of local groups, which is also online. There are hundreds of them.

    And this is just in West Wales. Not the most populous part of the UK.

  272. John Morales says

    Anath,

    What would you call them?

    Naively misguided is the kindest response I can honestly offer.

  273. says

    nigelTheBold:

    I appreciate the way you’re taking this up.

    I can only surmise, but from you passive-aggressive personality, I’d guess it was used for intimidation.

    There’s plenty of room for misinterpretation of tone on the internet. You’d just have to take my word for it that I’m not a passive-aggressive person, and am not adopting such a manner. I do tend to communicate rather formally, which can came across that way sometimes. My gf this morning remarked that this would blow over (or would never have happened) if we’d been having a conversation in real life or over the phone, where the tone of voice can’t be so easily misconstrued.

    This is a common bit of etiquette.

    Common but not universal. I’ve already given two examples of forums where the use of first names, even by first-time posters, is not unusual. Further, I am not attempting to justify the use of first names here despite the general hue and clamor against it. I made a genuine mistake, which I didn’t apologize for at the outset because it was part of hostile exchange.

    As for nosing about, my reason for checking the results on your name was to try to understand where you’re coming from. If you’d turned out to be a habitual flame-baiter, I wouldn’t have bothered responding. Which is it?

    What can I say, except that real life can be more complicated than assumptions.

    I knew Caine’s name because I’d Googled her username before. I did that because I wanted to know about the person making those posts (to make up for the lack of tonal context I mention above). The results of that search led me to her art hobby, which I had a reason to contact her about.

    …if you want to go nosing about in regard to me, fine, however, I use a nym here for a reason. Try using it next time, it’s conveniently located right above every comment I make. That doesn’t seem very antagonistic to me.

    I agree.

    It seemed antagonistic to me, in light of her first comment. Looking back at my response to that post of hers, I can see how defensive I was. Which is importantly different from being dishonest or evasive.

    Really? So it’s common practice to use people’s real name when they have a pseudonym on a board? Especially boards which cover sensitive topics like politics and religion?

    Of course not. But not all boards are consistently pseudonymous, and not all boards cover sensitive topics. That was my point.

    I guess I’ve been doin’ it wrong.

    Not at all. I think the rule is a reasonable one. It just seems I can’t persuade you I was not using her name in order to intimidate her.

    I’m very mild-mannered.

    Me too.

  274. Matt Penfold says

    Of course not. But not all boards are consistently pseudonymous, and not all boards cover sensitive topics. That was my point.

    This one is, and this one does. So to say others are not misses the point, You did not fuck up on one of those boards, you fucked up here.

    You really cannot be honest about this can you ?

  275. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Zachary, you love talking about yourself — about the thread topic, not so much.

    (Coward, you)

  276. says

    To be honest, it is too late now. Even an apology from you will not dissuade me you are a contemptible scumbag.

    That is a pretty concise statement of the attitude I detected from the outset. Which is why an apology would have been political; good will offered to someone who (I felt) wouldn’t receive it as good will, is just self-congratulatory. Caine would be the person in a position to tell me if I misread her hostility; an honest apology would be forthcoming. (Though she probably wouldn’t want to expose herself to the accusation of being an accomodationist.)

    You made a mistake and refuse to say sorry.

    It really isn’t as simple as that.

    Please just fuck off. Let the Boston Atheists put up with you. The rest of us would prefer you crawl into a sewer.

    You might be surprised to find you can’t speak honestly on behalf of “the rest of us.”

  277. says

    It also seems atheism itself is little reason to form a social group. While the recent Pharyngula meetup was great, that was mostly due to the self-selected nature of the group. Atheism itself is a bit too amorphous, too general to be a useful social construct.

    I think a much better route would be simply forming common-interest groups. Here in Cleveland we have monthly Linux meet-ups, for instance. (Not that I’ve gone to more than one or two.) Libraries often hold events. There’s a monthly science meetup at a local microbrewery. There are fencing clubs, karate meetups, even writing groups and reading groups and Church of the Subgenius groups.

    We already have options, options much more tailored to our real interests. While atheist activism interests me (obviously), I don’t think it’s a universal enough interest to warrant forming a social get-together over, outside the occasional Pharyngula meet-up.

    It seems atheists just don’t take advantage of the groups that are already there. I’m not sure what we’d do with formal churches, outside the ludicrous nature of the idea.

  278. Anath says

    309

    Ha ha very funny.

    No seriously, the job description:
    Conduct weddings, funerals, organize and lead community events, provide light counseling services, engage the public about the community, deal with the day to day operations of the meeting space, etc.

    Ignore the fact that they already mistakenly call themselves “chaplains”, what would you title a person with this job description? I’m really curious because I don’t have an alternative at the moment and HAVING an alternative will really help in future conversations.

  279. says

    John Morales:

    Because you grovel to religion.

    There are plenty of people who’d like to support an institution that exists to provide a place for local people to come together and talk about values and such. (I’m one.) They’re not groveling to religion. If you really see no one to make these ideas compatible, let me know if you’d like me to explain more.

    In the real world, we call them ‘clubs’ and likewise ‘club events’, (or other variants e.g. ‘societies’).

    To each their own. I assure you, there are people in the real world who’d prefer to use a term that doesn’t have such a recreational (“club”) or intellectual or professional (“society”) register. People know what I mean when I ask them if they know what church is. This allows them to picture what it means to have an “atheist church”. Then with that picture in mind, we can talk about all the important distinctions — no doctrine, no hierarchy, no supernaturalism.

    What part of “they say they’re not religious whilst calling themselves a religious name and indulging in religious thinking with religious rituals” was unclear to you?

    The part where you assume that everyone conforms to this prejudicial view. Church of Freethought?

    If the idea of religious gatherings is unappealing, is it because of the religious aspect, or the gathering? If the former, you can just have a gathering (and people are free to call it what they like — atheist church, or pub club, or what not; there’s room for all flavors). If the latter, then you can just be a personal explorer of the spiritual dimension (good luck, door’s that way, have fun, please don’t vote). If both, you can be a secular person who isn’t inclined to participate in secular gatherings.

  280. Matt Penfold says

    Bos,

    If you made a mistake, it really is a simple as admitting it and apologising.

    Please do that, or leave.

    I do hope the Boston Atheists know what a lovely person you are, and are happy for you to represent them like this.

  281. says

    Matt Penfold:

    This one is, and this one does.

    Yes, I agree. Hence, my action was a faux pas. Show me the person who’s willing to believe that — perhaps by showing a gap in their hostility — and I’ll deliver an apology.

  282. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    Zachary Bos, at least one person has been banned for doing what you did. to the sewer with you.

  283. Matt Penfold says

    You might be surprised to find you can’t speak honestly on behalf of “the rest of us.”

    Let’s ask people.

    Hands up who would prefer Bos crawl back into his sewer.

  284. says

    nigelTheBold:

    It also seems atheism itself is little reason to form a social group. While the recent Pharyngula meetup was great, that was mostly due to the self-selected nature of the group. Atheism itself is a bit too amorphous, too general to be a useful social construct.

    I agree entirely. The Boston Atheists over the years have had steering committee members inclined to do something more church-ish, but we keep coming to the conclusion that it makes more sense for us to be the no-price-of-entry organization, a social club. That way we get folks of all stripes, and there’s nothing much contentious. A lot of times our meetings will provide them with a point of access to OTHER groups that have a more narrowly-defined mission: the Humanists, the Skeptics, and so on.

  285. John Morales says

    Conduct weddings, funerals, organize and lead community events, provide light counseling services, engage the public about the community, deal with the day to day operations of the meeting space, etc.

    Ignore the fact that they already mistakenly call themselves “chaplains”, what would you title a person with this job description? a person with this job description?

    Celebrants, organisers, counsellors, representatives, managers.

  286. says

    John Morales

    Zachary, you love talking about yourself — about the thread topic, not so much.

    To quote Caine’s first comment to me (the wisdom of which now has a new value): “Read the thread.” I came here to talk about the article and about atheist churches. I did get drawn into a dogpile about etiquette. In the future I will try to keep in mind to avoid hostility.

  287. John Morales says

    Zachary:

    People know what I mean when I ask them if they know what church is. This allows them to picture what it means to have an “atheist church”.

    Yeah, I get that.

    (I picture an oxymoron)

    If the idea of religious gatherings is unappealing, is it because of the religious aspect, or the gathering?

    You really are obtuse, if you need ask me that after what I’ve posted here.

    (Bah)

  288. says

    John Morales

    What would you title a person with this job description: Celebrants, organisers, counsellors, representatives, managers.

    Sure. Or, “chaplain.” What’s wrong with co-opting a term which has a more exclusive traditional use?

    Maybe there’s an analogy to gay marriage:

    Mary & Alice: We’re going to get married!
    Non-accomodationist: You can’t use that term!
    M&A: Why not?
    NA: It means you’re groveling at the feet of religion.
    M&A: Well, we’re expanding the definition. The old definition works fine, except for the past which excludes one class of people.
    NA: Grovelers!

  289. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    ZB, you need to cut down to one post at least every fiften minutes, peferably longer. You post like a troll.

  290. says

    Inane Janine: I’m not denying the facts. If I have to be banned for violating the forum rules, that’s that. I’ve been responding to the accusation that I used someone’s name in a threatening way, not denying that I used her name. It’d just mean that the “sewer” (the ban list) has on it at least one person who made a genuine mistake. And that makes sense: better to be cautious about privacy than not.

  291. says

    Zachary:

    What can I say, except that real life can be more complicated than assumptions.

    My assumptions are based only on what you write, which is the sum of who you are to me.

    I knew Caine’s name because I’d Googled her username before. I did that because I wanted to know about the person making those posts (to make up for the lack of tonal context I mention above). The results of that search led me to her art hobby, which I had a reason to contact her about.

    Okay. That has reconciled that inconsistency, and given more context. From your initial posts, it had seemed as if you had googled her in response to the current exchange, and subsequently used her name based only on that search.

    Looking back at my response to that post of hers, I can see how defensive I was. Which is importantly different from being dishonest or evasive.

    Being defensive and being dishonest or evasive are not mutually exclusive. Being defensive can, in fact, lead to both dishonesty and evasion. Try reading the exchange as an outsider. See how you represent yourself. Try to understand that many people here don’t use their real names because it would adversely affect their personal lives, should parents or bosses or even close friends find out their real thoughts.

    Try to understand in that context exactly what your faux pas means. Then perhaps you can understand the hostile reaction you’ve received on that one point alone.

    Of course not. But not all boards are consistently pseudonymous, and not all boards cover sensitive topics. That was my point.

    True, but it is generally very obvious which boards allow that kind of informality. They are the exceptions to a general etiquette guideline.

    It just seems I can’t persuade you I was not using her name in order to intimidate her.

    I think you have convinced me, within your larger context.

    The apology is still necessary.

  292. says

    Nerd of Redhead:

    ZB, you need to cut down to one post at least every fiften minutes, peferably longer. You post like a troll.

    This is actually a point of etiquette you could help me with some advice on. I’m responding to not even all the responses addressed to me; it feels a bit like being shouted down. What are the options — should I let the discussion drop, because three people chose to respond to me, and three responses from me in return would seem like overkill, or…

  293. The Ys says

    I see Zachary is still tapdancing around the issue and pretending that he’s all misunderstood and that we’re horrible bullies for expecting him to act like a responsible commenter.

    ZOMG U GUISE! WE SUCK!!!

    *eyeroll*

    Being passive aggressive and trying to shift blame to other people for your mistakes is kinda pathetic, Zachary … especially when the other people in question are smart enough to realise what you’re doing and call you on it. You might want to stop throwing your tantrum before you make yourself look even more ridiculous.

    Or is that even possible at this point?

  294. julian says

    You know, after the last few months, I’m actually relieved to be seeing a gnu argument on here.

    *breathes happy sigh of relief*

  295. John Morales says

    Zachary:

    Mary & Alice: We’re going to get married!
    Non-accomodationist: You can’t use that term!

    I’ve said nothing about marriage being religious, O dolt.

    (And you’ve entirely misunderstood the thrust of my mention of grovelling: it’s such conceits as this very concept of marriage as a religious thing needing religious ceremonies you here evince to which I refer)

  296. says

    nigel:

    I think you have convinced me, within your larger context. The apology is still necessary.

    I agree.

    I see above that I wrote, “… what I won’t do is apologize for knowing someone’s name and using it, when they didn’t take any action to make it private.” That was some reflexive, hot-headed defensiveness there. What I do mean, is that I won’t apologize for trying to intimidate her by using her first name. I would apologize if I thought Caine would take it as genuine. Since our initial interaction was hostile, that didn’t leave much room for apology. Just raised hackles all around.

  297. says

    The Ys:

    You might want to stop throwing your tantrum before you make yourself look even more ridiculous.

    This is the kind of hostility that raises hackles and neutralizes the value of an apology. I appreciate nigel’s response for being quite different.

  298. says

    We respect pseudonyms here. It’s an easy thing to do: when you reply to a comment, you use the fucking name the other person used. There is absolutely NO POINT to tracing them to get their real name, since in most cases no one here would know who you’re talking about anyway, unless you’re trying to intimidate or impress with your ‘cleverness’. And then to go on and on about how you have the RIGHT to use that name is the height of pretentiousness. When you violate the rules, even when unknowing, the thing to do is apologize and ask forgiveness and STOP. (or in this case, when someone exposes an identity to any degree? Write to me and ask me to clean up your faux pas. As I’ve done for you. You’re welcome).

    But you had to go further. After your pointless exercise in intimidation, you had to accuse everyone else of bullying you. I don’t think you have the slightest idea of what courtesy and respect means, and you don’t deserve any. I do thank you for representing the kind of bloodless passive-aggressive ‘humanism’ I despise.

    You don’t have to worry about minding your manners in the future. You don’t have one here. Banned.

  299. says

    John Morales:

    I’ve said nothing about marriage being religious, O dolt.

    Right; you said that church and chaplains are religious. The analogy, I think, is pretty sound. If your response is, well, that’s because church and chaplains ARE religious, I’d point to the gay-marriage-critic’s response: “Well, marriages ARE a sacred covenant.” The point is, you are resisting the expansion of a traditionally theistic term to include nontheist forms of the same practice.

  300. says

    Good grief Bos, if you really didn’t want all this negative attention you could have completely avoided it by simply apologizing right away. The fact that you still can’t bring yourself to do so speaks volumes (which I guess is redundant, as you are producing large volumes of text anyway).

  301. Matt Penfold says

    Bos,

    Has it not occurred to you that Caine was quite justified in being angry with you, regardless of your motivation. You did something that is considered strictly unacceptable here. Of course you are going to be treated with hostility for doing that. You deserved to be treated with hostility for doing that.

    And the idea that refusing to apologise is OK since Caine was mean to you is not an attitude that is acceptable in a toddler, let alone someone who is supposed to be an adult.

  302. says

    Zachary:

    I would apologize if I thought Caine would take it as genuine. Since our initial interaction was hostile, that didn’t leave much room for apology.

    Are you kidding? That’s the best time to apologize for a fuck-up, if you honestly fucked up. If everything’s all happy-happy-joy-joy and you fuck up, you can say, “Oops, sorry,” and everything is light and happy; it’s easy. It’s much harder, but far more important, to apologize if you’re in the middle of an honest — though potentially hostile or simply heated — debate and you fuck up. Otherwise, you just derail the actual discussion, and appear to be an asshole.

    SEE this thread as an example.

    A sincere, “I’m sorry for posting your real name. I fucked up. It was a lapse in judgement on my part, and a betrayal of your trust. I sincerely hope it in no way adversely affects you. It will never happen again,” would go a long way both to demonstrate that you are both sincere, and willing to admit when you are wrong. It would have been taken as sincere, whether or not the conversation becomes less heated.

    If you promptly and sincerely apologize for what you did wrong, in any circumstance, and it will be received as sincere. Refuse to do so, and you just come off as an asshole.

  303. says

    While Zachary has been banned, this point deserves a response:

    What are the options — should I let the discussion drop, because three people chose to respond to me, and three responses from me in return would seem like overkill, or…

    Considering that most of the responses were similar, you could respond to the points raised, rather than the specific sentences in all cases. For instance, on the accusation of malicious intent, the full explanation introduced a modicum of doubt for me. While I am not entirely convinced it wasn’t part of your passive-aggressive posturing, I am not now absolutely certain.

    So, a single post answering several people, using well-attributed quotes from different posts, makes it a bit easier to respond in a single post with a coherent thesis, addressing several similar posters.

    Similarly, as most people will focus on the issues on which you appear to be wrong, you can find where you are miscommunicating your thesis, or perhaps where your understanding is wrong. Focus on those issues. Ignore the feeling of being “shouted down.” Defend one point at a time, moving from the most basic assumptions up to the final conclusion. Make sure your argument has a solid foundation by addressing those arguments first before moving on to the logic and conclusions of your argument. Move from the concrete to the abstract. Just accept that this may take time. If you have a defensible argument, you will not only persevere, but convince others.

    Of course, in your case, it would’ve been far easier just to admit you fucked up and apologize. That would’ve been one post.

  304. The Ys says

    And now for a return to the actual subject of PZ’s post:

    I dislike the ‘atheist church’ idea immensely, and I agree with the comments pointing out that socialising with actual people is the important aspect of ‘church’. There’s all sorts of social options already out there, both online and in meat space. We don’t need ‘ritual’ to make our lives meaningful and define those social relationships. If we did, we’d be attending church with all those religious people around us.

    Personally, I want rational, intelligent discourse and debate, and establishing ‘traditions’ and ‘rituals’ is exactly the opposite of these things. Once you establish a tradition, ritual, or ceremony, you are declaring that something should be done in a particular way in order to have meaning. This is neither rational nor intelligent – it is setting a standard for other people and then informing them that they cannot derive meaning from significant events unless they do it your way. We may need an actual standard for things like scientific measurements, but interpersonal relationships that depend on personality? Um…yeah.

    As for the comment on ‘atheist churches’, I think we already have these. They’re called art galleries, libraries, museums, and local/state/national parks … the Smithsonian Air & Space and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston) are particular favourites of mine.

    If you have trouble finding social activities, try volunteering at local museums, parks, theatres, and libraries. You’re likely to meet some like-minded people at those locations.

  305. says

    The Ys:

    We don’t need ‘ritual’ to make our lives meaningful and define those social relationships. If we did, we’d be attending church with all those religious people around us.

    Further, there’s nothing wrong with building your own rituals. Monday night at our house, we have folks over for dinner and to participate in one of a small palette of activities: play Rock Band, watch a bad movie, play a board game, or sit around talking. Dinner preparation rotates between participants, so the workload is not always on one person.

    This is a ritualized activity, with just about as much ritual as the church I briefly attended as a child. While it doesn’t come close to the call/response of a Catholic liturgy, it’s still a ritual, with all the comforts that entails.

    For those who must have ritual, there’s nothing that demands Latin, or even antiquity. Once we realize we get to make shit up as we go along, the options are endless. We can make a ritual that suits us far better than a church will ever be able.

  306. says

    The whole discussion about establishing or creating rituals and traditions is so strange. I have nothing against rituals and traditions per se, but I think they should emerge and change organically in the culture they’re part of. The clenched-tentacle salute wouldn’t have any appeal if it were something PZ had just decided people should do.

  307. Matt Penfold says

    Further, there’s nothing wrong with building your own rituals. Monday night at our house, we have folks over for dinner and to participate in one of a small palette of activities: play Rock Band, watch a bad movie, play a board game, or sit around talking. Dinner preparation rotates between participants, so the workload is not always on one person.

    I think pretty much everyone has such rituals, certainly I imagine no family (unless seriously dysfunctional) lacks such rituals. Quite often they will be meaningless to anyone outside the family.

    One such ritual we have in my family, and annoyed me no end as a child, is that we do not open our presents until after we have had Christmas lunch. I have no idea the origins of this ritual; is being going on since before I was born. I have noticed that it makes kids extraordinary keen to help with clearing the table and doing the washing up.

  308. says

    Secular Humanist Jewish groups have been doing this for decades.

    People have been gathering for secular rituals like concerts, theater, graduations, and parties for millenia, too. I’m good with those.

  309. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    In re vocabulary (I realise that this is too late for Z.Bos, but the point of what it might mean to use words like “chaplain” and “church” is relevant anyway) – marriage has bugger-all to do with xtianity; there have been marriages in all sorts of different cultures and at times in history when xtianity didn’t even exist. Marriage isn’t even necessarily associated with any religion; it’s a cultural phenomenon, a social convention by no means exclusively or even primarily linked with any religion, and in many countries non-religious (e.g. registry office) marriages far outnumber the religious ones. It’s perfectly reasonable and doable to lay claim to the term gay marriage. AFAIK “chaplain” and “church”, on the other hand, are specifically xtian terms (other religions use other terms, after all) and using them in relation to any non-religious place, person, event or activity is to shoot oneself in the foot with a 12-bore. (which, come to think of it, would leave the shooter without a leg to stand on).

  310. says

    Hi folks,

    This thread seems to have taken a bizarre detour into strange territory, and I’m not sure it’s worth trying to rehabilitate. What I will do is make sure I provide links to articles in which we explore the issues posters here have raised. I’m very much interested in continuing the discussion which has begun here, and responding to criticism, praise, ideas etc. We certainly understand that this form of Humanism is not for everyone, and we take reasoned criticism very seriously indeed. At the same time, we think we have something of value to offer and I would like to represent our ideas in as full and detailed a form as possible.

    Here’s Hemant Mehta’s take, for a differing perspective:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/

    Best,

    James

  311. SteveV says

    I’m just off to Pizza Express and then on to the monthly Cornwall Humanist Group meeting. It’s a ritual I look forward to.
    Some of the group act as ‘celebrants’ for humanist weddings, funerals etc.
    Don’t need a fucking church!

  312. says

    And I told Zach to stop digging (apologising early in the game would not have been political at all. To outside observers this would have been consistent with an honest mistake, and the discussion would not have been derailed). Hundreds of posts on, it is no surprise he has been banned.

    Caine,

    But if Japan can have a SECULAR, public holiday and ceremony for adulthood (成人式), then why not Western countries. I would be interested to hear the opinion especially of ritual-adverse people on this thread about this.

    :shrug: That sort of thing wouldn’t bother me if people want to indulge in it in the first place. It’s a one time occasion and a serious event for a lot of people*.

    I view that very differently than I do an attempt to mimic churchgoing and church rituals on a weekly basis.

    *I don’t have kids and that sort of a thing would have embarrassed the hell out me when I was young.

    My main concern about this type of event is that they can be abused by authoritarian regimes to instill patriotism in their subjects and so on (as the Jugendweihe in East Germany and the Japanese ceremony during the war). Also, in Western society, it is not necessarily the case that people enter adulthood at a specific age in the same manner.

    But I do think personally, as long as religions are pushing their own versions, it would be good to have a secular alternative. Of course totally optional.

  313. says

    SteveV:

    Some of the group act as ‘celebrants’ for humanist weddings, funerals etc.
    Don’t need a fucking church!

    Exactly.

    In Alaska, anyone can perform a wedding. You just have to apply for the proper temporary license. My wife and I were married by a very close friend, someone whom we care about, and someone who cares about my wife and I. It was far more meaningful than any church ceremony performed by someone who is essentially a stranger.

    Don’t need a fucking church. Exactly.

  314. says

    Molly,

    people have answered already along similar lines, but surely you have hobbies, right? There are clubs for almost anything, and in the internet age, there are meetup groups. Also, in some European countries where the trans-Atlantic friendship is still held in high regard, there are American societies where you can meet locals that are friendly towards Americans.

    However, this made me think about a common problem Westerners run into in Eastern Asia: the language barrier. Coupled with the fact that Western communities often are not big enough to create such hobby groups just for foreigners, this can lead to isolation. Many expats I know in those countries go to church just to meet other Westerners, whereas they’d rarely go in their own countries. Unfortunately atheist societies don’t really exist there, so that wouldn’t be an option either.

  315. Henry Parker says

    Modelling atheistic community on religious communities is beyond stupid. Implied in atheism is rejection of god(s)-based religions so why would an atheist want to embrace what that person rejects? Why would you want to ritualize non-belief!!??

  316. says

    Mehta:

    Right… who wants to bond with other people, perform community service, have fruitful discussions, find a secular way to celebrate rites of passage, and have someone they can talk to when they’re going through rough times who isn’t going to spit religion in their face?

    This is so tiresome! What people are saying is that we don’t want their particular model of community service or activism, celebrations, or relationships, and that plenty of us already have those things. And what some of us are responding to is months and months of arrogant self promotion (I swear if I hear about that lightbulb crusade one more time I will blow a fuse), presumptuousness about people’s needs, and the bashing of gnu atheists who are constantly mischaracterized and whose actions and communities are unrecognized or repeatedly called counterproductive. This has never been presented as simply “We’re offering this as one option amongst many. It fits with our goals, our little group seems to like it, and we thought some others might.” And James knows it, and Stedman knows it, and Epstein I’m sure knows it, too.

    It sounds like PZ is complaining just for the sake of being a contrarian. He’s not going to stand in the way, but since it’s not his thing, he can’t let it go without trashing it along the way. It’s unnecessary.

    Oh, the irony.

  317. says

    I do not think that every atheist / humanist group forms with a clear goal and agenda, and the “should” is there in order to provide those ambiguous groups with an agenda, not to dictate one universally. Otherwise he would say “what humanist groups must do”.

    Heh.

  318. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Fuck.

    I’m done with religion because of the nonsense it tells you to believe.

    But damn I’m also glad as hell to get rid of the silly pageantry, rituals, rites, rules, etc..

    I don’t need something to replace all that. The loss of religion did not create a hole, It removed a burden.

    I find it curious as hell that people who I share some idea about the world do need to replace all that with something.

  319. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    If I wanted an “atheist” church, I would join an UU congregation.

  320. Matt Penfold says

    It does strike me that those who have abandoned god but still have a hole left by no longer attending church may have abandoned god, but not religion.

  321. Ichthyic says

    Oh, the irony.

    ayup.

    I’d say it was even delicious irony, but I don’t really think it’s matured yet.

  322. The Ys says

    Further, there’s nothing wrong with building your own rituals.

    Indeed, but this is something I don’t tend to consider a ritual. I need to review my own use of that term, I think.

    This is a ritualized activity, with just about as much ritual as the church I briefly attended as a child. While it doesn’t come close to the call/response of a Catholic liturgy, it’s still a ritual, with all the comforts that entails.

    And don’t forget the Catholic calisthenics: stand up, sit down, kneel, sit, kneel, stand, sit, stand, sit…

    I can pass. I found church horrifically boring, especially because the priest rattled on nonsensically for hours. I don’t need someone waving a censer around and chanting rhythmically. I don’t need writings from someone else’s choice of a book read at me. I don’t need someone to determine whether or not I need to hear a particular text that week. I don’t need to line up for communion wafers to try and gain some sort of mystical connection to something greater than myself. I don’t need to light prayer candles as a physical sign that I care about others and have them in my thoughts.

    I need to not have my intelligence insulted by people setting arbitrary rules based on their own preferences and telling me those rules will give my life more meaning.

  323. says

    @ #53 James Croft, I laughed out loud at the end of your first comment: “You can thank us later.”
    I’ll take a screenshot of this, keep it, and de-mothball it in 10 years, to shove it in the faces of all those who will then be doing just that – thanking you for this move.

    Perhaps I’ll also put on funny cloths and wave it around screaming “SEE??? IT’S BEEN FORETOLD BY OUR PROPHET!!!” – just a thought.

  324. says

    @ #140:
    “truthspeaker” wrote

    Then you have a lot to learn about human nature.

    Once you ritualize something, you remove the meaning from it. Kids in school recite “The Pledge of Allegiance” every week or every day, but few of them know what it means. People in church recite things every week without thinking about what they really mean. Once you turn something into a ritual, the focus passes to the ritual itself from whatever the ritual was supposed to remind you of.

    Kids reciting the pledge of allegiance, and the US is one of the most patriotic nations there is, to an extent that borders on blunt nationalism. Then look at germany, where people do not DARE to even mention “patriotism”, because the speaker will be immediately accused of being a nationalist and nazi.
    You really think that the daily reciting of the pledge has no effect on you people’s mentality? It seems it is you who has to learn about human nature. I suggest you leave the US and live abroad for some time, just to be able to compare a little. Alternatively, just pick up any book on developmental psychology. Both will teach you better.

  325. Matt Penfold says

    I doubt the US is one of the most patriotic countries, but just one of the most vocal on the subject. Not the same thing.

  326. says

    Why copy a fail model?

    I don’t need a church, nor a priest or counselor, I prefer run far, far away from any of this things.

    This kind of copy will only create more political games and figth for power (exactly the way it happens inside churches).

    I realy want to think us atheists can be better than this(I hope…maybe?!).

  327. John Phillips, FCD says

    #‪363.‬ Rev. BigDumbChimp says:
    18 October 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Fuck.

    I’m done with religion because of the nonsense it tells you to believe.

    But damn I’m also glad as hell to get rid of the silly pageantry, rituals, rites, rules, etc..

    I don’t need something to replace all that. The loss of religion did not create a hole, It removed a burden.

    I find it curious as hell that people who I share some idea about the world do need to replace all that with something.

    QFFT

    @Molly, if you are still reading this thread and if you are interested in ‘official’ or ‘organised’ voluntary work then search google for volunteer centre. Usually the first link will take you to a finder where on entering your Town or Post Code you will get contact details for your nearest along with a list of what is available from that centre. Unless you live in a small or remote community I will be surprised if you can’t find something that appeals to you, e.g my local Bristol one has nearly 600 vacancies ranging from simple fundraising (shaking collection tins) to working with groups like mencap/RNIB to radio acting on community radio.

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