Another view of de Botton

Russell Blackford read de Botton’s latest book, and has an interesting take on it.

I read Religion for Atheists on my flight over to the US – this is the new book by Alain de Botton. Verdict? Well, just quickly what I got out of it is that religions are comprehensive, totalitarian systems in which everything (art, architecture, music, the order of everyday life) is integrated and bent to a single purpose, with no room to manoeuvre except what the system itself provides. In other words, religions are even scarier than you thought.

The last time I picked up a book by a religious apologist for a flight, the results weren’t pretty. I’m bringing a cancer text with me instead. Far more optimistic and enlightening.

Comments

  1. F says

    What Crommunist said.

    Besides, if I were to read anything like that in any respect, an airplane would be the wrong place to do it. I understand that airlines and fellow passengers don’t take kindly to pacing, yelling things like “Are you fucking kidding?”, and thrashing around.

  2. Foolish-Rain says

    The 10 minutes of de Botton’s “Atheism 2.0″ TED talk were enough to convince me he brings nothing of value to the discussion.

  3. says

    I don’t think it’s proper to say that religions are necessarily, or pre-historically, comprehensive totalitarian systems. It’s when civilizations began that many became those, although one has to recognize that religion did enable many human developments as such systems.

    Not an argument for their continuation, of course, just an admission that totalitarian oppression produced some great things, including part of pre-science, while the empirical side of science flourished with the lessening of religion’s power of control.

    Glen Davidson

  4. says

    I love Blackford’s take on De Bottom. I had a similar epiphany after watching Troy. That movie had nothing on the bible as far as violence is concerned

  5. ikesolem says

    Perhaps a linguistic breakdown of the word ‘philosophy’ helps here:

    philo: having a strong affinity or love for
    sophy: knowledge, wisdom

    However, the scientific notion that real knowledge about the universe can only be obtained via experiment and observation is foreign to most classically trained philosophers, sociologists, and the like. They still think they can figure things out by talking and debating and writing fluffy long-winded tracts, full of citations of like-minded authors. Tedious beyond belief.

    P.S. This guy seems to go ballistic over bad reviews of his precious books:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/5712899/Alain-de-Botton-tells-New-York-Times-reviewer-I-will-hate-you-until-I-die.html

    The author, who has written widely about the pursuit of happiness, concluded: “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.”

    Spoiled brat complex, perhaps?

  6. changeable moniker says

    meadog: how have I managed to read teh Grauniad and miss those?

    Bookmarked! (Thank you.)

  7. Sastra says

    A few weeks ago I watched a movie I had always been curious about. I went into NetFlix and brought up Triumph of the Will — a Nazi propaganda film chronicling the massive 1934 Nuremberg Rally.

    I found it both impressive and chilling. I mean, really impressive — not just artistically as cinema, but emotionally as pageantry. Anyone who wants to stage an impressive Empire scene for a movie — any movie, including a science fiction movie — has to study this film.

    I can now imagine a political version of de Botton sitting with his grass roots civil rights group and waving his hand towards Triumph of the Will: “Yeah, I know it’s fascism and I know it’s propaganda but come on, people, look at it. It’s beautiful. It’s thrilling. And it’s bringing people together. Would you just look at their faces? All 700,000 of them. They’re crying. I tell you — WE need to do something like this. We need to study this rally and this film and put together something along these lines to get people motivated!”

    Yeah.

  8. Matt Penfold says

    Spoiled brat complex, perhaps?

    It would take a team of expert psychologists and psychiatrists to pick their way through de Botton’s psyche.

    He comes from a wealthy Swiss banking family, who had links to the Rothchilds. He had an uneasy relationship with his father, seemingly being unable to gain his father’s approval even when he became a published writer.

    I just wish he would sort his problems out in private, rather than subjecting us to his feelings of inadequacy,

  9. robro says

    @ Glen Davidson #4 — But surely you understand that these totalitarian systems didn’t “produce” these great things in the sense of creating and nurturing their existence. It fought them tooth and nail for the most part, unless it could be turned to serve the purpose of the powers that be.

    There’s no way of knowing how many “great things,” and the people that conceived of them, have been destroyed and forgotten. The wonderful, surviving products of human, rational thought are more despite the totalitarian systems than because of them.

    I suspect that religion was always part of the totalitarian power structure whether we’re talking the band, the chiefdom, or the “state” when it emerged some 4 millennia ago or so. Religions have certainly been an integral part of state totalitarianism in all its guises for that 4000 years.

    This totalitarian state/religion civilization phase may have been an unavoidable part of the process of human evolution as a social creature, but we can’t be certain of that. We only have one test case and we can’t rerun the experiment with different parameters.

  10. TimKO,,.,, says

    comprehensive, totalitarian systems

    Hey, I coulda told him that summation and saved him hours. Psst, they’re also patriarchal, dogmatic, and politically domineering.

  11. littoralcell says

    While I have not read the book (I did see the TED talk), I am not ready to state unequivocally that no ideas from religion have merit and brand anyone who says otherwise an atheist in name only.

  12. jfigdor says

    I’m not sure de Botton counts as a religious apologist – he is a self-avowed atheist. But to defend Monsieur “of the button,” let me say that religion is often more than what we atheists make of it. Not all religion boils down to a set of truth claims about the actual world (although this is what most fundamentalists and conservative religious folks think). For some, religion is simply a way of seeing the world – a lens no different than the lens of libertarianism or the lens of communitarianism. Additionally, for some, religion isn’t about truth. Some of these folks are post-modernists who simply don’t believe in the concept of capital T truth. Some of these folks are just pragmatists operating under the grip of religious delusion, and are folks who simply believe that living life as a religious person makes them happier.

    Am eager for the commentariat’s thoughts and to see you all at the REASON RALLY!!!!

  13. says

    I often hear that religion is this kind of fluffy bunnies community thing. And it always creeps me out. It seems horrific to me, because of the Stepford nature of that so-called “community”. Or Pleasantville.

    Yeah, sure, it may be a lovely fluffy community as long as you are just like everybody else and don’t rock the boat. Too bad if you are gay, or the wrong colour, or an improperly unsubservient woman, or an irrepressible inquisitive child. You read too much. You are a slut, a commie, a nancyboy. You think too much. You must be brought into line. You must fit in.

    Behind every sweet nice kind religious community lies a Magdalen Sisters Laundry.

  14. Azkyroth says

    For some, religion is simply a way of seeing the world – a lens no different than the lens of libertarianism or the lens of communitarianism. Additionally, for some, religion isn’t about truth. Some of these folks are post-modernists who simply don’t believe in the concept of capital T truth. Some of these folks are just pragmatists operating under the grip of religious delusion, and are folks who simply believe that living life as a religious person makes them happier.

    Yes.

    That’s the PROBLEM.

  15. Azkyroth says

    While I have not read the book (I did see the TED talk), I am not ready to state unequivocally that no ideas from religion have merit and brand anyone who says otherwise an atheist in name only.

    Well, that’s good.

    Any comments on what we’re actually arguing for, here?

    Didn’t think so.

  16. Brownian says

    Yeah, sure, it may be a lovely fluffy community as long as you are just like everybody else and don’t rock the boat. Too bad if you are gay, or the wrong colour, or an improperly unsubservient woman, or an irrepressible inquisitive child. You read too much. You are a slut, a commie, a nancyboy. You think too much. You must be brought into line. You must fit in.

    Oddly enough, we get criticised for that very thing. Racists, sexists, conservatives, gun nuts, libertarians—they’re all made to feel less that welcome here at Pharyngula.

    Sometimes by me.

    And people say we don’t understand religion.

  17. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Wow, he’s really scraping De Botton of De Barrel, isn’t he?

    That’s an insult to bottoms of barrels.

  18. jfigdor says

    Can we agree that we atheists can use some tools of religion, such as the use of ritual to mark important life moments (Humanist weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies) or the strong emphasis many religious organisations place on community? I’m an atheist through and through, but I still think there are valuable lessons that religious groups have learned through the years. The trick is we have to figure out which parts are good, and which parts lead to the Inquisition and (un)Intelligent Design.

  19. Brownian says

    Can we agree that we atheists can use some tools of religion, such as the use of ritual to mark important life moments

    You mean the tools of humans that religions also use?

    Not only can you, but you cannot do otherwise.

    Again, the mistake is in ceding ownership of these rites and rituals to religion.

    Remember learning to ride a bike, or teaching a child to? Remember the freedom you/they were granted by that rite? Remember the joy?

    Now tell me that religion owns the patent on that process.

  20. John Morales says

    jfigdor:

    Can we agree that we atheists can use some tools of religion, such as the use of ritual to mark important life moments (Humanist weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies) or the strong emphasis many religious organisations place on community?

    No.

    That they’re tools that religion uses doesn’t mean either that they originated with religion or are exclusively religious tools.

    What they are is social tools.

    (As well call language a tool of religion)

  21. jfigdor says

    I would agree with you two, Brownian and JM, that the tools that religions use did not originate with religion, and I would also totally agree that religion doesn’t have a patent on the idea of community, ritual, etc.

  22. Brownian says

    That they’re tools that religion uses doesn’t mean either that they originated with religion or are exclusively religious tools.

    What they are is social tools.

    (As well call language a tool of religion)

    That was perhaps more clearly stated. Thanks, John.

    What’s more, the danger in letting religion take ownership of these social tools is in that it gives undeserved power and authority to religious institutions.

    Look at marriage.

    How many people in the US think God (or at least, his mouthpieces) invented marriage? How many think homosexuals are trying to redefine marriage?

    That’s because there are too many of us all too willing to give marriage to the priests. What we should be doing is saying, “Fuck you. We own this shit, not you, and if you don’t like it, that’s too fucking bad (and by the way, get a real fucking job you goddamn parasite!)” Okay, maybe we can leave out the parenthetical part. But marriage is a human social institution, and it always has been. Some of us apparently lent it to religion some time ago and forgot about it. But we’re taking it back. They can create their own thing, if they want it so badly.

  23. jfigdor says

    This is why it is important for Humanists and Atheists to start thinking about how to commemorate these occasions. We at the Humanist Chaplaincy are offering a Humanist Celebrant training in a few days here in Cambridge where Atheists and Humanists can learn from professionals who have officiated at many weddings and have trained other wedding officiants how to perform marriage ceremonies, etc.

  24. Brownian says

    jfigdor, I have no problem with atheists participating in ritual. On the contrary, it’s necessary and healthy. One of my colleagues, who lost her son in an accident such that the body was never recovered, burned his sailboat in a little ceremony a year after his presumed date of death. She said she watched the smoke rise up to heaven—and immediately added, “well, I don’t believe in heaven, but you know”—and said her goodbyes, and it gave the family closure.

    Other than the religious terminology (in this culture, religion had such a stranglehold on such funerary rituals that we’re a little jargon deficient), on what grounds would an atheist deny a parent such a ritual, or a theist force them to hand it over to a priest?

  25. Azkyroth says

    Other than the religious terminology (in this culture, religion had such a stranglehold on such funerary rituals that we’re a little jargon deficient), on what grounds would an atheist deny a parent such a ritual, or a theist force them to hand it over to a priest?

    Fire codes and air quality laws?

    I get what you mean though.

  26. Brownian says

    This is why it is important for Humanists and Atheists to start thinking about how to commemorate these occasions.

    Why? You think we don’t know how?

    We at the Humanist Chaplaincy are offering a Humanist Celebrant training in a few days here in Cambridge where Atheists and Humanists can learn from professionals who have officiated at many weddings and have trained other wedding officiants how to perform marriage ceremonies, etc.

    Again, what’s to know? Other than the legal aspect?

    I’ve been to a shitload of non-religious weddings.* Every one was somewhat different. Every one was some blending of the wants and wishes of the couple and their parents or community. Believe it or not, nobody complain that a priest or priest substitute was needed to run the show because left to their own devices the couple managed to fuck up getting married.

    I mean, that’s great, what you’re doing and all. Still seems to imply that humans won’t know how to commemorate the important parts of their lives without a professional trained in commemorateology.

    Any parents here who remember their child’s first step? Did you take photos? Maybe yell for your partner to come watch? Were there tears in your eyes, some nervous laughter as the little one teetered too near the coffee table, maybe a phone call to the grandparents after?

    Did you have to phone a professional because you didn’t know how to celebrate such a milestone?

    Look, the reason we perform ritual is because we’re human. We can’t not do it. Nobody needs to teach us how.

    *Perhaps the most fun was in the home, only the bride, groom, maid of honour, and best man, on Halloween, with a JP to make it legal. My job as best man was to hold the ring and answer the door. I shit you not, the doorbell would ring, or kids would cry “Trick or Treat”, the ceremony would pause, I’d run to the door, compliment the kids on their scary/cute costumes and hand them a few treats, and we’d get back to the show. Afterwards, a few more friends were invited over to share a smoke and a bottle of wine.

    It seemed easy.

  27. Brownian says

    Fire codes and air quality laws?

    Yar. As I heard the story (she was just retelling it today in fact, as we discussed funerary traditions over lunch—I work with people from all over, so we’ve a lot of conversations about our respective customs, traditions, and languages) I thought of making a smartass comment to that effect, but she’s pretty quick-witted*, can give as well as she gets, and generally has a much smaller carbon footprint than I do.

    *As you can probably imagine, smartasses like me attract people who just love to see if they can knock us down a peg. It’s great fun.

  28. petzl20 says

    If you want to know all you need to know about de Botton, it’s his TED Talk: Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0.

    Then, throw up.

    What’s also disgusting is his audience– they’re eating up everything he’s saying. He’s actually engaging his audience and getting laughs (with him, not at him), and fulsome applause.

    He’s someone who’s in love with all the inculcative trappings of religion, while admitting that religions are based on false god(s). Huh?

    I had to go to this for a palate cleanser:
    Dan Dennett @ TED: A secular, scientific rebuttal to Rick Warren.

  29. jfigdor says

    Hey Brownian. I agree that ceremonies officiated by friends and relatives can sometimes be the best ceremonies. However, not all people are comfortable speaking in front of a large group and conducting a wedding. Furthermore, in a time of grief and stress, some people just can’t bear thinking about planning a ceremony. Having an Atheist or Humanist celebrant who has training, is familiar with the local laws, and can be a great comfort. I’m not suggesting that we stop having amateurs perform wedding ceremonies, quite the contrary. However, I am saying that since religious people find the service provided by ministers at their weddings rather convenient, and we can and should provide the same benefit to Atheists and Humanists.

  30. Brownian says

    @jfigdor,

    Ah, I see what you’re doing. Sounds great. I’m all for it.

    (Sometimes I forget that everyone’s reaction to being asked to MC a wedding isn’t the same as mine: “Really? A captive audience for my dumb jokes? What’s the catch?”)

  31. John Morales says

    [meta]

    jfigdor:

    However, I am saying that since religious people find the service provided by ministers at their weddings rather convenient, and we can and should provide the same benefit to Atheists and Humanists.

    Fucking revealing, it is, that you capitalise atheists and humanists, but not Religious people.

    (And rather amusing that you imagine atheists or humanists can’t be religious!)

    I would agree with you two

    So, under what conditions would you agree?

    (And why do you not agree as it stands?)

  32. says

    It seems a bit odd to me to go chasing atheist or humanist specifically; neutral is what I expect. We had a secular celebrant for my father’s funeral. It was good; he did a fine job of ordering affairs and MCing without being intrusive. I have no idea if he was personally religious.

    In Australia, weddings require official celebrants to be legal. You can just look up celebrant on line or in the phonebook and you get heaps. Most priests are licensed celebrants, but far from all celebrants are priests – I have two non-priest friends who are licensed. Both tend a bit to fluffy pagan in style, one more gothy and the other more RenFairey.

  33. Pen says

    @ Glen Davidson #4 — But surely you understand that these totalitarian systems didn’t “produce” these great things in the sense of creating and nurturing their existence. It fought them tooth and nail for the most part, unless it could be turned to serve the purpose of the powers that be.

    I don’t know what Glen meant, but I would have leapt to the conclusion that the ‘great things’ were art, architecture, literature, music, stuff like that. I don’t think it can be fairly said that religion had no role in the creation of some of these things. It’s contributions to our understanding of the world, however, are merely quaint.

  34. Grumps says

    Had a humanist funeral for Mum four weeks ago. We were lucky we found a lovely “officiant” who was eager to learn as much about Mum as he could etc.. but the point is the funeral was all about Mum. Her life. The impact she’d had on others. The good she’d done… No happy ever after bollocks, no heaven, no meeting again crap.

    Mum had been a very active Christian until about 10 years ago when (with my help) she lost her faith, so a large number of people at the funeral were very christian. We had worried a bit about how these people would feel about a funeral without god in it but you know what, they didn’t even notice. The Goddy rituals and platitudes weren’t there and they weren’t missed. Not even by the godbotherers. Because we celebrated Mum’s life and grieved for her passing in the way it should be done.. without bullshit!

  35. Aquaria says

    #39:

    Furthermore, in a time of grief and stress, some people just can’t bear thinking about planning a ceremony.

    Most people who have some sense plan what will happen when they die well in advance, so that their loved ones know their last wishes.

    I went to over a dozen “traditional” funerals when I was 18-20, and I never want to subject anyone to that on my behalf. Those are hard. They hurt. They make the pain worse, not better.

    After that last funeral I attended, for one of my closest childhood friends that left me in so much pain I couldn’t stand it, I told my family how I wanted my death handled: I want to be cremated, and my memorial service will be a blow-out party with lots of great food and booze, and everyone talking and laughing. For fuck’s sake, none of that dreary stuff–at all. They can say whatever they want about me, too. What will I care? I’ll be dead!

    When I first told my mother that, she said I was always such a morbid, weird child. 30 years later, when I’m so much closer to that funeral being a reality, she still asks me periodically if it’s what I would really want if something happened. And I tell her yes, a thousand times yes. Everyone in my life who’d be there knows that this is what I want.

    People who don’t plan these things are fools.

  36. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Aquaria:

    People who don’t plan these things are fools.

    So, in your opinion I’m a fool.

    (I’ll spare you mine of you)

  37. ryan says

    kind of in two minds on de Botton. His rant over the bad review was over the top, frankly I read it and it wan’t that bad a review. I’m also not sure his background is relevant to his worth as a writer. I do like some of his books, and he is a talented author. I don’t think he is a great philosopher though, but he does make some interesting ideas available to lay people – pop philosophy if nothing else.
    PS Haven’t read his latest book about Aethism – that might change my mind, but I did like a talk he gave, maybe because I’m a pessimist or more likely a realist.

    http://vimeo.com/10601416

  38. David Marjanović says

    I’ve never seen Godwin’s law so elegantly, artistically, successfully fulfilled as here in comment 10.

    Alethea: Goddamn. I don’t even smoke, and I need a cigarette now.

    I don’t. I could keep laughing for hours… :-) I love such takedowns.

    Am eager [...] to see you all at the REASON RALLY!!!!

    Too far away to join on short notice. Sorry.

    marriage is a human social institution

    More precisely, it’s a bureaucratic act. It’s “I want this person to have privileged access to me and my money, and vice versa, and it’s mutual”.

    This is why it is important for Humanists and Atheists to start thinking about how to commemorate these occasions. We at the Humanist Chaplaincy are offering a Humanist Celebrant training in a few days here in Cambridge where Atheists and Humanists can learn from professionals who have officiated at many weddings and have trained other wedding officiants how to perform marriage ceremonies, etc.

    I don’t understand the point.

    I don’t even understand why you capitalize “atheists”.

    However, not all people are comfortable speaking in front of a large group and conducting a wedding.

    What do you mean by “conduct”? There’s a bureaucrat who asks the legally required questions, and that’s it.

    I’ve been to such a wedding. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, the couple in particular.

    Having an Atheist or Humanist celebrant who has training, is familiar with the local laws

    There are plenty of countries where legally acknowledged marriages may only be performed by a bureaucrat. Traditionally, Christians then “marry” again in church the next day – scare quotes because that doesn’t mean anything to the state.

  39. says

    This is why it is important for Humanists and Atheists to start thinking about how to commemorate these occasions. We at the Humanist Chaplaincy are offering a Humanist Celebrant training in a few days here in Cambridge where Atheists and Humanists can learn from professionals who have officiated at many weddings and have trained other wedding officiants how to perform marriage ceremonies, etc.

    Ok I don’t know how to make this more clear to you arrogant dicks

    1) We are perfectly capable of running our own lives and commemorating our own rituals the way we want. Please stop treating us like children

    2) I want to commemorate my milestones the way I want to. I am getting married. we do not want a white wedding. we don’t want it at a church. we don’t want a stranger officiating. we don’t want a bridezilla fiasco. we don’t want a white dress. We don’t want someone else to choose the music. We don’t want someone else to suggest vows. It’s OUR wedding. We want it where we have it, surrounded by fossils and friends dressed up in costume. Stop telling me I need religion for that.

    Just stop.

  40. jfigdor says

    Dear WeAreIng,
    No one was suggesting any of the things you wrote about. I was simply saying that I think it is nice that Humanists and Atheists have professionally trained people who can perform ceremonies. If you don’t want to have a professional, then don’t hire one. Humanist Chaplains/Celebrants aren’t being forced on you.

    I’m not even going to address the “arrogant dick” insult as it was based off a serious flawed understanding of what we are doing. We are not the church of Humanism and we are not here to tell other people what to do.

  41. says

    @Ifigdor

    De Botton and others are basically saying that. It’s condescending and insulting. Furthermore, he sells the comforting lie that religion is like a bridge club to those wealthy and comfortable enough so that they can ignore the effects of religion.

  42. John Morales says

    Me, I have enough strictures in my life—personal, familial and societal—without adopting religious ones, as well.

  43. jfigdor says

    @John Morales and WeAreIng:

    It is important to recognize the difference between offering something and demanding that others accept what you’re offering. Humanist Chaplains and Humanist Celebrants are options available for Atheists and Humanists (and heck, anybody else who wants a professionally managed non-religious wedding). It is certainly not a demand, or a prescription, or even a suggestion. It is simply an option.

  44. says

    @ifigdor

    FFS De Bottom’s constant framing of the issue puts it that religion is needed for that. Do you not understand this? DO you not get that that is what the offense is?

  45. says

    Secular society has been unfairly impoverished by the loss of an array of practices and themes which atheists typically find it impossible to live with. We have grown frightened of the word morality. We bridle at the thought of hearing a sermon. We flee from the idea that art should be uplifting or have an ethical mission. We don’t go on pilgrimages. We can’t build temples. We have no mechanisms for expressing gratitude.

    @ifigdor

    *knocking on scalp* anyone home?

  46. John Morales says

    jfigdor:

    It is certainly not a demand, or a prescription, or even a suggestion. It is simply an option.

    <Sigh>

    If it’s optional, then it’s not necessary.

    (Some. Of. Us. Neither. Need. Nor. Want. Your. Stinking. Fucking. Unnecessary. Ceremonies. That. Ape. The. Religous.)

    (Yeah, I can abuse capitalisation even more than you do! :) )

  47. Therrin says

    Humanist Chaplaincy

    Can’t you name it something without the religious connotation, like Humanists R Us or Rent-a-Humanist?

  48. says

    Can’t you name it something without the religious connotation, like Humanists R Us or Rent-a-Humanist?

    Yeah – try getting an anti-superstition humanist-atheist gig at Harvard.

    They know on which side their bread is buttered.

  49. jfigdor says

    @ Therrin, we are deciding between Humanist Community and Humanist Chaplaincy. I’ll put you down as a vote for Community.

    @WeAreIng: Why are you expecting me to defend de Botton when he says something patently wrong like religion is required for meaningful marriages, or some other mealy-mouthed nonsense? I can defend the general trajectory of his thought without defending every word he says.

    I think de Botton is wrong mostly because I think that the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and other Humanist organisations already play the role and provide the services he wishes he had access to. We have weekly discussions about ethics and morality (and politics, and feminism, etc.), we make Humanist art, and we come together in a Humanist space every week. We are not creating a religion of Atheism. We are building a community of Humanists.

    @John Morales: Why the animosity? I have made it clear infinity times that we aren’t pushing anything on you. And yet you can’t let it be. You have to throw in this diatribe “(Some. Of. Us. Neither. Need. Nor. Want. Your. Stinking. Fucking. Unnecessary. Ceremonies. That. Ape. The. Religous.)” none of which has any relevance to Humanist ceremonies. It is clear that you have no idea what a Humanist ceremony looks like, otherwise you wouldn’t be throwing out the offensive suggestion that it “apes religion.” Humanism no more apes religion than philosophy apes theology.

  50. jfigdor says

    @SC (Salty Current), OM:

    What are you talking about? Are you trying to say that HCH is pro-superstition (which, incidentally, would be ridiculous, considering that we’ve hosted Sam Harris, the Mythbusters, Dan Barker, Hemant Mehta, Richard Dawkins, Steve Pinker, Rebecca Goldstein, and Rebecca Watson)? And what’s all this cryptic talk about us knowing which side of our bread is buttered? Are you trying to suggest that we’re secret theists? Or that we’re secretly funded by pro-religionists? For the record, all of our staff are open atheists, so we’re not theists. And I can assure you’re we’re not funded by some powerful religious oligarchs. If we were, we’d be living a whole heck of a lot better.

  51. Vicki says

    I had a professionally managed, non-religious wedding. The professional in question was an employee of the City of New York. (I believe the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also has employees who can provide this service, for a similarly small fee.)

    Two friends of mine, who had a big party with lots of people from several countries, got their officiant from the local registry office. She read vows that my friends had written; I and one other friend read excerpts from books that my friends found meaningful; and there was cake. No need for a specifically humanist celebrant (my friends neither knew nor cared whether the officiant was religious in her private life).

  52. John Morales says

    jfigdor:

    Why the animosity?

    Trying to pierce your Armor of Oblivious Obtusenes.

    (As my mum used to say, “no sense, no feeling”)

    It is clear that you have no idea what a Humanist ceremony looks like

    It is clear you are just guessing (and guessing wrong).

    Humanism no more apes religion than philosophy apes theology.

    First, theology is a subset of philosophy; second, we’re not talking about humanism (or Humanism, even), but about fucking ceremonies that replace religious ceremonies and mimic their form.

    Allow me to quote some doofus to whom you ascribe credibility:

    Can we agree that we atheists can use some tools of religion, such as the use of ritual to mark important life moments (Humanist weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies) or the strong emphasis many religious organisations place on community?

    I’ve helpfully emphasised where you’re fucking advocating the aping of religion. Not that I imagine you’ll acknowledge the fucking bleeding obvious.

    (Sheesh!)

  53. Sastra says

    jfigdor #59 wrote:

    I think de Botton is wrong mostly because I think that the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and other Humanist organisations already play the role and provide the services he wishes he had access to.

    I agree. Humanist celebrants not only know how to help an atheist couple put together a ceremony that’s meaningful to them, but there’s no fear that a humanist celebrant is going to sneak in something about God or Jesus at the last minute just to make the wedding more ‘meaningful’ or something.

    From what I’ve heard, such celebrants are really flexible. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or relative who’s a great speaker or if you’re good at such things yourself, then fine. I don’t see the problem.

    Well, I think the problem is triggered by the term “chaplain” and a bit of bad history with the folks at Harvard seeking legitimacy by gnu-atheist-bashing … but I wouldn’t tax jfigdor with the latter — and the former is mostly a semantic debate tangential to whether wedding ceremonies are innately “religious” — which no (or few) humanist celebrants would agree with. I think.

  54. John Morales says

    Sastra,

    Well, I think the problem is triggered by the term “chaplain” and a bit of bad history with the folks at Harvard seeking legitimacy by gnu-atheist-bashing … but I wouldn’t tax jfigdor with the latter — and the former is mostly a semantic debate tangential to whether wedding ceremonies are innately “religious” — which no (or few) humanist celebrants would agree with. I think.

    Nah, the term ‘chaplain’ is a symptom, not a cause.

    (And jfigdor was the one who claimed wedding ceremonies are a tool of religion; me, I claimed it was a social tool (@30).

    (Can’t both have your cake and eat it!))

  55. Ichthyic says

    I can defend the general trajectory of his thought without defending every word he says.

    are you sure you’re not simply projecting your own train of thought onto De Botton’s?

  56. says

    Why are you expecting me to defend de Botton when he says something patently wrong like religion is required for meaningful marriages, or some other mealy-mouthed nonsense? I can defend the general trajectory of his thought without defending every word he says.

    You are trying to defend the trajectory of a backfire

  57. says

    Well, I think the problem is triggered by the term “chaplain” and a bit of bad history with the folks at Harvard seeking legitimacy by gnu-atheist-bashing …

    The name,* the identity, the history of side-taking and misrepresentation – it’s all of a piece, and jfigdor continues it here. They’re welcome to change their pattern at any time.

    *Again, they would not have gotten the gig at Harvard without this sort of pandering. For anyone to suggest now, when the religious identity has been established, that they could change to “community” with no remaining connotations is extremely disingenuous.

  58. says

    Humanist celebrants help celebrate real events: marriages between human beings, the birth and death of human beings.

    Chaplains and priests of hokey religions celebrate fake events: the birth and death of a god, festivals for revelations and ghost sightings.

    That’s the difference to me. I can appreciate the role of humanist celebrants. The other guys? They make shit up to keep themselves busy and relevant.

  59. Sastra says

    John Morales #65 wrote:

    (And jfigdor was the one who claimed wedding ceremonies are a tool of religion; me, I claimed it was a social tool

    Ah, was the quote in #63 from jfigdor himself? I see the problem then. As I wrote in the other (one of the other) de Botton threads:

    If your point is that religions contain many values, morals, and elements co-opted from our common human heritage, no problem.

    If your point is that atheists need to borrow some the values, morals, and elements which religion came up with — problem.

    We’re touchy about that — and for good reasons.

  60. says

    Seriously Jfigdor, if you reject that claim, which by the way is a huge stinker, which is basically foundational to the rest of his spiel you really can’t defend the over all message.

    Well unless you’re like an idiot like de Boton who is apparently able to say “Jesus is false but Christianity is awesome”

  61. says

    This is why it is important for Humanists and Atheists to start thinking about how to commemorate these occasions.

    Damn! We’ve never thought about that before.

    *slaps forehead*

    ***

    Ah, was the quote in #63 from jfigdor himself?

    Yes – @ #28.

  62. jfigdor says

    @ Salty Current:

    How do we promote superstition? That seems like a ridiculous claim. We do a lot to promote science and scientific thinking, and we do a lot to fight against creationists and Intelligent Design. You’re making yourself appear ignorant by making obviously false charges.

  63. jfigdor says

    It doesn’t matter if marriage ceremonies are a tool of religion or a secular invention. I don’t particularly care. All I care is now that Atheists and Humanists want them, I think Atheist and Humanist celebrants should be available to help people with these ceremonies.

    @PZ I don’t make shit up to keep myself relevant. I host discussions for Harvard students about ethics, philosophy, and science, I talk to students who are undergoing emotional difficulties or are coping with the stress of school at Harvard, and I advocate for a robust form of Humanism that learns effective organising techniques from religious organisations and re-appropriates them for secular ends.

  64. says

    You’re making yourself appear ignorant by making obviously false charges.

    Dude, I’ve been arguing with you people forever, and I speak from the knowledge gained from those conversations and from reading and analyzing the words and actions of the Chaplaincy in a number of contexts. You can find all of my previous remarks online, especially here and at B&W. I might know more about your group than you do. This is true of a number of others here as well.

  65. jfigdor says

    I think that marriage ceremonies probably originated in our common human heritage, but that religion eventually claimed responsibility for inventing it.

    To those critics of the Humanist Chaplaincy, if you folks are going to be at the Reason Rally in March, I’d love to meet up and talk about some of these issues in person. I find discussions in person much more enjoyable than internet conversations.

  66. says

    We have grown frightened of the word morality.

    this of course is a lie, since secular ethics and the moral value of truth is one of the biggest topics discussed in atheist circles.

    We bridle at the thought of hearing a sermon.

    depending on what “sermon” means, this is likely also a lie. Many atheist organizations exist exactly because atheists like hearing talks on subjects they find of interest; including ethics.

    We flee from the idea that art should be uplifting or have an ethical mission.

    are you stupid or something?

    We don’t go on pilgrimages.

    true, we don’t travel halfway across the world to look at or bow before an object. we do so to meet people we like.

    We can’t build temples.

    what do you need a temple for? meetings and parties can be held pretty much anywhere, art is best displayed in galleries and museums, and music can be played in all sorts of different venues.

    We have no mechanisms for expressing gratitude.

    again, are you stupid or something? you don’t know how to take someone out for dinner to thank them? throw them a party? buy them a gift?

    well, I feel dumber for having read that.

  67. says

    Figdor now:

    It doesn’t matter if marriage ceremonies are a tool of religion or a secular invention. I don’t particularly care.

    Figdor above:

    Can we agree that we atheists can use some tools of religion, such as the use of ritual to mark important life moments (Humanist weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies) or the strong emphasis many religious organisations place on community?

    This is the shit that makes me angry. (Well, part of it.)

  68. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    To those critics of the Humanist Chaplaincy, if you folks are going to be at the Reason Rally in March, I’d love to meet up and talk about some of these issues in person. I find discussions in person much more enjoyable than internet conversations.

    First off, drop the chaplaincy word. Any religious word will put you immediately out of any possible job offer from this household, and many similar households. Use coordinator, emcee, toastmaster, guide, or any other word without religious baggage. That is what a lot of people, including PZ, is telling you. Try listening, and not talking/defending.

  69. jfigdor says

    Salty, you’ve still given no evidence to support your claim that the Humanist Chaplaincy pushes superstition or superstitious thinking. I know why: because there is none.

    And no, you don’t know more about the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard than I do, because you haven’t been to our programs, seen our community center, spoken to me, Chris, Sarah, Greg, or James (or any of the lovely members of our community here in Cambridge) in person, or done any of the other things you’d need to do to become familiar with the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.

    Please, criticize us as much as you like. But make your criticisms based on reality and evidence instead of just casting aspersions.

  70. John Morales says

    Thick-as-a-brick:

    All I care is now that Atheists and Humanists want them

    Get this through your thick skull: I‘m an atheist (not a fucking Atheist! It ain’t an ideology!) and I do not want.

    (You want to have some credibility, stop making such stupid over-generalisations)

  71. says

    It’d be absolutely horrible if we lost the baby-namming ceremonies!

    Why we’d have to go around with little 5 year olds being called “HEY YOU” and “BOY”

  72. jfigdor says

    @Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls: (great name by the way)

    I’ll put you down as a vote for the term “Humanist Community” as well.

    And for the record, even organisations that use the term Humanist Chaplaincy don’t really use the word chaplain in practice. I certainly don’t ask anyone in the Harvard Humanist Community to call me a chaplain. Heck, most of them think it is funny that they let a New Atheist like me become a chaplain in the first place!

  73. says

    because you haven’t been to our programs, seen our community center, spoken to me, Chris, Sarah, Greg, or James (or any of the lovely members of our community here in Cambridge) in person,

    it amuses me that you say this, because I think you actually don’t know whether it’s true.

  74. says

    Salty, you’ve still given no evidence to support your claim that the Humanist Chaplaincy pushes superstition or superstitious thinking.

    Yes, and I’ve pointed you to it.

    you haven’t been to our programs, seen our community center, spoken to me, Chris, Sarah, Greg, or James (or any of the lovely members of our community here in Cambridge)

    I’ve spoken with James online on more occasions than I care to count. Again, the evidence is all over the place. If you want to say that I’ve misrepresented his (or Stedmans’, or McLaren’s, or whoever’s) public statements, then do so and support it.

  75. jfigdor says

    Actually, I do know that this is not true. HCH does not promote supernaturalism, superstition, or any other nonsense. So if you had ever showed up to one of our programs, you’d know this.

  76. says

    Actually, I do know that this is not true. HCH does not promote supernaturalism, superstition, or any other nonsense. So if you had ever showed up to one of our programs, you’d know this.

    IOW you don’t know, you just think so. you “know” this in exactly the same way religious people “know” there is a god :-p

  77. John Morales says

    [meta]

    “a New Atheist like me” who happens to be a Chaplain and drools over being part of interfaith.

    (You can call yourself a carrot, for all I care, but you ain’t one)

  78. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I see no listening, but I do see a lot of preaching going on…

    Hint, if you are posting, you aren’t listening…

  79. says

    Actually, I do know that this is not true.

    Your whole business is to attribute valued practices to superstitious organizations that aren’t theirs, and to deny them to atheists, as shown clearly by your own posts on this very thread.

    By the way, here’s just one example of superstition apologetics:

    …Within global Christianity, many, if not most, churches — even those welcoming gay people — still believe that this welcome should not extend to ordaining gay people as ministers or having their churches bless gay unions. Sojourners’ big tent includes moderate to conservative evangelicals and Catholics who hold these views. Nevertheless, the organization has made huge inroads with these communities on issues of poverty, war and environmental degradation because of their strong commitment to pursuing scriptural integrity and maintaining biblical authority….

    If you think you all can do as well at Harvard as full truth-speaking atheists, again, I welcome it. It’s perfectly compatible with community service (but not with community-service-as-gnu-bashing performance). Do it.

  80. jfigdor says

    You’re citing an article by Chris Stedman that has nothing to do with his work at HCH. What Chris does in his private time is his business. Personally, I disagree with him on this issue. I think what Jim Wallis and Sojourners did was wrong.

    And to reply to this canard about me trying to strip resources from atheists and attribute the credit to religious folks, nothing could be farther from the truth. Religion itself is a human creation. The whole enterprise of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were imagined by human beings. So since religion is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    I don’t attribute rituals such as weddings and funerals to religion. I was only trying to indicate earlier that religious organisations have done a great job of providing those rituals for their members. I think that it is a good idea for Humanists and Atheists to try to provide Humanist and Atheist versions of weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies. Are you opposed to that? It isn’t aping religion. It is learning good practices from history.

  81. says

    You know what would convince me that you’re not pro-superstition?

    1) You stop describing your organization and its actions in religious terms and publicly modeling yourselves after religious organizations. Immediately.

    2) You stop going along with those who attribute ethics, community, art, celebration, and other valued things with religion and who argue that they’re not of atheists or nonreligious culture.

    3) You stop publicly bashing gnu atheists, and speak out against those who do.

    Quite simple, actually.

  82. Sastra says

    jfigdor #74 wrote:

    It doesn’t matter if marriage ceremonies are a tool of religion or a secular invention. I don’t particularly care.

    Well, this distinction is kind of the topic, in that we think de Botton is granting way too much to religion at the expense of making atheists look cold, shallow, and rather stupid. And this matters to the extent that it matters that atheists become recognized and respected by the culture at large.

    I’ll make a couple analogies … not necessarily to prove my point (argument from analogy!), but just to help you understand why this issue is an issue.

    A black activist wants to motivate African-Americans out of the ghetto: he advises them to borrow some of the values of the white culture and work hard, get educations, and be honest.

    The head of a health organizations wants to promote “Integrative Medicine,” and advises science-based practitioners to co-opt good ideas from Alternative Medicine … such as the use of well-proven herbs, exercise, and paying attention to the patient’s history.

    In both those cases you are going to hear howls of protest. Can you think why?

    This is the sort of problem we’re having with this particular is marriage religious or secular issue. It’s why we care — and think you ought to, also.

  83. says

    You’re citing an article by Chris Stedman that has nothing to do with his work at HCH. What Chris does in his private time is his business. Personally, I disagree with him on this issue. I think what Jim Wallis and Sojourners did was wrong.

    So what is the official position of the HCH?

    I don’t attribute rituals such as weddings and funerals to religion. [*cough*] I was only trying to indicate earlier that religious organisations have done a great job of providing those rituals for their members.

    Oh, really? For everyone? Throughout history? Have you thought this through?

  84. John Morales says

    [meta]

    jfigdor:

    So since religion is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    So since philosophy is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    So since ideology is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    So since mathematics is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    So since literature is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    So since X is a human construct, it cannot itself be the true source of anything.

    (With most people, I’d only post the last one. But here, we’re dealing with jfigdor, to whom I suspect my meaning remains opaque even after my belabouring)

  85. Sastra says

    jfigdor #95 wrote:

    I think that it is a good idea for Humanists and Atheists to try to provide Humanist and Atheist versions of weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies. Are you opposed to that? It isn’t aping religion. It is learning good practices from history.

    Sure. I have no problem with this.

    Of course, not all atheists are interested in ceremonies or want outside advice, but of course you know that and aren’t arguing that they do.

  86. jfigdor says

    @SC

    1) I can’t control this at Harvard, but I will take this advice to my board of directors when we launch our community/chaplaincy this fall. You might also have noticed that the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard has started referring to itself as the Humanist Community Project, which is a step in the direction you’re encouraging, no?

    2) We don’t do this. We celebrate atheist/Humanist/non-religious art at HCH. We feature Humanist/atheist/non-religious authors, musicians, journalists, ethicists, and scientists in our community and proudly remind folks that they come from a long and storied tradition of Humanism that extends to the Ancient Greeks.

    3) I have never engaged in Gnu-Bashing and criticize those who do it. I criticize Chris Stedman when he is wrong, for example. But I also support him when he is right, especially when that comes in the form of getting atheists more fired up about service. His work in organizing the Hunger Rally in Boston was laudable. And you’d be glad, there was no Gnu Bashing there.

  87. jfigdor says

    @SC (Salty Current), OM

    The official position of HCH is set by Greg Epstein. I don’t know what his position is on that. You’d have to ask him. I don’t think he took a public one.

    As for the second question, considering I studied this is grad school, yeah, I did think about this. Religion has done a good job of providing marriage services for its members. Religion has also done some really shitty things, like denying gay people the right to get married, or prohibiting interracial marriage. I think we can study what worked for them, and then excise the hateful and bigoted parts. Does that make sense?

  88. says

    1) I can’t control this at Harvard, but I will take this advice to my board of directors when we launch our community/chaplaincy this fall. You might also have noticed that the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard has started referring to itself as the Humanist Community Project, which is a step in the direction you’re encouraging, no?

    As I said, change the name and lose the religious terminology. I noted above that it’s disingenuous to suggest that this would immediately remove the religious connotations, but it would be a start. If it happens.

    2) We don’t do this. We celebrate atheist/Humanist/non-religious art at HCH.

    And yet here you are making the comments you are on this thread, which speak for themselves and which are entirely reminiscent of any others you or James have commented on.

    3) I have never engaged in Gnu-Bashing and criticize those who do it. I criticize Chris Stedman when he is wrong, for example.

    Could you provide a few public examples, possibly?

    But I also support him when he is right, especially when that comes in the form of getting atheists more fired up about service. His work in organizing the Hunger Rally in Boston was laudable. And you’d be glad, there was no Gnu Bashing there.

    Yes, there’s gnu bashing there everywhere! The assumption in his public writings is that atheists need to be “fired up” by you all to be ethical and active (and the religious don’t). Your version of atheism-humanism is just so much more fucking ethical than ours. It’s bullshit, and it’s outrageous that you keep pulling it.

    Organize hunger rallies. Pass out lightbulbs. Just stop pretending that there’s something about kindness/ethics/love/humanity that gnus need to learn from the religious or from you.

  89. John Morales says

    jfigdor:

    Religion has done a good job of providing marriage services for its members. Religion has also done some really shitty things, like denying gay people the right to get married, or prohibiting interracial marriage.

    You consider doing really shitty things as a good job?!

  90. says

    I don’t think he took a public one.

    Of course. Isn’t that convenient.

    considering I studied this is grad school,

    What’s your grad degree in?

    Religion has also done some really shitty things, like denying gay people the right to get married, or prohibiting interracial marriage.

    Women nowhere to be found. Look, religions don’t own rituals, they didn’t invent them, and no one needs to make any reference to religion in this case. Surely you recognize that. If you all insist on doing so, it will be clear that you’re pro-religion rather than pro-human (or, as I prefer, post-human).

  91. jfigdor says

    @ SC

    Here is me criticizing the very Puff-Ho piece you referred to earlier: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/John_Figdor/atheist-activism-problems_b_1164399_124794437.html

    “@Chris Stedman: No offense, but I think this piece is reductive and dismissive of New Atheist critiques, and will do a great job alienating lots of people with legitimate anger with religion from the secular movement. I get that you’ve decided to go with the diplomatic approach, it is your brand after all, but please, don’t presume to impose your friendly approach on the rest of us.

    I do want to say something positive, which is this: I think that Chris is right that keeping criticism more constructive is a good thing. In my personal opinion, we could use some more thoughtful, better-phrased criticism of religion.

    But I’m not arrogant enough to tell people who’ve been hurt by religion to “stop being angry.””

    To your second question, I don’t think Chris’s message is that you’re a bad person if you’re not a happy humanist, or even a member of his organisation. His point is probably that we can all probably be a little more charitable, so let’s motivate secular people to do more for charitable causes. It is really no different than the message behind Foundation Beyond Belief.

  92. jfigdor says

    @ SC

    I have an MDiv in Humanism from Harvard Divinity School. Instead of focusing on the Bible, I focused on western philosophy as my canon and wrote extensively about Rawls, Kant, and the four horsemen. My thesis was entitled: Gods that Fail: A Rejection of Theodicy. I did my undergrad degree in analytic philosophy focusing on ethics and philosophy of science at Vassar.

    There are lots of women performing religious rituals. In fact, most western traditions allow women to be ministers. A lot of these women attended Harvard Div with me. I agree with you that religion is pretty much inherently anti-feminist, but there are women who have carved out powerful places for themselves within religious organisation (fwiw, the Christian Scientists were founded by Mary Baker Eddy).

  93. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, purveyor of candy and lies says

    I’ve just breezed through this thread but this stuck out:

    Religion has done a good job of providing marriage services for its members.

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but my marriage “service” was provided by a judge. My younger sister and her husband were also married by a judge. Oh, and my older sister and my BIL had their marriage ceremony performed by the mayor.

    Why do we need “humanist chaplains” or whateverthefuck again?

  94. janine says

    I have no desire to be a part of this but I had to pull this out of the pile and laugh.

    I agree with you that religion is pretty much inherently anti-feminist, but there are women who have carved out powerful places for themselves within religious organisation (fwiw, the Christian Scientists were founded by Mary Baker Eddy).

    Look up the concept of “Spartan Women” sometime. Most of the men and women here are not at all impressed that Christian Scientists was founded by a woman.

    Have funny flapping your gums, chew toy.

  95. says

    I do want to say something positive, which is this: I think that Chris is right that keeping criticism more constructive is a good thing. In my personal opinion, we could use some more thoughtful, better-phrased criticism of religion.

    Couldn’t even make it through a couple of paragraphs! Is that the only example, to counter the thread after thread after thread of your and James’ comments?

    I have an MDiv in Humanism from Harvard Divinity School.

    Ayup.

    There are lots of women performing religious rituals.

    [Regardless of what you mean by "lots"] That was not my point.

  96. jfigdor says

    @Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, purveyor of candy and lies:

    It sounds like YOU don’t need humanist celebrants. But does that mean that nobody else does? All we are saying is that there are some people who want something different for their ceremony than what the local judge is willing to do, and those people might want a Humanist celebrant to perform their wedding. In Cambridge, we get a pretty steady number of folks coming to us for wedding services.

    Please keep in mind that we aren’t demanding that anybody hire a Humanist celebrant. I’m just mentioning that it is an option out there, and a very good option at that.

  97. John Morales says

    jfigdor:

    In Cambridge, we get a pretty steady number of folks coming to us for wedding services.

    Your spruiking marketing is yielding results, hooray!

    (You do this freely and for no charge, right?
    Because you’re so charitable)

  98. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, purveyor of candy and lies says

    And do you really think that if your “chaplain services” weren’t available, that those people wouldn’t be able to find something else?

    In other words, you are totes unnecessary.

    I’d love to hear examples of what a judge would be unwilling to do. We’re talking about a wedding ceremony, for crap’s sake, not a baby roast.

  99. says

    In fact, most western traditions allow women to be ministers.

    It’s not all that relevant, but just out of curiosity what do you mean by this? What do you define as a “Western tradition,” and are you just counting “traditions” or are you looking at numbers of adherents?

  100. says

    All we are saying is that there are some people who want something different for their ceremony than what the local judge is willing to do, and those people might want a Humanist celebrant to perform their wedding.

    We all know that isn’t all you’re saying. Stop claiming that it’s all you’re saying. It hasn’t even been all you’ve said on this thread.

    Some people want secular-humanist ceremonies. Great – you’re one of many groups and individuals that provide them (or maybe a pseudo-religious version thereof). That’s it. Big whoop.

    I think I’m going to have to exit this thread, because I can’t take this disingenuousness.

  101. jfigdor says

    @SC (Salty Current), OM

    Here are a few more from Facebook:

    “Jonathan Figdor: This is a non-response. Chris, you called out Al Steffanelli as hateful. It is clear that his words weren’t hateful. You still haven’t shown how you’re going to tell what is and isn’t acceptable anti-theism, and by false characterising Al Steffanelli as “hateful,” you’ve shown that you don’t have a way of telling good anti-theism from bad anti-theism. Happy holidays.”

    “Jonathan Figdor: You’ve done a great job responding to all the surface stuff, Chris, but you still haven’t answered my question as to how you can distinguish between legitimate anti-theism and “hateful” antitheism. Give me an argument, Chris, not a story. Why is what he said specifically hateful, and how can other anti-theistic Atheists avoid being called “hateful” by someone (you) who is allegedly advocating for their rights?”

    “Jonathan Figdor: I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that you didn’t think this through all the way, Chris, and you’re hoping it will blow over. I still think you owe everyone an answer at how you distinguish acceptable antitheist advocacy from “hateful” antitheist advocacy, assuming you have say, 1-2 minutes of free time to attend to the pot you so vigorously stirred…”

  102. says

    And to reply to this canard about me trying to strip resources from atheists and attribute the credit to religious folks, nothing could be farther from the truth.

    later:

    I think we can study what worked for them, and then excise the hateful and bigoted parts.

  103. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Please keep in mind that we aren’t demanding that anybody hire a Humanist celebrant. I’m just mentioning that it is an option out there, and a very good option at that.

    groan

  104. jfigdor says

    SC (Salty Current), OM:

    No. Actually, Harvard doesn’t pay us. HCH is a 501c3 educational non-profit organisation that independently fundraises for 100% of its programs and staff.

  105. says

    Here are a few more from Facebook:…

    Thank you. Given that the previous example you offered so rapidly “turned,” I’m not going to take those at face value or see them as representative, particularly in the context of your other comments on these blogs. But I do appreciate the examples.

    ***

    groan

    Sure – just what a turf-protecting Reverend would say!

  106. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Still can’t figure out why people think leaving religion leaves a hole that needs to be filed with the nonsense jfigdor is preaching.

    It didn’t leave a hole, it relieved a burden.

  107. says

    No. Actually, Harvard doesn’t pay us. HCH is a 501c3 educational non-profit organisation that independently fundraises for 100% of its programs and staff.

    OK – my error. “Independently” is highly questionable in this case, however. “Independently” would be if you weren’t part of Harvard.

    But again just out of curiosity (and I mean it – I honestly just want to know), is there any public listing of major donors?

  108. says

    Still can’t figure out why people think leaving religion leaves a hole that needs to be filed with the nonsense jfigdor is preaching.

    i’m guessing it’s like when workaholics retire: when your entire life was dominated by this shit and you got addicted to it, you’ve no idea what to do with yourself and how to find something meaningful to do.

    on that note:
    atheist religion = methadone

  109. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Sure – just what a turf-protecting Reverend would say!

    can’t let these atheist priests celebrants horn in on my territory

  110. says

    Still can’t figure out why people think leaving religion leaves a hole that needs to be filed with the nonsense jfigdor is preaching.

    It didn’t leave a hole, it relieved a burden.

    It’s just like the “religion provides comfort” claim. To a large extent, even the comfort it provides is only a felt need because of the beliefs and fears religion instills in the first place. “Terrorists! Everywhere! But we’ll protect you!”

    ***

    I think that marriage ceremonies probably originated in our common human heritage, but that religion eventually claimed responsibility for inventing it.

    So, do you now acknowledge that the stages of human transformation and other aspects of human life don’t inherently involve religion, and therefore that we don’t need secular imitations of it?

  111. jfigdor says

    @ Salty Current

    Greg Epstein sets the policy on financial releases and disclosure. You could ask him, but I’m pretty sure he’d say no. FWIW, I’m sure most similar organisations wouldn’t provide this information either. It would mean essentially turning over all of one’s donor prospects to other organisations.

    In response to this: “So, do you now acknowledge that the stages of human transformation and other aspects of human life don’t inherently involve religion, and therefore that we don’t need secular imitations of it?”

    If I understand it correctly, then I would say, yes, I agree that we don’t need secular imitations of religious ceremonies or rituals. I would say that some people feel the need for secular evolutions/remixes/edits of religious rituals, and I want to support them in that project.

  112. says

    I would say, yes, I agree that we don’t need secular imitations of religious ceremonies or rituals. I would say that some people feel the need for secular evolutions/remixes/edits of religious rituals, and I want to support them in that project.

    two sentences, each saying the opposite of the other. fascinating.

  113. Ichthyic says

    I would say that some people feel the need for secular evolutions/remixes/edits of religious rituals, and I want to support them in that project.

    but, aren’t you curious about WHY some people feel the need for organized ritual?

    to me, it sounds like someone saying they want to support alcoholics to employ their addictive behavior in other ways, rather than deal with the addictive behavior to begin with.

    IOW, to me, this goal sounds like a methadone program for heroin addicts.

    and, likewise, some do see the value of “step down” programs for addictive behaviors.

    I don’t myself; I’m one of those who think the best thing is simply to dump the things that support the addictive behaviors to begin with.

    But then, I’m also not a fan of Alcoholics Anonymous, either.

  114. Ichthyic says

    atheist religion = methadone

    LOL

    I note with glee that I had not even noticed that before I typed my previous response!

  115. Ichthyic says

    hmm. this being my self-proclaimed Bob Altemeyer week…

    I’m thinking De Botton and people like “humanist chaplains” are SDOs

    and the people that are following them for the ritual are still just RWAs.

  116. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Jonathan Figdor, you self-important wanker.

    You’re so far up your own ass you can’t see anything but your own self-interested circle of masturbators (you, Stedman, Croft, whoever else). For fuck’s sake, you can’t even refer to your own department and its Members without Inappropriate and Silly Capitalization. Because Capitalizing one’s Job Title makes one a Bona Fide Professional™.

    SC eviscerated your argument. You offered absolutely nothing in return.

    Is this really the best you can do?

  117. leel says

    Anyone interested in a movie about treating the deceased with respect and providing closure and comfort to the bereaved, set in a non-western context – watch Okuribito/Departures.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1069238/

    No more saccarine or tear-jerky than necessary.

  118. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I see JFigdor never shut the fuck up and listened, which is required for learning, but kept on wanking like any preacher would. Not part of your movement, nor will I be until you lose the religious trappings and language. End of story for most of us here. Why look like a pathetic excuse for existence, based on lies and bullshit?

  119. says

    I don’t attribute rituals such as weddings and funerals to religion. [*cough*] I was only trying to indicate earlier that religious organisations have done a great job of providing those rituals for their members.

    No damn it! It’s done a great job of entrenching itself and EXCLUDING those who aren’t their members. That’s what this whole gay marriage issue is about! Religions have provided marriage and now claim it and want to continue EXCLUDING others from these rituals and milestones. How do you not see this?

    Still can’t figure out why people think leaving religion leaves a hole that needs to be filed with the nonsense jfigdor is preaching.

    Because religion itself is something used to fill a need or hole if you will. I think a reason why we see so many geeky people comfortable as atheists is that mythology is the need religion fills. People who can easily accept other stories as important can transition out of it easier.