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The Boston Atheists Meetup Group Message Board › Program suggestions for "One Day, No Religion"

Program suggestions for "One Day, No Religion"

Zachary B.
zakbos
Boston, MA
Post #: 197
The Boston Atheists are going to participate in the proposed "One Day, No Religion" campaign. What ideas do people have for ways to do so?
Zachary B.
zakbos
Boston, MA
Post #: 198
I suggest we have a de-baptism evening. We would meet in a public venue to support members who want to publicly repudiate their former Catholicism by explaining their reasons for not wanting to be even a passive Catholic, and participating in a symbolic de-baptism consisting of a hairdryer applied to the forehead. Similar events have been held by freethought groups in other parts of the country, but not without controversy.

I've set up a poll to see what people think about this idea, at http://www.meetup.com...­.

Member David M and I have been exchanging emails about this on the mailing list, and will move further responses here to the message board. He has written that this kind of an event seems antagonistic to him, but I'm confident that we could do it without being disrespectful. And that furthermore, we should be free to do things we think are principled without being hemmed in by the potential complaints of those who disagree with us. I for one think it is a principled act, to say, hey, I was a baby when they inducted me into this religion, and now that I am an adult, I want to make known my principled objection to that induction.

Please post your thoughts about this suggestion, and your ideas for other ways to participate in the One Day, No Religion proceedings, below.
Elizabeth
user 8893636
Cambridge, MA
Post #: 1
I am neither interested in participating in a publicized de-baptism event, nor am I particularly interested in debating the merits of such an event with those who want to do that sort of thing.

A few points of clarification:
  • People other than Catholics take baptism seriously. I'd expect that Baptists do, for example.
  • Under Catholic canon law, you cannot become "de-baptized" or taken off the Church's roster by blowing a hairdryer on yourself. It is a long process and those interested in pursuing it can search Google for additional information on how this can be accomplished.

Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 14
I won't be able to participate, but I think it is a good idea. If we get too sensitive about "hurting someone else' sentiment/belief/feelings etc," we'll get to nowhere. I think, both religious and non-religious people should be given the freedom to at least 'mock' each other. What neither should be allowed to do is to cause violence. Non-believers do not adhere to any 'divine' authority that prescribes violence to anybody. It is not the same in case of believers, unfortunately. But, if the mockery becomes the only weapon for opposing each other, I'll be happy to consider this as a real progress in this debate. I think we should give mockery a chance. No killing, no physical harming, no prosecution and no violence. Only mockery. Both sides. All should be allowed to do that. Hurting sentiments/feelings to oppose is a much better way than hurting people through violence. I hope the "no religion" day gets proper attention. I am for it. The only thing I would change is the date. It is okay this year because it is a Sunday. Why not make it every third Sunday in Feb, instead of 20th. We all have s#%t to do.
Zachary B.
zakbos
Boston, MA
Post #: 199
I should admit that I'm not personally motivated to be de-baptized; rather, I'm open to participating in such an event, since several members have asked if we might have one.

I take your disinterest seriously. I'm responding because I think a serious question is how persons of a nontheistic persuasion may advocate for rationalism and against the superstitious, coercive, etc., components of religion, without being accused of being merely antagonistic.

In my own conception of such an event, it wouldn't be the purpose of persons being de-baptized to *actually* remove from themselves whatever influence their participation in earlier Catholic (or Baptist, etc.) rites may have left. Rather, this would be a symbolic act, comparable to the apocryphal burning of bras in opposition to prevailing misogyny and social practices which reinforced misogyny. The burning of bras wasn't a way of directly resisting sexism, but was a visible act by which participants could announce their displeasure with the status quo, and their commitment to resisting it.

Is it idealistic of me to think that it would be possible to both take seriously, and have fun with, an act which publicizes participants' resistance to childhood baptism? I find that practice odious, in that it reinforces what in many people becomes a lifelong susceptibility to dogmatism, among other consequences. But I don't believe that the intentions of the persons who decide to baptize their children are odious. Actus reus, sans mens rea.
David M
user 8343504
Jamaica Plain, MA
Post #: 18
I won't be able to participate, but I think it is a good idea. If we get too sensitive about "hurting someone else' sentiment/belief/feelings etc," we'll get to nowhere. I think, both religious and non-religious people should be given the freedom to at least 'mock' each other. What neither should be allowed to do is to cause violence. Non-believers do not adhere to any 'divine' authority that prescribes violence to anybody. It is not the same in case of believers, unfortunately. But, if the mockery becomes the only weapon for opposing each other, I'll be happy to consider this as a real progress in this debate. I think we should give mockery a chance. No killing, no physical harming, no prosecution and no violence. Only mockery. Both sides. All should be allowed to do that. Hurting sentiments/feelings to oppose is a much better way than hurting people through violence. I hope the "no religion" day gets proper attention. I am for it. The only thing I would change is the date. It is okay this year because it is a Sunday. Why not make it every third Sunday in Feb, instead of 20th. We all have s#%t to do.

I think the debaptizing is a good event on a different day. You mention the freedom to 'mock' -- that is exactly my point from the email exchange. That day isn't about one side mocking the other on the day. That seem to me to be at odds with the spirit of the event. The point of the event is that the world would be less contentious without religion's divisiveness.

The actual website does say "don't debate religious issues".

Imagine if people actually decide to put aside their religion on that day and they go to a bar to get a beer. They see people with a hair dryer. They ask what it is about. Now they get to think, "here I am playing nicely and these people are making fun of my beliefs". Also, not all 'causing violence' is covered under 'doing violence'. Inciting others to violence through mockery is also causing violence. In my opinion, the 'nerd' who mocks the 'jock' as being a neanderthal deserves the wedgie.

Sure it is unlikely for anyone to really put aside their religion for a day. But if we are asking others to play nicely, so should we.

Have the depatizing a week or a day before?

I do wonder how atheists who hold secular gatherings on Sundays can support this event since they seem to feel that gathering together on a Sunday, even without religion, is valuable. They would seem to be hypocrites if they asked the religious to not hold their gathers. They should be asking just that they remove religion from their church gathering to be consistent.
Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 15
"Also, not all 'causing violence' is covered under 'doing violence'. Inciting others to violence through mockery is also causing violence."


I'll change the words 'causing violence' to 'doing violence.' But I do not think mockery can anyway be related to 'inciting violence.' That is not in the nature of mockery. If I mock, the other person will have the equal right to mock me back. But that individual will not have the right to physically harm me, nor do I deserve the wedgie. If that happens, I am quite certain that my mockery did not incite that violence, something else did.

About the date. I wasn't thinking about Sunday in a way you are talking about. I get your point. Being born among hindus, Sunday is not a special day for them, EVERYDAY of the week is special. They have this god for this day and that god for that etc. All days are covered. I am only talking about an universal non-week-day, that's all. If not Sunday, say Saturday or something like that...
Zachary B.
zakbos
Boston, MA
Post #: 200
I think these are good points, well made.
Tucker L.
TLieberman
Boston, MA
Post #: 7
We need to clarify whether "de-baptism," like baptism, is simply a statement of personal and/or communal belief or whether it is something more political and aggressive. Baptism is generally done in church services, and church services in turn are generally open to the public who choose to enter while not imposing themselves upon those who do not choose to enter. If "de-baptism" is a parallel ritual, it would make sense in an equivalent meeting place that guests make a fully informed choice to enter. If one instead practices "de-baptism" as a kind of guerilla performance art, then it seems more like a political protest, and it is disingenuous to describe the ritual as a mere acknowledgment of one's private beliefs. To phrase it another way: the question is whether the de-baptists wish to come across as aggressively missionary/evangelical atheists, resembling street preachers more than church preachers. If the argument is raised that the Boston Atheists do not yet have our own building because we have not paid for one and therefore we must be resigned to the street, that is a practical rather than a philosophical objection.

It has been pointed out that the de-baptism may offend Catholics and other Christians. I don't necessarily object to gentle mockery of ridiculous beliefs, especially when people choose to expose themselves to mockery by reading an atheist book, watching an atheist debate, etc. Public de-baptism, however, runs the risk of crossing two lines: it may be misinterpreted as mocking people rather than ideas, and it may seem like harassment because the audience did not choose to enter a debate. Mockery can be valuable in the same sense in which humor is a classy addition to a good knock-down argument. Mockery is not valuable when it is frivolous, gratuitous and mean. The line is often blurry, but still worth careful consideration.

Additionally, aside from offending some people, de-baptism may seem awkward and irrelevant to others. Not everyone understands baptism or has an opinion on it. I was raised and educated in Reform Judaism which does not have a baptism tradition. (We do, incidentally, have a tradition of periodic full immersion called the mikveh, which I sometimes engage in, have written on, and find a pleasant and thoroughly harmless activity.) As an atheist Jew, i would have difficulty interpreting an atheist Catholic's de-baptism. On the one hand, I appreciate the atheist philosophical statement; on the other hand, I'm not necessarily anti-ritual or anti-bathing; and I'd feel uncomfortable laughing at someone else's tradition, as it's not my battle to fight. I only bother arguing against specific Christian beliefs that are detrimental to our shared public life, for example, promoting war, denying the findings of scientists, tolerating sexism, stigmatizing sexuality, or stifling dissent. These are mistakes that are harmful to all people whether they identify as Christian, atheist, Jewish or whatever, and whether they recognize the error or not. Baptism as a private act is related only indirectly to these sorts of public consequences of religion -- and, it should go without saying, religion's manifold consequences are both positive and negative -- so I don't feel comfortable implying that baptism is purely a bad thing, nor do I feel it's any of my business as a person of Jewish background whether a Catholic or former Catholic gets baptized or de-baptized. In a sense we're all "fellow atheists," but some of us are Jewish atheists and some of us are Christian atheists, and to the extent that we still have hang-ups related to these traditions, our backgrounds still matter.

Finally, on a slightly different note, I looked at February20.org and it didn't make sense to me. Atheists can't declare a day for non-atheists to do anything whatsoever, much less expect them to behave like atheists. This makes about as much sense as Christians declaring that Jews and Muslims should celebrate Christmas in 2011. You can say it, but it will have no effect. What you can do -- and savvy religious groups seeking new converts do it all the time -- is declare yourself a welcoming community and hold informational events for interested people. The interest in atheism has to come from the individual. Once they express the slightest bit of interest, you can educate them, encourage them, ply them with coffee and chocolate until they give in to your recruitment. But if they're devoted theists, they're not going to behave like atheists for a day simply because the atheist calendar orders them to do so. An atheist day is only valid for atheists and interested parties.
Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 16
"I only bother arguing against specific Christian beliefs that are detrimental to our shared public life, for example, promoting war, denying the findings of scientists, tolerating sexism, stigmatizing sexuality, or stifling dissent. "
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These are not just Christian beliefs. Baptism and alike is there in almost all religion. As for hindus (the one that I am familiar with) to become a "true Brahmin" one needs similar rituals (you call traditions). De-baptism is only a form of descent that includes all baptisms of all religions, kind of like the burning bra analogy that Zak provided.
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"What you can do -- and savvy religious groups seeking new converts do it all the time -- is declare yourself a welcoming community and hold informational events for interested people. The interest in atheism has to come from the individual. Once they express the slightest bit of interest, you can educate them, encourage them, ply them with coffee and chocolate until they give in to your recruitment."
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I wouldn't be comfortable doing what a savvy religious group does.
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"In a sense we're all "fellow atheists," but some of us are Jewish atheists and some of us are Christian atheists, and to the extent that we still have hang-ups related to these traditions, our backgrounds still matter."
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I don't understand the meaning of "Jewish atheists," "Christian atheists," "Hindu atheists," etc. What does each of them mean?
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