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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"

Tucker L.
TLieberman
Boston, MA
Post #: 8
In answer to your three comments/questions:

I was singling out Christianity because I thought the de-baptism assumed the undoing of a specifically Christian baptism. If there is a similar Hindu tradition, then my comments apply to that, too. My point was that, as a person of Jewish background, I only feel comfortable criticizing beliefs of non-Jewish religions if they are hurting someone. I try not to criticize relatively harmless non-Jewish religious beliefs on the grounds that it isn't my business. If I overhear someone praying to the Great Unicorn, I see no reason to vehemently mock them; I'll raise a stink only if they're trying to insert unicorns in public school textbooks. My concern is that people aren't injured by the act of baptism itself. Rather, they are sometimes unhappy with other things that baptism represents to them. From a public communications perspective, it makes more sense to address those other complaints directly (e.g. "Hell is a malignant fiction that frightens children irreparably"), rather than to seemingly attack an innocuous ritual (e.g. "Sprinkling babies with water is silly"). The latter is a better "hook" and makes for better stand-up comedy, but I fear it would fail to get the more serious message across.

No, atheism doesn't need to ape religion just for the heck of it, but some of the behavior of religious institutions is grounded in psychological, sociological, and business principles that one ignores to one's own detriment. The majority of religious recruitment and education isn't done through street theater and there's probably a reason for that. Think of how annoyed most people are by Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormon missionaries; why would they be less annoyed by similar behavior by atheists? If you only want to get your message out to a small, like-minded crowd, then fine, proceed with a narrow message that speaks to a small audience. I have no wish to be "the party of no" especially given that I'm not an active member of the Boston Atheists. I'm not trying to obstruct others from taking action that is meaningful to them. I'm just giving a bit of feedback and reality-check about the likelihood that a public de-baptism would have a significant transformative impact on average theist hearts and minds, which is negligible. A handful of events advertised by the Boston Atheists have inspired me enough to actually attend; a dozen others have intrigued me enough to wish I could attend; but this particular action doesn't represent my views and does not interest me in principle.

"Jewish atheists," "Christian atheists," "Hindu atheists," etc. could be interpreted in several ways. Atheism is often a reaction against a previous personal affiliation with a certain religion and/or informed by knowledge of a certain religion. The terminology is sort of tongue-in-cheek. My serious point is that there isn't one monolithic atheism, nor is there a "view-from-nowhere", unbiased, pure atheism. We all come from somewhere and most of us probably have complex, competing identities. I am Jewish and not all "Christian atheism" rings true for me and matches my agenda, although I respect that it is important to people who are coming out of Christianity.
Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 17
"My point was that, as a person of Jewish background, I only feel comfortable criticizing beliefs of non-Jewish religions if they are hurting someone. I try not to criticize relatively harmless non-Jewish religious beliefs on the grounds that it isn't my business. "

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Do you mean to say that you would criticize only the non-Jewish religion because you are born among the Jewish religion (leaving aside "more-harmful" and "less-harmful" part, because to my mind all religions cause harm to their own and others)? If so, then I must say that I would do exactly the opposite. Being born among hindus, I feel comfortable and necessary to criticizing hindu beliefs more than any other simply because I know this better than I know the other ones. At the same time, as a rationalist and an atheist I also feel no problem criticizing other religions and superstitions (sometimes called traditions) because irrationality is their integral part. But criticizing hinduism would be on the top of my list. I appreciate those who are born among christianity, for instance, and find the strength to criticize their own religion first before criticizing other religion (although I think we all have the rights to criticize all religions because they harm us all). Only one small thing: I hope while criticizing one's own birth-based-religion, one should not prevent people from other religions to criticize their own in order to sound "politically correct." I hope that all of these happen across the globe, but unfortunately a lot of people, due to fear find it comfortable to criticize other religions leaving their own untouched, or for political-correctness, criticize their own and prevent others doing the same (getting complicated..). In short, I completely differ from you about your above statement.

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"I have no wish to be "the party of no" especially given that I'm not an active member of the Boston Atheists."
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But I am an active member (may be not physically but intellectually, perhaps) of this movement. So I feel there is a need to express our views either through books, dialogues or through humor/mockery etc. NOT violence. To my understanding de-baptism (that symbolizes all kinds of baptism-like thing) is a very positive and humorous event to make a point, and a strong point indeed.

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I am still not convinced about "Jewish atheists," "Christan atheists," etc terms. These seems self contradictory to me.
A former member
Post #: 2
Hey guys, I was following this debate for no good reason. The answer is actually simple if you want to respect the proposed holiday; no. Part of the holiday is to not discuss religion in any way. The point is to act that day as if religion didn't exist and never has.

I, personally, am not excited about February20. Aren't most days "no religion" days already for allot of people? And why are we creating yet-another-day-that-tells-people-how-to­-act-and-think anyway? Maybe we should let people do whatever they want to do, even if it isn't in line with what the holiday is supposed to be.

So, even though it is against the guidelines for the day, I think I might vote yes. ;)
David M
user 8343504
Jamaica Plain, MA
Post #: 19
Raja,

I am Jewish, and I am atheist. My grandfather is a Jew. He also says God dies in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He is a hardcore atheist and has great contempt for religion.

There is nothing problematic with the idea of 'atheist Jew' or 'Jewish atheist'. These are all over the place. There are lots of these in Boston Atheists in fact.

The reason for this is that Jewish is typically more salient as an ethnic identity than a religious identity. There are in fact versions of Judaism that are agnostic regarding god and are more concerned with community and the secular philosophical underpinnings of their movement. By 'their group', I am talking about their particular subgroup of Judaism which may be only a century old.

Recently, I have heard similar usages of Catholic. There are atheists who attend mass and who want their weddings done by a priest. Nevertheless, they do not believe in god. Their Catholicism plays a big role in their cultural identity, though they aren't interested in the god or even the Pope-related aspects.

This should not surprise anyone if we are already aware that the beliefs of most Catholics in the US are much different than official doctrine of the Catholic Church. They may self-identify as Catholic, but their beliefs are something personal, not determined by the church.

Regarding this comment:

"Maybe we should let people do whatever they want to do, even if it isn't in line with what the holiday is supposed to be."

Re-read the first post. The question raise concerned doing something in conjunction with that day. Sure, people can do what they want. But that is not what this thread is about. This thread is about doing something in conjunction with that day. Attendance is not mandatory and you are free to do your own thing on that day unrelated to the 'one day no religion' theme.

The why's for having the day are covered in the website. Nowhere on the site does it say that we should obstruct anyone from acting or thinking a particular way. It says what the day is about and then it is up to individuals to decide if they think it is a good idea and want to join in.
Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 18
"Recently, I have heard similar usages of Catholic. There are atheists who attend mass and who want their weddings done by a priest. Nevertheless, they do not believe in god. Their Catholicism plays a big role in their cultural identity, though they aren't interested in the god or even the Pope-related aspects."

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If this is truly the case, I do not think why do we even bother to talk about atheism? If going to attend mass, or performing rituals at temple does not suggest that these people are theists, and possibly suggests that they could be atheist, I think we should not bother wasting our times talking about atheism. But this is probably not the case in general. So I still do not get what does it even mean to be a "Catholic/Jewish/Hindu athiest!" Seems to me a pretty lame excuse for being an athiest or even a Catholic/Jew/Hindu. But we are deviating from the point of the original discussion. Whether de-baptism with hair drier, as symbolic, is a good mockery for beliefs system. I think it is. The date-time etc can be flexible or not, that's not a big deal to me.
David M
user 8343504
Jamaica Plain, MA
Post #: 20
"Recently, I have heard similar usages of Catholic. There are atheists who attend mass and who want their weddings done by a priest. Nevertheless, they do not believe in god. Their Catholicism plays a big role in their cultural identity, though they aren't interested in the god or even the Pope-related aspects."

-------

If this is truly the case, I do not think why do we even bother to talk about atheism? If going to attend mass, or performing rituals at temple does not suggest that these people are theists, and possibly suggests that they could be atheist, I think we should not bother wasting our times talking about atheism. But this is probably not the case in general. So I still do not get what does it even mean to be a "Catholic/Jewish/Hindu athiest!" Seems to me a pretty lame excuse for being an athiest or even a Catholic/Jew/Hindu. But we are deviating from the point of the original discussion. Whether de-baptism with hair drier, as symbolic, is a good mockery for beliefs system. I think it is. The date-time etc can be flexible or not, that's not a big deal to me.

You are worrying too much about labels instead of understanding what people are actually doing. It is pretty simple. There are people who do not believe in a god, yet they attend services of a particular religious tradition.

It seems to me that the only hindrance to understanding this would be a desire to neatly categorize people in a simplistic taxonomy and an aversion to nuance.

"Suggestion" is not relevant. Suggestion is often causing you to jump to incorrect conclusions. What people actually are is what is relevant. Of course there will be a strong correlation between attending religious services and believing in a god. This doesn't change the fact that there are also atheists who enjoy attending such services regularly and who even self-identify as Catholic.

The Jewish one is a different story since a Jew will be a Jew, no matter what their religion, since Jews usually identify their ethnicity as Jewish. If you cannot understand this, I can't help but think you just refuse to, since the Jewish case is very straightforward.
Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 19
""Suggestion" is not relevant. Suggestion is often causing you to jump to incorrect conclusions."

I do not know how did you come to this conclusion about me. I made no conclusion. If you think that for some reason, I apologize.

"This doesn't change the fact that there are also atheists who enjoy attending such services regularly and who even self-identify as Catholic."

.....I doubt that seriously. "Enjoys attending...?" I would be surprised if that is true. Again, please lets not get into something irrelevant to the original discussion. I was talking about "de-baptism" as an acceptable mockery. I still think it is.
David M
user 8343504
Jamaica Plain, MA
Post #: 21
""Suggestion"­ is not relevant. Suggestion is often causing you to jump to incorrect conclusions."

I do not know how did you come to this conclusion about me. I made no conclusion. If you think that for some reason, I apologize.

"This doesn't change the fact that there are also atheists who enjoy attending such services regularly and who even self-identify as Catholic."

.....I doubt that seriously. "Enjoys attending...?" I would be surprised if that is true. Again, please lets not get into something irrelevant to the original discussion. I was talking about "de-baptism" as an acceptable mockery. I still think it is.

Check out the one of the hosts of Point of Inquiry, Robert Price. He is an atheist who enjoys attending high church services, like Catholic or Anglican. No need to doubt since the data is out there. If reality doesn't fit the our personal model of how atheists should be, it is our model that needs updating, not reality.

If people wanted to continue to talk about the de-baptism or other activities for the day, they would. Regardless of this tangent. I think we are in agreement in de-baptism sounding like a fun activity for the group. My point has been that it is just inappropriate for the guidelines posted for the "one day, no religion".
Raja
user 6429723
Natick, MA
Post #: 20
Good that we are in agreement with the de-baptism stuff.

You are absolutely right that if reality demands, a model must be changed. But, in order to change a model we need overwhelming evidence. Example of Robert Price, the Professor of Theology, is not sufficient to call it reality. I completely disagree. I need better evidence, someone who is known as a "Christian Atheist," not as a professor-of-Theology-and-occasional-"­Christian Atheist."

I think we should move on to the de-baptism part. Just to make it a bit clear, I never gave any importance to "one day, no religion" thing. From the beginning I was talking about the mockery through de-baptism, which I think is a good idea.
David M
user 8343504
Jamaica Plain, MA
Post #: 22
Good that we are in agreement with the de-baptism stuff.

You are absolutely right that if reality demands, a model must be changed. But, in order to change a model we need overwhelming evidence. Example of Robert Price, the Professor of Theology, is not sufficient to call it reality. I completely disagree. I need better evidence, someone who is known as a "Christian Atheist," not as a professor-of-Theology-and-occasional-"­Christian Atheist."

I think we should move on to the de-baptism part. Just to make it a bit clear, I never gave any importance to "one day, no religion" thing. From the beginning I was talking about the mockery through de-baptism, which I think is a good idea.

I get your point about the "one day, no religion" thing. I hope you also get that this thread is about that day. The thread title is 'Program suggestions for "One Day, No Religion"'. This is also a continuation of a related discussion from the email list that dealt with appropriateness of a de-baptism on that particular day.

Your middle paragraph sounds like a 'no true Scotsman' argument to me.

Is Robert Price not a real atheist? Really? Despite for many years being involved in atheist and secular humanist podcasts? Price know to be both openly atheist and someone who enjoys regularly attending religious services. How does he not show that your generalization is mistaken? He was pretty open about this back when he was a regular on 'The Infidel Guy' podcasts and is pretty forthright still when he hosts Point of Inquiry. The guy is a major proponent of the idea that 'Jesus' never actually existed. What are you saying is occasional about him?

Considering many of us know atheists who enjoy attending religious services and being part of religious communities, it may only be lack of exposure that perpetuate your worldview on this. Hang out with more Unitarian Universalists if you want to meet atheists who enjoy church services. I first learned about this when I met a die-hard atheist from Kentucky who very much enjoyed attending services every Sunday back home. I met him in a conference of atheists and humanists in NYC.

It sounds to me like you are not willing to budge from your stand, regardless of evidence. I also think you might be unaware of how many atheists there are who have PhDs in Theology since you seem to think that somehow disqualifies him. Their PhD studies are part of the reason they became atheists. But the PhDs need not make them no longer enjoy the services, the community, or the ritual.

There is one minister out there who stopped actually believing in God, but has a book published and still travels preaching to congregations about how science and evolution should inspire fellow Christians. He looks at the Bible as essentially just mythology that can help teach nice things if not taken literally. It is all a little weird, but he still self identifies as Christian minister and an atheist.

It is important to understand that there are a lot of people in the world with vastly different personalities and world views than you or I. Some do not believe in anything supernatural, yet enjoy attending Christian church services. If you reflect enough upon it, it becomes obvious that this would happen since atheists are able to enjoy (or not enjoy) all varieties of art, literature, etc.

Do not waste your time trying to describe the 'true atheist'. Not having a believe in a god (or in the supernatural) is only a small facet of one's personality. It is possible to vary on everything else.
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