humanism

Happily God-less clergy say this time, it really is their year; Washington Post uncritically says, 'Amen'

Happily God-less clergy say this time, it really is their year; Washington Post uncritically says, 'Amen'

Back in the dim recesses of history, I wrote for several information technology publications.

A running joke in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was that this year, whichever year that was, would be the "Year of the LAN," or local-area network, that had long been prophesied. My colleagues and I would smirk a bit whenever some conference speaker declared this, and go back to our reporting.

The "Year of the LAN" did eventually arrive. Anyone who has a home network, wired or wireless, could be said to have ushered it in. But it came gradually, without the fanfare many in the industry sought to attach to this trend.

I had similar emotions when looking over a story in The Washington Post proclaiming the advent of a growing coterie of humanist clergy. Though posited as an oxymoron, the article noted that humanists -- who say there is no God and declare they can live ethical lives without a deity or scriptures to guide them -- need leaders, too. From the article:

These clergy without a God say that their movement is poised to grow dramatically right now, as American young adults report a lack of religious belief in higher numbers than ever before, but also yearn for communal ties and a sense of mission in a tumultuous time.
“Even more since the election, we have folks say, ‘I’m really looking for a way either to feel hope or to do justice,'” [conference organizer Amanda] Poppei said. The Sunday after the presidential election, dozens of distressed liberal Washingtonians showed up at her service, and many have gotten involved in the congregation. Now, Poppei sees an opportunity for not just her community but humanists nationwide. “To me it’s just about, how can we maximize what we’re doing to allow us to take advantage of the moment right now? I believe really strongly that being a person in a community makes you a better person. America needs it.”
Fueled especially by the millennial generation, the portion of Americans who say they don’t ascribe to any particular religion has increased dramatically, from 5 percent in 1972 to 25 percent today. A small portion of those 25 percent identify as atheist or agnostic. The rest tend to describe themselves using terms like “spiritual but not religious” or just “nothing in particular.”

The Post item is resonating in other quarters, it appears. Maine's Portland Press-Herald picked it up, and perhaps other papers have or will do so. It has the "man-bites-dog" quality of many click-worthy news articles.

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How should we define -- and assess -- atheism?

How should we define -- and assess -- atheism?

DANIEL ASKS: Is it becoming possible to be religious without believing in god? (the lower-case “god” is Daniel’s usage)

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

This is partially a repeat from March 22, 2013, when The Guy posted “Is atheism a ‘religion’? Is the Pope Protestant?” That headline indicated the idea seems ludicrous on its face. Yet, as the item explained, things are actually somewhat complicated.

The Guy won’t repeat that material here. Meanwhile there’s intense interest not only in definitions but in atheism’s role in society, to judge from the 69 lively comments posted in response to The Guy’s June 21 item on the unhappy “track record when atheists wield political power.” As an admitted theist, The Guy would like to thank all atheists who responded. These matters obviously deserve another look.

First, can people be “religious” without belief in God, or a god, or gods? Yes, absolutely. This is not “becoming possible” now but has long been true. The Buddha lived perhaps 26 centuries ago and everyone agrees Buddhism is as much a religion as, say, Islam. The Buddha Dharma Education Association, among others, states flatly that true Buddhists do not “believe in a god.” Yet teachers like Kusala Bhikshu tell us “a lot of Buddhists believe in God” while others don’t.

Or consider the modern Unitarian Universalist Association, self-defined as a “religion” yet creedless. It explicitly welcomes atheists as members in good standing alongside those with a God-concept. Humanistic Judaism likewise designates itself as a “religion” but eliminates the Jewish God.

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