So, if an atheist were to start a religion, what would this religion be like?
This is a question I have been thinking about on and off for some time. Sure, this wouldn't ever really happen, as a religion without a god is not a religion, but it's an interesting thought experiment that I think brings up some valid points and demonstrates how lacking the existing religions really are (not that there are not good ideas contained within; there are). So, what would my religion be like, exactly, if I were to create one?
Let's find out!
Some of this was thought up over the course of time I spent thinking about this, as alluded to above, but much of it is going to be made up on the fly. How conceited of me to think I am capable of creating most of a religion on the fly! Well, let's see how I do, shall we? You be the judge.
Here's the hierarchical breakdown of the power structure:
|See That? Ya, Neither do I, and that's the Point!|
Nor do I. There IS no power structure in my religion.
So, how does anything get done, then, you ask?
Ready for this:
....But....but....magx01, you cry, that sounds like....communism!!
No, no. Communal, not communism (which, btw, I think possibly gets a unfairly bad rap in society, but that's for another blog....and for when I have done more reading on the subject).
The idea is simple: The people involved do things as a group. Democratically. A true democracy. If the religion ever came to fruition, and exploded into a big thing, then it would be fractured into many little democracies, which would basically be local jurisdictions. Each area that wanted to formally represent the religion would for a local chapter, and all decisions would be made as a group.
So what kind of decisions am I referring to? Well, administrative, outreach, building, publishing, etc.
And, of course, participation in this aspect of the religion is only if desired. No one is forced to participate, and a committee could be formed out of the people that do desire to be active in the decision making.
The main concern is making sure that no one person has any more power than anyone else, unless the person with less power wants it that way (by not participating). Anyone who does participate in the democratic process has just as much power as the next person. Of those active, NO ONE has any more power than anyone else. I do not want this thing to get corrupted.
What about scriptures?
This one is tricky. The thing is, as you will soon see, this religion's teachings are not really novel. Therefore, pre-existing books would be perfectly acceptable for being ratified as scripture. As far as new stuff goes, I suppose we could allow anyone to add to the potential pool of information to be ratified, and the group votes on the potential candidates and ratifies those that are picked. The type of stuff I am talking about is mainly philosophical and scientific works.
Wait, so what kind of stuff do you want in the scriptures?
Knowledge. The main goal of this religion is two fold: Knowledge/Education (and the promotion thereof) and Fellowship. I am envisioning a social group that gets together and associates in the ways that a religion encourages, but rather than learning some dogmatic, doctrinal, 'inspired' b.s., we are going to enrich ourselves with knowledge and educate ourselves/eachother about the world around us.
What about rules?
Well, let's establish some Commandments, shall we?
1) Thou shalt treat others fairly, with concern, sympathy, and care, and not discriminate against anyone based upon their sexual orientation, race, age, etc
2) Thou shalt not work towards limiting the happiness of those whose actions you disagree with, if those actions are not harmful to others.
3) Thou shalt treat others as you wish to be treated, unless thoust art a masochist. If so, see the next command.
4) Thou shalt not treat others as you wish to be treated, if thoust art a masochist. Do the opposite.
5) Thou shalt not abuse neglect, or otherwise treat poorly non human animals. Do not adopt a pet if you cannot and will not provide a loving, stable, fulfilling environment for them.
6) Thou shalt not have numerous amounts of children for whom thoust cannot provide, financially, emotionally, or otherwise.
7) Thou shalt not neglect to consider societal and environmental impacts when contemplating having children.
8) Thou shalt not knowingly exploit others for financial or other gains.
9) Thou shalt seek out as much knowledge as possible (or as much as thoust desires) and thoust must be intellectually honest in all of your endeavours, no matter how uncomfortable this may make you.
10) Thou shalt seek to question and challenge thy beliefs.
11) Thou shalt not act contrary to these or any other moral or ethical teachings in the name of business.
12) Thou shalt strive towards not teaching children known falsehoods, especially when the truth may lead to more beneficial outcomes, or lessened negative ones.
13) Thou shalt not murder another, with the exception of a self defense situation in which all other options are unfeasible.
14) Thou shalt not seek to enforce your religious or cultural heritage upon others. Sharing it is welcomed, attempting to enforce it is not.
15) Thou shalt respect secularism as the only reasonable way to ensure as healthy a society as possible, unless every single member of said society belongs to the same religion and shares the exact same beliefs.
16) Thou shalt not deny your children medical care in favour of prayer or religious healing practices. Empirically validated treatments are the only recommended course of action for anyone, especially a dependant child.
17) Thou shalt not assume that this list is complete.
18) Thou shalt work towards effecting change in this very list, when both the means, and the societal imperative to do so, arise. If the state of societal health and individual liberty necessitates a change,
Thou shalt make that change!!!!
So, what about gatherings?
The structure of the gatherings is up to the members in each area. There's no reason to enforce anything upon anyone. There can be social gatherings, educational ones (debates, lectures, etc), a secular mass/service (with readings from books and such, songs, whatever)...whatever people want. Remember, all the religion cares about is promoting education (the pursuit of knowledge) and fellowship. Pets allowed!
What about money?
The members pool whatever resources together they want, and the amount of this depends upon what they want to do. It can range from very little (just buying books and such) to quite a bit (if they say want to build a meeting place). There are no required donations, no collection plates, and no real need for money at all, if say members donate reading material, or people just get information from the internet, and rather than building a meeting place, they use pre-existing ones, like halls, church basements, restaurants, outdoor areas, or bars. It all depends on what they want to do.
Isn't this just secular humanism in disguise?
Sort of. It's basically organized secular humanism, but with added emphasis on non human animals, and also of course, the formal establishment of a group, which means meetups, get togethers, etc.
What about ceremonies like marriages, funerals and divorces?
Nothing formal here. People can do whatever they like. Most members would likely opt for secular options, but none of it needs to be done through the religion. Of course, of the members want, they can keep a list of people who are recognized as being able to officiate various things, and these people can be hired or volunteer, to do any officiating for anyone who may want the service. All up to the local groups.
So there's no god?
So, sum this up for me then. Real simple like.
Basically, this religion is not a religion in the traditional sense. There is no god, and no worship. We are basically providing a substitute for the traditional religions so that there can still be that social structure/fellowship (mutually supportive environment) while removing any of that doctrinal, superstitious baggage. No nonsense about original sin and past lives; no penal substitution and zombies. Instead, our members are focused on this life, since it's the only one we are sure that we've got. The goals beyond the social are twofold:
1) To make this life as grand as possible for both yourself and the people around you, as well as other, non human life forms, all the while being careful to try and take care of our environment, since we are cognizant of the fact that to do otherwise is suicide.
2) The pursuit of knowledge. We are focused on, and committed to, education, as we believe that education is key. Key, as in, the key to everything. Education's importance cannot be overstated. The fate of the world and our lives depends on the quality of education, and the more knowledge, the more highly educated, the more advanced and socially mature our civilization(s) will be.
Knowledge, education, love, people, life, environment.
That is this new religion.
So.....what's it called?
Vita est Scientia, which is Latin for Life is Knowledge.