Atheism becoming more religious

In keeping with the theme of atheist churches, Susan Jacoby wrote an essay for the NYT called The Blessings of Atheism.  But it could have been called Longing for Religion, as Jacoby helps to illustrate that as much as they deny religion, in the end, even the atheists succumb to humanity’s intrinsic religious nature.


She speaks of the comfort of atheism:

It is a positive blessing, not a negation of belief, to be free of what is known as the theodicy problem.

She speaks of the moral imperative of atheism:

The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world — whether that means visiting a friend in a hospital or advocating for tougher gun control laws — without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next…..We do want our fellow citizens to respect our deeply held conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth.

She acknowledges that reason alone does not deliver truth:

Today’s atheists would do well to emulate some of the great 19th-century American freethinkers, who insisted that reason and emotion were not opposed but complementary……. We need to demonstrate that atheism is rooted in empathy as well as intellect.

She holds up Ingersoll as providing comfort with a eulogy

He also frequently delivered secular eulogies at funerals and offered consolation that he clearly considered an important part of his mission. In 1882, at the graveside of a friend’s child, he declared: “They who stand with breaking hearts around this little grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest … The dead do not suffer.”

And, of  course, proselytization:

And although atheism is not a religion, we need community-based outreach programs so that our activists will be as recognizable to their neighbors as the clergy.

It sounds to me like Jacoby would make a great motivational speaker for some upcoming A+ meeting.  But I’m curious about something.  If you don’t believe in God, but you also don’t buy into one of these tenets, does that mean you are no longer an atheist?  Does anyone know what an atheist is anymore?

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3 Responses to Atheism becoming more religious

  1. Crude says:

    Remember when atheism was a purely negative thing, supposedly not even a belief but an absence of a belief with no positive content? And how, therefore, atheism could never be responsible for this and that because it had no imperatives to speak of?

  2. eveysolara says:

    What is more utterly human than empathy

  3. Crude says:

    I knew the talk of an atheist church reminded me of something.

    Then I realized it’s been shown in cartoon form before.

    The best part is? The conflict there… that was a joke at the time, but really, that does seem like ‘Cult of Gnu versus accommodationists’ right there.

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