Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sam Harris interviews Phil Zuckerman

Harris interviews Phil Zuckerman, author of Living the Secular Life. They start by differentiating the terms secular, secularization, secularism and atheism. Then this:

Harris: "Many of us have acknowledged that although 'replacing religion' may not be an appropriate goal, religion does offer people many things they want in life—and these are things that most atheists also want. We want nice buildings that function as dedicated spaces for reflection and celebration. We want strong communities. We want rituals and rites of passage with which to mark important transitions in life—births, marriages, deaths. We just don’t want to lie to ourselves about the nature of reality to have these things. This poses a real challenge, because once we get rid of religion, we are left without an established tradition for meeting these needs, and the alternative is often piecemeal, halfhearted, and unsatisfying."

Zuckerman: "So here are the options, as far as I can tell: First, secularize religion. By that I mean keep the rituals, the holidays, the buildings, the gatherings, the knickknacks, but let the supernatural beliefs wither and fade. The example of this that first comes to mind is Reform Judaism. Most American Jews get what they like out of Judaism—the ceremonies, the holidays, the sense of belonging, multi-generational connections, opportunities for charity—and yet they have jettisoned the supernatural beliefs. Many liberal Episcopalian congregations, too, are in this vein. Also Quaker meetings. And most Scandinavians, with their modern form of Nordic Lutheranism, are as well. They observe traditional religious holidays and they participate in various life-cycle rituals and they congregate now and then in church and they even 'feel' Christian—and yet they do all these ostensibly religious things without a scintilla of actual faith in the supernatural."

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