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  1. #1
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Default Implications and consequences of an atheist society

    I'd like to talk about this, I'm not wanting an argument about the rightness or wrongness of atheism itself or belief in God, that's for another thread.

    I'd like to dialogue on the practical and institutional changes from earlier societies that an atheist or predominantly atheist society will create, what will be the mediating norms and values in the abscence of those provided by religion?

    All religions, I believe, could be defined as Fromm defined them as providing an object of devotion and a frame of orientation, ie ethics, norms, codes of conduct. Does atheism have is sort of character?

    For the sake of argument the atheist society has no religious character or positive religious legacies, the reason I choose to set that precondition on the dialogue is because most of the atheist writers which I am familiar with, Dawkins, Grayling, Dennett, do not believe that religion and religious traditions have any positive legacies and see no benefice steming from them. That is different from for instance Erich Fromm who whilst not believing in God or the afterlife, at least in any sense of a transcendent order or being, repeatedly affirmed a kind of spirituality and religious traditions.

    So, what are the sources of community, shared identity, motivations to service or sacrifice, motivations to abstain, refrain, cope with temptations, does anyone defer gratification? Considering welfare pluralism is a central plank of social policy irrespective of political trends but especially in capitalist camps who see informal, market and non-governmental organisations unfunded by taxation as the alternative to tax funded social and health services.

    Finally, do you think about any of this when you fill out your census information? When it is collected it is used by politicians to make certain decisions and for think tanks to recommend certain courses of action, it is not an enquiry about what way your private conscience moves you or what your existential priorities are, at least not simply, its not simply demographics either.

  2. #2
    WALMART
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    Religion stems from human psyche, human psyche does not stem from religion.


    Society will progress as society does, with or without religion in its wake. Likely, soon enough, without 'religion'.


    I see 'spirituality' being a modern forerunner for the replacement of religion. It explains the proposed individualism you speak of, the self-indulgence: we have turned away from our fellow man and into ourselves.





    A far side note: I find it funny that the modern non-religious are more moral than the religious history has been - supporting equality and personal liberty and all that jazz. While religion attempts to make you its slave, spirituality truly frees the souls of the world.

    Also, I put jedi on the last census card. Apparently it's a rapidly growing religion.

  3. #3
    Supreme High Commander Andy's Avatar
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    Interesting question.

    I think that regardless of whether religion left any positive cultural influences, I think culture itself becomes the defining force shaping moral perceptions in an irrreligious country. The bible contains many parables that attempt to illustrate moral ideas and there are similar attempts being made today using the mediums of film and books. Action movies are often rather simple, but even they show certain ideas about loyalty, self sacrifice and so forth.

    Stories change in meaning over time, changing as culture changes. Today stories about RobinHood tend to centre around the idea of helping the weak, opposing corrupt authority and the dangers of avarice. The original stories had more to do with loyalty to ones frinds and courage, as illustrated by an early story where Robin gets captured and durring the process of rescuing him Little John has to murder and priest and a small boy. The point of the tale was that Johns loyalty to Robin was such that he was prepared to do such terrible things to save his friend and that was admirable. While this may seem a pretty dubious message today it illustrated how people felt at the time.

    Religion and culture have always been interwoven, and in many ways I think the decline of religion in many parts of the world is more to do with a culture taking over the job of religion. Atheism isn't anything - it's the absence of religion more than the opposite, a hole that gets fill by something else. When theists attack atheism they are wasting their time - it's like punching mist. It's liberalism that kills religion, not because they are incompatible but rather because they frequently are. Liberal culture integrates with religion, absorbs and then replaces it. You then end up with a state where the religion is just a thin skin drawn across the underlying believes that have secular source. That's why liberal theists from different religions often get along well. Under the surface there are few differences in what they believe.

    I wish I has more time, but I'm out of minutes at the library. I'll check back later to see how this debate evolves.
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  4. #4
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    @Andy: can you more specifically define "liberal religion"? Liberal is a term tossed around so much by the conservative elements that it's not clear exactly what you are referring to, and in especially in context of this discussion in the United States, it's the "politically liberal" that often seem to embody the more human and compassionate side of human nature versus the self-branded faithful which tend to depict the more autonomy "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "hardline" end of things. So this is all seeming to contradict with the thought undergirding this thread -- where lack of explicit religion is supposedly going to contribute to the fracturing and downfall of society.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    If this threads takes off at all, it is bound to become a gigantic clusterfuck.

    Q: What will be the mediating norms and values in the abscence of those provided by religion?
    A: Religion does not provide any values of value. People do.

    Q: All religions could be defined as providing an object of devotion and a frame of orientation, i.e. ethics, norms, codes of conduct. Does atheism have is sort of character?
    A: No.

    Q: So, what are the sources of community, shared identity, motivations to service or sacrifice, motivations to abstain, refrain, cope with temptations, does anyone defer gratification?
    A: An atheist society is not necessarily a society without religion, it is merely a society without religions involving gods. If we admit that religions are ideologies and that ideologies can involve pretty much anything that people can put their trust in, we can conclude that, even if there were no religions, there would still be other means to provide people with a sense of belonging, hope, social cohesion, etc. Nationalism is a kind of ideology that requires no gods and yet furnishes its believers with strong values, a sense of purpose, ideals for the future, and even with enemies. I am afraid it would be utopian to hope that instead of something pitiful a large group of people would come to adopt a save-the-earth kind of ideology in which sustainability is the end of ends.

    Q: Finally, do you think about any of this when you fill out your census information?
    A: I have never filled out my census information.

  6. #6
    The Memes Justify the End EcK's Avatar
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    A lack in belief in divinities/the supernatural/dualism can be defined as a belief be it only by contrast. Though this 'belief' would only be useful if meant to be used in a debate involving how the two sets of worldviews fit and overlap. and if they overlap do they overlap destructively or can they coexist ? etc.

    So the question is: to what end should there be an atheist society ?
    Expression of the post modern paradox : "For the love of god, religions are so full of shit"

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  7. #7
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    ...So, what are the sources of community, shared identity, motivations to service or sacrifice, motivations to abstain, refrain, cope with temptations, does anyone defer gratification? Considering welfare pluralism is a central plank of social policy irrespective of political trends but especially in capitalist camps who see informal, market and non-governmental organisations unfunded by taxation as the alternative to tax funded social and health services.
    1. Sources of community and shared identity: People have a natural drive to form communities for the sake of survival. Shared identities are formed through proximity and exploration.

    2. Reasons for delayed gratification: There is more focus on human beings interacting directly with reality and devising systems like the scientific method to be able to expand the understanding of the natural world and its consequences. Gratification is deferred because of understanding the natural consequences of an activity rather than because of a presumed punishment or reward in an afterlife.

    3. Reasons for service and sacrifice: We all benefit when the members of a society are cared for responsibly. This means analyzing problems, and solving them at the root of the issues, rather than casting judgment and focusing on punishment for "bad" people. There is a pragmatic reason for me to work to eliminate poverty, suffering, and crime in a society because I will personally benefit from a healthy system. Poverty is a social disease that increases mental and physical illness through want, it lowers the ability of individuals to reach their full potential and contribute to society. My own peace and prosperity relies on the ability of fellow citizens to be able to solve problems.

    A purely objective standpoint will see the reason behind our natural impulses for empathy. If I value my own welfare, then why would I not value the welfare of an equivalent being? To value my own prosperity over others simply because I comprehend reality from this vantage point is not logical. Reason requires that I value equivalent beings as equivalent. If I value myself for being a living being, then that too would stand to reason that other living beings should be valued.

    When we are born, we have a dim comprehension of reality only from the standpoint of self. During the first couple of years of life we separate from our mothers and develop a sense of Self and Other. When this process is interrupted, or an infant does not receive healthy interaction from their mother/caretaker, then the sense of Other does not develop and the result is an attachment disorder such as narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy, etc. As we develop our sense of Other, it expands to our families, our friends, our communities.

    There is no reason that this should not eventually extend to embrace the whole of humanity, and the whole of life on earth to which we are intricately connected. We exist as a reconfiguration of the life and matter of our earth, and we will die and reconfigure into life yet again. What is self? It is a temporary configuration of the whole. What does it mean to love self? It means to love the whole from which it has emerged. This is the reason for service, for compassion, and to think long-term and in the best interest of all living things.
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  8. #8
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    If this threads takes off at all, it is bound to become a gigantic clusterfuck.

    Q: What will be the mediating norms and values in the abscence of those provided by religion?
    A: Religion does not provide any values of value. People do.

    Q: All religions could be defined as providing an object of devotion and a frame of orientation, i.e. ethics, norms, codes of conduct. Does atheism have is sort of character?
    A: No.

    Q: So, what are the sources of community, shared identity, motivations to service or sacrifice, motivations to abstain, refrain, cope with temptations, does anyone defer gratification?
    A: An atheist society is not necessarily a society without religion, it is merely a society without religions involving gods. If we admit that religions are ideologies and that ideologies can involve pretty much anything that people can put their trust in, we can conclude that, even if there were no religions, there would still be other means to provide people with a sense of belonging, hope, social cohesion, etc. Nationalism is a kind of ideology that requires no gods and yet furnishes its believers with strong values, a sense of purpose, ideals for the future, and even with enemies. I am afraid it would be utopian to hope that instead of something pitiful a large group of people would come to adopt a save-the-earth kind of ideology in which sustainability is the end of ends.

    Q: Finally, do you think about any of this when you fill out your census information?
    A: I have never filled out my census information.
    Ditto to most of what he said.

    Values, ethics, and culture underly religion; it's not the other way around. Which means that the presence or absence of religion does not affect these things. A well functioning society can be created by any group of people; it's human instinct to be social animals and make it work. Religion is secondary.

    Religion versus spirituality: religion is an external (social) experience of the sacred, and spirituality is an internal (individual) experience of the sacred. They are not incompatible. A spiritual rather than religious society would simply emphasize individual practice and individual thought over collective.

    If you want to see some relatively positive examples of primarily non-religious societies, try studying the Scandinavian countries or Japan.

    Also I 100% agree with @fia. You put all that way better than I could. If you are an INFP, then you are a positive example of one which I can relate to.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    1. Sources of community and shared identity: People have a natural drive to form communities for the sake of survival. Shared identities are formed through proximity and exploration.
    Interesting, you dont consider that by that measure there will instead be further fragmentation and conflict?

    2. Reasons for delayed gratification: There is more focus on human beings interacting directly with reality and devising systems like the scientific method to be able to expand the understanding of the natural world and its consequences. Gratification is deferred because of understanding the natural consequences of an activity rather than because of a presumed punishment or reward in an afterlife.
    Why would atheism recommend delayed gratification? If there is only the uncertain immediate and unforseen tommorrow and the a yesterday to be forgotten wouldnt the natural consequence be to become the most extreme objectivist there is.

    3. Reasons for service and sacrifice: We all benefit when the members of a society are cared for responsibly. This means analyzing problems, and solving them at the root of the issues, rather than casting judgment and focusing on punishment for "bad" people. There is a pragmatic reason for me to work to eliminate poverty, suffering, and crime in a society because I will personally benefit from a healthy system. Poverty is a social disease that increases mental and physical illness through want, it lowers the ability of individuals to reach their full potential and contribute to society. My own peace and prosperity relies on the ability of fellow citizens to be able to solve problems.
    If people have no moral worthy as posited by any belief system other than atheism would it not make as much sense to allow "perishers" to meet the fate which is contingent upon their actions and choices or even simply eliminate them? I mean besides the possible trauma suffered by the individuals doing the eliminating, which can be off set by medals, awards, ideology, would there not be greater benefit for everyone else, I mean given that everyone has only one life to live and nothing to look forward to but oblivion?

    A purely objective standpoint will see the reason behind our natural impulses for empathy. If I value my own welfare, then why would I not value the welfare of an equivalent being? To value my own prosperity over others simply because I comprehend reality from this vantage point is not logical. Reason requires that I value equivalent beings as equivalent. If I value myself for being a living being, then that too would stand to reason that other living beings should be valued.
    I understand arguments of reciprocity and empathy but they are not the exclusively conclusion, it is just as rational to suppose that if everyone has only one life to live then no one has the time to wait upon natural consequences working themselves out and the impact of poor or outright depraved choices working themselves out, less so does any sort of social intervention recommend itself, other than a defensive one or exercise in damage limitation to others who are not generating a problem either directly or indirectly/consequently.

    There is no reason that this should not eventually extend to embrace the whole of humanity, and the whole of life on earth to which we are intricately connected. We exist as a reconfiguration of the life and matter of our earth, and we will die and reconfigure into life yet again. What is self? It is a temporary configuration of the whole. What does it mean to love self? It means to love the whole from which it has emerged. This is the reason for service, for compassion, and to think long-term and in the best interest of all living things.
    Perhaps. Its one idea.

    Its not what the selfish gene would suggest, even considering the caveat that nationalism or tribalism may produce altruism, it remains fairly limited in its extention to complete strangers or those who are definitively different from the self.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    Ditto to most of what he said.

    Values, ethics, and culture underly religion; it's not the other way around. Which means that the presence or absence of religion does not affect these things. A well functioning society can be created by any group of people; it's human instinct to be social animals and make it work. Religion is secondary.

    Religion versus spirituality: religion is an external (social) experience of the sacred, and spirituality is an internal (individual) experience of the sacred. They are not incompatible. A spiritual rather than religious society would simply emphasize individual practice and individual thought over collective.

    If you want to see some relatively positive examples of primarily non-religious societies, try studying the Scandinavian countries or Japan.

    Also I 100% agree with @fia. You put all that way better than I could. If you are an INFP, then you are a positive example of one which I can relate to.
    If religion is secondary to those things and still emerged I would question how or why it emerged and endured, it had to have corresponded to some human needs, Fromm would suggest the need for an object of devotion and frame of orientation. He has suggested that humanism underlies and underpins all the world religions, its a bit of a sweeping statement but logical when you consider the argument that it is a by product of humanity itself.

    If religion has been a purely utilitarian vehicle for the channelling of other more basic human needs, easily displaced with and without positive legacies wouldnt the consequences be similar to those of a patient who has received electro convulsive therapy to eradicate memory?

    If spirituality is individual contra the collectivist religiosity then does that not further mandate the sorts of things I mentioned before? The elimination of problem behaviour and families by extreme measures, either sterilisation or execution as a social cleansing? An individual spirituality would presumably eminate from the self and individual and have no logical connectivity towards the "other"?

    Thanks to both of you for posting, this has been very interesting.

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