first to introduce myself. I am an Apostate from Roman Catholocism. At one time I was a Catholic apologist and seriously considered entering the priesthood.
I majored in Philosophy and minored in Religious science in university.
After I had children and just couldn't get the babies to sit through mass, I found that without the constant reinforcement of being in Church every week, my faith waned. Now, years later after wandering about in the desert of my own mind and exploring many different faiths, I am an avowed atheist.
But I find there's something missing. Often a hear people say things like they have faith but eschew religion (because apparently organized religion has a bit of a bad rep lately), and I think they have it backwards. We as humans seem to be hard-wired for religion. It was one of the very first things we used our intelligence to develop. It must have either had an evolutionary purpose, or was a by-product of our intelligence that didn't have an adverse effect on natural selection. We desire to have symbols, rituals, ceremonies, mark important events, etc.
So I want to start an atheist religion. I am writing a book with the premise that spiritual fulfillment can be achieved through a personalized system of symbols, rituals, ceremonies, etc. independent of any belief or dogma.
For example, I have written a liturgy for the menarche of my daughters.
We celebrate important holidays by honoring important aspects of humanity such as our inventiveness, our capacity for altruism, etc.
So far I have a chapter outline and have started writing bits a pieces here and there. I would love some input from this community.
:D Thanks for the great replies everyone!
@Cane - why would you assume I have not discovered science?
The idea of it being a "religion" is perhaps a misnomer since what I'm talking about it basically creating meaningful traditions to celebrate important aspects of our lives WITHOUT ANY appeal to anything other than science (which I discovered long ago).
While many are content to "throw the baby out with the bath water" and become iconoclasts rejecting any trapping that would remind them of religion, I think many people can and do hunger for these things. It is my hypothesis that this sense of tradition and community is why a lot of people who really don't care much about their faith will still pay lip service to their religion and attend church, etc. This is also not about ethics... there are already plenty of humanist ethics organizations, etc.
Admittedly I am not very well versed in the neuroscience of why these things appeal to us as a species (I'm sure not to all of you personally), but I think that's rather a moot point. The appeal is there. I am contending that a large part of the appeal of religion is not the faith, but the trappings. It's quite likely that the evidence we see of the anthropological origins of religion - burial of the dead, art etc. Started as nothing more than these kinds of celebrations.
Think of something as simple as a birthday party, retirement party, graduation ceremony etc. These are non-religious things that we use to celebrate and honour important moments in our lives. Why not have a coming of age ceremony? Why not use occasions like solstices and equinoxes etc. to celebrate different aspects of our lives? People already instinctively do things like this all the time - they have rituals in their lives they unconsciously imbue with meaning.
Is it harmful? I don't see how it could be.
Is it needed - arguably yes, but not necessarily for everyone. It could also be something uniting. Like so-called non-denominational or ecumenical services except that it would not just be veiled monotheism watered down so as not to offend the various bickering sects, but instead truly humanist and inclusive.
I'm sure there are variations existent already (I will look into the Ethical Society - thanks for the links). But are these only small fringe (for lack of a better term) organizations? Are there published books - or just web sites? Anything in the mainstream?
Isn't what you already suggested enough: "Think of something as simple as a birthday party, retirement party, graduation ceremony etc"? 4th of July, Labor day, Memorial day, Presidents' Day... Should we celebrate Einstein's birthday or date of the publishing of one theory or another? I still do not understand what you say is missing. If you need the gathering of neighbors every week, then maybe you ask too much, but all the above may be what you are looking for and all you need to do is "count your blessings".
Also, there are clubs, like Astronomy clubs, that people enjoy.
I think I get what you're saying Cane - why don't I just enjoy the already existing secular ceremonies for that aspect, and join some club for the fellowship aspect. That's valid, and would certainly be enough for some - a large segment of the atheists out there and people who never experienced religion will mostly be satisfied by that.
But for religious people and those inclined to such things, if and when they decide to reject faith, what is there for them? On-line support groups, forums and you-tube videos. Otherwise, it's pretty lonely and empty. Some people will choose religion over atheism (or deism or any non-religious worldview) not because of any strong conviction, but because they need these things and they see no alternative.
And sure, you can still do your Xmas celebrations and your thanksgiving celebrations and what not and just leave out the references to god, and birthdays are fine. But why settle for that? Why settle for traditions that are basically accidents of history with symbols we don't understand the background of, and which are pretty empty of meaning, when we can craft our own traditions.
I guess I should also clarify that I'm not even proposing setting out a hand-book of "this is what you should do", but rather a set of guidelines, ideas and examples that people can use as an aid to craft things that are meaningful to them and their families. I certainly have no wish to impose a new way of life on people!
For example, my wife and 2 daughters and I did a solstice ceremony involving lighting candles outdoors, having one candle for each of us and a family candle etc. It was a simple 5 minute thing, but the effect on the kids was really something. To them it was wonderful and mysterious ad special. It was a beautiful expression of our shared humanity and our family, and we didn't have to indoctrinate our children to do it.
We'll be doing a ceremony at their menarche. There's no existing coming of age ceremony in our culture for either sex, yet it's an important transition for young people. I've talked to a few people who have been involved in such things and they found them to be extremely moving and emotionally fulfilling.
It's fine if you don't need that kind of thing. But many do, and they should have options available to them without having to resort to choosing religious dogma.
just to clarify....its just my opinion....i could be wrong ;)