One of my main motivations for adopting the philosophy of wonderism as a personal philosophy -- as opposed to just thinking about it and toying with the ideas -- was that I wanted to put wonderism into practice. I wanted to see if it would work for me, to see if it could be more than just an idea, to see if it could be a viable 'way of life'. I needed to test wonderism for myself to make sure I could be confident in endorsing it to others.

Wonderism, as I conceive it, does not make sense if it is only held privately by one or two people. The whole point of the choice of wonder over terror is to learn, grow, and build something better. Inherent in the idea of wonder seems to be the idea of action. What good is knowledge if we never apply it to overcome ignorance? What good are ethics if we don't speak out when others violate them? What good is wonder if it drowns in an abyss, because it never struggled against the waves of terror?

And so, I've come to the point where I'm confident to share it, in the hopes that it will help inspire others to undertake their own forms of action toward greater wonder. And this leads inevitably to the questions of activism. What causes should we struggle for? What actions could we take? How do we organize it? How do we manage it? What are the limits of action?

At this point, I only have detailed answers to some of those questions, and I would appreciate feedback from anyone with ideas of their own. Here, I would like to address one of the more urgent questions.

What are the limits of action?

In one of my introductory videos, I mention that I see the 'atheist movement' that has been shifting and rising recently as something 'much bigger' than just an 'atheist' movement. After all, atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods. You need something a little more substantive than that to form a movement. And yet, the movement has continued to grow and gain momentum. Clearly, there is an actual movement taking place. But it's not an 'atheist' movement per se. Yes, it is a movement of people who happen to call themselves atheists, but the reason they are moving together is because they share a few common things beyond mere atheism.

Some people have called this the 'new atheist' movement. This is a little better, but still extremely vague. Most of the atheists I know in this movement are not 'new' atheists. They have been atheists for years. So, what is 'new' about this atheist movement?

The best answer to that question I've been able to come up with is that this is a movement of unapologetic atheists. Unapologetic means that, "We have done nothing wrong, and we have nothing to apologize for." In the case of atheism, this means that, "There is nothing wrong with being an atheist. Nor is there anything wrong with publicly criticizing religion. And so, we will publicly criticize religion, and we're not going to apologize for doing that."

The relevance to the limits of action is that the unapologetic atheist stance that this rising movement has adopted is a deeply ethical stance, while on the surface, to some people, appearing to be unethical. And here the relevance to the limits of action becomes apparent.

The defining action of unapologetic atheism is blasphemy. An unapologetic atheist is willing to publicly blaspheme religious beliefs, dogmas, and institutions, while maintaining the unapologetic position that there is nothing wrong in doing this. The key is that blasphemy is a victimless crime. No person or group is injured by blasphemy. No violence is committed, no oppression enacted, no rights or freedoms violated. While some may be offended by it, there is no inherent human right to not be offended. It would be absurd to even try to justify such a right.

The point of committing blasphemy unapologetically is to push against the limits of unjust taboos, without actually stepping over any ethical boundaries. As soon as a person steps over an ethical line, the unapologetic defense crumbles. You can no longer honestly claim, "I have done nothing wrong." Unapologetics only work if you don't actually have anything to apologize for.

Coming back to wonderism, I am suggesting that the lesson to be learned from the unapologetic atheist movement is that the limits to action are the limits of ethics. Perhaps that seems like stating the obvious, but it has some practical consequences which may not immediately be apparent.

First, what may at first appear to be unethical, may in fact be deeply ethical. I expect that wonderism will find itself pushing against unjust taboos, in much the same way unapologetic atheism is. We will have to think long and deep on what our actual ethical theories entail, and ensure that when we do push against a limit, we can justify our actions as being within good ethical boundaries.

Second, one person's tastes in pushing the limits of action may not suit another person's tastes. This is a matter of activist tactics. While some people are comfortable with in-your-face tactics in order to draw attention to injustice, others will prefer the more polite and gentle approach and may disapprove of in-your-face tactics. This should not become a barrier to cooperation or at least mutual respect. Foundational wonderism will remain neutral on these kinds of differences in activist tactics, as long as they fall within the boundaries of ethics. This meshes with the idea that there is not only strength in unity, but also strength in diversity. Wonderists can and will disagree deeply on these kinds of issues, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's healthy. If we keep a foundation of constructive discourse, then these conflicts can be resolved reasonably, and we can all continue to cooperate, despite differences of opinion, on the shared goal of pursuing greater wonder together.


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Tags: action, activism, ethics, foundationism, inspiration, motivations, practice, way of life, wonderism, work

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Larry, thanks for the comment. It appears we've crossed wires. Let me see if I can clear up the miscommunication.

"Then you proceeded to go down the road of letting Webster, xian asshole that he was, mis-define then 26 now 29 centuries of Atheism."

I think you're reading something into what I wrote that isn't there. I also dislike Webster's dishonest definition. He uses:

2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

I didn't say 'disbelief', I said 'lack of belief'. The difference is a disbelief implies a conscious choice to not believe in something obvious, whereas a lack of belief applies to anyone who doesn't hold a belief in any gods, whether they are Militant Atheists, such as yourself, or innocent kids who have not been indoctrinated with theism. Lack of belief in any gods is the most broad and accurate definition I can think of. Within that cross-section of humanity, you have all sorts of different people, with different cultures, beliefs, ethics, etc. The only thing they have in common is that none of them believe in any gods.

By the way, the 'lack of belief in any gods' is a common definition used by many atheists. See here, here, here, and here. George H. Smith uses that definition in his widely cited book, Atheism: The Case Against God. One reviewer writes:

The first place he starts is, naturally enough, to define what atheism is. This he does well, explaining the difference between "weak" atheism, which is simply the lack of belief in any gods, and "strong" atheism, which is the outright denial that any gods exist (he uses the less common terms "implicit" and "explicit"). This is the definition which most atheists today understand, which atheists have been using for the past couple of hundred years, and which is attested to in most major, unabridged dictionaries.

"Then all the lower case "atheist" conditioning piled up into my rebuff. ...We are upper case nouns. We are not lower case adjectives."

I don't call myself a Human or a Person or a Man or a Programmer or an Employee. This is English, not German. I don't consider 'atheist' to be a proper noun, only a generic one. I happen to be an atheist, but it is not my identity. It is not 'who I am', it is 'what I am'. I am a person who doesn't believe in any gods. I don't define myself by my beliefs, or lack of.

"and began capitalizing every Negro person by name and class"

I'm glad they started capitalizing people's names, but capitalizing Negro just seems to be perpetuating the idea that there are actually different races. I would prefer if we didn't use racial language at all. There are no races. We are all humans. We should acknowledge the terrible history (and continued existence) of racism, but we should eliminate the idea of race. Is Obama a Black, or a White, or a Mixed? He is none of those, and neither am I or anyone else. They are artificial concepts. I have brown eyes, she has blue eyes. I have paler skin, he has darker skin. These variations in appearance are no different. It is only the history of racism in the past which causes people to continue to confuse different cultures for different human races, based on superficial differences in appearance. We should acknowledge that history of racism, but stop pretending that those races are real. People have different cultures, and they also have different physical characteristics. That is all.

I hope this doesn't derail the thread, but I thought it was important to mention. If you want to start a new thread to discuss it, feel free.

"I quit reading at ...."

I hope you kept reading, because we actually have very similar views, even if we use different words and capitalization.

"Up to that point you made a fine case for Militant Atheism."

I don't like 'militant'. I prefer 'unapologetic', as I described. I'm against violence and oppression and terrorism, so 'militant' is totally alien to me. I think 'militant' is used to smear people who speak out unapologetically, as if they are somehow dangerous.

However, my brand of unapologetic atheism is very sharp and pointed, but in terms of the words I wield and the way I attack beliefs with arguments and evidence, instead of actual weapons. It seems that to be a militant religious person, you have to have a vest bomb or a machine gun, but to be a militant atheist, all you have to do is open your mouth or write a book. Talk about a double-standard! I am only unapologetic, not militant.

"As I read above, Wonder and Wonderism was not as expected to be an awe inspiring appreciation of nature, but my way of defining Atheism."

Again, differences in word usage. If I accept the definition of atheism as a lack of belief in any gods, then that doesn't define what I do believe. So, to define what I do believe, I use wonderism. Atheism is a state of lack of belief. Wonderism is a philosophy.

"We all are Atheists, born that way"

I agree. I just don't capitalize it.

Hope that clears up how I'm using these words.

You seem to have many of the same attitudes I associate with my variation of wonderism. I think our differences are mainly in word usage.

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