The view from down here

What Next

January 24, 2009

Ok, so there's no God.

Now what?

Of course there's still plenty to do in the area of dealing with people who want to replace science and public policy with their particular faith, but let's move beyond that for a moment and imagine a time when we don't have to justify giving up superstitions from the crumbling Roman Empire and the medieval dark ages.

Those of us who have managed to step out of the default of religion, and are able to look back and see it in its historic and social perspective owe it to the rest of the world to act as leaders into the new paradigm.

So, what is it? What does a post-deism society look like, feel like? Where do we gather? Is there anything like a church? How do we face the world as individuals, families, cities, nations, and a planet?

We have to consider our own sociology and understand our primate-driven imperative to establish rank within various social groups. One thing that religion has always granted is the sense of belonging. This is a powerful aspect of our human nature, and will encourage people to drink of the Holy Kool-Aid, whatever that is for a particular religion, political party, sport's team, or Nascar driver.

Should we promote Sunday meeting houses as an alternative to Church? Should we seek some kind of un-Church?

It is commonly suggested that religion is good, regardless of the message, simply because it brings people together in a community and encourages them to work together, help each other, and care about them. Fair enough.

So should we, the modern nonvangelists, create a nonchurch that fulfills this social and community role? Should we define a new denomination to stand beside the other churches, which can draw the fence-sitters and the default third-generation cafeteria cult member into a new era of rationalism and community organizing, the new Church of Christ the Unbeliever?

No, of course not. That's ridiculous.

We need a new paradigm, not a reformation of the old.

So again, what does it look like?

There are already plenty secular groups that fulfill this particular role. Habitat For Humanity, the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, are already well established organizations that help people help others. It would be reckless hubris to think that atheists should create some new church alternative to preach the gospel of atheism.

That would only serve to continue an already tired debate. We need to move beyond that to a world where we work together, not in denominations, but with a million voices.

There is one type of organization that I would like to see as one of the many. I image a group that is something like a combination of Tupperware parties, Trading Spaces, and Extreme Makeover, combined with numerous self-help leaders like Steven Covey or Wayne Dyer.

Television is full of make-over shows, and I don't think you can attribute all of them to the need to fill hours with inexpensive cable programming. There's something actually going on here. Now that our basic needs are provided for and we can easily buy pre-slaughtered meat and ready-to-wear brick homes, there's a need to move our survival energy into nesting, improving ourselves, our lives, and our world.

There are shows to help us organize our cluttered offices, fix healthier meals, and improve our personal relations. We are in the middle of a grass-roots movement to help us all be a better version of ourselves.

Society benefits when more people are contributing members of the world's infrastructure. The more people there are offering something constructive to the world, the better we all are. I think there's a role for a group, perhaps including weekly gatherings and a national organizational backbone, but focusing on smaller support teams and one-on-one training, to help us realize whatever potential we all have.

As we head into the future of dwindling hydrocarbon energy, planet-wide population growth, and more of everything, I think there is a real possibility that we could collapse under the pressure and revert back to another thousand years of superstition and tribal fighting.

We need to take the future out of the hands of governments, religions, pharmaceutical companies, and the advertising firms that help them all lie to us, and take it for ourselves.

When we are better organized, better prepared, educated, competent, aware, and happy in our own lives, we will be more likely to expect these things in the leaders we support and express those ideals in the companies where we work.

In a sense, it really does all start with cleaning out our closets. So why not a national make-over movement? Join, meet, visit new members in their home and help make over their kitchen and plan meals, or sign up for someone to help you make-over your dog's bad behavior. Join the Wednesday knitting club or weekend writer's group. Help make over a local park, or raise money to build a bike path, or give a weekly summary of what your city council is up to. I might even put money into a collection plate for that.

If we're going to change the world, we need to start with ourselves.

Copyright 2009 Daniel LaFavers