In my previous post, I wrote about how religion is a “language” for communicating about the transcendent — a language that uses a bundle of methods including ritual, parable, metaphor, song, and more. Think of it this way. Say you were moved to tears during a beautiful scene in a film and wanted a close friend to have the same cathartic experience. You wouldn’t say, “I cried during a movie” and expect them to be moved to tears. Instead, you’d take them to the movie. In this way, the movie is a “language” that communicates the cathartic experience far better than any information about your experience could.
This really resonated with me as an atheist who is in search of ritual and feeling more tethered to earth. It got lonely for a while not having a community. I have put out feelers and have only met one other casual atheist in my life. 20 years and only one face on the road. Amazing.
I still celebrate some holidays, only stripped of religiosity and imparted with the spirit of togetherness, but special occasions mark time’s passage and helps us through troughs in life. Glad to put Sagan’s book on my reading list to hear her perspective. Thank you.
Oh I love Sasha’s quote! And your expansion of it! That’s such a perfect way to put it. And now I’m wondering if we do have shared celebrations and rituals but we just don’t think about them that way: watching a football game every Sunday, perhaps. Or attending a Taylor Swift concert and belting out all the songs together. What does “secular sacred” look like? (If it doesn’t have to look like “religious sacred”).
I didn't understand these opinions. If you are a religious person, I guess it's no surprise if you see god in other people's explanations. And I've never read the word secular used in this manner outside of right wing fundamentalism. Secular is not atheist, as I understand. It's tolerance and equality for other faiths.
To understand atheism, in my opinion, maybe look outside of Western ideas. Buddhism and Jainism are both atheistic, and much older than Christianity.
Au contraire. The language of transcendent human experience, written in non-theistic language, aka "Atheism" has several authors - Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Alain De Botton, Noam Chomsky, Carl Sagan, Ken Wilber, Jack London, Jon Krakauer, and Daniel Dennet to name just a few. And there are literally thousands of alternative philosophies to "theism" claiming transcendent experience - secular humanism, scientific materialism, modern psychology, secular Buddhism, chaos theory, and a wide range of books, classes and courses taught in the arts and humanities schools at Universities - including, notably, the study of "The Bible as Literature". Languages of inspiration and descriptions of transcendent human experience without a theistic "god" in them is very very prevalent - in fact I would argue that the language of non-theistic human transcendent experience is MORE prevalent than theistic sacred scripture.
People create their own rituals,myths, and legends, whether for births, deaths, partners, designated public holidays (of a religious or non religious nature), anniversaries, Friday nights, weekends, entertainment, and so on, idiosyncratic rituals carved out over years of shared preferences, enjoyment, and personal meaning. That's what atheists do. No deity or religion needed. (The fairy bear for the top of the Xmas tree is as good as new after 35 years. I imagine she'll be around for at least another couple of generations.)