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Any other atheists around?

(309 Posts)
GuybrushThreepwoodMP Fri 01-Nov-13 22:18:39

Is there a group for us atheists to discuss ideas of faith, morality, life, the universe and everything (42!)?
Note: I would not want this to become about dissing people of faith and would truly welcome discussion with anyone. This isn't about ridiculing anyone. I would be particularly interested in sharing ideas and discussing the social, anthropological, philosophical, political and psychological aspects of religion from an atheist point of view. Anyone else? I can provide brew and biscuit and wine .

DoctorTwo Tue 12-Nov-13 09:38:30

I'm a bit late to this as I don't often visit this section. Yes, I'm an atheist who thinks Dawkins is a strident tosspot. Hitchens, on the other hand... Is anybody interested in The Sunday Assembly, the so-called "atheist church"? I see it as an opportunity to socialise with like minded people.

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 09:39:30

Theists attending a temple or celebrating festivals have plenty of "rituals" in a "pret a prayez" format, ready made for use.

Here's what I think atheists are missing that theists get ready made. The question is how to deliver these things to atheists:

1) Atheist community
2) Atheist pastoral care
3) Atheist ritual
4) Atheist spiritual leaders
5) Atheist morals and ethics

Some people are trying to find a way to do just that. I went to a session with a few weeks back. It was rather like a Church service without God.

I didn't like it in the end, because my atheism is solitary. Other than here, anonymously on MN, I don't find connecting with my family and friends around atheism useful or comfortable.

That said, I think I am in the minority and many atheists evidently do find the Sunday Assembly and other congregations like it very appealing.

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 09:40:13

DoctorTwo X posting on exactly the same thing!!! Spooky!!!

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:08:48

Wasn't this supposed to be a more friendly atheist thread?

I disagreed with you, Muswell. Not quite sure why this is such a problem for you.

msmiggins Magic, by definition, invokes the supernatural. If your brand doesn't, then I don't think it could, or should be called "magic".

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:18:31


Brace yourself - I'm about to disagree with you again!

Do you really, honestly think the average free-thinking atheist needs help to figure out morals & ethics, and needs rituals & spiritual leaders?


Isn't the very point that we can figure such things out for ourselves by reading, talking & thinking? Yes, it's great to find out what the smart people think (like Hume & Russell), and sometimes that can make us see things in a new light - but we don't need it. We don't need our morality patiently explained to us by "spiritual leaders" like religious folk do.

I have no problem with the idea of like minded people coming together, a la the atheist mega "churches". I wouldn't bother, because I'm already part of skeptic groups & I'm uncomfortable with the idea of subtly acknowledging that religious people are right when they say that atheism is a religion (it's not).

You can take the notions of community & togetherness and work with them, without aping religion. So it's not for me, but if others would get something out of it, great.

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 10:23:09


It's not a problem for me. I'll keep discussing and have done.

It is a shame, though, if the manner of questioning results in people withdrawing from the debate. I don't think MsMiggins is going to be too explicit here anymore (as posted).

Perhaps I am just too sensitive?

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 10:28:29


You and I may well be perfectly happy to lead the virtuous and enlightened life and be confident enough to achieve that with little outside assistance, or at least have no needs.

However, if we want secularism, atheism, agnostism and skepticism to propagate across wider society then you will find people who need help to get what they would otherwise get from a church. You will find people that want things but don't know how or where to get them. How could it work for them?

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:29:20

Well, people who find their views and beliefs disagreed with do tend to be over sensitive. I actually thought we "atheists" were better than that. Shame.

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 10:33:02

Hands up. I'm over sensitive. smile

So, what's your plan for latent atheists? Perhaps there doesn't need to be one.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:36:24

I see.

So we are smart enough not to need the bull, the other poor dears....not so much?

I think everyone should be encouraged to think critically, question everything, base their beliefs on sound reasoning and understand the importance of evidence. Having spiritual leaders who'll clue us in on morals & ethics puts a bit of a dent in that, doesn't it?

Churches and religion DO encourage a sense of community, I totally agree and that's something we should all strive for. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that this has to mean "authoritative figures" that we go to for guidance.

Having said that, I don't think that's what these mega "churches" are trying to do - I think they'd be horrified at the suggestion that it involves ritual or ethical instruction. At least, I hope they'd be horrified.

BackOnlyBriefly Tue 12-Nov-13 10:36:31

Spiritual leaders? Arghh! no!

Basically what Hettie said.

The alternative to doing what the priest says is not simply 'reading a book'
If people want to join discussions with any number of groups they can, in addition to reading and thinking for themselves.

The last thing we want is "Fed up with the priest telling you what is right or wrong? Come in here and WE will tell you what is right and wrong"

DuckToWater Tue 12-Nov-13 10:37:23

Agnostic disestablishmentarian secularist here. And no I can't say it with my mouth full of biscuits.

DoctorTwo Tue 12-Nov-13 10:53:20

That was serendipitous MHD grin I've not been yet, can't make my mind up as to whether it's worth going or not. I suspect not, I don't see the point in a church for atheists.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:58:19

I think you should go, Doctor - and report back. If nothing else, there's free pastries & coffee wink

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 11:33:39

I went to the Sunday Assembly and saw it working for many atheist, just not for me. I think I am a very "similar atheist" to others here.

I agree that if you can think for yourself and come to rationale conclusions that's great. However, are we assuming that is what happens for the majority of people, because my hypothesis is that it doesn't and that is evidenced by the continuing appeal of religion and spiritual leaders. It's hard to make that point without sounding "lofty" so I'll take that on the chin and you can call me "whatever".

So my question is really about how to create a framework widespread in society that free thinking secular skeptics can thrive.

The narrow answer is "think for yourself" and I wholeheartedly agree, but what about people that don't, without some encouragement.

So if "encouragement" is needed, how do/should they get it?

Here's my list of possibilities, feel free to add and tell me what is effective and not:

1) Parents and family
2) Friends
3) Online communities
4) Congregations and groups
5) Reading and research
6) Mainstream media

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 11:41:26

Ah well, I do agree with you on most of that, Muswell. Will respond properly in a bit.

What did you make of the Sunday Assembly? What kinds of things went on? Interested to know.

MurderOfGoths Tue 12-Nov-13 11:48:30

Hi, pagan atheist here, glad to see some buddhists too!

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 11:49:23

msmiggins, what ACTUALLY have you magicked into being/happening? Anything that can be attributed solely to your magic, and not just chance/fluke/normal consequence?

I don't especially feel that I need to be part of an atheist community, receive pastoral care, participate in rituals, need a leader of any sort, or need a guide to morals and ethics. I do feel I'd like to know more atheists and encourage more people away from being religitards so that my child doesn't grow up merely surrounded by senseless people perpetuating nonsense and a lack of critical thinking. I think religion is detrimental to society as a whole, and feel frustrated that my child is growing up with it being so prevalent.

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 11:55:18

It is interesting that witchcraft has been jumped all over here but not Buddhism. Neither require a belief in god or gods, so both are valid in an atheist thread, but there seems to be a perception that witchcraft is irrational and Buddhism not so.

If you were to read many Buddhist texts e.g. the mahayana sutras they are full of descriptions of supernatural magical happenings. These are usually interpreted as metaphors - sound familiar? Buddhism is also firmly based in personal experience - and i've yet to come across a sceptical rational atheist who would accept personal experience as proof of anything.

I'm just curious why this has gone unchallenged, when MrsMiggins was given such short shrift. Many pagans see the gods and goddesses as aspects of ourselves and of nature, not as divine entities, and ritual and magic is often simply about directing and firming your intent. Of course there are plenty out there who do believe there is a supernatural element to their practice, but not all by any stretch.

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 11:57:46

Cross-posted with you there, muswell.

I agree these:
1) Parents and family
2) Friends
3) Online communities
4) Congregations and groups
5) Reading and research
6) Mainstream media

are good for promoting atheism/free-thinking, and doing away with religion. We watched a Christmas episode of 30 Rock the other day, it was lovely and mocking of religion, a mainstream show, it all helps. I'm signed up to various Facebook groups re atheism/free-thinking, I do feel progress is being made and more and more people, especially young people, are learning that there are other ways to those their parents have indoctrinated them in. It's a shame religion is so heavily featured in school. We homeschool for many reasons, but this being one of them. All the horrible stories I've read on MNO about religion in schools, I definitely wasn't subjecting my child to that.

MurderOfGoths Tue 12-Nov-13 11:59:32

Mostly I assume because buddhism (as far as I'm aware) doesn't have to involve belief in the supernatural, whereas belief in magic does.

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 12:08:27

Lurchers, as far as I can see on here! no one has said I'm a Buddhist and I can make things happen by saying/doing some magic words and spells.
How is directing and firming an intent magic? If I psyche myself up for a job interview, make myself a special cup of herbal tea, and I get the job - is that magic?

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 12:14:59

But that is the point - it doesn't have to involve any belief in the supernatural at all, which is i think what MrsMiggins was trying to explain. I think of it as like a form of meditation or visualisation with accessories! It helps you focus on what you want to achieve, and having worked on your intent, you are more confident and focussed in bring that intent into being. It doesn't have to be any more than that. I guess if you call it magic it is going to come loaded with associations, and as i said for many practitioners it does have a supernatural element. For a great number though it really doesn't.

MuswellHillDad Tue 12-Nov-13 12:28:02

I still think an issue for Atheism etc is that churches have ready made solutions to give and atheists/skeptics feel bound to "think" and not be led. What about people that want to be led?

The most powerful instances where a church "helps" a person is during grief. The person grieving has a set framework of prayer, funeral and finality along with a spiritual shoulder to cry on outside family (the priest). They don't need to manufacture any of those things at a time when they are least able to do so.

I will most likely be a jibbering wreck when one of my parents dies and will have none of that framework there to help. So the answer is that I just have to "man up" a bit? Sounds a bit tough on the recently bereaved.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 12:49:07

In which case, Mostly they should avoid using the term "magic", since that clearly and specifically invokes the supernatural - by definition.

If msmiggins wants us to stick to the definition of atheism (quite rightly), she can't really complain if we stick with the definition of "magic".

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