Discussion Forums - Freethinkers, Atheism, Agnosticism

Topic: Organized Athiesm/Agnosticism

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Subject: Organized Athiesm/Agnosticism
Date Posted: 6/19/2011 8:46 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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I am curious what other folks on this form think about organized Atheism/Agnosticsm. FOr example, what do you think about groups such as the Unitarian Universalist church (which openly accepts athiests and agnostics) or atheists groups in your community. Do you belong to any such groups? Or if you do not, why not?

The reason I ask is because I am considering joining an agnostic or freethinkers group in my community. However, the many sins of organized religion have made me wary of any group of people with stong opinions or beliefs gathering in an organized setting. Do you think that these type of groups are good for building athiest/agnostic support systems, or do you believe such groups are more of the same - different belief system, but the carry the same dangers as organized religion? I'm open to all opinions! Just curious what people on this forum have to say.

Date Posted: 6/20/2011 8:16 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Ah, Melva . . . . I think I understand you at this juncture.   And I sympathize with you as you try to come to a decision.   I helped start a Uni fellowship many years ago, and believed it a good thing to do.  Then, over the next four decades or so, watched its development into what it is today, sometimes with satisfaction and sometimes with disappointment.   Some of the turns of events just seem to be almost inevitable . . . . I remember especially one fellow (in the Social Concerns committee) who thought the Fellowship could publicize its collective opinion on issues of the day by taking a vote of the entire fellowship and seeing what the majority thought.  Ugh!   Other disappointments were the sub-groups who took crystal convergence, or 'spirit journeys', or TM, or some other jim-crack notion or passing fad in religion, just too seriously. 

Attention to other serious religions and/or philosophies is just fine with me---we used to have readings from "ancient scripture" AND "modern scripture" at our meetings.  And I liked that, when we were 'young', we didn't have a clergyperson.  Members of the fellowship, university professors,  professionals from around the community (notably, the governor of the state, once, and the eminent astronomer Harlow Shapley one other time), and a Jewish rabbi from the seminary in a nearby city.   The president of the fellowship registered with the state and held the authority to preside at weddings (she conducted the wedding of one of my daughters).  

But I think something happens when a group gets a big, swell BUILDING, and a full-time clergyperson, and a congregation of self-esteeming religious liberals, which is, of course, what happened, in time.  Yes, all of that, Melva, and yet . . . . . it's important that there be a nucleus of people in the community who firmly believe that science and reason and and poetry and philosophy and story can fuse together into a belief system fit for the 21st century and beyond.    If there isn't such a cadre, Melva, how will the 'seekers' ever find their way to it, and out of the old supernaturalism?



Last Edited on: 6/22/11 4:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/20/2011 8:58 PM ET
Member Since: 2/19/2009
Posts: 8,598
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I've recently joined a chapter of the Ethical Culture society.  I picked Ethical over the Unitarians, who I think are absolutely wonderful, because they were just a bit more theistic than I liked. If there had been no Ethical chapter nearby I probably would have gone with the Unitarians. I know people in both groups and find them all quite congenial. As far as goings-on in Ethical, I haven't found much there that is reminiscent of the negative aspects of organized religion, but I have found much that is sustaining and nurturing to me. I recommend it highly.

Date Posted: 6/22/2011 10:15 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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Thank you, Nora and Bonnie, for your recomendations. There is a Unitarian church near my house so I may look into that. I have not heard of the Ethical Culture society before - thanks for mentioning it. I will check it out.

Date Posted: 6/22/2011 3:41 PM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2010
Posts: 8,728
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The American Humanist Association is another group that might meet your needs.  They have groups around the country.

http://www.americanhumanist.org/Who_We_Are/About_the_AHA

Date Posted: 6/22/2011 10:04 PM ET
Member Since: 2/19/2009
Posts: 8,598
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There is a funny story about how Ethical Culture got started. A young man named Felix Adler was attending divinity school intending to become a Reform rabbi in the 1870s. He shared his beliefs with his father's congregation but was promptly asked not to return. Quite a few members of the congregation left with him as I understand.

Date Posted: 6/23/2011 8:49 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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Thanks Anita! I was looking online and it appears Humanism and Ethical Culture are pretty closely connected, and espouse many of the same ideals.

I still find myself wary of anything that calls itself a "church" even though the unitarians at least seem to have respect for all people and beliefs. I will take a look at serveral of these groups in my area. Thanks again for the suggestions!

Date Posted: 7/9/2011 4:56 PM ET
Member Since: 12/7/2007
Posts: 6,435
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I have considered attending a Jewish Humanist congregation.  There is one about 30 minutes or so from my house.  I grew up Jewish, and I find I'm reluctant to abandon the culture entirely, so an organization that observes some of the rituals without reference to a deity is attractive to me.  I obviously must have some reservations, though, or I'd have gone already.  smiley