|Atheists at play?|
Such views are expressed with fervent sloganeering, often translated into graphic Anglo-Saxon and slighting references to the intellect of dissidents, on the most popular atheist web sites.
One eventually tireds of such attacks, by people who seldom listen to contrary arguments (Myers has just banned me for making them on his site, after many curses from his disciples), the "Borg" blundering endlessly into the same ray guns but failing to adapt. So to take a break from such silliness, and with nights lengthening as we move towards Halloween and the Winter Solstice, I would like to present the contrarian perspective of one Brian Barrington, an Irish atheist (I would like to say friend) with a sense of whimsy, and a refreshing ability to see value in what he rejects intellectually. I think there's also sense to some (not all) of his comments, in some cases perhaps deeper than he recognizes as of yet.
I'll let Brian's comments speak for themselves here, welcome comments from other posters, then give my own spin on them, as a student of world religions, in a later blog.
|Gobekli Tepe in Turkey,|
the world's oldest temple
"In the modern world there is a kind of spiritual anarchy that leaves people at a loose end. People drift around from cult to cult, feeling vaguely lost. There is no officially sanctioned purpose or structure to life – people have to try and find their own meaning as best they can, and more often that not they fail to get very far with this. If every individual goes off and finds the cult that he likes best, then how can that provide a shared space where Communities and Families can act as one and experience being a unity? The centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
|Naked public square?|
"The traditional organised religions are now dead or implausible to many – their rigid and dated doctrines often no longer suffice. There is no returning to their special, privileged status at the heart of the city, especially in our diverse, globalised, scientific societies. A multiplicity of established religions in different countries with competing claims also sets up lethal tribal and religious conflicts between various peoples which we can no longer afford. There is no going back. But trying to replace the old religions with “new religions” works even worse – such manufactured cults are contrived and ridiculous (at best, they are the religious equivalent of Esperanto) and have even less claim to be at the heart of the city. So what to do?
"The answer to the problem is quite simple in my view – the established, officially-sanctioned religion of modern society needs to be based on tradition, and not invented from scratch, and it needs to include the teachings of all the greatest and most influential prophets of human history. If this was done correctly it would not be superficial or artificial. The Scripture of this religion would be a compendium of the teachings and stories of the greatest prophets and educators of human history – Confucius, Laozi, Buddha, Mahavira, Socrates, Jesus, Muhammad and perhaps some others. Think what a wonderful book that would be! The most wonderful book in the world, containing the best of all that has been thought and said by the wisest most influential figures of human history. Beautiful, magnificent temples would be built in the centre of each city where everyone would go to worship and meditate together, get married, name their babies, be buried, and also learn the teachings of the great and wise prophets. This official religion needs to be a system of thought and stories with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, atheism, agnosticism, gnosticism and others. In other words, the established religion of all countries needs to be a modified and much expanded form of something like Hinduism, because Hinduism is like that. Nobody can claim that a religion with doctrines as diverse and tolerant as the one I have described above is impossible, for the simple reason that Hinduism IS such a religion, and it works, and its tradition is older and more enduring than that of any of the other existing great religions. In Hinduism there is no one principle founder or prophet, but a whole series of them, all co-existing. There is no fixed dogma, but a whole range of beliefs and traditions putting forward their claims from under the same umbrella. The religion for our globalised world needs to be something like this, but it needs to fully incorporate the teachings of the other great religions as well.
"Some people might worry that such a religion would be an incoherent jumble of all the existing religions, slightly modified. I merely reply: ALL of our existing great organised religions are already merely a jumble of numerous already existing religions, slightly modified. Christianity manages to incorporate the prophets and teachings of Judaism even though the two might appear to be in conflict. The Bible itself is the ultimate cobbled-together, incoherent jumble of a book. Islam manages to incorporate the prophets and teachings of both Judaism and Christianity even though they might appear to be in conflict. As already noted, Hinduism manages to incorporate a huge amount of apparently conflicting ideas and traditions from a massive pile of diverse teachers. The Chinese managed to synthesize Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The Japanese managed to synthesize Shintoism and Buddhism. In point of fact, all the great “traditional” religions are syntheses of other religions that evolved over time - they built on the best of the past and modified it as necessary."