Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Atheist temples, why and how?

Today, I shared this on Facebook with a comparatively long commentary that I thought I should blog about it, too:

My first reaction was why? What for? What does an atheist represent? What does it accomplish?

My second reaction was how? I think building atheist temples is particularly problematic because atheism doesn't belong to any single culture (although many atheists, arguably, seem to engage in a particular cultural trend, "New Atheism", but that's another story). We know that atheists are found in virtually all cultures, and can really be anything from intellectuals to culturally illiterate trolls. How ever can you make a temple that represent such a variety? And, what do all atheists have in common other than nonbelief in deity, anyway?

However, whilst I do question the point to building an atheist "temple", I also disagree with the suggestion that atheists already have their sacred spaces in libraries, laboratories, museums, and the LHC. They are, to use the word loosely, "temples" of knowledge, art, history, and science -- not atheism alone! And, these temples belong to all humankind, no matter what their beliefs are. Are atheists more likely to hold libraries 'sacred' than theists? From a very narrow definition of religion (Dawkins' atheism vs orthodox monotheism), one might be tempted to say yes, but a narrow definition of such a truly complicated matter is ultimately undesirable.

Besides, I think atheists, in general, don't need religious temples because they either: 1. already have their own (religious atheists who pray at Buddhist temples or atheist Jews who attend synagogue, etc); 2. their respective cultures don't distinguish temple from library from grove (atheist pagans, mostly); or 3. they're simply not interested in enshrining their nonbelief.

Your thoughts?

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