Organizing for Secular Understanding – Worthwhile?

31


Discussion by: utopia

While absorbing knowledge and furthering one's personal understanding of the universe is laudible, has anyone ideas about how we are going to increase public understanding of the nature of reality?

Politics is wholly corrupt and filled with selfish fools, religion and pseudoscience are a poison. Western society now predominantly favors escapism and hedonism rather than positive contributions to the happiness of others. Third world countries are suffering just as much as they were before we knew about them.

I'm most interested in personal goals, practical ways that any of us have thought up for improving the world around us. What is the next step for us grumpy non-believers?

31 COMMENTS

  1. What is the next step for us grumpy non-believers?

    I must admit I sympathise with a lot of this – ie have similar feelings of grumpiness. But perhaps I/we should, after recognising our grumpiness, try to understand it. Why, in fact should we be grumpy if we think the scientific project is indeed the best way to find out more about reality? Surely (we might tell our grumpy selves) truth must win out?

    Maybe the grumpiness is a result of anger that has been repressed and gone stale – perhaps because we feel there is no prospect of success. Understandable – as you point out, there is a lot to be angry about and a lot of problems in getting our message over. But, while anger might be a motivator, if it gets recycled into grumpiness then the result can be a siege mentality and, as your OP implies, withdrawal from the conflict.

    So, I’d suggest we need to challenge the ideas that the situation is hopeless. This might enable the anger to stay fresh, and focussed on moving ahead – or translate into other energy. I suspect we will stay grumpy if we think that pretty much all politics is corrupt, every aspect of ‘Western society’ is escapist and that generally the ‘Third World’ suffers as much as ever. Certainly, I can think like that and can get very grumpy. But are those generalisations valid? And even if most politics, most westerners etc are so affected, not all are, so there is something to start on.

    Your OP also makes a generalisation about religion and pseudoscience, alongside politics, the West & the Third World, Unlike the latter cases though, I’m not sure I can disagree with you at all here, ie cannot but see theistic religion and pseudoscience as anything other than poison through and through, as their ideas are deep down wrong. But I’d hope we agree that not all the people involved in religion and pseudoscience as corrupt as the ideas they spread – eg they can engage in rational thinking in some parts of their lives (“What do I need for tea tonight?”, etc) and so can be reached.

  2. I changed studies so I could become a teacher. The ultimate goal is to spend 50% on remedial teaching and mentoring of the kids most behind, but for the first decade I’ll settle for standing in the classroom.

  3. Here’s a very common, simple way dealing with your fist statement and probably everything – EDUCATION, unfettered the better. The problem we have is that there are too many people with ‘interests’ in education and a lot of them shouldn’t have any voice, at all. Education should be about expanding a pupils understanding and providing a means to do so. It fails miserably at this currently. Education has become another KPI system to be scrutinized but way too many people.

    Next problem is the fact that the world is now run by accountants and the unseen ‘shareholder’. Shareholders want nothing more than to make more money, they’re not really interested in progress, just how much ‘X’ will make them. Accountants see everything as dollar signs or to use the buzzword, ‘value’. As long as these two things run our world the more there will be a separation of poor and rich. We need a change of thinking were we all benefit from our advances in technology. This comes back to my first point of education but there seems to be a lack of compassion and ethics in business and politics that I have a hard time dealing with. Here education to learn about empathy would be good.

    As for the change in politics, this is our fault. Everyones. If the current governments are not doing what needs to be done we should be looking at change. Vote in independents or other groups. Show the ‘two’ typical parties they are not with it anymore and maybe we’ll start to see change to where we want it. This of course translates to my first statement again of education because there are too many people who vote in parties because that’s what they’ve always done. I highly doubt most even know what the party represents. Most voting that happens (maybe US is different) is like this -”X is the way I’ve always voted so I’ll vote X” or “I don’t like X anymore because X has ‘that guy as leader’, therefore I’ll vote for ‘Y’ this time” This is the sad reality of most politics these days. There is of course the ‘religious’ vote that pollies bend over backwards for too.

    How do we make a difference? By being the ones who want change. We all have a voice. Our numbers are typically larger than most other ‘interests’ groups but the biggest problem we have as ‘atheist secularist’ is that can’t seem to agree on a platform. Atheists disagree and agree on a variety of things. Everything from abortion to economy. With no concrete direction it is difficult as a group to make an impact. However there is, I hope, somethings that should be important to all of us that we should agree on and maybe that’s the beginning. What those things are is a question mark.

  4. I think the history of humanity shows us that the “overall picture” will NOT change. People, using the word in a broad sense and not restricting it to individual people, will run from one delusion to another. Humanity WANTS to be deluded. They will hold onto anything, no matter how absurd, just to avoid having to face reality for what it is.

  5. Are you describing the USA?

    Not every country’s politicians are as in thrall to religion as in the USA.

    Support the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They are actually suing schools that foist prayer or creationism on students. They are suing councils that start with prayers. They are acting to keep religion out of government.

    • In reply to #5 by canadian_right:

      Are you describing the USA?

      Not every country’s politicians are as in thrall to religion as in the USA.

      Support the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They are actually suing schools that foist prayer or creationism on students. They are suing councils that start with prayers. They are acting to ke…

      After living in four countries now, three of them English speaking and one non. I can tell you that religion is still pandered to in all politics. The US is just more obvious about it that’s all. It’s part of the culture there (I’ll try not to use the term ‘typically American’ here) where in other countries it’s more subdued. Make no mistake though there are many movements to get more religious people into government in every country, even those that appear more secular.

      • In reply to #14 by Nick LaRue:

        In reply to #5 by canadian_right:

        Are you describing the USA?

        Not every country’s politicians are as in thrall to religion as in the USA.

        Support the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They are actually suing schools that foist prayer or creationism on students. They are suing councils that start…

        You could not have visited Denmark. They are the model for future global government. I am not fully aware of their political voting system and it may require more accountability to the voting public, as do all political systems today but, they seem to have controlled the avarice of capitolistic corporations and promoted the health & welfare of their citizens above that of industry greed. There will always be attempts to inflict religion on humanity until we irradicate the sickness. I agree that most political systems are still heavily influenced by greedy religious capitalism, including Russia, creating unbelievable inequity of wealth and resources in global societies. That is precisely why the world is still in turmoil.

  6. As well as the ‘RELIGION – Together we can find the cure’ slogan on t-shirts in this website store I think all us grumpy non-believers should also wear t-shirts with the slogan ‘CAPITALISM – Together we can find a cure’ on alternate days of the week. The thing is the capitalistic model western society currently operates under actively promotes and encourages hedonistic self-serving behaviour in humans.

    The main problem with ‘curing’ capitalism & religion is that both ideology’s are effectively driven by the rich and powerful (interchangeable). Guess what, the rich and powerful don’t really want to change anything as they are comfortable with the way things are.

    Why would you give up your ‘castle of comfort’ to go live in ‘the forest of the unknown’? This is why you will not hear the founding members of this movement fighting as vigorously against capitalism as they do against religion, wink, or so-called religious people in positions of power fighting to abolish religion. Are all the privileged not just amoral hypocrites with their our own hidden agendas?

    My personal goal is to find employment with an enterprise that operates under the DAW banner (See http://www.democracyatwork.info/). In fact I personally think The Richard Dawkins Foundation should merge with the Democracy At Work Foundation, then we might be getting somewhere…

    Signed. A grumpy agnostic atheist.

  7. As Nick LaRue so rightly points out, education is very poorly served and, as it comes top of his list and mine, it is obviously the top priority.

    If there is one thing we can still give the children and grandchildren of the West – to go with the mountains of debt we so shamelessly borrowed in their name for so long, and a global climate disaster – it is a better understanding of what is true, how to compare options and make decisions and the intellectual skills to manage their challenges and the burden of our legacy.

    The biggest single problem with education, in every country that I know of, is political interference and micro-management.

    There is no reason why we should not have political policies on education to set strategic vision and priorities – but the involvement of politicians in details like the setting of curricula, of managing examination boards, choosing text books, or implementing a pay structure that covers more than one school is illogical, divisive and costly.

    Practically: Get involved, roll up your sleeves. Get involved with the politics (in the age of the Net this is so easy) and get involved with schools. If you don’t have kids of school age, volunteer. Run a Scout Group, run an after school club, put yourself forward for election as a School Governor (Priests without kids do this all the time), if you’re in business get together with other local businesses and run an initiative for local schools.

    I’ll leave it to you to decide what you think should come first in education: Separation of school and religion, science, logic, media studies, critical thinking, the principles of democracy and law – there’s no shortage of things to be addressed.

    If you have the stomach for it, why not stand for election? Given what you said in your introduction I can see why you would not find that a very enticing prospect. But the bottom line is that politics will only improve when people of higher quality are involved in it. No doubt some bright spark will read this and point to some historical reference or other – and say: That’s so unfair, labelling today’s politicians as wholly corrupt selfish fools – filled with religion and pseudo-science. They’ve always been like that!

    But is that true?

    When it comes to politics the single biggest change that has happened, globally, in my lifetime is that politicians have got more cocky about being venal, pathetic and moronic. They have even started to pretend that they’re some kind of profession. What?!

    The upshot off all this is that, far from acting with professional detachment, they have started to act like the new aristocracy. They get chummy with publishers, broadcasters, supra-national bodies like the UN, WTO and Red Cross, and vested interests (‘career’ development don’t you know). They vote themselves pay, pensions and perks. They effectively ignore difficult decisions and pander to those pressure groups that generate ‘nice’ positive PR. All of which leads to the abandonment of principle.

    Free speech, innocent until proven guilty, freedom of the press, democratic accountability, the right to a private life, open government, equality before the law, no detention without due process, equal voting, equality of opportunity, the list of appalling political inadequacies when it comes to defending moral principles in the last twenty years alone is … beyond invective.

    I don’t know about anyone else at richarddawkins.net but I so envied the Belgians and their 2010-11 experiment of no government for 541 days. As Ron Weasley might say: “Bloody brilliant!”

    US citizens are better off than most countries – they at least have a government that was designed and thus have a proper separation of powers which is acting as a brake on the new aristocrats’ grabs for more power. Even so, that didn’t prevent G.W. Bush from expanding the powers of the president, and developing what Schlesinger called a “plebiscitary presidency” – less accountable to Congress, the Courts and, most important of all, the people.

    You would think that the explosive backlash from their back-slapping of bankers would have alerted the politicians to the dangers of not rising above the day-to-day concerns of commercial institutions. But the blinkers (US: blinders) remain.

    If you really want to change politics for the better, without standing for election, then join me in becoming a single-issue activist for Free Speech and Media reform.

    One of the biggest problems with government in many countries is that Old Media, which usually also means Big Media, is now commercially run.

    Politicians allowed themselves to be sweet-talked by bankers into dropping their supervision of banks central economic role – managing risk – in order to maximise profits.

    That is sadly still true today with media – politicians are being wooed to allow media companies, and news media in particular, to maximise profits at the expense of their supervision of politics. Thus; democracy everywhere is being undermined, and the powerful are not held to account. It is little wonder that politicians feel so free that they preen themselves and wave their wads of public cash in our faces.

    Media reform is therefore my second priority.

    Practically: Support your country’s pressure groups for free expression – there will be one.

    Allied to the above, for reasons that will, I hope, be obvious (because I’m running out of time) are my third priority; defending the Net from censorship.

    For me these things come before climate change and the Current Great Extinction because we cannot hold the new aristocracy to account while the above obstacles remain. We can only begin to get the reality of climate science front and centre in politics when the job of freeing the media from the clutches of the grocers that own it is loosened.

    After education and media, there is the development of the Net. The Net is the greatest democratic platform, the largest and fastest growing library and the biggest mutual support group ever built by and for mankind.

    Practically: Support it, work in it, create in it.

    If you want to help the 3rd World here is the tool you need.

    I hope that helps. Questions welcome.

    Peace.

  8. What the reality. If the science one day describe totality o reality, (not for tomorow), not all people should know and understanding this “theory of reality”. People must be educated. For one thinking about, you can reading Edgar Morin “la méthode” (i dont know if it s translated in US or in english classic, but i suppose “the method”), great books about epistemology.

  9. My last post ! it has been removed and I thought this foundation and members where open to critical thinking. Sigh.. evolved… sigh… Hmm I don’t think so. Elitist maybe. Hmm. Time to look elsewhere for a more emotionally evolved discussion environment.

  10. The world is rapidly changing through scientific discovery while the human psyche is still in the 4th century. As science replaces the human work force through robotics and artificial intelligence, governments are stuck in mindless capitalism that promotes profit at all costs and pointless growth in non productive jobs. What we require is better distribution of the global wealth and resources while in creasing research into SAFE food production, off world exploration and government incentives toward population control. Banning abortion and homosexuality isn’t helping the problem.

  11. Politics is wholly corrupt and filled with selfish fools

    That’s not true. Even in the US there are decent people and every once in a while some of them even get elected to office. And even if you have no use for any elected official there are movements for things like election reform (the real kind not the kind designed to stop people from voting), work on climate change, stopping creationism from being taught in public school, defending the right of women to abortion and contraception. There are people in all those movements who are honest and work very hard. If you want to just avoid politics because its all corrupt that’s nothing but an excuse for laziness.

  12. In reply to #15 by AlGarnier:

    You could not have visited Denmark. They are the model for future global government. I am not fully aware of their political voting system and it may require more accountability to the voting public, as do all political systems today but, they seem to have controlled the avarice of capitolistic corporations and promoted the health & welfare of their citizens above that of industry greed.

    I have visited Denmark, Copenhagen to be precise. Stayed near the Town Hall and didn’t realise the bells rang until late and started early in the morning. However I didn’t live there so have little indication of the politics.

    My point was that even in the most secular of countries, those that strive to keep religion out of politics, still get traces of it and it’s usually kept quiet.

    In recent years in the EU there’s been a swing to the right in politics. This was mostly due to a desire to slow immigration. However anytime you get right wing in there is an element of religion in there, even in the most secular countries. I don’t know why that is.

    The difference of course is unlike the US you’ll find a backlash from the public when a politician says too sympathetic to religion that doesn’t reflect the secular position of the populace. Which is a good sign.

  13. At some point, there need to be lawsuits against people who harm others who spread false information. The same principle as a doctor giving nutty advice should apply. Start small, demanding only a retraction and work up.

    • In reply to #17 by Roedy:

      At some point, there need to be lawsuits against people who harm others who spread false information. The same principle as a doctor giving nutty advice should apply. Start small, demanding only a retraction and work up

      That is a great idea. Of course we will need a government agency to decide what is true vs. false information. I think “Ministry of Truth” would be a good name.

      • In reply to #18 by Red Dog:

        That is a great idea. Of course we will need a government agency to decide what is true vs. false information. I think “Ministry of Truth” would be a good name.

        Unfortuately, this has other connotations, and is a prime example of an opportunity for abuse of process!

        http://1984ministries.tripod.com/ministry/id3.html

        Ministry of Truth

        Thesis: When controlling parties take over others, those people may rebel and disagree, but yet will continue to obey them in order to survive.

        We are “Minitrue”. In our ministry, we are concerned with news, entertainment, education and the fine arts.

        In “Minitrue”, we have a department called the Records of Department. This is where we change history when something does not seem right, when event has happened, that should not have, or when a person “doublethinks”. (Doublethinking is when you have a thought that goes against the Party). We do this so our Party looks good and we do not want people talking about what has happened in the past because we want the past to look good and have a positive impact that goes along with the Party’s standards. Other people would like to say that we are a ministry that lies, but we that is not the case. We like to change the past just so it could be interesting to read, not dull and boring.

        This explanation, is almost a mirror of the process of writing and preaching theist mythology and political ideology!

        • In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #18 by Red Dog:

          That is a great idea. Of course we will need a government agency to decide what is true vs. false information. I think “Ministry of Truth” would be a good name.

          Unfortuately, this has other connotations, and is a prime example of an opportunity for abuse of process!

          That was the idea actually. I think its a terrible idea. Its one thing to sue people for libel or slander, and I wish the US laws were a bit more like the UK in the US winning a libel case is extremely difficult. But it sounded like what Roedy was arguing for was different, to be able to prosecute someone for just saying things that aren’t true. There were a lot of things that the US founders did that haven’t aged all that well but free speech IMO is not one of them. They had the right idea, letting the government decide what is true and what isn’t (which is essentially what you are doing if you say you can prosecute someone for just spreading false information) is a terrible idea. It give the government way too much power and it is an impediment to the free exchange of ideas, something that is essential both for good science and good democracy.

          • In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

            That was the idea actually. I think its a terrible idea.

            I thought it looked a bit “tongue in cheek”, but was worth expanding on anyway.

  14. To anyone who disagreed that politics is currently corrupt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying

    Personally I think everything is improving all the time, hence my username, we just live in a time where being dramatic and over-exaggerating gets people’s attention.

    I wholly agree with the education side of things, it warms my heart to hear of freethinkers dedicated to informing the youth of today about the nature of reality (any true information about the universe we live in).

    However, I am severely confused by the answers relating to large social change.

    If you are decrying politics, or are not intent on forming your own political party so as to have influence over educational legislature, how do you propose to make these changes to the system? I think the secular platform does not have nearly large enough a voting base to achieve this. Currently. Is there some group that exists already that you would throw your lot in with?

    Many people here advised me on what I should do, rather than saying what they will do, which is curious. I want to hear about your plans for your own future.

    My plans: Like Alain de Botton, I see a gap in the market for a religion based on rationally trying to build a world Utopia. Science education, meditation, social action, all things that could be easily expounded to the masses in the format the current religions use. Tax exemption, lack of political interference on the doctrines, charity status, large gathering places for meeting and teaching (churches), internet for advertising and influencing people, the tools and advantages that could be had would be astoundingly useful. I’m currently thinking my way through exactly how I want to start doing this, I’m thinking of just a college society first, move from there, but the grander ideas can definitely work as long as I can convince the atheists and freethinkers to trust social influence rather than insisting that everyone work it out for themselves. We ought to teach everyone about the truth that is to be had in the scientific method, we ought to teach people (and each other) about learning emotional management and self-knowledge through mindfulness meditation, and we must work together to help other people who do not have the resources at hand that we do right now at the moment you are reading this. I am of the firm belief that we need a flag or a banner or a name to unite under, then we can truly begin to work together.

    • In reply to #20 by utopia:

      To anyone who disagreed that politics is currently corrupt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying

      I agree that politics is currently corrupt. My challenge to you is to find some time in history when it wasn’t corrupt My point is that people who use “politics is corrupt” as a justification for avoiding doing political work are just lazy and are using intellectual arguments to rationalize their laziness. If you really are serious about wanting to change things you need to get up off your ass and do more than write BS on comment boards.

  15. My plans: Like Alain de Botton, I see a gap in the market for a religion based on rationally trying to build a world Utopia.

    We had one of these about 100 years ago. Marxism. Didn’t work out so well.

    I agree that things are improving but I think we are a long way off utopia. I’m also pretty dubious about us getting there with the looming environmental disaster and the growing population.

  16. In reply to #21 by mmurray:

    My plans: Like Alain de Botton, I see a gap in the market for a religion based on rationally trying to build a world Utopia.

    We had one of these about 100 years ago. Marxism. Didn’t work out so well.

    I agree that things are improving but I think we are a long way off utopia. I’m also pretty dub…

    You are saying that Utopia is not worth working towards, which is not a defensible position. Utopia should be the best possible world for everyone, so if you define it like that it is possible and is the only logical way to direct the energy of a society. Comparing this idea to Marxism is to assume that this idea is also not based on a democratic system, which is not logical as it may very well be that this idea is completely democratic and not authoritarian at all. We could, and should, make it so, and if it doesn’t work out like it should we will tear it all down and try again.

    In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

    lazy
    get up off your ass

    What is your personal plan so?

    My contention is that you cannot use the political system to change the political system, you need a method of swaying public opinion rather than just pandering to it. My idea is a secular religion to educate the public, which can be argued against itself rather than just speaking as if I didn’t advocate any action at all.

    • In reply to #23 by utopia:

      In reply to #22 by Red Dog:
      lazy get up off your ass
      What is your personal plan so?

      I don’t have any grand plan to remake the world. I could tell you of some specific causes that I’ve spent my time supporting but I’m not advocating that everyone should have the same priorities as I do. All I’m saying is that talk is cheap. If you are serious about political change you need to do more than talk. Green party, secular students, ACLU, environmental defense fund, and countless others. Just go to their web sites and look for opportunities to volunteer.

      My contention is that you cannot use the political system to change the political system, you need a method of swaying public opinion rather than just pandering to it.

      And I hear people say things like that all the time and I call BS. Lets take a real example Civil Rights for African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s. Do you seriously think that the political system was any less corrupt or not stacked against people like MLK? But they “used the political system to change the political system” They marched and educated and even got their heads bashed in but it eventually led to some real change.

      My idea is a secular religion to educate the public, which can be argued against itself rather than just speaking as if I didn’t advocate any action at all.

      I don’t see a lot of support for the idea even here but the specific idea is irrelevant. If you are actually doing something to form a secular religion and are actually educating some real people then I say cool go for it. But if, as I suspect, your entire level of effort consists of coming here and talking about stuff then I call BS. Not that I think talking about ideas is a total waste of time (obviously since I’m doing it) but just that there needs to be more then that and using “but the system is corrupt” as an excuse to not get involved is just a rationalization.

      • In reply to #27 by Red Dog:

        I don’t have any grand plan to remake the world. I could tell you of some specific causes that I’ve spent my time supporting but I’m not advocating that everyone should have the same priorities as I do. All I’m saying is that talk is cheap.

        Considering the OP was asking what everyone is doing themselves, working with specific activist groups is certainly a way of trying to improve the world around us. You are basically saying you refuse to answer the original question (what are your personal goals), and are centered on convincing me to stop what I am doing, which is indeed advocating that at least I should have the same priorities that you do. How very… grumpy.

        Civil Rights movement

        All I’m saying is that the change did not come from within any of the political parties, it was forced on them by this external movement. Politicians didn’t change people’s minds there, so it doesn’t really make sense to say that it proves that working within the political system changes the way people think.

        I suspect your entire level of effort consists of coming here and talking about stuff

        Insulting and untrue, there is no way I could recruit people here so that would be a terrible method of trying to make this happen, I put it up as an example and in the hopes of exposing others to the idea. Anyway, religions influence politics in a profound way because they strongly affect the opinions of their followers so it wouldn’t be a cop-out and not getting involved. I just see it as a better method of affecting how other people think.

        If you want to know what I actually intend on doing you can definitely ask me, but telling me you already know what I am thinking and doing is not conducive to conversation or building any kind of rapport here.

  17. @OP – I’m most interested in personal goals, practical ways that any of us have thought up for improving the world around us.

    I think the BBC minority interest science programs do a lot of good educational work to reach a wider audience. – David Attenborourgh on life, Brian Cox on physics and astronomy, Ian Stewart on geology, Dara O’Briain’s Science Club, Royal Institution Xmas Lectures, The Sky at Night etc.

    We really need this sort of quality media production to spread intellectually competent material, rather than “pap for the masses”!

    What is the next step for us grumpy non-believers?

    I think the above people set a good example of avoiding being grumpy, and instead express enthusiasm for scientific investigations.

Leave a Reply