As you know, over the last year I’ve been working on a book about religion. During this time, while I’ve been debating the subject with people on the show and in person, one of the common arguments I’ve heard for keeping religion is “people need something to believe in”. I used to scoff at this statement. I certainly don’t feel that need. I’m happy with my own assessments of what’s right, what’s wrong, what is true and what is false. However, it struck me recently that perhaps other people aren’t like me. Perhaps they do need help figuring answers to the big questions. Perhaps they would like a place to gather on a regular basis with like-minded people to discuss the subjects of life, the universe and everything. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons religion continues to survive in the 21st century.
Atheism doesn’t have such a place. As an atheist, I don’t have a place where I can gather with other atheists to discuss “the big questions”. And, while this isn’t a problem for me, I got to thinking that perhaps it might be a hurdle for the new atheists, the people who are reading Dawkins and Hitchens and are preparing themselves to let go of superstition and mythology to embrace critical thinking and logic.
Scientific literature, and working scientists, rarely seem to attempt to play the role of answering the big questions either. There are exceptions, such as Carl Sagan, but these are truly the exceptions to the rule. Scientists provide us with the best information they have about how it all works and they leave it up to us to decide what that means to our individual lives.
So… I’ve decided to start a new religion which I’m calling
THE CHURCH OF LOTU.
“LOTU” stands for the “Laws Of The Universe”. The idea is that this religion, this church, will be fully based in science and critical thinking. It will not worship any mythological deity but will respect, and try to interpret, the laws of the universe as delivered to us by the latest scientific research. LOTU will also endorse the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. Unlike every other religion on the planet today, LOTU will not condemn people who do not agree with us to an eternity of torture and vilification. LOTU doesn’t care what you believe. LOTU respects your right to believe whatever makes you feel good. We may disagree with you. We may debate you vigorously. We may even chide you for believing in bronze age mythologies in the 21st century. We will also, however, fight for your right to believe whatever you want.
Yes, I know that the words “religion” and “church” seem to be incongruent with atheism but they need not. Wikipedia define ‘religion’ as:
“A religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people, often codified as prayer, ritual, and religious law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term “religion” refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction.”
LOTU may well have all of those things. Note there is no mention of a supernatural deity in that description.
Wikipedia defines ‘church’ as:
“A church is an association of people with a common belief system, especially one that is based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.”
LOTU is definitely the first but also, obviously, NOT the second. Christians have always been fond of stealing ideas from older traditions (Easter, Christians, monotheism… hell, even the Jesus story is a rip-off of Mithra), so I feel quite comfortable stealing one of their words.
At the moment, I’m working on writing the “scripture” for LOTU but, as I’ve leaked word of it to a few people over the last week, I thought I should throw the doors open and let those of you who wish to join me in the creation of the first new religion for the 21st century. This is Religion 2.0.
To start with, I’ve created a Facebook group (I know, BOO! HISS!) for us to discuss the idea. I hope a few of you will join me.