Ascending toward a Secular Now

The oth­er day, I described what it is to ascend Olym­pus, to explore the holy places to deter­mine whether the gods are there. It’s a form of active skep­ti­cism — a response to vocal reli­gious apol­o­gists with end­less claims that God is here and here’s why — and is a form which is not only nec­es­sary but also sore­ly lack­ing in society.

Oh, sure, you’ll find a hand­ful of celebri­ty skep­tics who’ll ascend Olym­pus pub­licly (you may rec­og­nize the names Krauss, Tyson, Nye, and Dawkins), and there are cer­tain­ly a grow­ing num­ber of online per­son­al­i­ties doing their part to ascend Olym­pus (Friend­ly Athe­ist, Christi­na Rad, Jaclyn Glenn, The Amaz­ing Athe­ist, and so on).

If I were to guess from what I’ve read or seen of their mate­r­i­al, we all have one goal, to sort of reclaim soci­ety from reli­gion, to make free­dom from reli­gion as main­stream as the free­dom of reli­gion, such that any­one from any reli­gion (or non-reli­gion) can live life civil­ly, based upon laws & moral­i­ty which are agreed upon for every­one’s ben­e­fit, and not for the ben­e­fit of mem­bers of a cer­tain reli­gion or in def­er­ence to the laws of a par­tic­u­lar religion. 

You might think that such a soci­ety is a pipe dream, that a major­i­ty Chris­t­ian cul­ture will always vote for laws which favor Chris­t­ian ideals — restric­tions on abor­tion, for exam­ple — and that a major­i­ty Mus­lim cul­ture will always vote for laws which favor Mus­lim ideals — restric­tions on what women may wear, for example.

And of course, you’re right. Reli­gions are ill-suit­ed for guid­ing human civ­i­liza­tion if the pur­pose of civ­i­liza­tion is to fos­ter civ­il and peace­ful liv­ing among all of its mem­bers, with­out regard to beliefs. We’ve seen this borne out through­out his­to­ries, as reli­gions rise and fall, often adapt­ing through­out their eras to the chang­ing needs of societies.

What if, instead of bend­ing ancient reli­gions to fit con­tem­po­rary soci­eties, why not focus on soci­ety direct­ly, remov­ing reli­gion from the equa­tion entire­ly? Why not, for exam­ple, instead of vot­ing against so-called “alter­na­tive” mar­riages because a few holy books call them “abom­i­na­tions,” we instead vote for mar­riage equal­i­ty on the basis of there being no quan­tifi­able harm but plen­ty of quan­tifi­able ben­e­fits? It’s this harm vs. ben­e­fits mind­set which ought to be at the cen­ter of civ­il moral­i­ty, and I’ll dis­cuss that in greater length in a future post; reli­gion, how­ev­er, does not focus on harm. Its “morality”[ref]“Morality” isn’t a good term for what reli­gion offers; its sin/righteousness, evil/good, ungodly/godly dual­i­ty rarely takes harm into con­sid­er­a­tion but instead cen­ters around “thus says the Lord.”[/ref] con­demns homo­sex­u­al­i­ty for being “unnat­ur­al,” but offers no real, quan­tifi­able rea­son for why it should be prohibited.

It is this peo­ple-first atti­tude which I believe is key to improv­ing our soci­eties, for mov­ing us toward what I call a sec­u­lar now — a new age of human­i­ty which will be marked by a lack of rule by reli­gion. A sec­u­lar now will be an age where we cease killing each oth­er because it’s the right thing to do — because we would­n’t want some­one to kill us, not because an unver­i­fi­able deity com­mands it. A sec­u­lar now will be an age where we can have unprece­dent­ed lib­er­ty to do the things which do not harm each oth­er because we don’t want to be harmed ourselves.

If ascend­ing Olym­pus is the sys­tem­at­ic rev­e­la­tion of reli­gion’s incon­sis­ten­cies with real­i­ty, then it should be seen as but one tool in a tool­box put togeth­er to ush­er in a sec­u­lar now. All of those celebri­ty & online skep­tics I men­tioned ear­li­er? I don’t think it’s too large a leap to say that they would love to see a sec­u­lar now, and that’s why I coined the phrase: Because no mat­ter what your con­tri­bu­tion to end­ing reli­gion’s grasp on soci­ety, whether you’re tag­ging #athe­ism, #human­ism, #agnos­ti­cism, #skep­ti­cism, or any of thou­sands of oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, they all fit under one large umbrel­la: #Sec­u­larNow.

Ascend­ing Olym­pus is my small con­tri­bu­tion toward a #Sec­u­larNow. It joins far more impres­sive works.[ref]Such as Carl Sagan’s must-read The Demon-Haunt­ed World: Sci­ence as a Can­dle in the Dark.[/ref] Once the gods are shown to be a farce, per­haps we can focus our col­lec­tive atten­tion on each oth­er, for the bet­ter­ment of all.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Use your Gravatar-enabled email address while commenting to automatically enhance your comment with some of Gravatar's open profile data.

Comments must be made in accordance with the comment policy. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your comment data is processed.

You may use Markdown to format your comments; additionally, these HTML tags and attributes may be used: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The Orion Oratory