October 16, 2016

Replacing Religion With Something Else

Old Rock Church, St. Olaf, Texas

 I have seen a few posts recently on social media written by atheists lamenting the lack of progress we've made in replacing religion with something else. Some have been at least moderately critical of other atheists for not working harder to develop an alternative to religion. For the record, I do not believe any of those I have seen posting about this were associated with Atheism+, so that does not seem to be the issue here. I'm curious to know what you think. Should we, as atheists, be working to develop some sort of replacement for religion (e.g., a replacement ideology, community-based institutions that provide some of the functions churches provide)?

The desire to replace religion with a secular alternative is nothing new. There have been atheists with this goal for some time, but there never seems to be enough of them with the same vision for what an alternative might look like to make much progress. From what I have been able to gather, most of those arguing that we need to replace religion with something else believe that atheism by itself is not an adequate replacement. I have to agree with them on that point. Atheism by itself is unlikely to ever be capable of filling the void some seem to experience without religion.

As I wrote back in 2011, I do not find myself particularly inclined to think that religion needs to be replaced with anything. At least, I'm not sure I see such a need. If someone has left religion behind and really wants an alternative sort of ideology, there is always humanism. Admittedly, finding a more concrete alternative to institutions like churches is more difficult. And even though I have little interest in something along these lines, I do recognize that there are others out there who would very much like secular alternatives to churches. Perhaps the task of attempting to establish secular alternatives to religion is one which some will inevitably undertake, whether you and I choose to support it or not.
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