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.

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