I have a friend who calls himself a non-theist. I think that means the same as what I am, an atheist, but without the baggage that atheism has picked up over the years. In some circles atheism is a kissing cousin of Satanism. Certainly we atheists are utterly lacking in morality.
After hearing my friend's views on how we should be treating one another in a pluralistic world where cultures and religions constantly collide, I pronounced him a humanist. He seemed to like that. What he is worried about is not an afterlife, but this life. Not an ideal of virtue, but tolerance of imperfection. Not a Pontiff’s golden robes, but Mother Theresa’s mud spattered hem.
The problem with being a humanist is that we’re not very organized. There are no churches where we meet regularly and talk about things that concern us. Atheists have been organizing recently, but our main concern at this point seems to be to be permitted to emerge from the shadows of opprobrium, to convince theists that we are not the devil offering them apples of hedonistic shame.
We can do better.
There is a humanist church to be formed: The Church of You and Me. You pray to me, I’ll pray to you.
Now, hard as it is for me to admit it, I’m not omnipotent, so you may wonder what good praying to me might do. My first response would have to be: what good has praying to The Big Guy ever done? That’s a little snarky, so let’s put that aside and see if we have common ground.
It’s not omniscience we will be hoping for when we pray to one another, it’s an open mind. We will pray that we do the things we think must be done. We will encourage one another. We will reassure each other that we are listening.
Instead of praying to a deity to hold back the flood, we can organize relief efforts on Facebook. Instead of praying for our daughters to be cured of mortal diseases, we can ask each other to donate to research for cures. Instead of thanking god for “these thy gifts we are about to receive,” we can talk about where our bounty really comes from and what part we might play in sharing its with others.
Thank you my friends who will be seated around my Thanksgiving table. Thank you for blessing me with your love (or, in some cases, at least your patience). I pray you show that same kindness to those among your family and friends who have become estranged. I pray you show that kindness to strangers. I pray you bless them with your love.