In a recent article at Religious Dispatches, Vlad Chituc, wrote about his Lenten practice of giving up dairy and eggs. But he wasn’t Christian, in fact, he self-identifies as an atheist but;
I had just finished reading Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists, whose “maybe religion isn’t completely terrible, guys?” message made a lot more sense to me than the “religion poisons everything” vibe every other atheist book tended to give off.
Giving examples of secular Judaism, he explores the connection (or not) of religious practice and belief. Looking at the decline of Christianity across America he wonders how that might play out if that trend continues, asking;
But what happens if—like Jews—American Christians become less religious? Do they drop the practice along with the doctrine?
And he wonders whether or not it is ethical to engage in practices that aren’t part of his personal cultural inheritance. finally deciding that there is value in such practices, even without the beliefs that once birthed and bolstered them. Even going so far as to suggest that doing so might bring disparate communities closer together.
In Denmark, fewer than a third of Catholics actually believe in God, but the traditions and practices keep them together. I think this is more or less the future of both religion and atheism in America. I don’t think the future of atheism will look much like a Richard Dawkins book signing, but neither will Christianity look much like a bible study. Like secular Jews practicing Shabbat and atheists practicing Lent, we’ll meet at the crossroads of our cultures.
Have you experienced this? Is this you? Are we able to grant that accepting religious practice without belief is valuable or is it mocking? What do you think?