In his New York Times op-ed, Eric Weiner speaks for the so-called “Nones,” those identified as having no religious identity by the Trinity College ARIS poll. He writes critically about religion-as-usual in the United States, currently manifested as a sickening collusion of political influences and interests with Jonathan Edwards’ “Angry God” concept wielded to advance cynical agendas. And yet atheists are necessarily “angry,” and marginalized among Weiner’s otherwise God-seeking antireligious brothers and sisters.
Weiner asks, rhetorically, if a reimagination of religion is needed, and specifically through the innovative lens of how Steve Jobs helped to reimagine the experience of personal computing. Alas, it’s already been done!
Freethinkers and Humanists have already taken that next step and made the concept of God non-literal, freeing themselves from the limitations of traditional religious systems. As a real entity, God creates many more problems than He solves, and religious individuals have been forced to engage in cognitive dissonance for centuries in order to make any sense of their theological stumblings. But as a metaphor, God is an explanation rich in meaning from the fields of philosophy, psychology, cosmology, and even biology. Indeed, the God of Spinoza, Einstein, and Darwin is more approachable in its non-existence than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Further, we can find many examples of this reimagined religion in practice. In Dallas, the Fellowship of Freethought is one such organization in which Freethinkers and Humanists meet regularly, to explore their shared values and mutual interests, enthusiastically encouraging each other to explore doubts and examine new lines of argumentation. It’s become a family affair, and children are welcomed just as warmly as they would be at any traditional Sunday School. But among Humanists, children aren’t taught to confuse myths with history.
So do we need a “Steve Jobs” figure for this? Only inasmuch as his marketing genius could help spread the concept. But until then, Weiner would do well to explore his local grassroots Freethought and Humanist communities.