What Should Replace Religion? Daniel Dennett Knows!

What Should Replace Religion? Daniel Dennett Knows! February 3, 2011

Daniel Dennett spoke at the Canadian Humanist Convention in Montreal on October 2, 2010 about what should replace religion.  Here are a few highlights (from the summary at Cobourg Atheist):

…[W]e don’t want to retain the bad things of religion.  We don’t want the guilt; we don’t want the superstition and glorification of irrationality and we don’t want the hatred and xenophobia nor the systematic hypocrisy.  But it would be good to get some of the good things that come from religion.”

Dan lists some things that can come from religion:

Hope, Love  – includes a home (not just shelter) for people who don’t have one;  helps people re-evaluate themselves.  Similar to the value of a Buddhist retreat.

Beauty, Joy – there has been a lot of great music created in the name of god. Christmas carols are a good example.

Moral teamwork in support of things like justice and freedom….

Dan finishes with, “People want to be good, we just have to help them with structure so they can amplify their goodness and join together.  The sooner we can create institutions that can do better than religions at helping people to be good, the sooner the toxic varieties of religion will fade away. So let’s do it.

…”[D]on’t turn your nose up at the tradition and ritual…there does not seem to be any stirring atheist music and there are no joyful atheist ceremonies.”

He even played some secular gospel music!  I kept hoping that he would mention Secular Humanistic Judaism, but he didn’t.  So much of what he was describing is exactly the mission of The Society for Humanistic Judaism.

Dennett has been studying clergy who become non-believers which I blogged about in October.  I don’t know if he got if from them, but he certainly has a great appreciation for non-theistic religion.

I highly recommend watching at least the first fifteen minutes or so.


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  • I saw PZ Meyers talk on Youtube earlier today from that same conference.

  • Anonymous

    He’s a brilliant guy in general, but when I first started taking a look at Secular Humanistic Judaism, I actually immediately thought of this talk of his. I wonder if he knows of the Secular Humanistic Judaism movement, and if so what he thinks?