I credit evolution.
My kids get tired of my constant reference to it, but I think we can learn so much from our evolutionary heritage. I’m not a scientist, so all of this is amateur, but I’m learning how to apply what evolution can teach us now.
About 10 years ago, when I started on a journey to regain my health, I discovered information that allowed me to do that. I began to study metabolic science, nutrients, human anatomy, and what that information can tell us about what to eat and how to move.
Because I chose law school over medical school, I had to learn how to learn science, starting with formulating a hypothesis, studying the process, studying the data, in this case applying it personally (n=1), and seeing if the hypothesis holds up. So here I started with the hypothesis that maybe we should eat like our ancestors ate, since that seemed to have allowed them some survival advantage. I’ve written a whole other blog about all of that; I mention it because it’s the method I’m going to use for this next topic.
Back to evolution. As I study anthropology and what our societies were like before we embraced agriculture, which seems to be a real change in our history, I’m finding that we lived in small, cooperative communities, pooling resources, celebrating together, grieving together, raising children, struggling to understand our environment, finding ways to protect ourselves from the environment and predators. Almost all of these societies, across the globe, had myths and tales about origins of the world, explanations for natural phenomena, and rituals for birth and death. As Americans, our particular pedigree comes from the Abrahamic line, and those rituals and rules over the years have become manifest in contemporary Christianity. The church has provided a place for gathering, to worship, instruction, support, a common agenda – all sating very primal needs.
Sometimes in my discussions with believers, the topic veers from the validity of religion to the usefulness of religion. I absolutely believe that religion can be useful; this blog is about just that. I also believe that its usefulness has no bearing on its truthfulness (please tell me I just invented that phrase).
As I attend secular conventions (AA in April, TAM9 in July, Skepticon 4 in November), and as an avid blog reader, and new activist, I have made the following observations about the secular community:
1. We are intellectuals. We can blog the hell out of any topic, including, but not limited to, gelato. We love the process of language, we love words, we have a unique ability to explain our position, and, thanks to the interwebs, can back it up with citations and references.
2. We own the internet. No shit. It is the single most effective reason atheism is experiencing the growth it is – even evangelicals are acknowledging that.
3. The future of the movement is in the hands of college students – not individual, identifiable people, but as a demographic. It’s the perfect window of age to be free from familial obligations of church attendance and exposure to a broad base of philosophical and social input, yet young enough not to have established personal habits of faith and superstition in their own new families.
4. We are young and we are old. It seems that, both through the blogs and attendance at conventions, that we are comprised of youngs (18-25) and olds (50+). It’s not that we don’t have the middle folks – in my own local group that’s actually a large percentage of our number – it’s just that that group is busy with career and spouses and children that the youngs and the olds don’t have.
5. Community. Online: we have it in spades. Every support group you can imagine – recovering fundamentalists, ex-Mormons, secular parenting. Flesh and blood: not so much. We’re working on it, and we’re getting better at it, but we’re no match for churches. I think that that sense of community, rather than a devotion to the faith itself, is what keeps a lot people in church.
As our evolutionary history tells us, we are social beings. We need to feel included, but individual, protected but not restricted, part of a group yet independent. The contemporary church has provided its version of that; I think the secular movement can do at least that, and even do it better.
My local group of seculars (hereinafter known as: the posse) is heavy on the very group I say the movement as a whole doesn’t have: young adults with families. There are couple of us oldies, and the ubiquitous college agers, but we’re lucky enough to have several young couples and their beautiful, freethinking young children. Which finally brings me to the point of this post: my
scheme to take over the world social experiment.
Our posse, instead of just hanging out and sampling the finest hops our town has to offer, is going to add a bit of intention to our efforts. We’re going to try to make our get-togethers a smidge more family-friendly: choosing restaurants that are easier on the wallet, more conducive to child palates (notwithstanding my moratorium on Chuck E Cheese), parties where the children are accommodated with caretakers (perhaps education majors from our local university?), scheduled activities that work around school nights and bedtimes, service projects in which entire families can participate.
So stay tuned for updates — right now I’m on my way to a New Year’s Party with said posse – best wishes to all for 2012!!