I’m going to whiff my date with James Croft for the second week in a row and for similar reasons. I’m worn out and tired of being under attack for addressing a problem we’ve been talking about for years. What brain I have left isn’t really something I care to dedicate to more conflict, even the kind that’s supposed to be fun.

Luckily, Crommunist is on it. Not for my sake, but as a musician addressing the use of music.

James is absolutely correct to note the emotive power of song. It’s no accident that song is used as a part of religious ceremony – it bypasses the rational part of the brain. As your brain is primed to process emotional content, it becomes less willing/able to critique it rationally. The very thing that makes music useful in building community also makes it inherently dangerous when it comes to utilizing reason. If reason is one of the fundamental underpinnings of modern humanism, then creating an environment specifically designed to suppress reason is anti-humanist.

If James’ vision of an ‘emotive humanism’ does not prioritize reason over emotion, then the criticisms of the Harvard Humanist project are true: he is simply attempting to create a new religion. The reason why religion is dangerous has nothing to do with the specific beliefs – those vary widely both between and within religious affiliations. The danger of religion comes from its overt attempts to suppress or subvert reason. This is the anti-theist position laid pretty bare: religion is bad because it’s inherently dangerous, not because some people are bad.

Go read the whole thing. It deserves James’s detailed attention more than anything I could cobble together this week, and I’d like to see his answer.

Then, hopefully, by next week, I won’t be dealing with anyone who feels they need to tell the world how I’m destroying their movement.

The Series



6 thoughts on “Sing-Alone

  1. 2

    What Deen said.

    Quite honestly, the excerpt you posted from the “Ask an Atheist” show would have had me seeing red and reaching for the clown hammer. You’ve shown far more patience, grace, and maturity than I would have, under the circumstances.

  2. 3

    I too am glad you are dedicating your time to your other discussions – I think you’re doing a fantastic job exposing some of the unexamined privilege in our movement. Thanks for that.

  3. 4

    If James’ vision of an ‘emotive humanism’ does not prioritize reason over emotion, then … he is simply attempting to create a new religion.

    Crommunist, like many atheists, takes a side issue and blows it out of proportion. The emotion v. reason debate is a side issue. Yes, emotion can interefere with accurate reasoning, and we should guard against that.

    But the general nature of emotion and reason is complementary, not in competition. They serve different functions. Reason informs us, but emotion moves us to action. Neuroscience and psychology 101 tell us that emotion is the drive and reason is simply a tool to provide information in pursuit of emotional goals.

    So it’s totally insane for humanists to deprive themselves of emotional pursuits like community and singing. These can be enjoyed by completely rational people.

    Indeed, we won’t pull many people away from religion until we have concrete communities with clear and articulated values in stories and song. If you want to be an individual atheist who is scared of communities then fine, but the general folk out there want and need a community like James is offering.

    So stop getting bogged down in side issues and look at the big picture. James is definitely not prioritising emotion over reason, he is simply acknowledging that emotional desires are at the heart of what it means to be human, and we can fulfill those desires in a completely rational way.

  4. 5

    Michael R:

    Thanks for a very insightful preview of my upcoming response to Crommunist – I’m almost done with it and will post it here when it’s ready 🙂

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