Lance Brown

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What would an atheist/multi-faith church look and feel like? I suggest a TEDx gathering!

**please don't turn this into a conversation about religion, it's a conversation about community**

As an atheist I don't go to any kind of church/mosque/synagogue/etc but I intensely feel like I'm missing out on something really important. It used to be that our whole communities focused around the local church and everyone used to go. Now that so many do not attend a church (for whatever reasons) or go to different churches we and our communities have lost a vital binding force.

I feel that churches and mosques etc do an awful lot of good in their communities. They bring diverse groups of people together, you hear enlightening and insightful messages, find out about inspiring people, and most importantly for me, they talk about how they can help each other, improve their communities and show support, solidarity and compassion for other communities around the world.

I PROPOSE that every community should have a place that gives the same benefits to the community as a church/mosque etc (being insightful, inspiring, though provoking and rallying people to do good acts). I suggest that a good starting point for a model of this could be in the style of a TEDx gathering. This gathering should focus on the shared values in the whole community and appeal to people of any faith as well and those with none. It should concentration on both the local and highlighting what we have in common with all people around the world.


Would this appeal to atheists and people of faith?

What format do you think this gathering should take?

What can you suggest I/we do to try and create an atheist and multi-faith focal point to bring our communities together?

How regularly might people want to attend such a gathering (weekly, monthly)?

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      Jul 28 2011: Thanks Birdia,

      I've just had a quick look at the Rothko Chapel and I personally like the idea of a "tranquil meditative environment" and it sounds like they do great work for human right, peace and social justice. It also sounds similar to the Lotus Temple in India...

      I really like the sound of these interfaith chapels, along with the idea of exploring faith and this kind of environment would certainly be of more appeal to me then anything I have personally experienced.

      However, here are some phrases used in their description...

      "a sacred place"
      "alive with religious ceremonies"

      By design, these are about spirituality, ritual and quiet contemplation, which does appeal, but would also put a lot of people off attending. I was think of something more practical, perhaps more of a evolution of a town meeting then a redefinition of church. This is why I like the TEDx analogy. Image if one was help in your village / town / community every month focusing on local people and issues. What would that look like?

      The big difference between a TEDx event and a typical community meeting is that the debate and action happens away from the main talks. You all come together to share in hearing something inspirational, and you take from it what you want. If you want to discuss or get involved, you can afterwards, or you could just enjoy the experience and head off home. They are also always positive minded rather then just talking about problems without solutions or just saying "someone else should do something about that".

      I'm going to mull on the environment, mood and ritual aspects, because these can help build a common identity, but I do think they also act to separate self from others and so it may be better to avoid them.
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          Jul 28 2011: I've been mulling doing a TEDx, or just getting friends around to watch the videos together, but I'm trying to think how this fits into the bigger picture. I'm trying to work out how to rekindle a sense of community is my quiet suburban corner of Nottingham where the only active groups are based around religion and there is a general sense of apathy amongst everyone else. I want there to be a place/or events within 15 mins walk for my community that is held frequently enough that it becomes part of peoples routine.

          I guess the hard bit is getting enough material to keep them fresh. Religions have the benefit of having giants books that they can work though and look for meaning in without having to find it from scratch.
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          Jul 28 2011: Haha, but we as conscious beings have all of existence to observe and derive meaning from. That's not a bad source of material! ;o)
  • Aug 1 2011: I believe that whenever you have two or more people together discussing religion or politics it always stirs a debate of differeing views. I have been Catholic, Methodist and now Buddhist. To really come together in the most positive way, with a lasting benefit for all, I feel we must first prepare ourselves to bring to the forum our best self.

    I have found, through meditation, that we can individually replace hate, jealosy, anger and self cherising in ourselves with love, understanding, forgivness and a willingnes to help for the common good. Only when we get out of our own way will we be able to make a difference on our planet.

    Bringing people together physically on a regular basis will only work if they have the same expectations and mind set to create something better for the benefit of all.
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    Jul 30 2011: Look at the Appleby Horse fair and you can see those kind of people there as well as people who feel like they are not part of society or wanted by society.
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    Jul 30 2011: I think it might look like a good night at the theater, or a gathering of friends with common ideas. It could also look like a riot (LOL), or spring break in the US, I think it just needs a place and an organizer to make it happen.
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    Jul 30 2011: This is because atheism is not a religion and thus cannot join those that are religions. Atheism has no sound arguments and is 100% selfish. The reason you feel you are missing out on something is that Religion comes from the Latin Religare, which means 'union with God' similar to the word yoga, and since you feel no union to God, you feel less united with those around you who have better philosophies and who experience the infinite, the unknowable, on a daily basis, moment to moment.

    The negative vibrations of atheists are incredibly destructive and should not be mixed with those of more positive vibrations. Compassion at all times, but no best-friend material.

    In this terribly degenerated atheistic age, (including pre-biblical times, pre-vedic times) the practical religion of Gnosis (Greek for experiential knowledge, the root of all the major religions) serves to bring all people of all belief systems, sex, age, location, vocation, together to experience a revolution in consciousness.

    All major religions have the same root=Gnosis.
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    Jul 28 2011: hello how are you today?
  • Jul 28 2011: Lance, are you familiar with Unitarian Universalism? (see
    Is this similar to what you're thinking?
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    Jul 28 2011: Such places exist where we create them, whether informal or formal. But I see you are speaking towards a collective. I happen to call what you are describing a tribe and have a tribe of my own which I attempt to expand on through various social events including (but not limited to): clothing swaps, dinners/pot lucks, public outtings on nice days and trips to natural places. As well, many events such as Burning Man are facilitated around what you describe: community and idea sharing.

    That all being said, I find it interesting you would categorize atheism as a worldview separate from faith. Faith and religion are not synonymous. Religion is organized, faith is necessary to do even the most basic of things (like get up every morning and walk outside your door for example). I think faith is misused as a dirty word when it is a necessity like anything else. Wouldn't you agree that Newton had to go on faith? Certainly Galileo lived his life by his own faith, though the Catholic church did try to claim the "soul of faith." It is not possible for any worldview to be without faith, even people who commit suicide believe they should die/not be alive. That certainly takes a certain kind of faith.
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      Jul 28 2011: Hi Sanyu,

      Good point on the using the word faith as opposed to organised religion. I stand corrected on that and wholeheartedly agree.

      The idea of your tribe sounds like your using events to develop a sense of community. Something that I have been thinking a lot about of late.

      I think my reason posing the this as an 'idea' rather that something we just do informally is that an 'idea' can take on an identity of its own and will help people understand what it is and too communicate and replicate it. To have a more widespread impact, it would help if this idea/type of gathering had a name, a mission statement and recognised format. I would of cause rather it be not centrally organised or having a rigid branding like a TED event needs. But there would need to be an understanding of what to expect from it wherever they took place.

      So here's a question... if you held a TEDx like 'conference' EVERY MONTH in your community showing videos, talks from local people etc, what would you call this type of event?

      The word 'conference' doesn't sound right.

      Perhaps this is a direction that TEDx's themselves could develop. TED are naturally careful to ensure the quality of any events that use the TED name. But is the idea of a TEDx concept itself an idea worth sharing. So should we be asking TED to define and develop an open source version of the TEDx that could be used regularly in every community.
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        Jul 28 2011: Hey Lance,

        I see what you're saying.

        Name: I would call it the "Tribe Collective" or the "World Citizen Collective" or "Earthlings Are Us."

        Mission Statement: The Earth is a unified organism, as is nature and space. Shouldn't we join them? Let's engage in what unity looks like when it's practiced. We look forward to the infinite ways we can communicate and make ourselves understood by interacting with you and you with us.

        Format: We hesitate to enforce a format outside of this: FUNCTION OVER FORM. Let's not ask ourselves what unification "looks like." Let's ask ourselves what functions are required to ensure unification. Meaning, what does unification actually do?

        For instance, shall we engage in discourse, in peaceful debate, in respecting each of our right to ourself and each other person to their own self? We think so. We encourage you to add what functions you yourself engage in and what functions you think would serve natural unification.

      • Jul 31 2011: I think you don't need to worry about the name and form of this group, but rather foster its momentum first. If it's a TED like organization you can call it BOB if you want. It doesn't matter, what matter is what kind of people are you attracting to this meetups? what kind of spirit it will take? what kind of momentum it will create?

        If you are clear on what you want, just start from within your own circle. Your friends, acquaintances, and so on. All things are interrelated, it can start as a hobby group. Philosophy and the truth of life can be found in all activity. Deep discussion can happen if you have the right mix of people, over the most trivial of topic - such as cleaning your toilet and doing your laundry.

        Totally agree - keep the form open, forms will emerge from the core participants naturally as time goes on. It will do so by necessity.

        That being said,

        "... So should we be asking TED to define and develop an open source version of the TEDx that could be used regularly in every community."

        So let's call it BOB for now !!! hahahah
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          Aug 1 2011: Nicely said, Zen, and agreed. I have such a community. Some people call them friends, I call them my tribe.