So, surely I’m coming late to the party on this, but I’ve been reading Greg Epstein’s “Good Without God.” (Yes, I’ve already read Ron Aronson’s “Living Without God,” and I’ll get to Alain de Botton’s “Religion for Atheists” eventually, but I’m busy reading some other materials, too. Yes, I love how Hitchens writes, no I don’t love what he says, and I find Thomas Nagel more intriguing than Dawkins and Harris.)
B’khol zot, as they say, I think Epstein hits the nail on the head when he identifies a division between religion and belief, and points out the need for humanists to have rituals. What I worry about is, as you’ve probably noted if you’ve read prior posts, the prospect of ritual feeling contrived.
But I think I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that I’ll need to figure out a way to get over this concern. There are certainly aspects to ritual that arise, for lack of a better word, “organically.” But at some point, someone must have, say, gotten a bunch of people to agree that the Shema has to be recited, or that the text of the various versions of the Amidah should be what they are. For heavy in biblical imagery and language as the Amidah may be, it’s not strictly speaking in the text of the Tanakh.
I think the challenge for me, then, will be to understand how to reduce the dissonance that comes with new rituals. That seems like a worthy challenge.