That’s Been Done for Generations

The Atlantic has a story, from Faith Hill (not the singer, obviously), about how gatherings of atheists in Secular Churches Rethink Their Sales Pitch (‘They Tried to Start a Church Without God. For a While, It Worked).

These groups are learning – like all civic groups – that it’s hard to sustain membership. There’s nothing novel in that truth – keeping members is hard for most organizations, of whatever kind.

Hill might want to consider American history more thoroughly, however. She writes about these recent gatherings as though they’re new; in truth, there has been a long-standing secular movement in many communities, but by a different name.

It’s called boosterism, a secular religion of sorts, that’s played a significant role in many communities, but without any meaningful insights of either religion or secular thinking. The insistence that one must describe a town positively and promote it incessantly is as griping to its adherents as any religion or any skepticism.

A thoughtful believer or thoughtful skeptic would avoid a fanatical accentuation of the positive, but then boosterism isn’t thoughtful. It’s a clique’s mentality in the absence of thought.

(This isn’t meant to be a tight analogy, surely, but instead a loose one. The places Hill describes are different from networks of boosters, yet it’s true that in most communities marketing-as-faith among town officials & notables is more common than any other secularism – including an intellectual one – has ever been.)

This came to mind last night, while attending a community meeting (about which there’s time to write later).  It’s a bracing and regrettable sight – truly – to see what looks like an incurvatus in se consume a person.

And when it does, the only one who has no possibility of seeing as much is the one so consumed.

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