Myers's inflammatory acts and language would lead one to suspect him of being overtly aggressive, yet in person he is soft spoken and his views seem rather measured. While he affirms the right of atheists not to respect religious differences, he adds, "We don't want that to lead to the point where you can say, 'You don't have to respect people being different at all.' That isn't true. I think diversity is a great thing. Disrespect for ideas, great. Disrespect for people, not so great."Meanwhile, over on Pharyngula, PZ also touches on one of the big debates that's always raging within humanism – the extent to which non-religious movements should resemble, or provide a replacement for, religion (or that matter, whether they should even amount to anything that could be called a movement). PZ was addressing the issue in relation to the work of Greg Epstein, who is Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. He's the subject of this profile in the Boston Phoenix, which suggests that the conciliatory approach he takes in his new book Good Without God: What a Million Nonreligious People Do Believe could be more successful than the combative approach of the "new atheists" in gaining greater acceptance for non-belief,. particularly in the US. As a humanist chaplain, Epstein believes that humanism, if it is to be successful, must retain some of the ceremonial and organisational aspects of religion, saying such things "don't exist because God said so; they evolved because people needed them. Even if we're honest about religion, we're still going to need those human inventions."
PZ Myers, unsurprisingly, disagrees with this view, as he explained to the Phoenix:
"I think it is very, very nice of Greg Epstein to want to ape religion, and maybe there will even be some people who find his ideas appealing. However, I'd remind him that just as we can be good without god, we can also be good without rituals, good without sacraments, [and] good without priests and chaplains. . . . I can appreciate that he's offering a small step away from the old superstitions, but we can go so much further."It's a debate we've covered lots of times at New Humanist, and no doubt it will continue to crop up again and again. Do you think the godless need chaplains and rituals, or should we be ditching that kind of thing altogether? Share your view by commenting on this post.