A recent New York Times piece by Molly Worthen (author of the book Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism) examines a group she calls "the podcast bros"--wellness gurus based largely in the western United States who host podcasts on which they discuss fitness optimization, brain boosting, ways to achieve professional success, and the ingestion of myriad combinations of plant matter. They've formed a large virtual following that many listeners say feels more like a community.
The so-called podcast bros, Worthen says, are "spiritual entrepreneurs who are filling the gap left as traditional religious organizations erode, and modernity frays our face-to-face connections with communities and institutions." But wait, humanists are thinking, isn't filling the gap left by the decline of religious affiliation one of our main goals as well?
Reading Worthen's detailed examination, it seems that the sense of affiliation the bros have birthed is achieved largely through a rigorous and regimented pursuit of individualism. What we examine in this issue of the Humanist is the idea that humanists need to step up and embrace a bit more tribalism in order to fill the gap created by emptier pews and half-full collection plates. If the enrichment of humanity is our project, tighter bonds and bigger gifts may be the key.
Former Humanist editor and longtime humanist leader Fred Edwords and Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) founder Dale McGowan provide the evidence that church attendance is on the wane and secularism is rising. But as the religious right tries to hold onto its power, the lack of unity among nonbelievers comes into sharp relief. "For all the negatives," McGowan writes, "the Christian church has some positive and culturally important achievements to its credit. As the temple falls, those of us on the outside must quickly learn how to achieve those things just as well without the negatives." A giving culture, he goes on to show, must be "systematic, personally aspirational, and tied to a community of shared values."
Now, I hope I don't hurt any humanist's feelings by saying humanists aren't always the best company. Or rather, as McGowan points out, we don't always feel the...