Dry humor

So, Edwin Kagin has been in the news recently for his blow-dryer debaptisms. This is the kind of thing that lends itself to ridicule and marginalization — “look at these wacky atheists, borrowing the same rituals they claim to despise,” etc. — but I can see the point of it.

For one thing, they’re using the trappings of ritual to make fun of the ritual. And even if they’re doing it (at least in part) to exploit our natural human tendency to respond strongly to ritualistic ceremonies, I don’t see how that’s any worse than the original baptism ceremonies that are being mocked.

A good case can be made that we have an emotional need for ritual and ceremony (like our need for myth), and that performing a ritualized “de-baptism” ceremony helps people overcome some vestiges of religious indoctrination that are still rattling around in their heads.

On the other hand, there’s also a lot to be said for the notion that outgrowing religion also involves outgrowing the childlike response to ceremony, ritual and ersatz authority that this “de-baptism” apparently seeks to invoke (or at least evoke). And, of course, adopting the trappings of religion gives strength to the ludicrous argument that “atheism is a religion,” and all that.

But on the other (other) hand, rituals like this can help point out that part of the reason for religion’s success isn’t that it puts humans in touch with deeper truths, but merely that it satisfies their emotional craving for ritual and ceremony.

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