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Ritualizing the Worship of the Self
Perhaps my assertion that secular humanism is the embryonic form of the religion of the Antichrist struck some people as a bit extreme, perhaps even ludicrous. If so, then I would encourage you to take a look at a very interesting article in The Atlantic about the new rituals being created to accommodate modern sensibilities: that is, our ever-increasing preference for the adoration of the self.
At the Ritual Design Lab in Silicon Valley, a small team of “interaction designers” is working to generate new rituals for modern life, with an eye to user experience. Created by Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan, the lab crafts rituals for both individuals and organizations, including big hitters like Microsoft. The team’s website offers a Ritual Design Hotline with a tantalizing promise: “You tell us your problem. We will make you a ritual.” Meanwhile, its Ritual Inventory invites you to add any interesting ritual you’ve made or seen to its growing database. And its app, IdeaPop, helps you brainstorm and create your own rituals.
Ritual Design Lab has its roots in Stanford’s Institute of Design, where Ozenc and Hagan both teach. In 2015, they proposed a new course on ritual design. To their surprise, more than 100 students signed up. Most were secular. “The interest was huge—so we thought, we should harness this interest,” Ozenc told me. “The new generation, they want bite-size spirituality instead of a whole menu of courses. Design thinking can offer this, because the whole premise of design is human-centeredness. It can help people shape their spirituality based on their needs. Institutionalized religions somehow forget this—that at the center of any religion should be the person.”
There you have it: “the center of any religion should be the person.” Thus the Religion of Humanity seeks not merely to replace, but also to co-opt, all existing religions. And so it makes a perverse sort of sense that two of the visionaries responsible for this self-serve technologized ritual are a Sufi and a rabbi.
And while this latest commodification of mankind’s inherent longing for the sacred is certainly bizarre, it is nevertheless by no means inexplicable. Consider what Dostoevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov:
There is no more ceaseless or tormenting care for man, as long as he remains free, than to find someone to bow down to as soon as possible. But man seeks to bow down before that which is indisputable, so indisputable that all men at once would agree to the universal worship of it. For the care of these pitiful creatures is not just to find something before which I or some other man can bow down, but to find something that everyone else will also believe in and bow down to, for it must needs be all together. And this need for communality of worship is the chief torment of each man individually, and of mankind as a whole, from the beginning of the ages.
And there is no more agreeable object for mankind’s universal worship than man himself. “The center of any religion should be the person.” No God needed; or rather, no other god than man. As St. Justin (Popovic) once wrote: “In the humanistic pantheon of Europe, all the gods are dead.”