|(CC) Kevin Law, Flickr.com|
The Dalai Lama recently visited Memphis, Tennessee and was greeted by the mayor, Myron Lowery, with a 'fist bump'. Apparently, this caused a bit of a stir, as some people thought it was disrespectful. However, anyone who knows anything about the Dalai Lama knows that he's a very jovial person. His kind disposition is expected of a Lama, but many are surprised to see how silly and lighthearted he can be. When I first read of the fist bump I knew it would be greeted with a smile and the footage backs that up. The mayor has recently written of the event in a CNN commentary, in which I thought he did a good job of explaining it. Although I'm fond of philosophical Buddhism in many ways, Tibetan Buddhism is not exactly on the secular end of the spectrum. Nevertheless, I've found the books I've read by the Dalai Lama to be insightful and very practical in their approach. He seems to me to be a good example in a lot of ways, and not taking himself too seriously is one of them.
In other news, Camp Quest 2009 is gearing up in Florida. For those that don't know, Camp Quest is a non-religious summer camp for children. They do a lot of the same summer camp style outdoor activities you'd expect, plus a lot of activities that teach about science, reason, and an appreciation of nature. They're currently accepting registration for campers 8-17 years old until November 20, 2009. Families are welcome too. The camp will run from 12/25/09 to 1/1/10. Campers receive three meals a day, a bunk bed in a single gender cabin. The camp will include a field trip to John Pennekamp Underwater State Park, visits to the beach, a short day hike, a canoe trip on a lagoon to see Florida wildlife, celebrate Festivus and New Year's Eve, participate in critical thinking activities and other fun arts and crafts and games. A visit from James Randi, who I've mentioned here at Houston Humanist Examiner before, is also planned. To register or learn more about Camp Quest Florida, see www.florida.camp-quest.org.
Speaking of non-religious people, it seems they continue to grow at a rapid rate. The last figures I had seen were for the decade of the 90's, which saw a dramatic increase in the growth of those claiming no religion. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2008 has shown a jump from 8% to 15% of the U.S. population claiming no religion since 2001 (and among 18-29 year olds, the figure is now 22%). In terms of actual behavior and beliefs, the 15% figure is effectively closer to 25%. In other words, some people are identifying by various religions by name only. Not that this huge number are specifically atheist or hostile to religion, the overall attitude is rather "skeptical" of religion. Also surprising is the demographic makeup of the 'Nones'. It's 60/40 male/female, and race, economic status, and ethnicity are much less of a factor than before. Meaning, Nones can be found among all ethnicities, income levels, and races now. I've scanned through the actual study and didn't see any mention of the internet, but the nature of the study was simply to report what 'is' rather than to ruminate on what is causing it. My personal belief is that the birth of the internet is the primary culprit in the secular boom happening in the U.S. Narrow orthodox religious views and dogmas have traditionally been sustained in isolated homogeneous communities, and I don't believe they can be sustained in environments where highly multicultural communication is possible. As I've stated before, I hope the secular boom doesn't leave people in as 'nothings' but rather that they find a spirituality based on the shared concerns and values of humanity. This, because the search for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness is universal.