Should Activism be the Center of Atheist Spirituality?

In a great many organized religions, some kind of community outreach or service is a main tenet.  Whether or not the spirit of such activities are put into actual practice is a completely different subject, but for many people that is the part of religion that they find somewhat essential.  Religions tell you how to treat others.  They present you with a code and a call to action.  Feed the hungry.  Love your neighbor.  Save the souls of the lost.

In most cases, these calls to service are made in the name of a higher power.  The downtrodden and needy are part of a universe made by a larger force and, in some capacity, entrusted to humans to take care of.  Therefore it is part of the job of the faithful to act as the higher power wants them to.  Of course, in some circles the understanding of atheist thinking is that, if there is no higher power to tell them to be good to each other, humans would just go around killing and stealing and certainly not feeding the homeless.

We know this isn’t true.

Still, if the directive to do good in the world on the behalf of a higher power is a major tenet and major draw of organized religion, doesn’t that suggest that humans have a generalized need to be of service?

I’ve not reached a functional definition or system to my version of spirituality without a deity, but over recent months it has occurred to me that activism and philanthropy in and of itself do a fairly good job of standing in for religion.  After all, the survival of our society, our species, doesn’t rely on the will of a bearded man in the sky, but on our actions here and now.  I can imagine no greater impetus for becoming active in something to improve the world for future generations.

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