LINK: God-less ‘congregations’ planned for humanists
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The monthly schedule is church-like, with its parenting classes, guest speakers and small group meetings to hash out shared beliefs. But God isn’t part of this Cambridge congregation.
Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is building a God-free model of community that he hopes helps humanists increase in numbers and influence.
Epstein sees potential in research showing that there are more people with no religion. In the latest American Religious Identification Survey, released this month, 15 percent of respondents in 2008 said they had no religion, compared to 8.2 percent in 1990. Epstein believes that group includes large numbers of people who are humanist, but have never identified themselves that way and can be reached.
At the same time, there is broader acceptance of those with no faith, as indicated by President Barack Obama’s mention of “nonbelievers” in his inaugural address, Epstein said.
“This is a new mission field, if you will, but are those vineyards ripe for the picking?” Edwords said. “I haven’t seen sufficient evidence of it.”
Still, both men agree that more humanist communities are needed, for mutual support and to offset isolation humanists often feel.
I never feel isolated. I’m just a person living among millions of other people who just has no god beliefs. I really don’t need the support group, which in my opinion is what these “churches” resemble. I feel that these folks just can’t let go of the whole church routine that many of us atheists have freed ourselves from. Many will be turned off by these gathering places.
But he said he doubts humanism can sustain itself in the local congregations Epstein envisions because community is not a natural part of humanism, where the individual is the ultimate source of meaning. If humanism becomes concerned with the “greater good,” and a sort of natural moral order that implies, it starts to resemble religion and humanists will back away, he said.
What is your opinion?