Friday, March 20, 2009

"God-less" churches for humanists

A major reason so many people congregate at churches on Sunday mornings is for the social aspects and sense of community of being together with other people. While many of us atheists, agnostics, and humanists, reject anything that resembles organized religion, there are many who like the idea and humanist and atheist “churches” are growing in numbers all across the nation like this one in Cambridge, MA.

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?


Cole said...

I don't see anything wrong with a bunch of humanists getting together and socializing and meeting others like themselves.

I go to A.A. where there are all kinds of people even atheists. I think it's a good place to go to meet others and get a social connection with others if you don't have one. Especially if you are like me and you have abandoned all your old dope buddies and are looking for friends that are sober and don't hang out at the bars and crackhouses all the time. I personally like to be arround others who are loving and accepting who are clean and sober. Living as a hermit and away from everybody just isn't for me.

Whatever works for you is fine with me. If it works for you that's great. More power to you is what I say. Whatever works for you is my motto. As long as you don't start killing people or sacrificing animals to appease the Gods

CyberKitten said...

What a weird idea. I can understand like-minded people getting together from time to time but this idea does smack of religion by another name.


Stardust said...

I can't understand atheists wanting anything to do with something that is set up exactly like god believer services.

There are atheist organizations everywhere that meet up at different times of the month where you can meet other atheists if you so choose, have activities and meet others who aren't god botherers in our majority god believing nation. But to have a set day of the week to go to "church" is not appealing to me.

Tommy said...

I don't see the need necessarily for an atheist "church" on Sundays, but I do see a need for a secular community based on shared values. If you want to reduce the influence of religion, then you have to provide people with something to fill the vacuum. Hopefully, in the near future, I will get around to doing a post describing an idea I have that has been bouncing around in my head for a while.

Uruk said...

When I was a Christian, I loved church.

Today, I can't go. I can't. I just can't. My family wants to know why.

I just can't.

But, I enjoy the atheist meet-up group in my area. These meetings are just informal discussion. No structure. Just coffee, beer, snacks, and smack talk. Good fun.

Structure is good for a group that wants to accomplish some set of goals in the community. Otherwise, I think a meet-up group is sufficient. That's my opinion.

But, if a non-religious congregation can survive-- well then, by all means-- have at it.

Loridae said...

Like Cole said basically, what ever turns you on. For me personally? I think we have plenty of community type gatherings, the schools, A.A. or other clubs. I would be real uncomfortable with anything that even smells like God worship. Call it an Atheist group and meet on Wednesday nights and I might be interested.