|Did you notice the Flying Spaghetti Monster?|
A church is defined as community of Christian believers, and has been for nearly 2,000 years. According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, it is “The body of all Christians,” or “an organized Christian group of any time, country or distinct principles of worship.” Thus, any gathering of non-believers (atheists), doubters (agnostics) or others who do not follow Christian teachings is just a social club that hopes to recreate the community that Christians have built.
It seems as though the participants of the Calgary Secular Church are searching for something that leaves a major void in their lives. Could it be that atheism doesn’t provide the answers they seek, and they feel the need to form a phoney “church” to deal with that void?
J. Beverly Ewen, Ajax, Ont.But all in all, I think Beverly has perhaps understood the situation rather well, even if she is looking at it from the outside. Yes, atheists and agnostics are looking for community and gathering places and socialization. They are looking for a kind of extended family that a tightly knit community or church may of offered them or their parents back before they realized the religion bit was hogwash.
I honestly wonder how many Christians do secretly think it's hogwash and are there for the community and support churches provide. I wonder how many people would flock to a church that has kept the baby but thrown out the dirty bathwater. Oh sorry, I meant religion there, not bathwater.
It seems as though the participants of the Calgary Secular Church are searching for something that leaves a major void in their lives.So yes, some - maybe even many - atheists are seeking to fill a void. The void is a lack of face to face community. A lack of fellows who have a similar word outlook as they do and with whom they can bond together and affect positive change in their communities and the world by pooling resources. They are looking for relief from a feeling of isolation. Of course, this is not for all atheists - and that's fine - but for some it would appear to be the case.
Could it be that atheism doesn’t provide the answers they seek, and they feel the need to form a phoney “church” to deal with that void?Uhm. No. For many people, including myself at one time, atheism provides an answer that is to be avoided and ignored at any cost. I held on to my religion tooth and nail for years before finally realizing that I could not keep clinging to answers that seemed comforting but also appeared to be untrue. The idea of believing lies bothered me too much and I couldn't choose to believe simply because I wanted to.
People should not pick and choose the answers they seek. People should follow the evidence to the truth. In the case of most atheists they followed the evidence out of religion and they can call their meeting places churches if they want to. In fact, lets all reclaim the word church and perhaps someday it will come to mean a place or congregation that celebrates science, reason, the arts, community and the hope for humanity rather than a celebration of a guy nailed to a tree 2,000 years ago. I'm sure I read something like this from Robert Ingersoll. He wanted to turn churches into music halls and places of learning.
The above letter was reacting to this article about the Calgary Secular Church up here in Canada. They seem like a bunch of nice folks who want to get together and celebrate life and help others - something which apparently really gets into the craw of real church goers like Beverly. The Friendly Atheist covered the story here and brought up secular and Atheist churches such as the Sunday Assembly in a recent and excellent interview on Seth Andrews' Thinking Atheist podcast. Huffington Post also has an interview with the founder of the Calgary Church.
Just as a final tie in, there is even more movement here in Canada on this besides this church in Calgary. Freethought Radio has an excellent interview with openly non theist United Church of Canada pastor Gretta Vosper of West Hill United Church. Apparently the United Church heads know about this but word on the street is they aren't doing anything because her congregation is totally fine with her how she is - and congregations are hard to come by up here in the Godless North.
I think atheist churches are a positive idea, no matter what they're called. There does seem to be a need for the sort of community and support they would provide as well.
Again, the churches are empty and crumbling in Montreal. It would be interesting to see if this could happen here in a province that's been mostly secular for decades.