Atheists SHOULD have a "church"

TonyZXT
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Atheists SHOULD have a "church"

Now that my thread title has raised everyone's blood pressure a point or two.... hear me out.  I'm basically thinking out loud, and I'm going to argue this point of view to see how many holes get poked in it.

For a while now I've had this annoying, nagging idea in the back of my head that if I got my wish and religion fell off very quickly over the next couple decades it would create big problems.  Say what you will negatively about the church (I know I do) but they offer a lot of services that we as a secular society doesn't offer enough of, or in some cases almost ANY of.  I think everyone here can admit that churches are able to do a lot of good through the fact that they are so organized.  Here are some of the services that are offered by the church, and at least lacking from secular sources:

Hospitals

Affordable day care

Affordable preschools

Private schools (K-12)

After school / inner city after school programs

Soup kitchens

Homeless shelters

Food Banks

Rental/Utility assistance

Clothing assistance

Affordable/free mental health/grief counseling

Substance abuse programs (AA/NA)

Community outreach

ETC, ETC.

If there was a massive paradigm shift in the next 20 years towards non-belief causing churches to start shutting down in large numbers, there would be a massive hole in these services.  People would actually starve, become homeless etc.   This is no exaggeration!

 

I started thinking about an idea from a TED Talks video by Alain De Botton on what he has dubbed "Atheism 2.0" which amounts to having secular churches that don't spew dogma.   I thought his talk was good, though not without flaws.

Basically his central tenant of his talk is that the church has a lot of good things about it, as far as what the structure offers.  It's a social hub for members, it brings people together on a regular basis to reconnect for social reasons, or to collaborate on tasks for the organization itself or the many good endeavors that churches do.  Secular society doesn't offer anything similar in the way of bringing people together regularly where they can come together and achieve much bigger things collectively than all the members ever would on their own.  There's more to it but just watch the video at the link above so I don't have to rehash it all here.

I was very skeptical before and during watching his speech, but I started to warm up to the idea a little.   But then I thought well why not, and I started to tear it down in my head.  Surprisingly enough though, I think all the problems that could make it a bad idea are solvable if done properly.   

He lays out a framework for what a secular "church" (if we even call it that) could look like.  What I feel like he left out is a framework for how to make such an institution work, so it's not almost as bad as a religious church.   Here are the main problems I see off the top of my head, and possible solutions.

**  Such a church could turn into a splintered organization where people of differing political views use the churches to further their agenda.  

     -  A strict set of rules would have to be drawn up from the get-go to prevent people from using the church to speak too much on political opinion.  Kind of a set of checks and balances to make sure no one viewpoint is getting too much attention.

**  Theists would be convinced (even more so than some are now) that Atheism/secularism is a religion.

     -  A very transparent and loose doctrine would have to be laid out, and readily available on the web, showing what the organization stands for, and how it does not dictate or preach specific ideology or dogma.  As well as the rules and measures to prevent speakers from doing so.

**  Feel free to bring up more that I'm sure I'm forgetting right now, but I'm just drawing a blank at the moment.

I want to get rid of organized religion just as bad as anyone else here, but I think I've faced the fact that the advantages of the church itself, it's structure, and social benefits don't need to be thrown out with the putrid bath water.   Especially nowadays where it's all to easy and too common to get our fill of the world from in front of our monitors and TVs, our society would be better off to keep the good aspects of the church.  I don't think it's too melodramatic to say our society might start to crumble (at least initially) without it. 

Thoughts, counterpoints, hate my post and want to punch me in the face?  

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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The obvious problem is what

The obvious problem is what would motivate people to show up? When I hear "atheist church" I'm not in so big a hurry to get out of my bathrobe. 

 

Churches do offer many important charity services, but at the same time secular versions of those services has been increasing. It might be a problem if churches disappeared overnight, but they aren't going to. As people leave religion I think it is likely secular charities will as well. People don't become less generous just because they left church, and since secular charities don't waste money on Touchdown Jesus statues it might actually increase real assistance to the needy.

If, if a white man puts his arm around me voluntarily, that's brotherhood. But if you - if you hold a gun on him and make him embrace me and pretend to be friendly or brotherly toward me, then that's not brotherhood, that's hypocrisy.- Malcolm X


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TonyZXT wrote:Now that my

TonyZXT wrote:

Now that my thread title has raised everyone's blood pressure a point or two.... hear me out.  I'm basically thinking out loud, and I'm going to argue this point of view to see how many holes get poked in it.

For a while now I've had this annoying, nagging idea in the back of my head that if I got my wish and religion fell off very quickly over the next couple decades it would create big problems.  Say what you will negatively about the church (I know I do) but they offer a lot of services that we as a secular society doesn't offer enough of, or in some cases almost ANY of.  I think everyone here can admit that churches are able to do a lot of good through the fact that they are so organized.  Here are some of the services that are offered by the church, and at least lacking from secular sources:

Hospitals

Affordable day care

Affordable preschools

Private schools (K-12)

After school / inner city after school programs

Soup kitchens

Homeless shelters

Food Banks

Rental/Utility assistance

Clothing assistance

Affordable/free mental health/grief counseling

Substance abuse programs (AA/NA)

Community outreach

ETC, ETC.

If there was a massive paradigm shift in the next 20 years towards non-belief causing churches to start shutting down in large numbers, there would be a massive hole in these services.  People would actually starve, become homeless etc.   This is no exaggeration!

 

I started thinking about an idea from a TED Talks video by Alain De Botton on what he has dubbed "Atheism 2.0" which amounts to having secular churches that don't spew dogma.   I thought his talk was good, though not without flaws.

Basically his central tenant of his talk is that the church has a lot of good things about it, as far as what the structure offers.  It's a social hub for members, it brings people together on a regular basis to reconnect for social reasons, or to collaborate on tasks for the organization itself or the many good endeavors that churches do.  Secular society doesn't offer anything similar in the way of bringing people together regularly where they can come together and achieve much bigger things collectively than all the members ever would on their own.  There's more to it but just watch the video at the link above so I don't have to rehash it all here.

I was very skeptical before and during watching his speech, but I started to warm up to the idea a little.   But then I thought well why not, and I started to tear it down in my head.  Surprisingly enough though, I think all the problems that could make it a bad idea are solvable if done properly.   

He lays out a framework for what a secular "church" (if we even call it that) could look like.  What I feel like he left out is a framework for how to make such an institution work, so it's not almost as bad as a religious church.   Here are the main problems I see off the top of my head, and possible solutions.

**  Such a church could turn into a splintered organization where people of differing political views use the churches to further their agenda.  

     -  A strict set of rules would have to be drawn up from the get-go to prevent people from using the church to speak too much on political opinion.  Kind of a set of checks and balances to make sure no one viewpoint is getting too much attention.

**  Theists would be convinced (even more so than some are now) that Atheism/secularism is a religion.

     -  A very transparent and loose doctrine would have to be laid out, and readily available on the web, showing what the organization stands for, and how it does not dictate or preach specific ideology or dogma.  As well as the rules and measures to prevent speakers from doing so.

**  Feel free to bring up more that I'm sure I'm forgetting right now, but I'm just drawing a blank at the moment.

I want to get rid of organized religion just as bad as anyone else here, but I think I've faced the fact that the advantages of the church itself, it's structure, and social benefits don't need to be thrown out with the putrid bath water.   Especially nowadays where it's all to easy and too common to get our fill of the world from in front of our monitors and TVs, our society would be better off to keep the good aspects of the church.  I don't think it's too melodramatic to say our society might start to crumble (at least initially) without it. 

Thoughts, counterpoints, hate my post and want to punch me in the face?  

Bullshit. All of it.

Evolution has been around long before our modern monotheism and even the prior polytheism and even prior to the written tradition.

Compassion for others has always existed as part of the nurture part of evolution. If the modern superstitions died and were viewed like the myths today rightfully viewed as the myths they are, our species would neither lose the harm we do to each other, nor would we lose the compassion we have for each other.

It is not a matter of forcing the end of ANYTHING anyone of any label likes or dislikes. It is a matter that labels don't matter.

I see no need to keep belief in Isis as sold as fact because their culture built beautiful pyramids. Anymore than belief in Santa, while pleasing to kids will make Santa real.

Doing good is not dependent on belief in Jesus or Allah or Vishnu or Yahweh.

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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You know the Scientologists

You know the Scientologists have a church, too.  Those whack jobs are worse than the secret service when it comes to their members "leaving" the organization and they are tax exempt for being sometimes crazier than any other religious group.

 

When you talk about churches, you have to take into consideration that zealotry can occur no matter how unholy, non-believing or nihilistic you are.  It can and will happen simply because people are all irrational to a degree.

 

You implement some form of social gathering like this with a set of standards, rules and guidelines that every members can have access to and benefit from, like theists, the game changes in a dramatic way whether there are rational undertakings behind them or not.  Sooner or later, shit will come to a head.  We have our annual gatherings, debates with believers, billboards, lectures and great minds to spread the word.  As things stand, it's making a dent and it's enough for now.

 

Imagine the outrage in the Christian community...holy fuck balls, perish the thought...

"When the majority believes in what is false, the truth becomes a quest." - Me


TonyZXT
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Brian37 wrote:Bullshit. All

Brian37 wrote:

Bullshit. All of it.

I almost ignored your post because of that.  As I implied in the beginning of my post this is basically a thought experiment to delve into what it would look like to transition from all this religion in the world to basically very little.  I don't understand where the lack of civility in your post is coming from, and quite frankly I wouldn't have expected it from you Brian.

Brian37 wrote:

Evolution has been around long before our modern monotheism and even the prior polytheism and even prior to the written tradition.

Seriously scratching my head right now on what that has to do with the price of tea in China.  We're not talking about survival in the wild here.  We're talking about a complex modern society set up to function one way for hundreds of years having to adjust to a new reality where part of the infrastructure that has traditionally performed many humanitarian services being GONE.  Evolution has squat to do with it.

Brian37 wrote:

Compassion for others has always existed as part of the nurture part of evolution. If the modern superstitions died and were viewed like the myths today rightfully viewed as the myths they are, our species would neither lose the harm we do to each other, nor would we lose the compassion we have for each other.

You're missing my point.  My point was that the institutions are not in place, and in the scenario was if everything was to happen in a short period of time.  We're talking about thousands and thousands of charities.  If the churches fail and leave the charities that's one thing, but honestly a lot of those charities are run inside the church property, most all of the groups, day cares and preschools are as well.  If churches are dropping like flies who is to say how many of these services are even saved?  Some good people will split the charities off from the churches if given the warning time, and resources to do so, but how many percentage wise?  Do you know?  I think it would be somewhat of a chaotic time.  

Brian37 wrote:

It is not a matter of forcing the end of ANYTHING anyone of any label likes or dislikes. It is a matter that labels don't matter.

I see no need to keep belief in Isis as sold as fact because their culture built beautiful pyramids. Anymore than belief in Santa, while pleasing to kids will make Santa real.

Doing good is not dependent on belief in Jesus or Allah or Vishnu or Yahweh.

What on earth are you talking about?  Where did I imply forcing anything, and especially to keep belief in anything?  Are you even replying to the right thread here?  I think you are reading too much into the fact that I didn't change the name from "church" to something else.  It wouldn't be a damn religious place.  I was talking about a social/societal hub, structured like a church with offshoot charities, and services.  No idols, no worship, no Santa or Vishnu.

I'll tell you what Brian if I EVER state that we should keep irrational beliefs around just for giggles I'll give you gas money to come down here and kick me straight in the balls.  I'd fully deserve it!  One of the most befuddling replies I remember getting on here.

 

 

 

Look, if anyone doubts that this scenario could happen that quickly (though not likely) it absolutely could happen.  Let one of our awesome republican candidates we have right now push for war with Iran.  I could see the religious right (who have plenty of momentum right now) pushing things too far.  They desperately want things to come to a head with Israel.  If we go to war with Iran they won't hesitate to try and leverage foreign policy to make a conflict happen.  I don't think the public will be able to remain blind to what they're doing.  Let another 9/11 type event illuminate the fact that all this crap in the middle east is essentially a religious war.  The amount of people falling away from the church would skyrocket.  The large portion of the population of the U.S. who claim to be religious, but are in actuality little more than deists could easily decide to stop kidding themselves.  

What I really expect to happen is a slower shift rather than the mass exodus I just described, but given the right circumstances I could see religions taking a huge blow to their number of adherents.  That's why this was all hypothetical.  

 

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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Beyond Saving wrote:The

Beyond Saving wrote:

The obvious problem is what would motivate people to show up? When I hear "atheist church" I'm not in so big a hurry to get out of my bathrobe. 

 

Churches do offer many important charity services, but at the same time secular versions of those services has been increasing. It might be a problem if churches disappeared overnight, but they aren't going to. As people leave religion I think it is likely secular charities will as well. People don't become less generous just because they left church, and since secular charities don't waste money on Touchdown Jesus statues it might actually increase real assistance to the needy.

I can see your point, though in the scenario this happens over a relatively short period,   It would have to be from some big events that caused a big shift in people's view of the church and religion.  So I'm assuming there will be tons of people that are used to the social and routine aspect of going to church, and miss that part of it.  Also plenty of people that used to go to church might be convinced to go to one of these "not-a-churches" since it's not a dogmatic institution.  I imagine these not-a-churches would recruit volunteers and workers for the charities and services.  

Also, like I said in my other reply, I know full well people won't become less generous, but many of the churches who provide the services will likely go out of business.  The concern lies in the vacuum that would leave behind in the services.  Given time of course society would fill in the gaps, but what about until then? 

I lol'd at the Touchdown Jesus reference though.  I lmao when that damn thing got struck by lightening!

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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Shouldn't a goal of a

Shouldn't a goal of a rational society be to elimination of dependency on charity?

These church run chairities take a big cut of the money given to them for religious purposes. Religion has no incentive to reduce poverty and misery. I'm for helping people in limited circumstances, but creating dependency on charity is not a good idea.

I could see preaching scientific methods to lead a happy and fulfilled life instead of giving them 'the gospel'.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Beyond Saving wrote:The

Beyond Saving wrote:
The obvious problem is what would motivate people to show up? When I hear "atheist church" I'm not in so big a hurry to get out of my bathrobe.

This. Churches have been steadily losing members for decades now, and there's divine motivation to go to church, accompanied with promises of punishment and lack of success/happiness for not doing so. How many children look forward to going to church? I have yet to meet one.

The church is a dying phenomenon, as are cultural and community centres in general. The internet is replacing them. Why go to church when you can much more easily connect with friends on facebook?

As religious charities die, secular charities and governments will replace them.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


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EXC wrote:Shouldn't a goal

EXC wrote:

Shouldn't a goal of a rational society be to elimination of dependency on charity?

These church run chairities take a big cut of the money given to them for religious purposes. Religion has no incentive to reduce poverty and misery. I'm for helping people in limited circumstances, but creating dependency on charity is not a good idea.

I could see preaching scientific methods to lead a happy and fulfilled life instead of giving them 'the gospel'.

 

Absolutely it should be one of the biggest goals.  For the near future though it's necessary.   There definitely has to be some kind of a balance struck between making sure charity is available, reducing homelessness, and empowering people to be able to stand on their own 2 feet.  Thus one of the function of the Govt. and the charities would be to make sure the people that end up needing the charity are empowered to become stable again.

Honestly, I would personally hope that eventually the goal would be to move towards a society as much like Star Trek: The Next Generation as possible.  I don't know how realistic that will ever be but that's my hope anyway.

As far as "preaching" scientific method, I think that should be left more to the school system.  Obviously there can be some talks about this kind of thing, but I was envisioning more of a social societal hub, and MUCH less a preachy place.  I was trying to describe a place that is less LIKE a church but with the structure that lends itself to the organization that makes the church as strong as it has been over the centuries.  

Like I said before this was just a thought experiment to try and imagine what this would look like, if it would actually be useful, and it's necessary or useful to try and keep something like this around.

 

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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I wouldn't attend. I barely

I wouldn't attend. I barely make it to my bonsai club meetings once a month because I hate the dogma of those who are in "power". I can understand having a meeting place to share ideas, but I get that from this forum and others. If you are looking for special benefits, get the government to treat all organizations as equals rather than just give religions special and preferential treatments/services.

Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.

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 Ok, even tho this thread

 Ok, even tho this thread didn't go over so well, I'm glad I started it.  

 

It helped me figure out exactly WHY Allen De Botton is wrong about this.  I felt like he was barking up the wrong tree on this, but I also thought he brought up some valid positive things that the church does have, that would be a bit sad to lose.  The thing is, his premise is false.  We aren't going to lose anything.  Let's look at some things the churches, synagogues, temples etc. offer (if not a unique version of... at least their own flavor)

* Art - The church/religion inspired so much of the art going back thousands of years.  Museums, art galleries, and the internet will make sure it all lives on.  Religious buildings that are works of art or (like the sistine chapel) they have works of art painted on them will likely be preserved.

* Music - Same as art.  We already have ways of preserving music.

* Social center - As people have already pointed out, society will just have to fill the need for this as it arises.  More than likely they won't come up with anything as good as the church was at bringing communities together (which was probably De Botton's point) and just sit behind their computers, but... shit happens.  

* Charities - The consensus seems to be that secular charities will fill the voids as the come.  I tend to think if there is a mass exodus from religion that there will be a vacuum and people will suffer for years, even decades before it's filled.  That exodus could come because of either big events (more like 9/11 but worse) or the reason/science movements gain momentum and society hits a tipping point where everyone is educated better in science and critical thinking.  Regardless, eventually it would be filled.

* Etc.  As above.

 

Meh, on to thinking about more important stuff.

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."