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:
Affordable day care
Private schools (K-12)
After school / inner city after school programs
Affordable/free mental health/grief counseling
Substance abuse programs (AA/NA)
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."