Religion’s Future Part 2: Secular Solutions
This is the second part of a two-part post speculating on the future of religion. You can find part one here.
Alright, so we all know many of the problems that religion poses to our society. Religious politicians try to force their beliefs on us via legislation, teachers try to incorporate religious teachings in their classrooms, people get turned away at flower shops… The point is, religiosity saturates American culture in such a way that extricating ourselves from it will take some doing.
While attempting to combat the prevalence of harmful religious thinking, we will unintentionally be eliminating many of the benefits we can draw from it. The ones I listed in the previous post are:
- Community service
- Satiating human social needs
- Promotion of community/family involvement
As it happens, we’re starting to see a lot more atheist and skeptic involvement in community service. We have Foundation Beyond Belief, an organization entirely dedicated to raising money for various secular charities and causes. One of my favourite podcasts, Cognitive Dissonance, had a fundraiser last year in which they raised over $8,000 for Doctors Without Borders, a secular group. We’re even starting to see community efforts on the local level. We’re a growing movement that wants to prove we can do Good Things in the world, and we’re doing a pretty damn good job of it.
A lot of church-goers have friends they know through their church, and it’s always a possibility that learning of one’s unbelief would make a believer drop them like the bass in a Skrillex song. It’s true also that plenty of (sometimes closeted) atheists live in remote places and in hostile religious environments. For this, we have the internet. Most people will agree that the widespread availability of the internet has boosted the rise of secularism to an extent we’ve never seen before. We can provide information and resources, as well as offer our friendship and support to fellow non-theists in need.
This doesn’t really serve to address the gratifying experience of getting to mingle with your co-thinkers in person. Having just begun my involvement in this community, I can provide anecdotes about how awesome it feels to be in a room full of skeptics talking about pretty much anything. There are several conventions over the course of the year in different regions of the country, but they’re few and far-between. Many people can’t afford to travel or pay expensive entry fees. (I’m looking at you, American Atheists.) Churches meet at least once a week, so how are we going to even compare with a few conventions and conferences?
Church-going serves the purpose of community-building in a much more influential and proactive way than our scattered meetings. Weekly attendance builds relationships and is often engaging in people’s lives. What is the secular solution to this problem?
Turns out, several atheist groups have started little gatherings that bear similarities to church services. A Christian pastor in Tulsa was giving secular sermons about morals and such. At one point, he had 280 attendees to these services! Two comedians in London have started a once-per-month gathering called The Sunday Assembly which sounds really pleasant and probably fun. These get-togethers aren’t the property of religious groups. They don’t own the idea of community celebration of life, or on emotion, or on humility.
It’s important to keep all these things going and growing. We need to show not only believers but also nonbelievers that the secular community is a force for good and a welcoming environment to everyone. The comedians mentioned earlier have now shared some tips on how to get that kind of thing started, if you’re interested in maybe getting a group together.