Is there any point to attending an atheist church?
February 6, 2013 — 12:58

Author: Helen De Cruz  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 29

[X-posted at NewApps] These reflections are inspired by my reading of Howard Wettstein’s book “The significance of religious experience” (OUP), Gutting’s piece in the Stone on agnosticism, and a recent BBC report on an atheist church in London.
I am deeply intrigued by atheist religious practice. An atheist church in North London has opened last month. It proves to be very popular; as a matter of fact, vastly outstripping the neighboring Anglican evangelical church in congregation size. The ca. 300 members of this church congregate to sing secular songs, celebrate life and the natural world, have readings from secular texts, like Alice in Wonderland, and have secular sermons, on topics like “life is all too brief and nothing comes after it.” The atheist church fits in a broader tendency of atheists to incorporate aspects of religious practice, including Alain de Botton’s temples for atheists. Is there any point for an atheist who is attracted to religious practice to attend atheist ceremonies, structured in ways similar to traditional religions?


When discussing the matter with a friend, who is a member of the Episcopal church, she thought it was pointless (and verging on the ridiculous) for atheists or agnostics to attend such a church. Couldn’t an atheist who likes ritual and religious practice just make use of the structures that already exist, bracketing or privately denying the doxastic elements? In fact, as Gutting observed, many religious people (I suspect many religious academics, for instance) are agnostic at best about the doxastic aspects of their faith.

Wettstein, who emphasizes the importance of religious practice, has taken this attitude to Judaism. According to him, we can enjoy the benefits of religious practices like ritual blessings, for human flourishing without taking its metaphysical baggage on board. As a limiting case, he argues that one can be a metaphysical naturalist, and yet be in awe of God. However, Wettstein acknowledges that metaphysics is not wholly unimportant to religious practice. In chapter 2 (aptly named man thinks, God laughs), he chronicles his own spiritual journey from Judaism to atheism to religiosity without metaphysics. He writes: “The relation between religious life and supernaturalist metaphysics, already mentioned in the Introduction, is for me a very delicate business, one that constantly lurks behind the scenes in this book and in my life…[w]hen I reflect on religious commitment, I neither want to claim that such metaphysical views are irrelevant nor that they are crucial. A much lighter touch is needed, one that is extremely difficult to achieve.”

I agree with this. I think metaphysics, while seldom crucial to why people adopt, maintain or abandon religion, is nevertheless important. We aim for some consistency of our actions with our beliefs, and lack of such consistency seems to require an explanation for the discrepancy. For instance, if I am passionate about animal welfare, member about animal welfare groups, and yet eat meat of animals I know suffered, there seems to be some inconsistency of my behavior to my beliefs, and I need to offer at least some reason why they don’t align. Similarly, someone with a completely naturalist ontology might feel uncomfortable reciting the Nicene creed and singing religious hymns on a regular basis, even if she enjoys doing so. 

So if one wants to achieve this alignment of practice with beliefs, there are other options. For instance, the atheist who likes religious practice could try to align her beliefs with her practices by changing her beliefs, aligning them with, say Judaism, Calvinism or any other belief set corresponding to the practices she is attracted to.  If one takes that route one could look for arguments, such as those offered by Plantinga and Craig, which not only want to establish some thin form of theism, but a much richer package deal of specific religious beliefs (e.g., not just warranted theism, but warranted Christian beliefs). Given that philosophy of religion often is a form of apologetics anyway, this is a useful route for the atheist or agnostic who likes the aspects of religion but does not (yet) accept its doxastic elements. Tim Keller, who writes about his Presbyterian congregation in New York city, tells about this strategy in detail in his The reason for God. Many of his congregation members are sophisticated college-educated, professional, young New Yorkers. Yet, Keller has chosen to adopt a fairly conservative ideology for his church, which include a commitment biblical inerrancy. By careful argumentation in his sermons and visits to congregation members, he seems to get them on board with this. It is quite possible that a number of his congregation would, in London, be attracted to the atheist church.

Another way to align one’s practices with beliefs is what the atheist churches do, which is to tailor typical practical elements of religious life (like sermons, hymns, readings from scripture) to secular purposes. This seems to be appealing to some, although we don’t know whether such communities can survive in the longer term. So it does seem that being part of an atheist church has a point for the atheist who is attracted to some elements of the religious life – it brings one’s beliefs in line with one’s practices, and allows one to embrace at least some elements of the religious life. 

Comments:
  • Eric Steinhart

    It’s nice to see the theistic community start to discover atheist spirituality. (But it’s odd to hear talk of atheistic religion – most atheists would reject that outright. And I don’t know of many atheists who would endorse the notion of a “church” or “temple”.)
    Atheists, being social animals, have all sorts of desires for social activities. And, since atheism competes in the same social niche as religion, atheists have been developing many institutional structures and practices that are non-theistic, yet perform similar social and psychological functions.
    There are all manner of atheistic holidays, ceremonies, rituals, and group activities. There are atheist parenting groups; kids groups and summer camps; grief support groups; charities; and this list can be elaborated as much as you like. There are atheistic meditation groups, etc. etc. etc. Much of this, of course, overlaps with humanism. But much of it is new.
    Why would any of this require belief in God? It would not, and does not. The spiritual atheist will argue that God is not required to live a fully spiritual life. And perhaps some would argue that God is not needed for religion – note that “religion” is not being used here as merely a synonym for “Abrahamism”.
    It would be absurd for an atheist to adopt Abrahamic practices. (To go to a Christian church while privately denying the beliefs.)
    Atheists are starting their own practices. One, which is popular enough, is the Winter Solstice celebration. I went to a very nice atheist Winter Solstice in 2012 in NYC. It was a large crowd at a big bar, with food and music. We drank and talked, and took up a collection of money to donate to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
    It wasn’t a church. There wasn’t much metaphysics involved. Atheistic sociality is likely to evolve in a non-church direction.

    February 6, 2013 — 22:36
  • “It would be absurd for an atheist to adopt Abrahamic practices. (To go to a Christian church while privately denying the beliefs.)”
    I don’t know about that. An atheist might think: “I know there is no God, but of course I could be wrong. In case I am wrong, given how there is infinite utility at stake for myself and those that my beliefs influence, I need to give God as good an opportunity to influence my heart as I can. I will thus go to the church that looks least unlikely to be in tune with God. And if I am lucky they will at least have beautiful music.”
    Of course, it would be dishonest for the atheist to engage in some of the expressive activities in the church such as saying the creed. But many other activities will be perfectly fine. For instance, there is nothing wrong in addressing requests to a being that one takes to be very likely nonexistent. For instance, suppose I am a presentist who doesn’t believe in an afterlife and am in a car. The driver has just had what looks like a fatal heart attack and the car is veering into traffic. There is nothing wrong with yelling to the driver: “Stop!” even though if I am a presentist and don’t believe in an afterlife, then I believe I am most likely yelling to a nonexistent person (and if I do believe in an afterlife, then I believe I am most likely yelling to a person who isn’t there, which isn’t much better). But I might be wrong, in which case it’s worth trying.

    February 7, 2013 — 10:11
  • Helen De Cruz

    I do not think, ultimately, that the church model will be a success for atheists in the long run. Past experience indicates it is hard for atheists to keep non-religious movements with elements of religious practice going. But I don’t know what would turn out to be a successful direction. Perhaps some form of supernaturalism will have to be involved to ensure long-term success (is this the case for the Winter Solstice? I have no knowledge about the motivations of the participants in NYC. In the UK, such events are often attended by Wicca members and other religious, but non-Abrahamic people).
    I am not sure about whether going to church while not being a believer is pragmatically or morally problematic (the dishonesty Alex referred to). On the face of it, it seems insincere to say the Creed while not believing it. On the other hand, I am wondering how high the percentage of the typical congregation, in say, a Catholic church congregation wholeheartedly endorse everything they are supposed to believe. I know many Christians (Catholics and mainline protestants) who doubt some of the Creed’s main tenets, such as the virginity of Mary, yet consider themselves good Catholics! Are these people insincere when they say the Creed? I don’t think this is necessarily the case. They might regard saying the Creed as a vital part of practice, compatible with private doubt.
    Of course, there is still a qualitative gap between this and an atheist who unwaveringly does not believe *anything* from the Nicene creed. Suppose an atheist who values aspects of liturgy independent from their connections to doctrine, such as reading Scripture, singing hymns and reciting the Creed. In that case, he doesn’t even have to be a Pascalian wagerer as described by Alex. He can simply get the this-worldly benefits of liturgy (e.g., meditation-like relaxation) without buying into the doxastic elements. This is something a bit along the lines of what Wettstein proposes in his book, and I think it could also work for Christianity, even though Christians place a high emphasis on doxastic belief. But it might not work for everyone, for reasons I described in my original blogpost (a discrepancy between beliefs and practices, even if not dishonest, may feel too dissonant).
    Finally, I think that from a theistic point of view, it may also be worth emphasizing liturgy more than is now the case. A God who loves his creatures may not only want to communicate with them through instilling doxastic attitudes (by some sensus divinitatis) or through private religious experience, but also through the communal practice of church experience. If God can appeal to the atheist this way, the atheist might achieve some non-doxastic form of faith, while not having any doxastic faith.

    February 7, 2013 — 11:17
  • Matthew Mullins

    I don’t know that it would be absurd or dishonest for an atheist to engage in these practices. My friend and former professor, Andrew Eshleman, has for years attended Episcopal services while being agnostic/atheist. He’s even defended the practice in print in Can Atheist Believe in God?. There is, of course, a bit of shift in what he takes God to refer, but it isn’t obvious that you’d notice it in a conversation.

    February 7, 2013 — 15:17
  • “Are these people insincere when they say the Creed?”
    If they’re using something like the previous English-language Catholic version of the Nicene Creed which had “We believe”, they might very well be sincere. It seems not insincere to say “We (Americans) like baseball” even if one knows oneself not to like baseball. (Do Americans still like baseball? I don’t know the statistics, but suppose that one justifiably believes they do.)
    But our English translations of the Nicene Creed have recently shifted to have the first person singular that the official Latin has. (The Apostles’ Creed already had “I”.) It’s harder to defend “I like baseball” when one doesn’t. That may have been a part of the reason for the Vatican’s insistence on the shift.

    February 7, 2013 — 15:58
  • Eric Steinhart

    @Alex – You wrote:

    An atheist might think: “I know there is no God, but of course I could be wrong. In case I am wrong, given how there is infinite utility at stake for myself and those that my beliefs influence, I need to give God as good an opportunity to influence my heart as I can. I will thus go to the church that looks least unlikely to be in tune with God. And if I am lucky they will at least have beautiful music.”

    Just replace “God” with “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, and I wager you don’t take your own advice. Or perhaps, more seriously, replace “God” with “Allah” and “church” with “mosque”. So, yes, it would be absurd (or at least just deeply self-deceived).
    @Matthew – Yes, there are some atheists who attend Christian churches, in some cases privately and in at least one case publicly. A pastor friend reports the belief that many who attend her church are probably atheists/agnostics, tho of course the church in question is a very liberal Protestant church. There are plenty of atheists who believe in various non-theistic Gods (or gods). So there is an possibility. But the Bible-talk would be pretty tough to handle.
    @Helen – I’m not aware of any supernaturalism at any of the atheistic events I’ve attended. I would not say that the Winter Solstice event was religious.
    Atheist prosociality and solidarity is likely to be radically different from religion. What form it will take is presently very far from clear. (On a sociological note, it’s been argued here and there that the types of networking that can be done via the internet are replacing the types of networking that used to be done via religion. But I don’t know how to assess those claims.)
    – Eric

    February 7, 2013 — 17:11
  • Eric:
    It depends on the particular atheist’s credence assignments. There will be atheists for whom Christianity is the least unlikely view on which there are afterlife benefits. There will be atheists for whom Islam is the least unlikely view on which there are afterlife benefits. I doubt there are any atheists for whom the flying spaghetti monster is the least unlikely view on which there are afterlife benefits, but maybe there are.
    Now, it may sometimes be rational to ignore very unlikely theories. But as we know, that’s a risky business in general (e.g., Parfit’s arguments in Reasons and Persons).
    Moreover, presumably there is a continuum among atheists as to their credence in various religions. Thus, surely, there will be atheists who do something like assigning credence 0.95 to atheism, 0.03 to Christianity, 0.01 to Judaism, etc. But 0.03 needs to be taken pretty seriously when the utilities involved are large. (I certainly wouldn’t fly to a conference if I thought that the plane had a chance 0.03 of crashing. Even if it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of conference.) There will likewise be people, who assign 0.75 to atheism, 0.15 to Islam, and so on. Such people, by their lights, had better take Islam very seriously.

    February 7, 2013 — 19:08
  • Eric Steinhart

    Well, this is far off topic, and I’d really like to stay on Helen’s question, but, dear Alex, you tempt me with math. I can’t resist. Thus I set
    Pr(Christianity is true) to almost zero.
    But what about the infinite utility of heaven and infinite disutility of hell?
    Well, I also set the following probabilities:
    Pr(Heaven is infinitely good | Christianity is true) = almost zero;
    Pr(Hell is infinitely bad | Christianity is true) = almost zero.
    But how is this possible, you ask? Because, given that Christianity says that God is omni-perfect, and the designer-creator of our universe, it should follow that
    Pr(Earth is infinitely good | Christianity is true) = 1.
    And yet…

    February 7, 2013 — 20:14
  • That’s odd, because the claims of Christianity seem to entail that heaven is infinitely good: it lasts for an infinite amount of time, and contains constant great joy, and has no evils. Normally, when one knows that A entails B, one sets P(B|A) high (at least as high as the degree of belief in the entailment).
    I am inclined to think the earthly life has infinite value, actually. Here one has to have an appropriate calculus for working with different infinities, like hyperreals.

    February 9, 2013 — 9:58
  • Eric Steinhart

    And the claims of Christianity entail the same about the earth (or our universe). It was designed and created by an omni-perfect God who cares especially about humans (the crowning glory of earthly creation, at least). And, as Genesis 1:31 tells me, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” But somehow, it all went wrong. And I’m told even that there was a rebellion in Heaven.
    All in all, I suspect it is entirely reasonable to say that Heaven is as much of a mess, as deeply infected by the problem of evil, as earth (or our universe). God couldn’t keep it together down here, why think He can keep it together up there?
    The converse goes for Hell: Christianity claims its infinitely bad; yet the Christian God is, looking at the stories in the OT, exactly as Dawkins says: a moral monster, a tyrant, the apex of wickedness. Thus Lucifer, indeed, had the right idea: to get away from that hideous strength. Hell, it is reasonable to suppose, is in fact a democracy, a socialist utopia. Only those in Hell are saved. (And, since it would appear that only selfish motives, based on personal pleasure and an infinite love of one’s own ego, motivate Christians to want to go to Heaven, one suspects that Hell is filled with those who have morally good wills. Hell is populated with holy people.)
    Of course, this is pretty close to the Marcionite version of Christianity, which was suppressed. (Tho, clearly enough, it’s not entirely Marcionite.)

    February 9, 2013 — 11:07
  • “And the claims of Christianity entail the same about the earth (or our universe). It was designed and created by an omni-perfect God who cares especially about humans (the crowning glory of earthly creation, at least).”
    No, they don’t entail that the earth is infinitely good. It might entail that infinite life on earth would be infinitely good.

    February 9, 2013 — 15:10
  • Eric Steinhart

    My recollection is that, before the Fall, Adam and Eve were immortal.
    Thus my claim stands.

    February 9, 2013 — 16:29
  • Eric Steinhart

    But we’ve drifted way off Helen’s query.
    The argument is that atheists generally find Christianity to be both contrary to truth and contrary to goodness; this contrariness rarely derives from abstract metaphysics, but more from the concrete particularities of the Biblical texts as wells the details of Christian activism (e.g. in politics); thus it would be not merely cognitively inconsistent, but morally perverse, for an atheist to attend a Christian church.
    Thus atheists seek to construct their own sociality, and it may include some behaviors that resemble established religious practices; but the meaning and practice is radically different.

    February 9, 2013 — 17:01
  • Pluviôse

    “We don’t know yet whether such communities can survive in the long term.”
    Really? I’m not all that familiar with this aspect of history of religion but my understanding was that there have been atheist churches and/or temples going at least back to the 19th century. I have no idea what the actual numbers are like. I’m curious!
    Is it just that this new church happened to jog her memory, or does the author think this new church to depart from previous forms of atheist religiosity? (Or what euphemism should we use for “religion” in this case?)

    February 9, 2013 — 22:10
  • Helen De Cruz

    While the success of atheist religious communities is in general lower than those of theist ones, there is variability. In Belgium, I know quite a few people who are members of freemason “loges”, which are atheist (I know freemasons aren’t atheist everywhere). They seem to be going pretty strong, and have been around since the 19th century.

    February 10, 2013 — 2:55
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    I think it is fair to say that in the typical religious life the doxastic element is not fundamental. People absorb the religious beliefs of their environment because they make sense of the religious path they choose, and not the other way around. There is an interesting dialectic between belief and experience, but certainly experience is the fundamental part. And in religion the path and not the belief system is fundamental. It seems to me quite clear that a person who follows Christ’s path without even believing in God is closer to Christ than one does not follow Christ’s path but holds all the true Christian beliefs.
    Now on theistic metaphysics, all goodness and all value and all beauty are grounded in God. Thus all experience of what’s good draws people towards its source. The great beauty of self-transcending love of course, but also the beauty of nature, the beauty of art, the beauty of sex, the beauty of being with friends, the beauty of raising children – they all draw one towards God, whether one is aware of it or not. And one of the most beautiful experiences of life is that of celebration. Religious life is full of great celebrations such as at baptism and marriage, but also the regular ones at Sunday service. Now on Sundays in Church one celebrates God, but there is much in creation one might celebrate too. So I see much sense for atheists to unite and celebrate all that is lovely in the world.
    Or let me put it in Pascalian terms. If theism is true then when atheists come together to celebrate the beauty of creation, they are also celebrating its creator. If atheism is true then there is still profit in celebrating the beauty of the world and in partaking in the beauty of the celebration itself. One way or the other it looks like a great idea.

    February 10, 2013 — 15:59
  • This poses the question of what the point of attending a non-atheist church is. Is the purpose to affirm one’s metaphysical beliefs? To learn about theological issues? To provide opportunities for do-good work? Or what? What do we think church-going is or is for?
    I suggest the contrarian view that churches are semi-public facilities, like restaurants, theaters and supermarkets and that the core purpose of going to church is to participate in ceremonies. Ceremonies are enjoyable in and of themselves, even if they have no further significance. Participants can use church in any way they please–as an expression of their theological commitments or simply as a fantasy–like a historical reenactment.
    Re-enactors pretending to fight the American Civil War say things that they don’t believe, but that’s the nature of the game. And when atheists say the Creed, of course they don’t believe it. But why should that be an issue? Why should they feel uncomfortable about that, any more than Civil War re-enactors should feel uncomfortable about speaking in the personae of historical characters? Do they have the idea that others expect them to believe it? Or would disapprove if they discovered that they didn’t? Would we? I wouldn’t.
    The problem with atheist churches is that they’re earnest: people who go take their participation to be an expression of their “values” and commitments rather than ceremonies that are enjoyable in and of themselves, which participants and use as they please. And that means they’ll never be popular. Popular religion, folk religion, is a collection of ceremonies which participants can take in any way they want–investing them with commitment and value, or just participating for the pleasure of playing the game and enjoying the show.

    February 15, 2013 — 13:59
  • Ron

    If there is a market for an atheist church, someone will figure out a way to create it and make it financially viable. But I think atheist tastes are too varied for a one size fits all or even a ten sizes to fit all solution.

    February 16, 2013 — 11:08
  • Ron

    I think a church of any sort only makes sense if there is a critical mass of atheists in your vicinity. Driving 30 miles to meet up with other atheists is not going to make for a viable atheist congregation. Does anyone have a contrary experience?

    February 17, 2013 — 11:13
  • I’m going to go ahead and skip over the inevitable debate taking place above, but, to chime in on the idea of atheist churches, I think it a generally useless thing. On the other hand, it does present an opportunity for those who currently find themselves outside of a given social flock a place of their own to connect with their neighbours.

    February 25, 2013 — 17:02
  • Helen De Cruz

    Ron & Primism:
    I think that the lack of social security in the US explains to a large extent why it is such a religious country compared to other industrialized nations. Plenty of sociological studies indicate that religious communities are effective in increasing prosociality among its members (often also accompanied by a decreased trust and more hostility towards those who are outsiders). The US’ expensive and inadequate health care system, lack of paid maternity leave (as one of the new countries in the world) etc make it important to be part of a group. So it makes sense to be part of a religious community. Whether atheist communities can achieve the same goals is a matter of debate. Perhaps belief in God is important to achieving group cohesion (as, for instance, Jesse Bering suggests, it would help people obey moral norms if they thought someone was watching them).

    February 26, 2013 — 3:30
  • “This poses the question of what the point of attending a non-atheist church is.”
    To receive the supernatural effects of grace, whether from prayer or from sacraments, and to worship our creator as a community?

    February 26, 2013 — 13:53
  • That’s a very good point – one that simply must be true, on some level. Still, the rate of religiosity here in Canada is also high, and we’ve got free healthcare!
    There’s a distinct difference between religiosity in Canada and that in the United States, though, and I’m not sure of the cause. It’s seen most easily in the lack of widespread fervent belief here; fundamentalism just isn’t an issue.

    February 26, 2013 — 15:44
  • overseas

    @Helen-
    Religious groups do not provide maternity leave or healthcare for their members, nor do they provide effective substitutes for these. So your point must be that they provide consolation for or means to cope with the consequences of, not having them. But they would also provide consolation for or means to cope with the consequences of many other things equally present in countries whose social security arrangements you approve of: approaching death, divorce, death of loved ones, incurable illness, etc. These things seem rather more traumatic than lacking maternity leave or even lacking the money to see a doctor. So if the consolation/coping explanation is correct, it should be the case that the difference in religiosity between the US and (say) Europe is rather less than we find. So I rather doubt that your point about social security really gets at what’s going on. Difference in responses to the broader cultural changes of the ’60s might be a more promising place to look.

    February 27, 2013 — 3:49
  • Helen De Cruz

    Overseas: thanks – I did not say they do provide these things (that would be rather a strong incentive to join them, wouldn’t it), but was providing a sociological observation. Churches may provide informal social safety networks, e.g., raise money for some member of the congregation who has cancer but cannot afford treatment. I doubt that people make a dispassionate analysis (what are the odds of getting cancer, my congregation fellows helping me etc). And churches are not very effective at providing these things; or rather, they are less effective than secular governments. But still, the US is a society with high levels of insecurity (high levels of homicide, large income inequality, lack of basic security for the poor) where being part of communities can provide a sense of security that people do not have from state-organized forms of social security. Perhaps the effect is indeed more psychological rather than utilitarian (as you suggest). The correlations between good social security/low religiosity are quite strong. Societies that are effective in providing their citizens have, on average, lower levels of religiosity. The Scandinavian countries are a good example.
    Here is a source:
    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.170.310

    February 27, 2013 — 5:01
  • overseas

    I accepted that there is a correlation. YOur claim above, however, was that there is causation: that higher levels of state provision *explain* lower religiosity. You propose a psychological mechanism to provide the causation: we seek security by being part of a community. If that were the whole story, though, there’d be no reason for levels of US church participation to far outstrip (as they do) levels of participation in other entities that provide significant communities given suitable commitment, e.g. political parties (which can promise, in some cases, increases in state security) or hobbyist groups. (As a side-point, US religiosity doesn’t neatly correlate with strong community participation: many firmly believe but attend services only occasionally, let alone take a more active congregational role.) For your story to work, then, there has to be something about a specifically religious community that satisfies a desire for security better. Now there are preachers who hawk a sort of “prosperity gospel,” but they are a small minority. Any religious person with a modicum of sense notices that people in churches get sick and well, are poor or rich, at about the same rate as others. Any religious person with some theological sophistication acknowleges that God may have reasons to let us get sick and not make us well. So it’s not a sense of worldly security that’s being provided, at least unless those involved are pretty dumb. The most a religious person could reasonably expect might be a slight raising of the odds of worldly good (God may answer my prayers; He won’t answer if I don’t try praying). That’s not enough to produce a sense of worldly security. And it might be good not to build a theory on the expectation that most believers are stupid, ignorant or irrational. Religion may provide a more ultimate sort of security- whatever happens is meant for my good, etc.- but if that’s what’s being sought and provided, the state would not be able to provide any sort of substitute for it. So to me the security story doesn’t really add up. It supposes either large-scale stupidity, ignorance or irrationality on the part of believers (false, in my experience) or something for which the state would not in fact substitute (in which case we don’t get an explanation for the correlation between high state security and lower religiosity) or both.

    February 28, 2013 — 4:12
  • No thank you. Being a Protestant, I can get grace anywhere. And I’m not clear why there is any benefit in worshipping in “community.”
    In any case, it’s in the interests of Christians to promote my view of churches as belief-optional public facilities. We need churches to keep open and functioning, but there are too few religious believers to maintain the buildings and keep the ceremonies organized and financed. So we need to make it clear to others that churches provide secular benefits they can enjoy–music, art, architecture, “community,”–and that they’re welcome to participate, regardless of what they believe or how they behave.

    March 2, 2013 — 12:26
  • Eric Steinhart

    James Croft (at the Harvard Humanist Community Project) has a nice blog post about atheist communities:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/templeofthefuture/2013/03/in-defense-of-atheist-churches/

    March 2, 2013 — 13:26
  • Helen:
    “I think that the lack of social security in the US explains to a large extent why it is such a religious country compared to other industrialized nations.”
    That line of thought would predict greatest religiosity among those least well off in the US. I do not think we find this. Or do we?

    March 18, 2013 — 13:31
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