Calgary Secular Church Keeps the Community While Ditching the Faith

Keeping with the trend of atheists finding community in church-like services that lack the superstition and mythology found in religion, the National Post‘s Jen Gerson has a great article on the Calgary Secular Church:

Calgary Secular Church member Tanner Berquist, apparently sitting on wet ground (Keith Morison – National Post)

After several years living the godless life, [Korey] Peters and his wife, who was raised an Anglican, were at peace with their decision. But they missed the church. They missed the community and the music and the rituals, all the little rites of passage and shared moments — usually provided by religious ceremonies — that make a community whole.

“When you lose faith, you cancel yourself out of the church culture and the church culture is huge in western culture.”

So about six months ago he decided to start the Calgary Secular Church…

The focus of the church is giving back to the community and that includes a Sunday school for children where they are taught how to “appreciate their responsibilities as global citizens.”

I’m sure this will only heighten the claim that atheism is a religion, but gathering in a common space and sharing certain moments together does not a religion make. In this case, you don’t have to agree with the speaker(s), you don’t have to attend a service to be considered a “true atheist,” and questions are welcomed.

Also, it’s not tax-exempt.

Before you criticize the service, realize it may not be for you, but for a lot of atheists (especially ones who only recently left their faith), this sort of service would provide a wonderful transition out of faith and into reality.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • dorothy30

    i can see that. i wonder if they have music, and if so, what. i was also raised anglican (episcopal), and what i miss about church is the music.

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

      Since when do religions get to have the monopoly on the definition of “church”? Do they get to tell us all the only true definition of “marriage” too? If they want to call their atheist church a “church”, then it’s a church. Do you really want to get into having the government or some other group of bigwigs deciding what is a “church” and what isn’t? I know plenty of people who would argue that the Mormons or the Scientologists aren’t real churches, since they were made up by some crazy dude in modern times. I really don’t think anyone wants to open that big can of worms!

      • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

        Opps, I was trying to reply to Jasper down there, not sure why this showed up in the wrong place.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    Because of Eddie Izzard I was under the impression that the music sung at Anglican Churches was rather boring and tedious.

    • Erp

      Most Anglicans are justly proud of their musical tradition (think King’s College Choir). Admittedly the musical editor (and composer or arranger of several of the more popular tunes) of a major hymnal of the early 20th century was described as a ‘militant atheist’ (by Bertrand Russell) though he later mellowed to ‘cheerful agnostic’ (according to his second wife).

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Cake or death?!

      • Mairianna

        Sung with bored look on my face; “Aaaaaah-Lay-Lu-Yaaaaah….”

  • Jasper

    Then why call it “church”? It’d be like calling it the “Communist Community of Calgary” even though it has nothing to do with Communism.

    Keep in mind that “Church” is defined as a “house of worship of God”

    • Claude

      “Church” is the English translation of the Greek “ekklesia,” an assembly or gathering. William Tyndale, who in the 16th century produced the first English translation of scriptures from the Hebrew and Greek, translated “ekklesia” as “congregation.” For his scholarly efforts he was condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church and handed over to the civil authorities to be strangled and burned at the stake.

      • Rain

        Allegedly “church” is more authoritarian than “congregation”, and so the more authoritarian authorities preferred “church” over “congregation”.

    • geru

      Defined by who? ;)

    • Jasper

      Yep, good points

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

      Since when do religions get to have the monopoly on the definition of “church”? Do they get to tell us all the only true definition of “marriage” too? If they want to call their atheist church a “church”, then it’s a church. Do you really want to get into having the government or some other group of bigwigs deciding what is a “church” and what isn’t? I know plenty of people who would argue that the Mormons or the Scientologists aren’t real churches, since they were made up by some crazy dude in modern times. I really don’t think anyone wants to open that big can of worm!

    • Rain

      Keep in mind that “Church” is defined as a “house of worship of God”

      I’m not sure why the thumbs down on that one, because that’s actually pretty much right. Specifically a Christian house of worship. Although meanings can change if we want them to.

  • geru

    I’d call it “church” simply for the reason that I know it would piss off as many atheists as it would Christians. I’d go ahead and even name it “Atheist Church”, that aughta be even more effective :)

  • pamsfriend

    Find your nearest unitarian congregation. Community w/o doctrine.

    • Wild Rumpus

      That’s what I did.

      • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

        The nearest Unitarian church is about 150 miles from my home and over a mountain pass, way too far to travel every sunday. Yes, the Unitarians provide a great option for some athiests, they are welcoming, tolerant and inclusive, and I greatly appreciate that they stand up for separation of church and state and oppose special privileges for Christians in this state. But they can never be the right option for everyone, there is plenty of room and certainly a place for atheist churches, flying spaghetti monsters, humanists, secular societies, or whatever. Just like churches, there is no one-size-fits-all that is right for everyone, but I find it greatly encouraging to see the growth of atheist churches because it means there is one more options out the for people like me. I may never have the chance to, or even want to, join one, but I’m glad they are out there.

  • good_creon

    It’s probably different for everyone, but I don’t miss the “community” of church at all. I don’t keep in touch with the people I knew there (aside from my family, obviously) and have never really thought twice about it. I get more out of my community of friends than I ever did with the church.

  • Kengi

    But do they wear silly hats and serve non-fruit topped cake? If not, they aren’t for me…

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    I get this. I miss the community of church (which supported me greatly while my husband was dying) and the singing (I was an alto in the choir). I’m not sure I miss it enough to drag myself out of a warm, comfortable bed on a weekend morning, though:-).

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      I couldn’t give up the singing, so I sing with a community chorus. We still sing a lot of religious music, dangit, but at least the music is chosen for its artistic quality rather than its content.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        Not a bad idea. I’m far from a great singer, but I’m on tune and have a decent range, which makes me an adequate choral singer. I sing along with the radio, but it’s not the same. Maybe I’ll look into local non-church choral opportunities:-).

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    “When you lose faith, you cancel yourself out of the church culture and the church culture is huge in western culture.”

    That’s the main problem. We need to get society to a point where “church culture” no longer exists. I don’t think immersing the next generation in secular churches is going to help bring about a more secular society.

    They might be useful as a transitional step for people who have recently left Christianity, but what of the children brought up in secular churches? Church attendance creates another generation of people who feel that going to church is normal, and who feel attached to the rituals. And since secular churches are few and far between, and most likely will not survive beyond one generation, it provides an easy transition for those children into more mainstream churches that teach supernaturalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.locke.984 Karen Locke

    Don’t underestimate the support the “church” community provides for some people, especially folks who are otherwise under-socialized. I’m thinking about going back to UU for awhile, because I work from home and desperately need more humans in my life.

    • Camorris

      In my mind, this regular socializing is the only redeeming value of religions. Humans are social animals.

  • AxeGrrl

    Human beings coming together, with no gods or god-belief. to commune, to organize “giving back to the community”, to teach the responsibilties that come with being ‘global citizens’ to their children……..

    Sounds good enough to me to transcend any squabbling over what the hell it’s ‘called’ :)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X