Announcing “The Godless Congregation”

I’m so excited! Today I finally get to announce a project long in the works: Greg Epstein (Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and New York Times Bestselling author of Good Without God) and I just signed a book deal with Simon and Schuster to write The Godless Congregation, a passionate call to those who do not believe in God to get together and organize. We’ll be working with editor Thomas LeBien, who has long experience of editing successful books and seems as excited about the book as we are! In the book we will argue that the congregation is a valuable form of social organization and that, despite its historic links to a deity, it can and will thrive without one.

The past few months have demonstrated that there is an increasing desire among religious “nones” for new forms of community which fulfill the human need for fellowship, support, civic engagement, ethical inspiration, and existential exploration. The Houston Oasis, the Sunday Assembly, and the Secular Hub in Denver are three such congregations: the sign of a trend toward greater organization among the nonreligious, showing that godless congregations are possible and that people want them. In our upcoming book, Greg and I will travel the country (and go abroad!) visiting such congregations, charting their growth and interviewing the people responsible for their creation. We’ll answer questions like:

  • Why are congregations valuable? What health, social, and existential might they provide?
  • Why is now the perfect time to develop (and write about) godless congregations? 
  • How are congregations even possible without God, and might they perhaps be even better
  • How can we build strong communities which promote our best qualities without replicating the worst elements of insular religious communities?
  • What impact could godless congregations have on political and civic life? 
  • What is the role of such congregations in the future of atheism, freethought and Humanism – and what is their role in the future of our species?
  • How can you build a community dedicated to the highest human values, God not included?

You’ll be able to hear a lot more about our book as we progress with the writing of it (it is going to take a couple of years!), and we’ll be updating you through our regular speaking engagements (follow me and Greg on Twitter, too!). For now, though, we want your storiesAnyone who has any experience with a congregation or community like the ones I describe, anyone who is interested in such a community, or anyone who has ideas or questions relating to the topic, please email us at research@harvardhumanist.org. We want to make this book as inclusive and successful as possible, so please get in touch with ideas, stories, questions, and help us make this the best book we can make!

Finally, if you haven’t seen my speech from Skepticon V – “God is Dead. So What?” – you can watch it now for a preview of the sort of ideas we will dive into in The Godless Congregation.

About James Croft

James Croft is the Leader in Training at the Ethical Culture Society of St. Louis - one of the largest Humanist congregations in the world. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently writing his Doctoral dissertation as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

  • Pingback: Our new book deal *and* Community Center! | The Humanist Community Project

  • rick zorger

    this is incorrect name

  • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

    Congratulations, James! This is extraordinary news!

  • Pingback: Greg Epstein, Humanists Don't Need Congregations We Need More Communities - iHumanism

  • mkbell

    Y’all are probably already aware of the North Texas Church of Freethought, http://www.churchoffreethought.org/, but since you didn’t mention them I figured I’d send you the link in case you are not aware. My guess is that they have been around longer than most other godless congregations.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chris.highland Chris Highland

    A good step here, James. The video was helpful in understanding the intent of the project and your personal approach. It was nice to be reminded of Felix Adler. Are you aware of Frances Wright? Her early 19th C. orations on turning churches into “halls of science” prefigured Adler and aspects of your interest. As a non-theist who was once a minister involved in collaborative interfaith work, I wonder why it is necessary to exclude people of faith from “community.” I still work with and live with believing people, many of whom are already active alongside people of no faith “doing what needs to be done” in the community–the inclusive community where the artificial “us” and “them” mentality simply doesn’t matter anymore (e.g., shelters, low-cost housing, collaborative youth programs, educational projects, etc.). Admittedly, these progressive-thinking circles are pretty small (but growing). Yet, in my view, creating a place where faith and the faithful are continually bashed or ridiculed seems pointless and unhelpful. Wouldn’t constructive bridge-building be wiser than demolition of any remaining bridges between forward thinking people on either side of the theological divide? I am very energized to see that and participate in that kind of taking-the-high-road project! Could there be a “middle way”? Could the focus be, as you suggest in some of your questions, the Doing Good rather than the endless Believing/Not-Believing, God/Godless schism? Education and Justice/Compassion collaborative coalitions make great sense. Gatherings can be intellectually stimulating, naturally celebrative, fun, as well as organizing and action-oriented (bridge-building). Here’s my conceptual Community Congregation http://communitycongregation.wordpress.com). I hope we can continue this productive dialogue!

  • J.W. Browning

    I am in the infant stages of putting together just such a group, without any idea of how it will go over. My Working title for the group is Congregational Humanist Assembly. But that might seem repetitive.
    Feedback and suggestions are welcome. I wish you the best with your new book. It might just turn out to be the manual for what people like me are trying to do.

  • Mark Farmer

    Don’t forget the C3 congregation in Michigan, West Hills Church in Toronto with atheist pastor Gretta Vosper, and Bruce Sanguin’s congregation in Vancouver. Michawl Dowd’s Evolutionary Christianity, while not a church, is a related phenomenon. Look forward to reading your book!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X