I was critical of the idea of “atheist churches” when The Sunday Assembly made its big announcement, and I remained critical until I visited one during their US tour that brought them to my hometown.
While I did enjoy myself, I wrote in a review for Examiner.com that I felt it was a little to church like and I did not really enjoy the singing and music because I felt as though I was back in church. However, I acknowledged then and now that this was not enough of a reason to write off The Sunday Assembly.
When The Sunday Assembly setup a permanent home in San Diego I was invited to speak on morality and I was happy to do so. I left feeling much the same way I did when I went the first time, I thought the speakers and stories were great, I loved chatting with the people after, and I still didn’t like the music and church vibe.
I do now see a growing movement of “humanist congregations” and I am not necessarily against them, though I dislike what seems to be a growing use of religious terminology, something I had hoped humanism would move away from.
Today, Vlad from Non Prophet Status wrote about these humanist services and three key issues he believes they need to address and adopt. Yet, I cannot fully agree with all of these claims because as I have said before, I don’t like the “faitheist” movement of being best friends with religion. I don’t think ignoring religions harm on society does humanism or atheism any good and I am sick of the pandering to religious groups out of fear of hurt feelings.
Vlad’s list is not all bad, he states that ideas should be looked at via multiple angles and I agree that should be done, looking at something from only one side can be harmful, and he also suggests some time to reflect on readings or lectures. This is also not a bad idea because we do need time to process ideas that may be new to us and discover how they make us feel.
However, the first thing on Vlad’s list I feel needs to be addressed:
1. Admit we’re looking to religion for inspiration.
Vlad admits he knows this will upset atheists but believes humanist groups should not care, why does he say that? Vlad seems to take issue with vocal “new atheists” and wants to bring about a more religiously inclusive movement, but I believe he is in the minority here, not the other way around, so to push out atheists who want to stand up against religion is, in my opinion, the wrong method.
But atheist should be upset about this because humanism should be above religion and creating something more meaningful, religion creates dogma, indoctrination and conformity. We should not be looking for inspiration on what to do next; we should look at religion and realize this is what we ought not do. We do not want to recreate the mess they have made.
If we’re trying to provide guidance for living well and programs for meaningful community, why ignore all that progress?
Humanism does try to offer this guidance, but should be doing so in a much different fashion, not simply replacing exactly what many of those in attendance just walked away from. Humanism should look at what religion did and the “progress” it made and say, “we offer something better,” instead of offering more of the same.
This continues to be my biggest hang-up with humanist services is that many seem to want to replace church, and it should be something so much more than that. We should be reinventing the wheel, discarding everything from the past and building something new. Vlad suggests we take what we know is already broken and just keep doing it again and again. Why? Who does that benefit? The only benefit I can see coming from that is if the main goal of a humanist congregation would be to raise as much money as it can, “welcome to humanism, give your 10%”
Humanism is better than anything religion has to offer. Lets prove it by being everything religion can’t offer.