1. Many people are unhappy and isolated; there are causes of this that can be dealt with, so that those people can become happier and more involved. This was the teaching of Epicurus and of the Stoics 200 years before Christ; and modern scientific psychology has come to the same conclusion.
  2. Access to those ideas is often limited to those who can afford to pay for therapy, or those who can get their GP to refer them onto an NHS waiting list. But the lessons of how to live a more-fulfilled life could be made more widely available if we created a church-like structure to support the project.
  3. One important observation is that – according to research on the subject – churchgoers are happier and less isolated than non-churchgoers. Up to the present time the consolations of church have been reserved to those who believe (or are prepared to say they believe) in God. It is entirely reasonable to ask what we can learn from religions, without having to commit ourselves to their supernatural doctrines.
  4. Such a structure – let’s call it a church for the time being – can also provide the community and friendship and other support that  traditional religions have offered, without any of the metaphysical baggage.  It’s purpose would not be to preach atheism (an easy mistake to make, but a mistake all the same), but to provide the godless or the unchurched with the benefits of church without the ideological preconditions. Except, of course, for an acceptance of the entirely naturalist doctrines of Epicurean Humanism. This is not a church of atheism, but a society, dedicated to human flourishing, that just doesn’t mention gods.
  5. Religious practice involves more than just Sunday services (or Sabbath observance or Friday prayers). It is a network of activities that include:
  • pastoral care (such as counselling the bereaved, prison and hospital chaplaincy);
  • ritual (including festivals and rites of passage)
  • social action (political involvement, charities, schools, mutual help, food banks);
  • outreach (youth work, lunch clubs);
  • development of the church community (reconciliation, arbitration, guidance, moral exhortation)

All of those religious practices can be carried out by, and on behalf of, people who have no supernatural faith or theological commitments; but personal atheism is not a precondition. A practising Catholic or Methodist, Hindu, Sikh, Jew, Muslim or Baha’i would be just as likely to benefit. We’re not an anti-theist church, just not-theist.

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