Why a “Church”?

Churches (and I include here mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and so on) are not only places of worship but also – crucially – the communities that worship there. No world religion has ever succeeded without having local communities that come together to pray, celebrate, study and act in common. From Russian cathedrals and Hindu temples down to the humble evangelical house church or the Factory Street Tin Tabernacle, what matters is not the material fabric of the building, but the people who put it to use. Samuel Wesley was vastly successful when preaching in a field, and attracted bigger congregations than the nearby parish church, however venerable, official or beautiful it might be.

If we want to spread Epicurean Humanism, there’s no better technology than a church, that is, a community. “Church” has evolved across the millennia, becoming better and better suited to this purpose.

People seem to have an inborn liking for rituals. Shaking hands, pulling Christmas crackers, opening birthday presents, holding funerals; all taken for granted, all pretty much universal (in this country, at any rate), and all deeply ritualised.

We want to spread the good news of Epicurean Humanism. We want to find a way of doing this that is sympathetic to how the human mind works, using rituals and community. Churches have evolved to do precisely those things. What we need, then, is some sort of church-like organisation that can do the job.

So how about we just call it a “church”?

Why do we call it “Epicurean Humanism”? Well, as a name it’s moderately compact and relatively informative. One alternative would be to go for something more informative, like “Secular Humanist Epicurean-Emotive Rational Buddhist Stoicism” (SHEER BS); another would be to have something compact but uninformative like “Kitianism” (after Zeno of Kition). Me, I think “Epicurean Humanism” is a reasonable compromise.

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