Since it’s Sunday I’d figure I’d talk about atheism! (I’ve noticed that many atheist blogs don’t have posts on Sundays, so I’ve decided that I’m going to make sure I have one every Sunday.)
As some of you may have read, a few weeks ago some atheist bloggers were talking about “atheist church“. The conversation started with an article about it on the Boston Globe website. Some atheists at Harvard started their own Sunday service (if you’d like to know more about it, you should read the article). After reading about it, I came to the conclusion that atheist church sounds like an awful idea. I’m not saying that atheist shouldn’t get together, but doing it in a church-like way is a terrible idea. I completely understand the need for community, after all I am a member of my campus Freethinkers group. And I know that the feeling of community is what keeps a lot of people in the church. However, I also know that a lot of young people feel like the church is a dated institution. Who wants to get up early on Sunday and be talked at? I don’t care if you’re telling me I’m a sinner or that god doesn’t exist, I’m not going to take you message very well if it’s before 11 am on one of two days that I actually get to sleep in.
I much prefer how my Freethinkers group does it. We meet on Wednesday evenings and shout at each other (we’re very passionate people). We have a topic for every meeting and we discuss it as a group (or not; sometimes we get really off topic). But every atheist group is different; they find what works for them and aren’t afraid to change it up (because who gives a fuck about tradition if it’s not working for everyone?). But apparently Greg Epstein, creator of this atheist church project, doesn’t think that this flexibility is working:
[Speaking about SSA groups] But those groups are loose-knit. They have no official format for meetings; some do service projects while others are as likely to hold an “atheist prom.’’ Most are led by students, not chaplains, and they have no institutional memory, since their membership turns over every four years.
Epstein wants to create something more permanent with a carefully thought out infrastructure.
Why? Has anyone been crying out for more “infrastructure”? I certainly haven’t and I haven’t heard anyone said, “Hm, if only this group met at an inconvenient time and I had less of a say in how it’s run!”. And isn’t it just awful that student atheist groups are led by fellow students? It’s not like they can relate to and understand other students more easily or anything. And If you want more “institutional memory” start a blog, not a church!
I like the lack of rigid infrastructure. It gives the members of our group room to express their opinions and plan unique and fun events. For example, even though I’m not an officer of our group, I was still able to suggest and help plan a Carl Sagan Day event (since I am the resident Sagan fanatic). I don’t think that would be as easy to do if we had a church-like infrastructure. I guess prefer democracy to dictatorships. Or maybe I’m just silly and an atheist church is really what everyone wants.