Should we have secular churches?

by Desrtopa 9y19th Jan 201187 comments

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In the comments of a recent thread, another poster pointed out that religious individuals tend to report higher levels of happiness than nonreligious individuals. I suggested that the social network of churches, rather than the direct effects of theistic belief, might be responsible for this difference, and after doing a bit of searching around to see if the available studies support such an explanation, found a study that indicates that this is indeed the case.

Religious churches may be far from optimal in the services they provide to communities, but they have a great positive impact on the lives of many individuals. And not just as friendly social gatherings and occasional providers of community service; I've known priests who were superb community organizers and motivational speakers, who played an important role for their congregations to which I know of no existing secular analogue.

It seems probable that a secular organization could effectively play the same role in a community, but would anyone be likely to take it seriously? Since people who're already religious may be inclined to reject the value of a secular authority filling the role of a church, and atheistic individuals may not be inclined to attend, either due to reversing the stupidity of religion, or due to asocial and anticooperative values, it's uncertain whether a secular organization that adequately filled the role of a church would get off the ground in the first place in the present social climate.

So, what are your feelings on the prospect of secular church analogues? Do you think that they're appropriate or practical? Do you expect them ever to become common in real life?