A New Secular Church?

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Some of us have been experimenting with new models of secular community.  It’s clearly not for everybody, but the creative idea seems to have appeal for freethinkers and those on the edges of churches, synagogues, etc.

I just came upon this description of the church of the future offered by the great speaker and thinker, Robert Ingersoll.  Though the language is dated, he suggests some intriguing possibilities as alternatives to “the pulpit.”

from “The Tendency of Modern Thought”

{In The Chicago Tribune, November, 1891, Ingersoll was asked,
“What is going to take the place of the pulpit?”}

“I have for a long time wondered why somebody didn’t start a church on a sensible basis. My idea is this: There are, of course, in every community, lawyers, doctors, merchants, and people of all trades and professions who have not the time during the week to pay any particular attention to history, poetry, art, or song. Now, it seems to me that it would be a good thing to have a church and for these men [and women] to employ a man [or woman] of ability, of talent, to preach to them Sundays, and let this man say to his congregation: “Now, I am going to preach to you for the first few Sundays—eight or ten or twenty, we will say—on the art, poetry, and intellectual achievements of the Greeks.” Let this man study all the week and tell his congregation Sunday what he has ascertained. Let him give to his people the history of such men as Plato, as Socrates, what they did; of Aristotle, of his philosophy; of the great Greeks, their statesmen, their poets, actors, and sculptors, and let him show the debt that modern civilization owes to these people. Let him, too, give their religions, their mythology—a mythology that has sown the seed of beauty in every land. Then let him take up Rome. Let him show what a wonderful and practical people they were; let him give an idea of their statesmen, orators, poets, lawyers—because probably the Romans were the greatest lawyers. And so let him go through with nation after nation, biography after biography, and at the same time let there be a Sunday school connected with this church where the children shall be taught something of importance. For instance, teach them botany, and when a Sunday is fair, clear, and beautiful, let them go into the fields and woods with their teachers, and in a little while they will become acquainted with all kinds of trees and shrubs and flowering plants. They could also be taught entomology, so that every bug would be interesting, for they would see the facts in science—something of use to them. I believe that such a church and such a Sunday school would at the end of a few years be the most intelligent collection of people in the United States. . . .

The church says, ‘He that hath ears to hear let him hear.’ I say: ‘He that hath brains to think, let him think.’ . . . .

Music is taking the place of creed, and there is more real devotional feeling summoned from the temple of the mind by great music than by any sermon ever delivered. . . .

Astrology was displaced by astronomy. Alchemy and the black art gave way to chemistry. Science is destined to take the place of superstition. In my judgment, the religion of the future will be Reason.”

Here is one model we’re trying out this season (gathering on a Sunday Morning, 10:30-12):

Mindful Movement (15-20 min)

Gathering Music (3-5 min)

Welcome & Introduction (2-3 min)

Secular Hymn (2-3 min)

Rational Reading (2 min)

Presentation (15-20 min)–(a little like a TED talk)

Silence and Song

Freethinkers’ Forum–(Respectful Discussion, moderated)

Closing Song and Thought

Shared Lunch w/optional Walk

{IF YOU have interest in a “secular church,” tell us YOUR ideas}

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