“What is more, in all three cases, the more demanding the form of [church] involvement — actual attendance as compared to formal membership, for example — the greater the decline. In effect, the classic institution of American civic life, both religious and secular, have been ‘hollowed out.’ Seen from without, the institutional edifice appears virtually intact — little decline in professions of faith, formal membership down just a bit, and so on. When examined more closely, however, it seems clear that decay has consumed the load-bearing beams of our civic infrastructure.” — Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone
Why isn’t there a church for atheists and agnostics? Here we are living in a nation that purports to celebrate the freedom of religion, and yet those who decide to abstain from religion altogether are denied a public place of worship (or, rather, non-worship). We all know that churches actually front as places to meet people (provided, of course, that any given church, as most are, is open to newcomers). And yet while churches have become “tolerant” in opening up their doors to all walks of life, the church concept has failed to take a cue from Flannery O’Connor and whip up a Church Without Christ.
Where are the Churches Without Religion? True, Universal Unitarians come close. But I’m talking about a public hall that isn’t hell-bent on serving up insufferable hymns and slack Sunday morning service. A place that ultimately functions as a nexus point for decent people, without the required commitment to a deity.
Then again, who am I to generalize on the subject? Perhaps there is some comparative basis here. Likewise, the nature of social networks within these inner halls are ripe for examination.
These ruminations stem from some major thinking over the last several weeks on the subject and another long-term project that will replace Miguel Cohen’s Sunday rantings with something more observed and interesting. The idea, to give credit where credit is due, came from my sister. More to come.