As at least one group of atheists attempts to form a “church,” one planning on planting international franchises in the coming months, it is interesting to read how the group and its supporters think about what a church is:
I did not need to be sold on the idea (explained nicely here by philosopher Alain de Botton). Like the Sunday Assembly’s founders, stand-up comics Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, I don’t think religion should have a monopoly on community. I like the idea of a secular temple, where atheists can enjoy the benefits of an idealized, traditional church—a sense of community, a thought-provoking sermon, a scheduled period of respite, easy access to community service opportunities, group singing, an ethos of self-improvement, free food—without the stinging imposition of God Almighty.
A sense of community, a thought-provoking sermon, a regular break from hectic lives, access to service opportunities, group singing, an encouragement to better oneself, and free food. These are what make a church a church, in their mind.
And, I dare say, in the minds of many Christians. Indeed, aren’t these the things we often sell when trying to get people to come to church? Aren’t many of our church marketing plans built around just these elements?
John Wesley called this having the form of religion without the power.