The Secular Church, Continued

French 19th-century sociologist Auguste Comte started one in his time. Here's how it worked:

He observed that conventional faiths usually cemented their authority by providing people with daily (and even hourly) schedules of who or what to think about – rotas typically pegged to the commemoration of a holy individual or supernatural incident. So he announced a calendar of his own, animated by a pantheon of secular heroes and ideas. In the religion of humanity, every month would be devoted to the honouring of an important field of endeavour – for example, marriage, parenthood, art, science or agriculture – and every day to an individual who had made a valuable contribution within these categories.

….in Comte's religion of humanity, there were classes and sermons to help inspire one to be kind to spouses, patient with one's colleagues and compassionate towards the unfortunate.

Because Comte appreciated the role that architecture had once played in bolstering the claims of old religion, he proposed the construction of a network of secular churches or, as he called them, temples of humanity. …Inside the temples, there would be lectures, singing, celebrations and public discussions. Around the walls, sumptuous works of art would commemorate the greatest moments and finest men and women of history. Finally, above the west-facing stage, there would be an aphorism, written in large golden letters, invoking the congregation to adopt the essence of Comte's philosophical-religious world-view: Connais-toi pour t'améliorer ("Know yourself to improve yourself").

…in London, where secular services were held every Sunday morning. "We gratefully commemorate the beauty of mother earth," began one example, which Congreve delivered in a white tunic with a chain around his neck bearing Comte's image on one side and Plato's on the other. "We meet as believers in humanity. We use all that the past can offer us by way of wise utterances – poems or music, the religious writings of the east or west – but we admit of no revelation and no being outside of man."…

My previous secular church round-up post.

4 comments on “The Secular Church, Continued
  • We can do it…we just have to arrange a takeover of an existing society so we don’t have to build the infrastructure from scratch. The Elks Lodge, perhaps?

  • The question for you is: how do you think a religion works (as an institution)?

    There is a theory of religion by Rene Girard (read “The Violence and the Sacred” for example) which I subscribe to (despite being an atheist myself). It contains a very surprising explanation of how religion works in a society, and it also show how both dangerous and beneficial it can be.

    The attempts you refer to here and in the other post seem to be about building a religion without the ‘sacred’ part – I think this is impossible. But on the other hand if you look at any big political movement you’ll see the elements of religion in it, communism could be a great example here, and it all revolves around the ‘sacredness’, the taboo, the things that become out of question.

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