One of the many arguments for religion is that belonging to a church is beneficial (I didn’t say it was a good argument). Being part of a church means having a large support group, having options for family-friendly activities, and being a part of a community that is easily mobilized for volunteer and charity work.
I have lots of good memories from when my family belonged to a church. They had a special family service with great music, and afterwards we would socialize. The church was big enough that my siblings and I would all have people our age to hang out with while the parents chatted. One weekend I took part in the 30-hour famine with the youth group in the church basement, that was a lot of fun and it was the first time I stayed up all night so that was exciting. During “the flood of the century” here in 1997, the church organized a group of us to go out to someone’s farm and sandbag to save their home. I could go on…
Although churches often have a downside (indoctrination, hate-mongering, sexual abuse, etc.), they can be very helpful to people who are looking for a place to socialize, and to find some options for volunteer work in their community. From stories I’ve read on blogs and in books, a lot of people who belong to churches are actually non-believers, but enjoy church and the benefits they get from belonging to one.
Personally, I don’t think I could belong to a church. I sometimes watch TV preachers and I can’t really stomach their messages, which are accepted without criticism from the audience. I also wouldn’t want my money going towards and institution that spreads untruths, or towards charities that may work harder on converting people than on doing actual good.
So for people like me, is there an alternative? Can I get the sense of community and the other benefits that come with church membership without the supernatural overtones? I know there are non-believing groups out there that can replace what people get out of a church without the supernatural overtones. Do you belong to one of these groups? Do you think atheists and skeptics should try to create a naturalistic alternative to church?