Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Secular Humanism » Humanist Churches

Humanist churches fulfill the needs of atheists and agnostics for fellowship and belonging, purpose, education in ethical matters, and ritual and ceremony, but without the need for a belief in the supernatural.

The father of secularism, George Holyoake, was strongly influenced by Auguste Comte, who founded the fields of positivism and modern sociology. Comte, a French philosopher, sought to find a non-theistic replacement for the church, which was under attack during the French Revolution.

Recognizing the roles that traditional worship played in fulfilling the need for cohesiveness in society, he hoped to develop a religion of humanity that would promote altruism, order, and progress, while meeting the human needs for fellowship, a feeling of purpose, and acknowledgment of important lifetime achievements.

The humanist, Thomas Huxley, described Comte's Religion of Humanity as "Catholicism minus Christianity." The religion included a holy trinity (humanity, the earth, and destiny), as well as a priesthood, which was to be made up largely of scholars, physicians, poets, and artists.

Comte's Religion of Humanity failed in France, but his ideas were picked up by people, like Huxley, George Eliot, and Harriet Martineau, in England, although it was significantly changed in the process. Comte's ideas were also popular in Brazil, where the Positivist Church of Brazil was established in 1881.

For many of the same reasons, secular humanists, particularly in the West, have found a reason to establish churches, based in part on Comte's ideas but also on traditional churches, after discarding references to a god or the supernatural.

Religious people can discuss their beliefs, their doubts, or their questions with priests, pastors, rabbis or imams, and they can strengthen and deepen their faith by meeting together in worship. Many atheists have found that they had similar needs but without a need or a desire to believe in a god or in the supernatural.

There was also a need, or at least a desire for a way in which landmarks in life could be recognized ritually, such as births, coming of age, marriages, and funerals.

Humanist churches also offer a sense of community, where members can meet weekly to build friendships, support one another, sing together, and develop a sense of purpose.

The development of humanist churches was not met with unanimous approval from secular humanists, as many viewed them as lending credibility to the idea that secular humanism was a religion, whereas they preferred to view their positions as rational, scientific, and based in reality, while churches were for the superstitious.

Nevertheless, there are humanist churches, and it appears to be a growing trend. Many of these churches are web-based, but there are several brick-and-mortar churches for secular humanists throughout the world.

The purpose of this category is to list websites of humanist churches, whether meeting in physical structures or online only, as well as for websites that discuss the phenomenon of secular humanist churches, whether from a favorable or unfavorable perspective.



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