Churches are purdy

While I was driving home from a concert last night, I drove past some of Tulsa's many churches downtown. In case you didn't know, one of Tulsa's claims to fame is the number of historic churches dotted about town, and some of them really are quite beautiful. I saw a performance of Mozart's Requiem in one of the downtown churches years and years ago, and I was very much in awe of the architectural beauty of it. Churches on the South side of town where I live tend to be more modern and pedestrian, or in some cases the kind of excessively lavish evangelical epicenters that look like modern-day towers of Babylon. So the downtown churches seem to offer something a bit more culturally unique and aesthetically compelling.

This just presented a bit of a duality for me. I have lots of fond memories in various churches. I see them as impressive feats of architectural creativity and ingenuity, and symbols of community solidarity. Now, if they could just do all that stuff without all the dogma, I'd actually go so far as to say churches are a good thing. But while churches serve many valuable functions in communities, they're also beacons of ignorance, hypocrisy and superstition.

I've been challenged on occasion by theists who insist that even if a religion isn't true, we should respect it because it can and often does serve the community (and abroad) for the better good. This is usually accompanied by some snide remark in the vein of, "And what, exactly, have atheists done?"

Well, atheists aren't really a community. I mean, in a loose sort of way, sure, but what would we do at an "atheist church"? Atheism isn't a doctrine any more than a-unicornism is a doctrine, and therefor it's not the kind of thing you can really build a community around. To the extent that atheist communities do form cohesive groups, it tends to be in the cause of advancing secularism, and if there's any doubt that secular  humanist groups both advocate and contribute (both time and money) to many important causes, well, a little research could go a long way. Besides, it's not as though religious groups hold some monopoly on charitable giving – last I checked, there were tons of non-religious charities, just like there are lots of non-religious ways to get people involved in their communities and united behind shared values. I'm not one to say that churches are all bad. Of course not. It's just my belief that we can do so much better.

Comments

  1. I can't seem to post from FireFox, but IE8 is working for me now.

    A lot of those South side churches are just metal warehouse buildings.

    The Catholic Church downtown is really elegant

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