Sunday, February 1, 2009

Starting an online humanist church.

An acquaintance on another board asked for suggestions for starting an online church. This produced Hairy Thinking.

I've been thinking about the internet church concept. I've played around with a couple that are out there, and haven't seen anything that worked for me.

There are so many sides to this. What do you want the physical setup to be? Will it be static web pages? Will it be a 3d avatar church in second life or golively? Maybe something with an active chat room, or even webcam rooms. If you wrote it down, you probably have some idea of what you want.

My initial inclination would be to go with a formula that works for traditional services. At least once a week, but at a regularly scheduled time, have an online meeting place of some kind. A camfrog room might work, if you wanted to have a video component but still keep it free. But each week have a structured service.

In the church of my youth, the pastor would begin with an invocation and a prayer. So you have a bunch of people in the chat room, and you tell them all to shut up, and look at the pastor's video window. You can watch the pastor preach, you can type comments, but he is the only one speaking.

You have probably seen my thoughts on prayer. I think humanism needs it. "We pray that our leaders find the strength, guidance, and wisdom to lead us in peace and prosperity."

Maybe a hymn/song. The pastor runs a youtube video of something that is appropriate for the day. Preferably something with karaoke style lyrics, so people can sing along. Each in his own key, of course.

Then a reading of a Humanism Creed. The creed gets read every service. I haven't seen one that I like yet. But we need one. Maybe select someone at random in the room to read the creed. That could be a treat.

Then the lesson. This could be a reading from a contemporary or historical humanist thinker. This is where we teach the congregation the history and application of humanism.

Time for another song.

Now, the sermon. This is the pastor giving his personal opinion on an ethical question, and telling the flock how to lead their lives.

Communion. I have no idea what to do with this. Let's see. In church it was praying for Jehova to come sanctify a light snack. I don't know. Maybe a group wave of positive thinking to psychically heal some sick person? Maybe everybody reflecting on becoming better people, and finding ways to improve the world. I dunno, that all sounds weak.

Final song, then the chat room just opens up for general socializing.

But a church needs more than that. It needs to actively work to improve the community. That means tithing, charitable works, volunteers, and actually DOING something as a church. Sponsor an orphanage, build a house, rehabilitate a drunk. Something.

People have responsibilities to their church. If they aren't supporting it, then they aren't serious about it.

Something needs to be done for the kids. If this were a brick and mortar church it would have the equivalent of sunday school. Teach the kids about famous humanists, humanist ideas, ethical behavior. Maybe take folk and religious tales from all faiths and cultures, and tales of personal sacrifice and bravery. I don't know how to do that online. But if you are going to get people to come every week, and to support the church, then it MUST be family friendly. It's all about the next generation.

I really think that there are a lot of parents out there who go to church for their kids. If we could give them the lessons for their kids without the fat, er . . god . ., then we could get a lot of followers. Particularly in more secular areas.

All of the lessons and sermons need to be available online. Maybe the entire service, but that might be tougher.

One of the greatest inventions of religion is the Catholics confessional. It is THERAPY. Find a way to do THAT, and they will come in droves. You don't have to give hail marys as pennance. Give them emotional work to do, and community service to make up for confessed misdeeds.

Churches do stuff this way because it WORKS. Too often I see humanists wanting to throw out the structure and effective parts of religion because they are so angry about the whole god business, and the negative things that some churches do. It's a lot like Bush Derangement Syndrome. Everything Bush did was wrong, everything is his fault, anything good that happened happened despite him. That's nonsensical. Every president does a mix of good and bad. Likewise, everything about religion is not bad. The structure, the ritual, the traditions of the basic church service WORK. They did the social research and refinement for us, lets use it.

On the subject of politics, the church should be apolitical. Don't piss off half of the potential constituency by going left or right wing. This is about personal behavior and community service, not about who is in the white house, or whether we should all join a protest march somewhere. Wearing politics on a sleeve is a giant turnoff from someone who is also wearing religion on the other sleeve. It suggests the arrogance of God is On My Side, and if you don't Vote Like Me, you are a Bad Person, who will Go To Hell or have Bad Karma.

Huh. That kind of got me wound up, didn't it.

It is OK to put your hands over your eyes and run away screaming now.


No comments: