Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why we are a "Church"

One of the most common questions I am asked is why we have the word "church" in our title. I thought I'd address it here so that we can have a definitive answer.

There are 3 reasons we use the word "church":

1. It is the best descriptor of what we are trying to accomplish.

The Calgary Secular Church (CSC) was formed with the deliberate intention of taking all the good parts of the Christian church (the community, fellowship, ethical teaching) and getting rid of the bad parts (the injustice, superstition, and dogma). We meet on a Sunday morning and have a New (and much improved) 10 Commandments. We talk about how we can work in the world to reduce misery and increase happiness. We stand together at the beginning and say our liturgy together. We have a class for children that teaches them to be global citizens.

If that's not a church, what is?

2. It weakens Christian privilege.

Our use of the word "church" changes its meaning. Church is no longer this monolithic Christian-only entity that serves the purposes of the faithful but actively rejects the faith-less. In time, culture will no longer be able to use the word "church" and just mean the Christian kind. There will be ours as well. They'll need to clarify which church they mean, and it is that act of clarification that means our purpose is being served. Even to say "Today I went to church, and I mean a proper Christian church, not that den of iniquity the CSC that calls itself a church. They should be ashamed!" serves our purposes! It opens the conversation to what church means, to whether or not we should be ashamed. These questions are not even allowed as long as "church" means only the Christian church. This is an important change we hope to bring about.

3. It brings us publicity.

The fact this word is so exclusively Christian means our usage of it is bound to generate controversy, and this controversy has been very useful for getting the message out. I don't doubt in the slightest that if we had called ourselves the "Calgary Secular Group", we would not have been on TV, radio, and received the international attention that we have.

I realize that some people have issues with the word "church", and refuse or are reluctant to be involved because of it. I regret this. We wish everyone who was looking for non-religious community would join us. But I trust that in the fullness of time, as people see how vibrant our community is, how active we are in humanitarian work, how close we pull together to help each other through difficulty, these negative perceptions of "church" will be replaced by positive, life-affirming, reasonable perceptions.

I hope you will join us in making this better future a reality today.


  1. Using the word "church" is the worst idea ever. In my opinion, this name has the potential to undo all the hard work we atheists have done to convince believers that atheism is not a belief. I am an atheist, as well as an adeist, and a former Christian. My opinion is that you have made a colossal blunder by using the word "church". As such, I would rather (and probably will) create a secular organization from scratch than associate myself in any way with your organization until such time as you discard your poorly conceived name.

  2. Hi, leppad. I wish you the best in the forming of your organization. We'd be happy to pass on your information to others who we come across the CSC but feel the same way about the use of the word "church" (and we do meet a few).

  3. Love it, brilliant idea. My request to join is pending. I think what you people are doing is fantastic

  4. I disagree with it being a poor choice, I like that you are calling it a church - it challenges the current associations that most people have with the term. There are positive elements to churches regardless of the inherent shortcomings found in their religious doctrines. I’ve often felt the longing for the type of fellowship that these communities have without sharing their beliefs, so I do find myself drawn towards this.

    Notable too is that it brings to the front the issues regarding taxation that ought to be addressed. What is your plan here? Is the organization aiming towards being exempt from taxes the same way traditional churches are? Or is the aim to have the organization remain taxable?