By Simon Clare
A few months ago, London became the home of the UK’s first “Atheist Church”. Once a month, the Sunday Assembly holds services that have many similarities to Christian church services, with sermons, singing and silent contemplation. Godless at its core, the Sunday Assembly’s motto is “Live better, help often, wonder more” and it has packed out the former church building in which it is held.
Could such an idea realistically work in a town the size of Horsham? I have my doubts. I believe that if anything resembling a godless congregation is to emerge from Horsham it must do so naturally and not be parachuted in just to prove a point. It must reflect its community, not be imposed on it.
Churches often provide a lot of good things for their communities. Is it even possible for Horsham to provide these good things without reference to Gods? I think so.
To find out, I created a simple poll, shared it on Horsham’s excellent Facebook page and quickly harvested 92 responses. Of these, 88% said they were from Horsham and 78% said they do not practice a religion. A full report of the results will be on my website but a couple of the results ought to be shared here.
Out of all of those who responded, 68% said they would not attend a church-style Sunday service which did not mention God. This figure only dropped to 60% of those who said they do not practice a religion – not exactly overwhelming support for the idea of a Sunday service, even from the non-religious respondents.
On the other hand, 89% of all respondents said they would like to see non-religious groups doing more for their community, in the same way that many church congregations do. This figure includes 90% of those who said they were religious. I think it is fair to say that there is support for the idea of non-religious groups doing more in their communities, but how many would take part in such activity?
Of all those that responded, 81% said they did not participate in any voluntary community work organised by religious groups. Surprisingly for me, 80% said they would volunteer for such work as part of a non-religious group.
It appears that in Horsham at least, there is an appetite for contributing to the life of the community, if it could only be done without the involvement of religion.