Can You Imagine a Church Service You Would Want to Attend?

Rammstein Live at Madison Square Garden
KinkESizemore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've known for some time that many atheists seem to miss church a great deal. I can't relate to this at all, and the many attempts to create godless churches that keep as many of the other aspects of church as possible have zero appeal to me. There isn't anything I miss about church, and there never has been. Still, I am not going to criticize those who do miss it. After all, I'd much rather live in the world we have than one where everyone shared all of my preferences.

I was asked an interesting question by one of these atheists recently the other day that left me stumped. The question was whether I could imagine any sort of church I would be interested in attending. That is, what would a church service have to be like for me to want to go?

After thinking about it for a minute, I said that the service would need to resemble a Rammstein show. Crazy costumes, interesting stage, kick-ass music, big pyro effects, lots of strippers, etc. In short, it would have to be about as far from anything church-related as could be. And even if it had all that going for it, I probably still wouldn't go if they used the word "church" as part of it. That word has such a negative connotation for me that I'd probably still struggle to get past it.

The problem with church (aside from the fact that much of what I heard there was false, that I was forced to attend against my will, and that I gradually became convinced that much of it was harmful to humanity) was that I never had a reason to want to be there. There wasn't anything about it that I looked forward to or made me glad to be there. There was never anything fun about it. But that's really only one of the barriers churches face. Even if there was something truly fun about it, it would have to be something that wasn't readily available elsewhere. If I was given the choice between going to a Rammstein show and attending a church service that resembled a Rammstein show, it would not be a difficult decision.

For the atheists who miss church so much that they are interested in creating versions of it without gods, I wonder what they miss that they haven't been able to find elsewhere. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm assume this is key. It couldn't just be that they miss some things; it has to be that the things they miss have not been readily available to them elsewhere. If these things were easy to find outside of church, it seems like there would be little need for anything church-like.

Of course, I wouldn't want anything I've written here to be misconstrued by Christians as suggesting that they just need to make Jesus cooler. Those efforts almost always backfire spectacularly. They are never genuine, and their efforts to replace fun things with Jesus-injected things bring well-deserved mockery. The best they can probably do is try to make church relevant. And even there, I'd say they have their work cut out for them.