Sunday, September 6, 2009

The purpose of church

The purpose and function of religion in a post modern society is primarily to help people make sense out of their existential experience, and provide an emotional support system especially at times of phase transition in the human life cycle.

Other purposes of religion in modern society are to make money for the ministerial class and their minions, to provide entertainment for the masses, and to provide a platform and audience for people striving to be upwardly socially mobile to maintain and achieve higher social status.

Religion also provides an organized, institutionalized vehicle for political and social control to societal leaders who wish to influence and control the populations they govern.

At a more personal level, people give up responsibility for their own lives to religious leaders who promise them benefits and rewards in this life and after death if they will give their personal power to them. This is experienced initially by the individual as a relief because they no longer have to think and act for themselves but have allowed another to do it for them. However, in the long run, this is a trap and leads to atrophy of the soul not empowerment and growth.

Currently, I am involved with a group of other folks in starting a new Unitarian Universalist congregation, and so the ideas in this post are especially relevant to me as I struggle to sort out what kind of a church I want to help create with the others I am working with.

I want a church which helps people make sense out of their existential experience, which is empowering of their spiritual and psychological and social growth, and which provides a support system to ease the distress of negotiating life's transitions and other life crises.

I am very interested in other's people's thoughts and comments on this topic.

There will be further posts this month on UU A Way Of Life on this topic.

This is article #1 in a series on religion in society.


  1. I would add or modify:

    "Religion provides an organized and institutional vehicle for social change, a way to address systems of injustice in society through the power of collective, inspired action."

    There are things we can do together that we cannot do alone. It's not just about social control for one's own benefit, but also about exerting social power for positive change.

    I agree that making sense of the existential experience and providing support through change and crisis is important, but if you stop there, there is no call to action or moral imperative at work. Creating a spiritually and emotionally healthy communitiy is about enabling people to live fully in the world, and this necessarily means working to better the world, not just feeling self-satisfied with our own, internal spiritual state of being.

  2. Invariably members of a church may interact with one another not only with face to face meetings but in online forums. There may be some policy issues for ministers who supplement their direct ministry with an online ministry such as blogs and facebook. There is has been some discussion about defriending people from a minister's facebook account when he leaves a particular flock. These are issues that may have to be dealt with in anything except a lay led new church.