Can a secular humanist organization build the same kind of socially progressive, inspiring, close-knit community that many religious institutions possess?

Welcome to Our Lady of the Holy Cinema. After the processional, please remain standing for the blessing of the popcorn. Following services there will be a coffee hour, after which Deacon Scorcese will give a lecture entitled “Morality, Mistresses and Prostitution: Eliot Spitzer vs. Fanny and Alexander.” Now please turn to page 235 in your hymnal and rise for our opening hymn, “Hooray for Hollywood.”

OK, maybe I’m being a little over the top, but I am gay, after all. I’m also a musician, and for a good portion of my life I have played the piano and sung in a myriad of temples and churches. Most have been comprised of interesting and altruistic groups of people who discuss morality, traditions and ethics; organize and fight for progressive goals; build close and admirable bonds among people--in other words, partake of many fulfilling activities that I would greatly enjoy participating in. As an atheist, though, no matter how much I admire their sense of community, devotion, and social action, I've never felt comfortable becoming a member of any of these groups, as I don’t believe in the central rationale for their existence or mine—God.

As more and more atheists are becoming visible, why not consider providing people with some of the same positive elements that organized religion does—community, purpose, and a sense of inspiration? I would even go as far to say that it is our duty to be a counter-balance to the increasing religiosity in American society. We are social beings who crave fellowship and respond to inspiration.

Personally, I have had the most inspirational and revelatory experiences of my life in movie theaters. Great films have moved me to tears, made me laugh, stirred me to anger and inspired me to action. Why can't a group of cinema and humanity lovers meet once a week, watch a film, discuss the ethical situations revealed, care for their members, and organize to help effect change in the world?