Source: Yahoo! News
Wire Service: AFP
It looks more like a theater than a church, there are no sacred symbols, and the faithful who gather at this monumental Art Nouveau edifice believe deeply that there is not necessarily a god.
Here, across from Manhattan's Central Park, the Society for Ethical Culture, whose motto is "Deed before Creed," along with other US non-theist, atheist, agnostic and independent groups, are gaining ground in the United States.
According to the Pew Forum, those who see their spiritual dimension as "unaffiliated" make up 16 percent of Americans, but they are the fastest-growing segment of the complicated patchwork of US spiritual life.
"It feeds my spiritual, ethical and social needs," said Judith Wallach, a member of the ethical society for years who acknowledged having a religion but not a strong belief in God.
God's popularity would appear to be somewhat under fire in the very religious-minded United States: books such as Christopher Hitchens's "God is not Great," Sam Harris's "The End of Faith" and Richard Dawkins's "The God Delusion" have all become US best sellers in the past three years.
Some experts see the trend as a reaction to hard-line attitudes among Christans, Jews and Muslims in a world that is traumatized and skeptical after the September 11, 2001 terror strikes.
Others think it is part of a broader shift.
"More and more people are discovering that they can lead good, fulfilled, moral lives without religion," said Daniel Dennett, a philosopher who teaches at Tufts University in Massachusetts and author of essays such as "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life."
"God is not exploding -- which is what Nietzsche supposed -- God is slowly evaporating before our eyes," he said.