I've been wondering off and on for a long time as to two inter-related (as I see it) issues:
1) evolving how people find community interaction when they want it.
2) real estate values of Churches and similar.
1) So, what I mean by the first is that as the mythology of religion melts away as not literally believable in any sense, this does not mean humans lose some of the needs served traditionally served by religion. Where does one go, physically and otherwise, (if one wants) for weekly meditation and interaction with fellow community members? For some presentation of and discussion of philosophic or sermonizing thoughts? For dances and weddings and funerals, etc.? To meet a mate? Sure, all of this can be and is handled outside of traditional religion and it needn't be done with a physical location. However, much of it still could be.
In a sense there is a 2nd cousin parallel to the economic question-marks hanging over the partial death of traditional brick-and-mortar retail. I guess these are the question marks hanging over the partial death of traditional brick-and-mortar religious convening.
There are many examples of de facto community centers and convening places (anything from a literal "community center" to a Starbucks to an AA-specific space, to meetup.com space somewhere). However, I suppose churches and such play a role in this, to this day.
2) It is I think inevitable that eventually (how many years I don't know) there will be more widepspread melting away of literal interpretations of theism, and perhaps as well some melting away of non-literal following of them. As that happens, what happens to those congregrations economically, and the land and meeting places they've put so much into? What happens to the Churches? Would there be for example some trend toward atheist groups taking over theistic meeting and meditation spaces? Or perhaps groups themselves will evolve within the same space and without ownership change (I doubt this latter, but just laying out the possibilities).
This is a high stakes question. As one example, there is a list at this link of some of the largest private landholders in New York City, with the 7th Day Adventists sixth, and the Catholic Church twelfth. Even setting aside that I have no idea of the accuracy of this, I think it just gives a quick idea that the answers to the questions here would seem to have some possible high dollar values as well as community impact aspects.
Who are the biggest landowners in New York City?
Also relevant: "What about churches?" in "Chapter 30: Love thy neighbor as thyself" in Why Won't God Heal Amputees?
What is a church? It is a community of people who agree to get together regularly, help one another and share in each other's company. A church also helps people to focus on the general concept of goodness once a week... In addition, many churches have an outreach component....
...Once the imaginary being is gone, churches continue to exist as communities of people who enjoy each others' company, who help one another in times of need, and who focus on goodness and good deeds for the benefit of society as a whole. What's not to like about that?...
Yes, that's some of the basic idea, good quote.
I do filming for my local one, in Chapel Hill. I wouldn't be involved, if it wasn't for that need. 18 years of forced, weekly, Catholic mass removed any desire I might have for any sort of regular-gathering type of group. Although, the game nights are fun.
But, I think it's important for this sort of thing to exist, since the community angle is what keeps so many people in religion, and they needed help.
Yes, interesting, thanks for posting this information. There is one in the works an hour from me in Tucson, and another that already exists about 2.5+ hours away in Phoenix. I can't get readily to them (there is a decent-seeming Unitarian Church about 25 minutes away so that's my main option if I want a semi-godless large formal group activity), but no big deal, I think it nicely helps illustrate at least some of what I'm saying.
So, it does segue into the question of godless groups finding a meeting space for their activities and the economics of that.
To give a bit more explanation as to how the question arises for me: part of it came up some years ago when I was driving around a neighborhood that was doing relatively well, and there was clearly some money going into building and maintaining more than one large church there. For me, this kind of begged the question of what happens to that really substantial property they've built if enough of the congregation either wakes up or just fades away?
I guess it's possible that the structure could be used by a different group, either part-time or by lease or by purchase. It's also possible that I am projecting a bit.... we live in a world where there still often seems to be plenty of momentum behind the various putative theistic belief groups and after all many of the branches have proven over many decades and centuries (and in some cases millenia) to be in some ways here for the long run, even as against doubters, and self-sustaining, including particularly in their control over the education of the young ones of community members.
This kind of relates to another economic point or question on the real estate valuation side of things, which is use of the space partially or fully as a school. In the US (and I realize many in the discussion may bring a perspective from outside the US) there are then tie-ins to the overall education industry economic questions which I think are complicated and very policy-driven.