Ok, you probably think I’m joking… I’m not.
I really, genuinely, cross my heart, burn me like a heretic, hope to die, think this is a fantastic idea.
I hope this becomes a thing. I’d love it if in 10 years time, when someone says they’re an Atheist, the natural question will be “Oh, what assembly do go to?” And I hope it’s super awkward when someone replies, “I don’t anymore… I used but I just couldn’t agree with the science. I’m more of a “unspiritual” person, not a “nonreligious” one, you know?”
Atheism is a (Kind of) Religion Too
So often, we think of Atheism as simply a denial of religion. It’s just ‘not believing in God.’ To not believe in something, however, you have to believe in something else.
Atheist churches can help people to see that. Atheism should be judged on what it says is true about the universe, not what it false. (As many have pointed out, no serious theist believes in the God that Dawkins et al deny.) So what do Atheists actually believe in? Are they secularists? Materialists? Humanists? What do those things mean and can they provide a cogent explanation for the universe? (They can’t.)
Maybe it will also highlight the fact that nontheistic assumptions aren’t some hallowed neutral ground or carte blanche, they’re just as ideologically loaded as any religion is. (For example, it’s not like the empirical scientific method can give evidence of its own trustworthiness, for that you need philosophy.)
The sooner we start treating ideological Atheism as the philosophical/religious worldview it is, the sooner we can start having decent conversations about God, faith, and truth.
Why Should Religious People Have All the Fun?
Some of religion, particularly the church fellowship side of things, can be wonderful fun. It’s a rare time of un-ironic enthusiasm, raw authenticity, honest self-examination, and often, just being silly for no other reason than that it’s Sunday night and the world is good. Why shouldn’t Atheists have some of that?
If I wanted to be super condescending (which is kinda my default mode), I’d say that at least it gets Atheists out of our com-boxes and actually doing something constructive…
And then there’s the other “fun”, by which I mean the dysfunction.
With Atheist churches, Atheists can see how delightfully difficult it can be to have a functional church. Some atheists love to point to all the problems in churches as evidence against God. Maybe now they’ll realise that the problems in churches actually don’t come from the dogmas believed, but the people believing them.
In all seriousness, I’d love to see how an Atheist church works. (Like, does the supper roster also work by an evolutionary Social Darwinist criteria?)
Atheists Can Do Good Too
Finally, this is good news for everyone. The motto of this Atheist church is: “live better, help often and wonder more.”
Can any believer find a problem with that?
If we’re insecure Christians, maybe we’ll be like, “NOOOoooo!!! The Atheists can’t do good things or live good lives, only Christians are allowed to do that! Only Christians are allowed to marvel at the universe, or help starving kids in Africa, or be good people dammit.”
Don’t be stupid.
As Pope Francis has pointed out,
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! [The atheist] cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.”
Many atheists are good people, and all atheists can be good people. Shouldn’t we want to encourage them in that just like we’d encourage anyone else? It’s not like that will pull them away from God. Or do we secretly want all atheists to be bad, bad people so we can feel better about ourselves?
I pray that this church will indeed help everyone who attends to live better, help often, and wonder more. Pursuing the Good is just another way of saying pursuing God, whether you want to admit it or not. I’m all for Atheists doing that and I believe they are too.
Besides, churches without any actual religion?
Please, we’ve been doing that for years!