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Church without God - by design
Members of an atheist congregation at Harvard listen to music during a recent gathering.
June 22nd, 2013
11:25 AM ET

Church without God - by design

By Dan Merica, CNN

Boston (CNN)-– It’s Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a rapt congregation listens to a chaplain preach about the importance of building a community.

A few dozen people sit quietly for the hourlong service. Music is played, announcements are made and scholars wax poetic about the importance of compassion and community.

Outsiders could be forgiven for believing this service, with its homilies, its passing of the plate, its uplifting songs, belongs in a church.

If so, it’s a church without one big player: God.

Sunday’s congregation in Cambridge is a meeting of the Humanist Community at Harvard University and the brainchild of Greg Epstein, the school’s Humanist chaplain.

A longtime advocate for community building, Epstein and his group of atheists have begun to build their Cambridge community and solemnize its Sunday meetings to resemble a traditional religious service.

To Epstein, religion is not all bad, and there is no reason to reject its helpful aspects.

“My point to my fellow atheists is, why do we need to paint things with such a broad brush? We can learn from the positive while learning how to get rid of the negative," he said.

Godless congregations

For Epstein, who started community-building at Harvard nearly 10 years ago, the idea of a godless congregation is not an oxymoron.

“We decided recently that we want to use the word congregation more and more often because that is a word that strongly evokes a certain kind of community - a really close knit, strong community that can make strong change happen in the world,” he said.

“It doesn’t require and it doesn't even imply a specific set of beliefs about anything.”

Epstein is not alone in his endeavor. Jerry DeWitt, who became an atheist and left his job as an evangelical minister, is using his pastoral experience to building an atheist church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This Sunday, DeWitt's congregation will hold its first meeting as a "Community Mission Chapel."

"When you become a part of this congregation, this community, you are going to become part of a family," DeWitt told CNN. "There is an infrastructure there for you to land in. There is going to be someone there to do weddings and to do, unfortunately, the funerals."

READ MORE: Unbelieving preachers get help to 'come out' as open atheists

Sunday school for atheists

As members of the Cambridge congregation file into a wood-paneled classroom at Harvard, singer Shelley Segal greets them with a few songs from her latest recording, called simply, “An Atheist Album.”

Taking a hint from the theme of the event, Segal strums on her guitar and belts her song, “Gratitude.”

“I don't believe in a great power to say thank you to,” Segal sings. “But that won’t take away from my gratitude.”

Harvard's humanist chaplain Greg Epstein leads an atheist gathering.

After the music, Epstein offers a few words of greeting before the meeting gets to its heart: a discussion about compassion.

A four academics and a journalist discuss the effects of religion on raising children and their ideas about compassion. Congregants listen intently, some even taking notes.

Each service has a message – compassion, evolution or acceptance - after which congregants engage in a lengthy discussion.

Before the main event, kids are invited to what some parents refer to as “Sunday school,” where Tony Debono, a biologist Massachusetts Institute of Technology, teaches the youngsters about evolution, DNA and cells.

There's little talk about organized religion, positive or negative.

Likewise, down in Louisiana, said his atheist services will not be anti-religion.

"What we are looking at doing is different," DeWitt said. "If you are a religionist and you come and sit in our pew, the only way you can leave offended is because of what you don’t hear and what you don’t see. We won’t be there to make a stance against religion or against God."

Coming out of the closet

In the last few years, the number of “nones” – those who don’t associate with any organized religion – has grown at a rate faster than any other group. Nones now represent one in five Americans, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll.

Although the number of atheists has grown, too, there are still a large number of “nones” that choose not to associate with the label “atheist.”

Some at Harvard’s Humanist congregation fall into this category.

“I don’t particularly have a religion,” said Anil Nyer, a neurologist who brought his daughter to Humanist Sunday school. But Nyer also said he didn’t want to label himself as an atheist.

One reason to shy away from the atheist label: Many Americans hold a negative impression of nonbelievers.

According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe that atheists are changing American culture for the worse.

“Whenever we put atheists on a list like this and we compare them to other groups, atheists tend to come in towards the bottom of that list,” said Robert P. Jones is the CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

“Americans tend to hold a lot of reservations about atheists.”

Epstein hopes his congregation can change that.

By formalizing meetings and building a strong community, the Harvard group hopes it can be a model for other atheist congregations forming around the country.

A group meets during an atheist gathering in Boston.

More atheists may come of the closet if they know a congregation will be there to support them, Epstein said,

“Being an atheist is something we want people to come out and be,” said the Humanist chaplain. “There are so many people, probably millions, who are humanists or atheists or nonreligious in private and nobody knows."

Epstein said he gets e-mails daily from people founding atheist meet-up groups.

“Tulsa, Oklahoma; North Carolina; London; Vancouver, Canada; Houston, Texas,” Epstein said, listing the sources of the most recent e-mails.

“One part of what we are saying is come on out and let your neighbors know” about your disbelief, he said. “It is not going to make you worse of a person, it is going to make you a better person to be more open about who you are.”

Rituals for the irreligious

For the last few years, the Humanist Community at Harvard has operated out of a small three-floor walk-up off the bustling streets of Harvard Square. The walls are littered with posters about atheism – tributes to famed atheists Eddie Izzard, Seth MacFarlane and Stephen Fry.

Because of the scattered furniture and the Harvard dorm feel, Epstein jokingly describes the space as “college broke chic.” That’s being generous – but it's also about to change.

Starting in the fall, the Humanist Community at Harvard will begin meeting in a nearly 3,000-square-foot community center with an event space for nearly 100 people.

Although the plan is to use the space at the group’s headquarters, it will also serve as a broader community center for the group that Epstein and others are trying to build in the Boston area.

“What we really would like to see is a community center where people can come by at anytime and to use it as a space to study or have a meeting for various committee,” said Chris Stedman, the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard.

Stedman said he sees the new building as a place for people to gather, not only to become part of a humanist community, but to also become more engaged with the world.

When he talks about his plans for the future, Epstein appears to long for a time when the new community center could mimic aspects of church - a place for baby-naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

The success of an atheist church will depend on walking the thin line between too much and too little ritual, Epstein said.

Humanists boast a proud freethinking streak, and some at the Harvard event said they don’t want to be associated with any sort of dogma or belief system - or even a system based on disbelief.

Anyway, Esptein said his congregation will be less a group of people united by beliefs - or disbelief - and more like an opera, or a painting.

“Our community is like a work of art," he said. "Hopefully people will respond to that work of art and it will garner controversy and discussion like a work of art."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (6,897 Responses)
  1. Frank

    I seriously don't get how organized atheism is any better than organized religion to these people.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Roger that

      Read the Bible or the Quran and find out.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  2. muslim2012

    Nobel Peace Prize winner "Tawakkul Karman," 'The mother of Yemen's revolution,' when asked about her Hijab by journalists and how it is not proportionate with her level of intellect and education, replied:

    “Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times."

    June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Candiano

      Uh huh. In other words, people have to run around covered head to toe in a sheet in order to be considered intelligent? Don't think so. She sounds as if she were brainwashed by....a man...

      June 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • G to the T

      So I guess Eskimos must be freaking brilliant?!?

      June 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  3. j

    Atheists have brutally tortured and murdered more innocent people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • daphne

      One of the oldest BS stories in the book. If one could make such generalized assumptions, they would be quite the mind-reader.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • j

      Statement is easily proven historically available info.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Here we go again, a christard forgetting all the atrocities of their belief...the crusades; Noahs Arc; the Salem Witch Trials, the inquisition, Hitler...condoning of rape; child abuse; oppression of women; oppression of the LGBT.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • j

      hitler was an atheist and you will find atheism hiding behind Christianity in all those events. However it has only been in the last 100 years that atheists have come to power and mass murdered by the millions with no exceptions. Wherever an atheist has reigned over people millions have been brutalized.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      j
      SInce you opened with a lie, show your work. I defy you to draw a direct corellation from atheism being the driving force behind any mass murdering, anywhere. I guarantee I can prove you wrong, and then give you TWO examples of christianity doing just that.

      Start by showing your work.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • pbernasc

      about 100 millions Africans were deported toward the new world (North , Central and South America) under the name of God ... yes the church sanctioned slavery as divine will.

      So please ... grow up and face the true meaning of religion

      June 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Hitler was not an atheist, as a matter of fact, he could not understand atheists, and had many killed in the gas chambers with the Jews, mentally ill, h0m0$exuals and physically deformed. To say Hitler was an atheist is a flat out lie.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • j

      Those that knew hitler knew him as an atheist, and a liar as well.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      j
      You are making more a44ertions, but nothing to back it up. In his own words:
      This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief

      Adolf Hitler

      Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator:
      – by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord

      Adolf Hitler

      “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a
      fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded
      by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and
      summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest
      not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian
      and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord
      at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the
      Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight
      against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with
      deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact
      that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As
      a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have
      the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is
      anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is
      the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty
      to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and
      work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only
      for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning
      and see these men standing in their queues and look into their
      pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very
      devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two
      thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people
      are plundered and exposed.”

      [Adolf Hitler, speech in Munich on April 12, 1922,]

      He was one of your brothers in Christ. There is no denying the facts...since you provide none, this round goes to history and shows you have another thing in common with Hitler, you are BOTH liars.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Max

      Hitler was a Christian. He used a lot of religious hatred towards the Jews. If some Jew could get baptized and pretend to be a Christian, they could escape being treated like a Jew. Just because you don't like him doesn't make him an Atheist. It's ironic that the god of the old testament loved burned offerings.

      I have spent a lot of time being angry at that god, but that's almost like believing in him. Christianity is just a belief system whereby humans try to understand the world, try to explain things. Hitler was a human being. We both own him.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Barron Salomon Mayer Rothschild was Adolph Hitler's Jewish Grandfather.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  4. Ryan

    There are no atheists in foxholes, how true...just as there are none in a dark alley being followed by someone in the shadows....or a woman praying to any God that will hear her for her baby's health to improve....or in the mind of someone in excruciating pain, praying to God, or to the Devil himself, to make the pain just stop.....or in the minds of a cancer patient's family, praying for a miracle for to happen....or in the minds of the family whose son or daughter will die without that organ donation so desperately needed. No, there are no atheists anywhere where someone is in need of a miracle.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Typical believer, accepts statements with no corroborating facts.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Roger that

      What a load of crap. According to your Bible, no one has killed more children than your God. Why on earth would anyone pray to that worthless pos? Christian parents lose children every day. Why?

      June 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Austin

      and this death will be proof. Get ready.

      for the glory of God. this topic really pumps me up. light to come in spiritual power. seek it. it is through His word. Let the word sharpen your soul. Read the bible for all that is worth.

      not anvil and Bob's version. For the sake of the salvation from sin.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Max

      Of course there are. They're the ones trying to figure out how to save themselves and the ones around them, and probably succeeding. The ones praying are the ones sitting there hoping like heaven for some other intelligence to fix things for them.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • j

      @roger that
      sin

      June 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      j: Outside of the buybull sin does not exist.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • pbernasc

      that is the basis for the existence of God, Fear, you have just demonstrated God is nothing more than an human made idea

      June 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • j

      Can you call the Bible by it's proper ti tle or are you so twisted by hate that you are incapable of common courtesy?

      June 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Max

      Is it so hard to understand that some humans work towards their solutions, rather than just begging some outside force?

      June 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • OTOH

      j
      "Can you call the Bible by it's proper ti tle or are you so twisted by hate that you are incapable of common courtesy?"

      "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them" - Thomas Jefferson

      June 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      j
      Demanding to have someone else show respect while you flat out lie on another thread is rather disingenuous of you wouldn't you say....fine
      We shall call it by its name. Injiil, though I seriously doubt that you knew that is it's name or what it means.

      The word bible itself is a made up English word refering to the plant they made paper from, hence many things written on the paper were referred to as biblion.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  5. TC

    There is an inherent need in all of us to worship it is part of our fundamental makeup, this is what separates us from the animal kingdom. The problem is that there are two forces at work in this world; that of good and bad. These forces manifest themselves in what we see or perceive as right and wrong. You are able to draw a line of distinction between these two forces, on the side of good we see justice, righteousness, and the carrying for one another a real sense of unity of faith. Look at the posted picture in the article you see a woman there with an expression on her face of wanting to worship, this group wants to wants to bring peace and love in to the world. The problem is that with out God there will be no true success; for in fact that's why God sent Jesus to us to lead us to the true God the creator of the human family. Acts 3:26, 1 John 4:9,14.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Our minds evolved to solve riddles. We are hunters and thus, our minds operate on fear and skepticism, risk and reward. Because our minds work this way, we are always looking for a more complete picture than we have. We have fertile imaginations, and It is easy to think of one's self as a "child" with a "parent" (like god) just out of reach.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • G to the T

      There is an inherent need in all of us to worship it is part of our fundamental makeup, this is what separates us from the animal kingdom...

      Yeah – I keep hearing that, but it just doesn't jive with my experience. Where did you ever hear this?

      June 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  6. James903

    Greg Epstein, try as you and all the haters might, Matthew 16:18 says,
    "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

    June 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Matthew? So?

      June 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • G to the T

      Sooooo... you're a catholic? Not sure what your point is...

      June 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  7. A Real matter of Reality

    John 15:26 ►

    "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me

    June 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • What IF

      Reality? It is not even known who this "John" (person or persons) was. Why would you believe this is real?

      June 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  8. Arab Atheist

    Why are you making atheism a religion ???? if you still want congregation, preaching, inspiration, and prayer-like meetings then you are in a desperate spiritual need and you are NOT an atheist.. Atheism is about realizing that all such activities don't matter. It is about realizing that science explains (or tries to explain) every thing around us. if you are a true atheist then your congregation is scientific seminars and intellectual talks that take place all the time. .. you cannot preach atheism .. if you were born in a religion then no one can pull you out you have to get out on your own. A major part of being atheist is to get there from your own findings. try to understand the fundamentals of biology and astrophysics and you will be half the way through.. if you don't get it that's fine you will still be religious and would never be an atheist.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Bostontola

      You don't have to join. Atheism isn't a religion but it can have religions if some choose to organize.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • A Real matter of Reality

      atonement, and the prophets are real.

      I have experienced revelation of the Holy Spirit. And evil , sin and death are attackers. The devil is a killer, liar, and imposter.

      This is a vicious war over your soul. Let the light shine in your heart in the face of Jesus Christ. Look and search for His Spirit.

      2 Corinthians 4:6 ►

      For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Max

      Dude! I'm atheist and I'd love to get together with other people, sing, have coffee, work towards helping the community, being part of a larger family/tribe. It's called being human.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  9. pbernasc

    within the next 10 years we will discover life in the Universe outside of earth and perhaps even find irrefutable evidence of alien civilizations ... many do not know this .. but we are truly a really tiny step away from graduating to universal species ... by then the debate about God will be left to itself and culture will evolve toward acceptance of all beliefs as long as they respect each others ..

    it's that or we won't survive the next step in human kind move toward becoming a true universal civilization

    June 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • devin

      Can I have some of what you've been smoking?

      June 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
      • pbernasc

        yes, just read the recent result of the search for exo planets and combine that with the recent development in science of particles.

        Of course not of that will help if we can't work out how to actually move around in space .. but that will come as soon as we will know we are not alone ... then things will accelerate really fast

        June 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • pbernasc

        education , you can have as much as you want

        October 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  10. Name*Chucho69

    Bunch of idiots! Just because they are at Harvard they think they are already 100% genius. Even the bible says that the last days technology will increase and faith in god will decrease but go ahead let them be in their own bubble so it will pop in hell !

    June 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You idiot, hell only exists in the buybull...there is no evidence outside of it.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • pbernasc

      mental onanism is what idlots of your kinds do all the times ... that if anything is what you are referring to ..
      I bet you do it a lot and your keyboard must be really dirty

      June 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Crazyace

      That's it, your made up book tells all... If you would just read the dang thing you would know that it's full of BS.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • PaulD

      There have always been non-believers. Remember that Paul even debated a few Greeks in the NT, but where is the rise of technology mentioned in the Bible?

      June 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  11. Gyro10

    There are absolutely atheists in foxholes adam, and to repeat that worthless saying is disrespectful to all soldiers who have died that don't believe in fairy tales.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  12. devin

    Always fascinating to see how much time and energy is spent vehemently denouncing a being that is not even believed to exist.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You religitards are so busy trying to convince others that you are right based on one 2000 year old out-dated book that can be proven wrong.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • daphne

      The cause is fighting against all the judgmental BS that comes out of belief, and holding up the wall of separation. But by all means, continue to miss the mark and make yourself a fool.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • devin

      Truth

      Also fascinating to see the animosity and ad hominem attacks that always follow.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • PaulD

      Are you suggesting that Christians don't spend any time speaking out against things they find destructive? It's the same thing. We find the fanatical belief in God directly leads to people making political decisions that harm others and deny them their rights. Even the benign belief in a supernatural deity based on faith, instead of any actual evidence, is harmful as believers of religious claims most often are insufficiently skeptical enough to protect themselves from con men, pseudo-science, and wild claims about other things like astrology and reincarnation. It's sloppy thinking and, in a democracy where we depend on each other to make wise, considered choices, such thinking hurts us all.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • daphne

      Ah – side-step the arguments and go for the ad hominems – guess your game ran out. try harder next time.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • j

      @truth prevails?
      What a vicious hate filled rant. What justifies your mockery and hate for the majority of mankind?

      June 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • daphne

      @j Right. And a majority used to think the earth was flat. A majority of conflicted jugmental people perhaps.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • devin

      Daphne

      FYI, we're no longer in elementary school.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • daphne

      That's right, devin, and if you hadn't slept through government class, you'd understand why the wall of separation has always been under attack.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • j

      Are you saying that because science claimed the earth was flat 1000 years ago that the hate filled statement is therefore ok?

      June 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • daphne

      No, I'm saying relying on a majority as evidence of something is q

      June 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • daphne

      No, I'm saying relying on a majority as evidence of something is inadequate.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  13. reaper19

    Atheism is the cult of the arrogant and self-absorbed. The eradication of what is spiritual in favor of what is confined to the limitations of man is the cornerstone of communism. There is no system with greater brutality toward its fellow humans than communism. Why does the church grow and flourish in communist countries even under the penalty of death? Because communism destroys hope, while Christianity ignites hope. Atheists want a humanistic utopia, yet humans are not capable of such a thing. Left to their own devices, human beings will destroy themselves.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Collection of unsubstantiated assertions.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • memestryker

      Atheism has nothing to do with communism. It's simply a lack of belief in something. They don't "denounce" a god at their meetings. They simply don't acknowledge one exists, so it never comes up (unless people who believe in one bring it up).

      June 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • reaper19

      Boston>> "unsubstantiated"? The cruelty of communism? Surely you are not so ignorant as to deny the millions who have been slaughtered under the flag of communism? As for the ability of humans to be self-governing separate from a greater authority with the end result being collective peace and equality, please, cite an instance where this has existed. We have not moved closer to these goals, but further away.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Ignorance is believing communism and atheism are equal.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      reaper
      Killed under the flag of communism...that is correct, under a politcal banner to control the people. The cause was not atheism, the removing of religion was part of the POLITICAL strategy since religion is a way to control the masses, by communist doctrine, religion must be controlled as well as many other factors. Nice try at jumping around the cause and effect there.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • reaper19

      Meme>>> it is specifically the lack of belief in a deity. This story discusses a church without a God. A chaplain is delivering the message and came up with the concept. He is the chaplain of "humanism". You can choose to delude yourself that this is not a religion, but it most certainly is with its own object of worship (self/humanity) and it 's dogma/belief system. Communism adopted atheism because there is no god, but the state all while seducing the masses with lies about utopia and equality.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • PaulD

      Communism rejects the influence of organized religion upon the proletariat, because religion usually tries to get people to think selfishly about their own fate, their afterlife and personal salvation as opposed to what they can do to aid the state and others. It has nothing really to do with insisting on there not being a God, only recognizes that religion has been historically used to keep workers in their place under the capitalists. I'm not a real fan of communism, but there's no need to misrepresent it as some kind of attack against God per se when it was an attack against the use of God to control people politically.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  14. El

    lol.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Crazyace

      /bow lol

      June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  15. muslim2012

    The Qur’an speaks about hundreds of things that were not known to men at the time of its revelation. Only in three options the result is .0017%. I leave it upto you, to work out the probability if all the hundreds of the unknown facts were guesses, the chances of all of them being correct guesses simultaneously and there being not a single wrong guess. It is beyond human capacity to make all correct guesses without a single mistake, which itself is sufficient to prove to a logical person that the origin of the Qur’an is Divine.

    CREATOR IS THE AUTHOR OF THE QUR’AN

    The only logical answer to the question as to who could have mentioned all these scientific facts 1400 years ago before they were discovered, is exactly the same answer initially given by the atheist or any person, to the question who will be the first person who will be able to tell the mechanism of the unknown object. It is the ‘CREATOR’, the producer, the Manufacturer of the whole universe and its contents. In the English language He is ‘God’, or more appropriate in the Arabic language, ‘ALLAH’.

    QUR’AN IS A BOOK OF SIGNS AND NOT SCIENCE

    Let me remind you that the Qur’an is not a book of Science, ‘S-C-I-E-N-C-E’ but a book of Signs ‘S-I-G-N-S’ i.e. a book of ayaats. The Qur’an contains more than 6,000 ayaats, i.e. ‘signs’, out of which more than a thousand speak about Science. I am not trying to prove that the Qur’an is the word of God using scientific knowledge as a yard stick because any yardstick is supposed to be more superior than what is being checked or verified. For us Muslims the Qur’an is the Furqan i.e. criteria to judge right from wrong and the ultimate yardstick which is more superior to scientific knowledge.

    But for an educated man who is an atheist, scientific knowledge is the ultimate test which he believes in. We do know that science many a times takes ‘U’ turns, therefore I have restricted the examples only to scientific facts which have sufficient proof and evidence and not scientific theories based on assumptions. Using the ultimate yardstick of the atheist, I am trying to prove to him that the Qur’an is the word of God and it contains the scientific knowledge which is his yardstick which was discovered recently, while the Qur’an was revealed 1400 year ago. At the end of the discussion, we both come to the same conclusion that God though superior to science, is not incompatible with it.

    SCIENCE IS ELIMINATING MODELS OF GOD BUT NOT GOD

    Francis Bacon, the famous philosopher, has rightly said that a little knowledge of science makes man an atheist, but an in-depth study of science makes him a believer in God. Scientists today are eliminating models of God, but they are not eliminating God. If you translate this into Arabic, it is La illaha illal la, There is no god, (god with a small ‘g’ that is fake god) but God (with a capital ‘G’).

    Surah Fussilat:

    "Soon We will show them our signs in the (farthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things?"

    [Al-Quran 41:53]

    Reference: http://www.irf.net/irf/comparativereligion/index.htm

    June 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Christians,
      This is how you sound to non-Christians.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • memestryker

      You Muslims and Christians need to read some other books. You are so caught up in your own cultural indoctrination that you are like fish in water and don't even know the water exists.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  16. muslim2012

    In mathematics there is a theory known as ‘Theory of Probability’. If you have two options, out of which one is right, and one is wrong, the chances that you will chose the right one is half, i.e. one out of the two will be correct. You have 50% chances of being correct. Similarly if you toss a coin the chances that your guess will be correct is 50% (1 out of 2) i.e. 1/2. If you toss a coin the second time, the chances that you will be correct in the second toss is again 50% i.e. half. But the chances that you will be correct in both the tosses is half multiplied by half (1/2 x 1/2) which is equal to 1/4 i.e. 50% of 50% which is equal to 25%. If you toss a coin the third time, chances that you will be correct all three times is (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2) that is 1/8 or 50% of 50% of 50% that is 12½%.

    A dice has got six sides. If you throw a dice and guess any number between 1 to 6, the chances that your guess will be correct is 1/6. If you throw the dice the second time, the chances that your guess will be correct in both the throws is (1/6 x 1/6) which is equal to 1/36. If you throw the dice the third time, the chances that all your three guesses are correct is (1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6) is equal to 1/216 that is less than 0.5 %.

    Let us apply this theory of probability to the Qur’an, and assume that a person has guessed all the information that is mentioned in the Qur’an which was unknown at that time. Let us discuss the probability of all the guesses being simultaneously correct.

    At the time when the Qur’an was revealed, people thought the world was flat, there are several other options for the shape of the earth. It could be triangular, it could be quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, heptagonal, octagonal, spherical, etc. Lets assume there are about 30 different options for the shape of the earth. The Qur’an rightly says it is spherical, if it was a guess the chances of the guess being correct is 1/30.

    The light of the moon can be its own light or a reflected light. The Qur’an rightly says it is a reflected light. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/2 and the probability that both the guesses i.e the earth is spherical and the light of the moon is reflected light is 1/30 x 1/2 = 1/60.

    Further, the Qur’an also mentions every living thing is made of water. Every living thing can be made up of either wood, stone, copper, aluminum, steel, silver, gold, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, oil, water, cement, concrete, etc. The options are say about 10,000. The Qur’an rightly says that everything is made up of water. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/10,000 and the probability of all the three guesses i.e. the earth is spherical, light of moon is reflected light and everything is created from water being correct is 1/30 x 1/2 x 1/10,000 = 1/60,000 which is equal to about .0017%.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • memestryker

      The so-called "revealed" religions, Judaism (Moses), Christianity (Paul), and Islam (Muhammed) all were created by cultural engineers to control people and leave the religion's creator in charge of deciding proper behavior for everyone else. These ancient people each combined some wisdom teacher with some folklore, metaphor, allegory, etc. to "sell" this belief system to the masses. We as humans are past the need for such things. Clinging to Christianity or Islam won't make them true.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • G to the T

      Coins and dice don't remember what was last rolled. Probabilty on a coin is 50/50 no matter how many times you toss it....

      June 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  17. sweenbass

    When it comes to matters concerning all of the books that people consider to be "holy" (Bible, Koran, Gita etc...)
    Are there some interesting stories in those books? Some stories are & some are not. The ones that you think are interesting may not be the ones that interest me but that's personal taste.
    Do those aforementioned books contain philosophies that people can use to help improve their lives & the lives of others? Of course they do! This is true of all those books & more.
    However when it comes to questions of a spiritual nature (A deity, A life force or soul, existence after natural death etc...), the best that those books can do is speculate. That is because they were written by people.
    Some people wish to hang their spiritual hat on a speculation that one of those books offer. I do not.
    Is there a spiritual component to the universe? I don't know.
    However, I have not read anything in any of those books that convinces me that the speculations in them are anything more than that.
    That is why I refer to myself as an agnostic.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • memestryker

      You're spot on. But religious people have been indoctrinated to believe their teaching as an "is." And they are intimidated so they actually fear if they don't believe it. They learn it in great detail so they can spout it to others. But it will never make it true. The real question is what is necessary to allow someone to see they are living in a reified structure of their own (and culture's) making?

      June 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  18. muslim2012

    My first question to the atheist will be: "What is the definition of God?" For a person to say there is no God, he should know what is the meaning of God. If I hold a book and say that ‘this is a pen’, for the opposite person to say, ‘it is not a pen’, he should know what is the definition of a pen, even if he does not know nor is able to recognise or identify the object I am holding in my hand. For him to say this is not a pen, he should at least know what a pen means. Similarly for an atheist to say ‘there is no God’, he should at least know the concept of God. His concept of God would be derived from the surroundings in which he lives. The god that a large number of people worship has got human qualities – therefore he does not believe in such a god. Similarly a Muslim too does not and should not believe in such false gods.

    If a non-Muslim believes that Islam is a merciless religion with something to do with terrorism; a religion which does not give rights to women; a religion which contradicts science; in his limited sense that non-Muslim is correct to reject such Islam. The problem is he has a wrong picture of Islam. Even I reject such a false picture of Islam, but at the same time, it becomes my duty as a Muslim to present the correct picture of Islam to that non-Muslim i.e. Islam is a merciful religion, it gives equal rights to the women, it is not incompatible with logic, reason and science; if I present the correct facts about Islam, that non-Muslim may Inshallah accept Islam.

    Similarly the atheist rejects the false gods and the duty of every Muslim is to present the correct concept of God which he shall Insha Allah not refuse.

    (You may refer to my article, ‘Concept of God in Islam’, for more details)

    June 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • memestryker

      Islam is just a code of behavior set forth by a guy who recognized that he could create such a writing and then encourage or force the masses to follow it. Muhammed, like Paul and Moses before him, was a slick cultural engineer, who created a system where anyone questioning the system was damned or subject to death or worse. So the system, plus the intimidation factor, kept people in line with the teaching. I think people have graduated from having a need for such systems. This practice at Harvard is just a sign of that. Besides, Unitarians have been doing what they are doing for hundreds of years, and it's working great for them. It's time for religious people to look at how they've been indoctrinated, brainwashed even, and question if it still serves them.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  19. Mike,Albany

    All they have done is turn atheism into another organized religion. While it seems as though their message is generally a positive one, rather than the intolerance and hatred spread by most organized religions out there, eventually, this message will be perverted and used as a way to stir up discord, as organized religion has done for centuries. Sadly, organized religion is the greatest evil ever to have been visited on humanity. The Catholic Church is the greatest offender of them all and will likely be the downfall of humanity as they encourage the world population ever to increase - 7 billion, 9 billion, 12 billion - until the planet can no longer sustain the enormous masses and we descend into anarchy, war, disease, and ultimately, our own destruction.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  20. Pastor Randy Edgar

    The Christian is not convinced of his or her theism based on sophisticated arguments or capable apologetic defenses. The Christian is convinced of his or her position based on faith.Faith is not simply the recourse of an weak-minded religious nut. It is the sum and substance of any religious belief system. Faith is even the basis for the atheist’s non-belief in God.
    When an atheist rejects belief in God, he rejects any source of confidence beyond his own level of reasoning or understanding. The thinking atheist will forever be questioning the origin of the universe, will be perplexed regarding morality, and will be unsure of his own destiny and purpose in life.
    The atheist uses faith, too. He puts his faith in science or self. He presupposes that science or self are trustworthy places for his confidence, and finds corroboration for this presupposition in the evidences that he can comprehend. He believes in his own testimony.
    The Christian’s source of confidence–his faith–is an unshakable faith in God, revealed in His Word, manifested in Jesus Christ, and confirmed by His Spirit. This is not only a more defensible belief system than the atheist’s; it is a far better way to live. In fact, it is the only way to really live. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:6).

    Atheism declares that there is no god. Christianity teaches that there is a God. Both cannot be true. So which one is correct, the atheist or the Christian? How you respond depends upon faith. It depends on the source of your faith. Will you have faith in self? Or in God?

    June 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • judeamorris

      As Ghandi once said, all great Truths, even seemingly opposing ones, are inherently still Truths. The article is deceiving because the gatherings mentioned are Humanist. Humanism does not necessarily equate with atheism. Many Unitarian churches are predominantly Humanist. Humanists believe in the power of the human being to choose. Whether that power has been given by a specific god (for instance the God of Deist Thomas Jefferson), by an intelligent universe, by an unknown (agnostic), or by a universe working under scientific law (atheist) simply doesn't matter. All of those aforementioned people also have faith in their belief systems and in their human brains. Faith does not belong solely to Christians. Faith and the desire to live a good, moral, fulfilling life is what brings Humanists together. The emphasis is not on worshipping a creator, but on living the best life possible.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Max

      It doesn't take faith to understand that there isn't a unicorn in my living room. Well, now I suppose there could be.. and it could be invisible, have no need to eat, make no sound, leave no evidence of biological process, and it can make itself immaterial if it can't get out of the way in time, but it's perfectly happy living in my living room and it gives me blessings if I pray to it.. and it loves my cat. Oh and it's lavender. I like lavender. I must like lavender because the Blessing Unicorn is Lavender. Now.. the unicorn requires faith. Accepting there's no unicorn does not require faith, but if someone was convinced that there was a unicorn and they had come to find enough faith to believe this impossible thing.. I can see how they might think I was afflicted with faith like they were.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.