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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. pbernasc

    Praying is the most effective from of mental onansim

    June 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  2. ratface

    It's sunday! And summer! Go have fun outside. Eat a hotdog! No one cares about your silly comments.....

    June 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually it's raining, and I only like hot dogs when I can have them with beer at the ball park.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  3. ratface

    Why is everyone on here so mean?

    June 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • One one

      Were not really mean, it's just a different kind of entertainment.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Colin

      An atheist cannot exist without hate.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I was going to say, "What do you mean, 'mean'?" but I thought it was too mean.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Why do you see everyone here as mean?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • G to the T

      Colin – thanks for proving the point...

      June 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  4. No way Atheists!!

    Atheists are Discriminated Against in Schools:

    Discrimination against atheists in school isn’t too uncommon, unfortunately, and as a consequence atheists can feel very much alone. Just as some schools have tried to hinder the creation of groups for gay students, some have tried to hinder the creation of groups for atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers. Such discrimination is illegal, but that doesn’t stop school administrators who don’t want to be seen as supporting godless atheists.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  5. One one

    Easy steps to starting a successful religion.

    First, the rules:

    Rule number 1: Believe or else
    Rule number 2: See rule number 1.
    Rule number 3: See rule number 1.

    NEXT: Convince vulnerable, prospective devotees that they are worthless trash; sinners, who are certain to burn in hell and suffer the brutality of their loving god's wrath because they deserve it.

    NEXT: When the vulnerable, prospective devotees have been sufficiently pounded down by indoctrination and fear of death, promise them a "get out of hell, go directly to heaven" pass.

    HINT: This last tactic is most successful if you play to their emotions with a story full of drama, torture, blood, sacrifice and death. Teach them that it is moral and just to absolve the "sins" of the guilty by punishing the innocent. And for good measure, dazzle them with stories about miracles.

    NEXT: To obtain a " Get out of hell, go directly to heaven" pass, See rule number 1.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • No way Atheists!!

      Great way in describing the RELIGION OF ATHEISM!!

      June 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      Because taking spiritual advice from a stranger in a blog post that would dismiss everyone who doesn't agree as a sheep is so much more trustworthy than making up your own mind.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  6. hockeyguy#66

    It's all about your individual mindset. I myself am not a religious person, yet my sister, who I love with all my heart, is a born again Christian. But I understand it helps her through her life struggles being a recovering alcoholic. I don't understand how the brain works to compensate one for the other, but it makes her happy. To me, that's what matters. I was raised catholic by parents that weren't religious at all. But I appreciate the knowledge early so I could come to my own opinion later in life. If religion is what you need to find meaning in life, that's your decision.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Nice outlook. Many people need the comfort religion provides, and we can't begrudge them that. Religion is the opiate of the masses, but opiates can be a good thing. There's much pain in life. Just don't try to legislate your distraction so that it MUST be my distraction.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  7. No way Atheists!!

    Atheists are Discriminated Against in the Boy Scouts:

    It is well known that the Boy Scouts of America excludes atheists both as members and as leaders. Not so well known is why: the Boy Scouts of America asserts that atheists are incapable of being sufficiently moral or patriotic to deserve to be involved with scouting. As a private organization this is their right, however bigoted it is; so long as they receive public assistance and funding, however, their discrimination should be as illegal as it is unethical.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  8. No way Atheists!!

    Atheists are Discriminated Against in Child Custody Cases:

    Some may find it surprising, but atheists are routinely discriminated against by judges deciding child custody cases. There is a common assumption that religion — any religion — is necessary for properly raising children and that atheists are incapable of seeing to the religious, moral, and social needs of their own kids. Parents who regularly attend church are given great preference over parents who don’t believe in gods.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  9. My AIDS has Cancer Real Hard

    This is how things would have went down if that stupid book were true

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-khATBDrBU&w=640&h=390]

    June 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      That was hilarious!!

      June 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  10. No way Atheists!!

    ATHEIST DISCRIMINATED BY POLITICS:

    Bigotry against atheists is not limited to theory and harsh language — anti-atheist bigotry can also lead to anti-atheist discrimination. After all, if bigots are convinced that atheists are immoral, untrustworthy, and perhaps even evil on some level, then it’s only to be expected that they will treat atheists unequally and as inferiors.

    Perhaps the most obvious example of how atheists are discriminated against is in politics: people are less likely to vote for atheists than they are for any other minority — women, blacks, Jews, Muslims, or even gays. No atheist is likely to be elected on any level anywhere in America and no politicians are likely to specifically appeal to atheists’ votes by defending their interests. Some even openly express bigotry against atheists, for example President George H.W. Bush.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Have you ever tried really, really hard, and concentrated, and considered making sense? Just wondering.......

      June 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  11. ratface

    People sure do get mean when talking about religion!

    June 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  12. No way Atheists!!

    I can’t stand atheists — but it’s not because they don’t believe in God. It’s because they’re crashing bores.
    Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining Superstar atheists are motivated by anger — and boohoo.

    My problem with atheists is their tiresome — and way old — insistence that they are being oppressed and their fixation with the fine points of Christianity. What — did their Sunday school teachers flog their behinds with a Bible when they were kids? – Terry Eagleton

    June 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      It sounds like you would really miss your magical thinking and the wizardry of your "God".

      Actually, the wonder and awe at the real universe is much more astounding than anything that you (or primitive Middle Eastern Hebrews) could make up to fantasize about.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Josh Olsen

      Gee I could say the exact same words about many organized religious leaders. "motivated by anger," "insistence that they are being oppressed" by the government and non believers and people who choose to behave differently than they do, and their "fixation with the fine points of Christianity." to argue why their condemnation of others is justified. I'm guessing their Sunday school teachers used to "flog their behinds with a Bible when they were kids" too. Perhaps that is why they have so much pent up frustration and rage when they see others being more tolerant and relaxed about life. They got bullied into bullied into believing something as a child and now want to bully everyone else to have to believe it too. I think the world would be a whole lot better place if everyone respected everyone else's beliefs, disbeliefs or uncertainty about beliefs.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • My Cancer has AIDS Real Hard

      Oh No! Discrimination!

      You sound bitter. But, it's quite obvious you're trolling. You are an atheist pretending to be a christian using the same insults christians use on a regular basis. The obviousness of this stinks like oprah's minge.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  13. Colin

    Ya gotta love it when a Christian scorns you with the admonition that you will "go to hell" for not believing .

    Out of all the silly superst.itious beliefs of the Christians, I think the myth of hell is my favorite. Think it through. I don't have to kill, I don't have to steal, hell, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is have a reasonable, honest and rational disbelief in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty upon me an infinite times worse than the death penalty.

    And he loves me.

    Let's subject this "cherished Christian doctrine" to the probing light of say.......fifth grade mathematics.

    Approximately one hundred and ten thousand million (110,000,000,000) people have lived on Earth. Given all those who have, over the centuries, rejected the Christian god, or who have otherwise committed mortal sins, there must be literally thousands of millions of people burning for all eternity in the cosmic oven of hell set up by their all-loving god. Some must have been burning for thousands of years by now.

    About 100,000 people die every day. There must be a constant stream of thousands of forlorn souls every day into the one way pit of hell their “all-merciful” god set up and maintains.

    But, far, far worse than sheer overwhelming numbers is the extent of the punishment. There is no way out, no parole, no time off for good behavior. You don’t just burn, you burn for all eternity. Billions of people and thousands of daily new arrivals burning for all eternity!

    No criminal justice system in the history of the Human race, even those established by the most despotic of tyrants, comes close to matching the unfathomable barbarity of their “infinitely benevolent” god.

    Hitler murdered six million Jews in his concentration camps, but compared to the Judeo-Christian god, Hitler was a bleeding-hearted wimp. A goose-stepping girlie-man. Their “all-caring” god not only burns billions more than Hitler, Pol Pot and all other dictators and tyrants added up, he keeps doing so to them for all eternity! I would not wish a bad sunburn on a person simply because they have a different religion to me, let alone fry them for all eternity.

    It is also odd that their all-loving god is also all-knowing and knows which souls will go to hell before they do. He even knows it before they are born, and yet he still creates them. He is worse than a psychopathic teenager than breeds litter after litter of kittens so he can slowly roast them in ovens.

    That is the problem with using the same deity to be both the carrot and the stick. It gets really silly really quickly.

    How they believe this utter garbage in the 21st century completely eludes me.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  14. pbernasc

    Oh the gullible people with faith ...
    God hates gay people .. by a good Christian, kill them all ... because the Christian is so much better than Allah

    June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • No way Atheists!!

      If God hates gay people and wants them killed, why are atheists killing them?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • pbernasc

        are they? last time I checked ultra religious zealots were preaching killing gays, not the atheist .. oh by the way, I am not atheist .. I just like to make fun of gullible people. I know God is a myth .. but I do not go around asking people to accept they are fools. That is self evident

        June 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • pbernasc

        atheists are killing gays?

        October 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  15. No way Atheists!!

    I can NEVER bring myself to be an atheist. Not because they don't believe in God, but because of the tone of the evil, s c u m b a g, devil worshiping, demon-possessed atheists that spew hatred here. They can NEVER be happy for others who inspires those who needs inspiration. They are angry all the time and I can't see myself living a life of an atheist because the Love of Christ is too powerful within me to live in such bitterness.

    My comment may sound hateful, but when truth & facts bites, oh well, it is what it is.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Colin

      So you don't believe in God, but you believe in demons....yeah, birght one you are.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • No way Atheists!!

      Colin – Show me where I stated that I don't believe in God?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • ratface

      "My comment may sound hateful"....

      because it is! Be nice to people and you will be happier!

      June 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I take it you're not a Christian, though, because you wouldn't want to be of the same religion as Adolph Hitler. Right?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • *

      hitler was an atheist.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • My AIDS has Cancer Real Hard

      Well, at least us atheists never killed millions in the name of our not religion like your kind do.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • pbernasc

      yes you are very smart and everyone else is totally dumb ... sure you are

      June 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • *

      Joe Stalin atheist murdered over 60 million of his own people.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • *

      hitler atheist caused the deaths of over 250 million worldwide and murdered 20 million in death camps

      June 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • *

      Mao atheist credited with as many as 800 million murdered
      and the list is endless

      June 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • TeeJay Swann

      No, your post is full of hate. You did nothing different than what you accuse atheists of doing. Guess that means you are a but because of the tone of the evil, s c u m b a g, devil worshiping, demon-possessed Christian that spews hatred here, and you also broke the 9th Commandment by bearing false witness.
      Don't want be an atheist? Fine; don't be. But don't lie to try and get your point across. You are no better than those you condemn.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  16. Colin

    Now I know how the pagans must have felt as Christian churches started popping up. Hopefully the demise of the Greco-Roman zombie cults will accelerate over the next 50 years.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Colin

      I count it all joy to see the abundance of steeples rising over the cities, towns and villages of this land testifying to the sovereignty of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Yeah, those phallic symbols really represent Christ well.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Colin

      Sometimes a steeple is just a steeple

      June 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • G to the T

      ...and sometimes it's a big ol' d.o.n.g of god pointin' at the sky!

      June 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 23, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Evolution changes things.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • tsaad

      And it doesn't matter who you pray to.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • *

      Prayer is a communication with the one true God and only the one true God

      June 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • TheBob

      Prayer does change things. It turns your brain into a soft useless mush.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  18. Redoran

    For me there is NO heaven. When I am dead, yes, I am dead.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • *

      Yes dead and lost forever in a place prepared for the most evil spiritual beings a place you will be unprepared for and unable to endure. You are to be pitied

      June 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @*

      Yet the only proof you offer is that of your diseased mind.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • *

      The proof is given by God Himself in the resurrected Christ. Beyond this while on earth Jesus is recorded warning people of the horrors of hell. Much is testified to and illustrated not only by Jesus but substantiated in the law and the prophets as well. Many texts of the apostles warn of the dangers and torments of hell.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Dippy

      And that's your proof of hell?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • *

      God who cannot lie told us all and that is proof enough.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      @.

      ooo let me think.....................

      June 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      @* , sorry the eyes are going, why won't god fix that?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • *

      You've shown yourself incapable of honest thought

      June 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Colin

      So if God cannot lie, he is not all powerful.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      A being who would allow and maintain the hell you describe is the most evil, de.s.p.icable, vile, disgusting, terrorist-torturer who has ever existed. You worship the Most Low; Pure Evil incarnate.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Colin

      @* So, let me get your belief straigh. You believe that I don't have to kill, I don't have to steal, hell, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is have a reasonable, honest and rational disbelief in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty upon me an infinite times worse than the death penalty.

      And he loves me.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • *

      You will perish for your own sins, sins that you could be free of but have chosen to hold onto. God will judge you based on His perfection not yours, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Your fate is your own choosing.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Cannot lie? So much for omnipotence.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Jesus said that to some, even if dead should rise and come to warn them of that place of the damned called Hell, they wouldn't believe. He came, arose from the dead, declaring the glory and power of God.
      If they do not believe His testimony, and the Spirit of God who testifies of Him, only Hell itself will convince them. And that they SHALL see!

      June 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • OTOH

      PRISM 1234
      "Jesus said that to some, even if dead should rise and come to warn them of that place of the damned called Hell, they wouldn't believe."

      A real god would know exactly how to do it. It would not be at all stymied. Yours? Incompetent.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • OTOH

      * Incompetent - or more likely, non-existent.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @Colin
      When you state you haven't done all those things, you are implying that because your own goodness you deserve God's salvAtion. But the truth is NO ONE DOES. s it is, you are prepared to stand before Him(in case HE exists), in your own righteousness. But without Christ, and His sacrifice on the Cross which He did for all mankind, no one can be saved. That's why those who refuse Christ will go to Hell. There is only two paths, through Christ or without Him. And since man's soul is immortal, he'll goes into one of the two places: Heaven, God's abode, or Hell, where he is forever separated from God, in place that was never created for human souls. What is so hard to understand here?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  19. IbelieveinGod

    Ok what's the big deal? There are all different kinds of religions,spiritual groups, ect. This was bound to take place and in all honesty i am surprised it hasn't happened sooner. The only issue I have ever had with non believers, is the fact that the min they realize a person believes they are called a idiot, or ridiculed in some other manner. How can people expect to be took seriously when they want to ridicule someone simply because they choose to believe in something. Now granted we do have our bad apples as far as religious people go,but that shouldn't give a pass for people to ridicule all who have faith. I have no problem with someone who doesn't believe and has no interest in ever believing, it is that persons choice. Just as it is mine to believe. So if atheists want to get together like what the article describes then fine why not its a free country.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's, not its.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Sorry, religion is not so sacred that it gets a free pass.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Josh Olsen

      "The only issue I have ever had with non believers, is the fact that the min they realize a person believes they are called a idiot, or ridiculed in some other manner." – I think that historically it has been far more common for believers to chastise or exclude non-believers than the other way around. Granted that may be because it has often been the perception that believers far outnumber non-believers. Of course how can we really know for sure?

      "How can people expect to be took seriously when they want to ridicule someone simply because they choose to believe in something." Unfortunately many organized religious leaders expect to be taken seriously yet tend to ridicule non-believers and even those from other religions who simply those who believe in something different.

      "Now granted we do have our bad apples" – There are bad apples on both sides. I just tend to hear about the religious zealots more often as several "religious leaders" speak publicly to condemn other religious or those with different beliefs and poke their nose into politics and try to get everyone to believe what they believe and behave how they behave. I think the world would be a whole lot better place if everyone respected everyone else's beliefs, disbeliefs or uncertainty about beliefs.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Shel

      Not ALL Atheists put people down for being believers. I wouldn't even say that most do. There are those who have a sort of "holier than thou" way about them, but from what I've seen, the Christians and Catholics are more judgemental of Atheists or those with different beliefs.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I can accept that Dick or Jane believes in a magical sky god but I cannot respect it.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  20. Red

    Atheism – just another make-myslef-feel-good religion.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Frank

      This is pure nonsense: atheism is absence of god(s) and religion/church. As sometimes said, pretending that atheism is a religion is like saying that baldness is a hair color.

      Unfortunately, the journalist presented this coalition as a church. This idea is easy to sell in the USA. From an intellectual point of view, it's not very honest.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Red: just another person who doesn't understand the rather simple definition of atheism.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • IntellectualViolence

      @Frank
      Why is atheism not a religion?

      Atheism is more than a mere denial. Stating a disbelief in the supernatural IS a belief system, just as complete as the theist's belief system that asserts the existence of the supernatural. One could argue that the theist's belief system is older, more complex, and generally accepted, but not that it is a more complete belief system.

      I fail to see how Atheism is different from other belief systems like Christianity, Buddhism, Satanism, or Paganism.

      I am convinced that atheism is a religion (albeit a non-conventional one), but I am open to better understand dissent.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • G to the T

      IV – because atheism is an answer to a single question – do you believe that some kind of god exists? No = atheist, Yes = Thiest. It's everything else that gets added later that makes it a religion (indeed many forms of Buddhism are attheistic, but I would still consider it a religion whereas Humanism isnt' reliant on how you answer either way).

      June 26, 2013 at 3:48 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.