home
RSS
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. reasonablebe

    it doesn't matter what you believe- what matters is the type of person you are, whether you will stand up for what is right, even if unpopular, and whether you will stand with those who have done no wrong but are being used as scapegoats, and will protect those for whom the evidence and judgment is not it from vigilantes. you may disagree, but that does not give you the right to silence dissent.

    June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Me

      We expect to be told the truth when we pick up a reference book, read an article, or watch a news story; we want the truth from advertisers, teachers, and politicians; we assume road signs, medicine bottles, and food labels reveal the truth. In fact, we demand the truth for almost every facet of life that affects our money, relationships, safety, or health. On the other hand, despite our unwavering demands for truth in those areas, many of us say we aren’t interested in truth when it comes to morality or religion. In fact, many downright reject the idea that any religion can be true. As we’re sure you’ve noticed, there’s a huge contradiction here. Why do we demand truth in everything but morality and religion? Why do we say, “That’s true for you but not for me,” when we’re talking about morality or religion, but we never even think of such nonsense when we’re talking to a stock broker about our money or a doctor about our health? Although few would admit it, our rejection of religious and moral truth is often on volitional rather than intellectual grounds—we just don’t want to be held accountable to any moral standards or religious doctrine. So we blindly accept the self-defeating truth claims of politically correct intellectuals who tell us that truth does not exist; everything is relative; there are no absolutes; it’s all a matter of opinion; you ought not judge; religion is about faith, not facts! Perhaps Augustine was right when he said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us. Maybe we can’t handle the truth.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  2. Martin Greco

    Talk about re-inventing the wheel. Of course this phenomenon took place in Cambridge and Harvard. Amazing arrogance that God is not necessary.

    June 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • tony

      The arrogance is presuming a god without evidence.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      well, if your deity were truly necessary, then this couldn't happen
      it has happened
      therefore your deity is not truly necessary

      June 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      Which god?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • reasonablebe

      apparently you believe that you know the truth, and someone who thinks differently must be wrong. how is this different from one religion or religious group declaring that everyone who does not agree with them is wrong, damned, should be ostracized or dead?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Martin Greco

      You said, "Amazing arrogance that God is not necessary."
      No, what is amazing is that there are still adults that have imaginary friends. It's 2013, for crying out loud.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Amazing ignorance thinking god is necessary.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      Amazing arrogance that Harvard keeps violating the First Amendment receiving public money when they are a religious university. They need to remove all religious idiocy from their operations and grounds or have their govt buck$ turned off.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  3. Moochie

    Love the pics... Looks like bitter beer face tryouts for a Keystone commercial.

    June 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  4. 1word

    Time someone cuts off one of these people in traffic or does something to really upset them they will throw that compassion right out the window. You cannot love another person the way God loves us unless you have the Holy Spirit living within you. They can try it but I bet it will fail without the love of Jesus in your heart.

    June 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      Or not.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      That was more than 1 word.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      That's why Jewish, Hindu, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists and every other non-Christian is doomed to failure, huh? No Jesus in their heart. Thanks for posting an amazingly compelling argument, smart guy.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      1word; You're very arrogant and full of yourself. But at least you insult all non christians and not just those that don't believe in a so called 'god'.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • snowboarder

      utter nonsense. there is an entire world out there contradicting your worthless assertion. there are good and compassionate people in every culture and every religion. believing otherwise is being dishonest.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • 1word

      SmarterThanYou
      Not all those religions teach of the Father Son, and Holy Ghost. That teaching is solely to Christianity, even the Jehovah witness does not believe God came in the Flesh. If you don't believe that truth, you're on the wrong path. Lets take yourself, if you wanted your children to learn how to act you would want to teach them. If you expect them to do what's right you would be considered a hypocrite to ask your child to do something you couldn't do. That's why God had to show us the way, there is no savior besides him. He was Jesus!

      Isaiah 43:11
      I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Marc

      1word,

      Non-religious people do what's right, not what's being told.
      Religious people do what's being told, not what's right.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      Non-Christians are capable of loving one another as strongly as any Christian. To say that the ability to "love" only comes from Jesus is flawed and convoluted.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • 1word

      Marc
      I wish that was true, have you paid any attention to the news lately? Have you been witnessing the evil murders and the sinful things that is happening. The demonic influence in this world has picked up because they know they have but a short time. You must believe in Gods word man, or one day you will regret it.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • 1word

      SmarterThanYou
      Actually you're wrong. Non Believers will love you to a limit, yes it may feel like love but let that other person treat you wrong. You won't be able to forgive like Jesus forgives us. It's hard man, believe me I tried even with the Holy Spirit I have to ask God to help me forgive.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What a steaming pile of hooey. There's not a thing that backs up your crummy claims, 1troll. You're a lying sack of poo.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      1word, you've got a whole thread of people that are smarter than you telling you that you're wrong. Trust us. YOU'RE WRONG.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      1word, humans have always been terrible to other humans. This is nothing new. But now we have the internet and 24-hour news channels so we can be aware of all the bad things going on.

      You and your fellow christians are no better than anyone else. It is arrogant and ignorant to say otherwise.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      The Holy Spirit living within you.....Jesus in your heart......sounds like an infestation. Maybe a good dose of antigodotics will take care of that for you.....

      June 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  5. The real Tom

    I love Jesus Christ. Churches are reserved for worshiping our Lord and Savior. This is an abomination. This country is a CHRISTIAN nation, no matter what the satanic atheists say. They worship the devil and they are AFRAID of the TRUTH of Jesus Christ the Lord.

    June 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Whoever you are, you insult my and everyone's intelligence.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      The good thing is that legally the USA is a secular nation. But I do feel better that in addition to atheist you also hate all NON Christians, even Jews.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      You should do some research. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli This isn't a "Christian Nation" according to our Founding Fathers. You're un-American and should be shot for spewing your ignorance. Thank you for your post, smart guy.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • snowboarder

      nope. not a bit of what you say is true.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Awww, lookit da liddle baby pretendin' to be a big mayun.

      You really are pathetic beyond belief. If that's the best some Jeebus-lover can do, I'll pass.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  6. THE MORE YOU KNOW!

    HITLER WAS AN ATHIEST

    June 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Troll.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      Obvious Troll.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      Let's assume that this lie of Hitler being an atheist is the truth. Who carried out his orders? He committed acts of genocide on his behalf? That's right. Christians. It's easy to pin this on one man, but when it comes down to it, it was Christian nations that tried to destabilize the world and Christian nations that murdered the innocent. Thanks for bringing up this point, smart guy.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Yes, more Jews have been killed by Christians than by Muslims historically.

      The Muslims got a long way to go just to match what the Christians did during the 1930s.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  7. 1word

    A church without God? I want to see how long that last, there is no church without God. God created the church, anything that tries to cut him out of the picture is doomed to fail.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Marc

      If your god is so powerful, who can cut him out?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      Humans created church. And they created god.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • 1word

      Marc, my God is a perfect gentleman you can cut him out but in the end you will wish you didn't. God will not force himself on you, he will send prophets to talk to you but he will not force his way into your life.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • 1word

      Obvious Troll is Obvious
      Jesus said Thou are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. God built the church, those who possess his Spirit are the Church.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      1word, you have made a classic mistake. The bible was written by man. It was created by man, just like god was created by man, just like church was created by man. Please provide information from outside your contradictory book of garbage to validate your point.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Marc

      1word, this blog is for mature adults. Are you a teenager? If so, please get off.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Observer

      1word

      "Marc, my God is a perfect gentleman"

      Your God supports slavery and discriminates against women and handicapped people and gays. Get serious.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • 1word

      Obvious Troll is Obvious
      No man, the Bible is inspired by God. It was written by men led by the Holy Spirit. It's hard to understand until you have been touched by God. He lives in you and he empowers you to do what's right. This church will not teach that, and if you don't teach that how can you truly love someone without the true love in your heart?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • 1word

      Observer
      You might want to read the bible, God does not condone slavery. He said in Leviticus that you should love your neighbors as yourself. Your neighbor is people who were slaves. Everyone is your neighbor. He also said that after 7 years the masters was supposed to let the slaves go free. The slaves of those days was not slaves like in America, they weren't treated badly because they were slaves, there were like family.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      1word, really? Then how do you explain the multiple quotes by jesus telling people he'll return before they die? How about the extraordinary number of contradictions in the bible? For a book written under the influence of your deity, you'd think he could have hired a fucking editor.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      1word, incorrect. The bible gives instructions on slavery. In fact, it even outlines beating them. Have you ever actually read your bible? Based on your commentary, the answer is blatantly and obviously "NO."

      June 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Marc

      1word, you've been brainwashed too much. There are plenty of love without god. I hope you'll see that one day.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • OTOH

      1word

      " my God is a perfect gentleman"

      Sorry, but a "perfect gentleman" does not set up an eternal torture chamber for those who cannot be convinced by ineffective "prophets".

      June 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  8. Melissa

    I'm athiest but I reallllllyyy don't like this. Atheism is NOT a religion and these nuts need to stop trying to turn it in to one.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • 1word

      lol Melissa, they will soon be flocking to a real church soon; there is only a matter of time for the truth to pierce your heart.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Melissa

      1word, no, they won't. You people are nuts.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      1word; is the truth only found in your church? How about if one goes to a mosque or synagogue?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • 1word

      jazzguitarman
      The other religions started because they didn't want to hear the truth. That's why we have so many denominations in Christianity but we all worship the same God; some has extreme views and others follow the Bible. You have to know Jesus for yourself, that's why he died so you can accept him into your heart to show you if you're right.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      Melissa, I felt similarly to you in this regard. When it comes down to it, if atheists want to get together and share their sentiment and do community service as a group – let them. "Church" is just a word, like "marriage". You're attaching too much of your disdain for organized religion to see it for what it really is. Be well, my sister.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • SmarterThanYou

      1word, you really should do some research before you post here. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi. Christianity came from the Jewish faith - it's not a denomination of Christian faith, as you so foolishly believe. Read a book... like the Bible to straighten out some of your misconceptions.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I have no problem with humanist organizations, but no desire to join one. Some people just like that sense of community that group functions provide.

      The appellation "church" seems to be something simply added by the author.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  9. RellyMatter

    >I still fail to see how you arrive that everything is meaningless just because the meaning is diminshed or non existant in the future?

    I think your question contains precisely the answer of why I fail to see that everything has meaning because that meaning "is diminished or non existant in the future."

    >Why is something meaningful only if it has the ability to retain meaning for the future?

    Why should I care if it does not? I won't be around to have any thoughts on the matter.

    >You've apparently chosen to assign meaning as anything that is remembered after X amount of years and that to have meaning something has to be remembered by a third party.

    Where is the meaning coming from if there is nothing to remember to or to be remembered by?

    June 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      The meaning comes from how one lives their life in real time; e.g. putting a smile on someone's face, helping someone in need, giving and receiving love, reducings someone's suffering etc.... How can that be hard to understand?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      RellyMatter does not really matter.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Marc

      If you so believe in afterlife, why is it matter to live this life?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • RellyMatter

      The meaning comes from how one lives their life in real time; e.g. putting a smile on someone's face, helping someone in need, giving and receiving love, reducings someone's suffering etc.... How can that be hard to understand?

      "putting a smile on someone's face, helping someone in need, giving and receiving love, reducings someone's suffering etc.... " These are the greats to do.

      However, what happen after the "real time."?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  10. Wow

    I didn't go to church before and I won't go now. Nothing's changed from my end.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I went to church all my life until I hit my forties. I surely won't go now, considering the level of hypocrisy I see here.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Although I don't go to church anymore, I am still a firm believer in Jesus and owe my life to Him. I believe the church will heal in the name of Jesus. I have been praying for this to happen and Jesus will answer my prayers.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • A simple and honest answer

      Hari hari

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You must be really desperate to steal a name. If your point requires you to lie, it's not a valid point. Thanks for proving that god isn't great.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  11. Doug

    I'm wondering if the "biblical times" were just starting today, and the bible was written word for word (maybe names and places have changed) but the overall concept is identical. Would you worship a god that tells you to go stone gays and adulterers? or would you disobey the god? If not, then why would you worship him today? Even if Yahweh were real, I would not worship him because it goes against my morals to stone people (short of pedophiles, rapists, and murderers).

    June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      2013 is calling to tell you that the jewish stoning practices you refer to aren't a thing anymore.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh? Maybe literal stoning doesn't occur, but certainly the sentiment remains. Just look at the posts of HS. Would YOU want to have anything to do with it if you had a choice?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Doug

      @kyzaadrao... Did you even read my post? At one point in our worlds history, people worshiped a god that says it was ok to stone people. In 2013, people worship a god that says it was ok to stone people. That completely goes against my morals. If you can provide evidence of his existence, then I would chose to not worship him on those grounds. I simply don't believe anyone when they try to sell me their brand of invisible sky daddy.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I can't take you seriously if you condone stoning.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • A simple and honest answer

      It's been alot of years, and alot of translations. There's always a possible misprint or two. I mean Krishna is probably not neon blue in real life.

      😉

      June 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      I don't pretend to have all the answers, although we also don't understand the times, which were more violent all the way around. I understand that the Bible says that God wanted to destroy mankind because their thoughts were filled with how to do evil all day long.

      I understand that Jesus said that the only reason God allowed divorce was because man asked for it out of the "hardness of their hearts" and that he wanted us to be able to work out our problems instead. Some things weren't Gods law, they were concessions for those who couldn't tolerate the better path.

      I understand that man was created with a dual nature and we're left here to take care of this planet and each other on our own, and it's what we do with it and how we treat each other the separates the concept of good and evil.

      But you've already stated you don't believe and you're not going to, so anything I could possibly say to you will be dismissed as a fiction.

      But I also believe that religion is corrupted by man and greatly abused and misinterpreted. To just lay down blanket statements and broad generalizations gets no where.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Nope. I won't worship gods that think "stoning" is a good idea. Good point.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Kyza, why are you convinced that man has a dual nature? Do you consider yourself as part of the universe or outside of it--as a separate ent.i.ty from it?

      June 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  12. marbles

    What I get from this is that the atheist have figured out what the other "churches" have figured out which is how profitable (tax free!) having a "church" can be. If you have a building and pass around a plate to collect money the person who is in charge which you can call by any name pastor,priest ect. profits from it in a big way. Don't get me wrong I do Believe in God but what I don't believe in is making some person rich for "spreading the word" doesn't sit well with me. I think that the tiding or giving of a percentage of your income should go directly to the community to help others and improve the world that we are blessed to be in. It's funny that a former "man of God" would be one of the ones to help push this in a Non God religion! It's a joke
    God Bless or peace be with the non-believers

    June 23, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  13. Bruce Allen

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am a life long atheist. I do not make that declaration in an attempt to provoke a negative response from anyone. I would only ask that the religious folks and the atheists come to some sort of agreement to respect each others civil rights. There is enough unrest in the world right now. The global economy still stinks. We don't need religious/atheist intolerance making things worse for all of us.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      31 states have child abuse religious exemption laws.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Bruce; Well you make a nice statement but the issue has always been how one defines 'civil rights'. E.g. Gays feel religions people are denying them their civil rights when they try to ban SSM. Religious people feel their civil rights are being denied by gays getting married. While I happen to side with the gay community here rights often conflict. When this occurs saying 'can't we all just get along' doesn't cut it.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Science

      Trolling for the devil still ?

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/20/archbishop-deposed-in-abuse-lawsuit/comment-page-1/#comment-2431157

      Creationist are you the generated ghost this new device has created ?

      Engineering 'Ghost' Objects: Breakthrough in Scattering Illusion

      Feb. 19, 2013 — A team at the NUS Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering led by Dr Qiu Cheng-Wei has come out with an optical device to "engineer" ghosts.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219090643.htm

      June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Evolution changes things.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Yep, it keeps you from doing anything useful while you waste time talking to a mythical being.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • CueBallSTL

      No one has ever died of Atheism. I would be willing to bet my life that when faced with a choice of either praying for something or personally taking control of the situation and making something happen, your success rate will be far, far greater with the latter approach.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheism,

      Speaking of not healthy for children and other living things, here's how God treated them:

      Genesis 7:21 “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings”

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

      I'm a firm believer that there would be far less cases of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in the world, if people did not internalize a conversation with themselves that they believe is with another consciousness. Prayer is the "devil".

      June 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  15. Understanding

    Why would this be important to the atheist community? There are statements here about it is not important to declare that you believe or non-believe So why gather? What is the purpose? Why promote 'being a better person"?. Where does the definition of being a better person come from, within the atheist community? What is a better person in the atheist community? It is facinating that even a community such as this would even want to create something like 'rituals'. Why would that even be important in such an enlightened group of people? Pagans in past centuries, had rituals, but were also very unknowing of the world around them. With the modern science we have today, we understand more of our world than ever, so these rituals from the past have no real place with that understanding. I also find it odd that Sunday would have any place in a group of people that have no connection to a traditional Sunday obligation. Why would this type of group NOT PICK Thursday? Sunday or Saturday has always had it's roots in an historical GOD faith such as Christianiaty or Judiasm. So, why Sunday? Is this just a matter of conveneice with work schedules? That sounds ok, but if I wanted to design a convenience I would not want to 'mess up' my weekend, and squeeze in my ritual somewhere else.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Did you ever wonder why "the golden rule" is common among so many religions. Christianity is by no means the first to come up with it. And, that's how we atheists determine how to be a better person. That and variants of the theme. Also, the Sunday thing isn't that hard to figure out. More people are off on Sunday than any other day. Duh.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  16. Terri

    This is lovely. Coming together as a community for the greater good of humans. Bypassing the ethereal spirits created by the human mind and focused on what is real.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  17. RellyMatter

    Does your conversion to atheism really matter after a 100 years? By then all those who read this article are probably dead already. If there is nothing after death, if a soul is not immortal, and if death is the end, then nothing really matter. All the good deeds you have done, the contributions you have made to the humanity, or the bad things you wish no one will ever find out will be simply vanished away after your death. You may say, "History will be the judge." I will ask,"What good about the judgement if you are not there to be judged?" So does it really matter if you convert to atheist? I will say it does matter if you feel good after the conversion. Does it really matter after 100 years? If atheism is right(there is no real way to prove it unless you realize there is nothing after you die), whether you convert to atheism doesn't really matter.

    Can you prove that there is nothing after death?

    I can't prove that a soul is immortal. Neither can you prove that it is not. By looking at dead body can only prove that the body is dead. What about the soul? Also if you are right, it there is nothing after death, it doesn't really matter what we believe right now.

    Does it really matter whose burden of proof is upon whom if there is nothing after death? Does this discussion even relevant after 100 years?

    June 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      In English please.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      No, please do not translate.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Gadflie

      That was one of the more pathetic versions of Pascal's wager I have ever seen. You should learn a bit about logic, it will help clear up the obvious problems with your thought process. For a fine start, look up "Negative Proof".

      June 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Marc

      My guess is, like most religious people, you believe in god because you want to go to heaven. But for many non-religious people, it's not about heaven, it's about the greater good for humanity, before and after they live a full life. You don't believe in that, do you?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • RellyMatter

      I can't prove that a soul is immortal. Neither can you prove that it is not. By looking at dead body can only prove that the body is dead. What about the soul? Also if you are right, it there is nothing after death, it doesn't really matter what we believe right now.

      Does it really matter whose burden of proof is upon whom if there is nothing after death? Does this discussion even relevant after 100 years?

      Can I prove that there is life after death? No I cannot. Can I prove that a soul is immortal and eternal? No I cannot. I just want to simply point out that IF THERE IS NO LIFE ATFER DEATH, WHAT WE DO HERE ON THIS EARTH DON'T MATTER AT ALL TO US.

      You may say, "It matters to our children. It helps mankind to achieve to his full potential by getting rid of religion. It's good to humanity and for the generations to come." Well whether I agree to such view points, it doesn't really matter after 100 years because I am not there to see it if there is no life after death.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Didn't look up "negative proof" yet, did you?

      June 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • RellyMatter

      Does it really matter whether it's positive or negative proof if there is nothing after death? 🙂

      June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      RellyMatter; It appears you believe it isn't worthwhile to assist others in this life. That ones actions should be driven by the selfish need to be judged well in what is called the afterlife. What a selfish POV.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Gadflie

      It matters because you aren't dead yet kid. And, even when you are, for most of us, memories of us survive.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Marc

      Of course it matters, unless you care only about yourself going to heaven.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      RellyMatter doesn't really matter.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • RellyMatter

      >RellyMatter; It appears you believe it isn't worthwhile to assist others in this life. That ones actions should be driven by the >selfish need to be judged well in what is called the afterlife. What a selfish POV.

      As an atheist, belief is not relevant. I simply point the fact that no matter we do in this life carry no consequences once this mortal body die.

      Do I not help other people? I enjoy helping those who are in need of help.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Bob dylan

      Everybody must get stoned...

      June 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  18. No way Atheists!!

    Atheists’ Fear in a Christian Nation:

    A common theme throughout all these examples of how atheists can be discriminated against is the fear atheists can experience at the prospect of others finding out about them. The consequence of Christians’ anti-atheist bigotry can be quite severe, so of course atheists will do all they can to avoid revealing the truth. This, of course, only serves to underscore the courage of those willing to come out of the closet to stand up for what’s right and against illegal behavior.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Obvious Troll is Obvious

      You're making yourself too obvious. You are ineffective.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Marc

      Your comments should leave no doubt why many believers become non-believers.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  19. myweightinwords

    It always takes me by surprise, when the subject is atheism, how many people really don't understand what atheism is.

    There seems to be a lot of posters who want to make atheism into some vast religious dogma. The only thing that all atheists have in common is their collective disbelief in a god or gods. They don't all believe that death is the end of everything. They don't all believe necessarily in evolution (though I'm betting most do). They aren't all liberal or democrat. They don't all support gay rights, marriage equality or reproductive choice.

    Most atheists that I know give to charity, do community service work, teach their children tolerance and obligation to community.

    And, believe it or not, everyone who isn't one of the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) is an atheist.

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

      The last sentence is obviously not true. There are several other religions that believe in a god or gods.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      That was a typo. My browser keeps hanging up and I didn't catch the mistype. Obviously that should be "is not an atheist".

      June 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • TalkingSnake

      Actually you had it right the first time. Everyone is an atheist about all of the other gods they don't believe in, including the thousands of deities who have been discarded onto the trash heap of history.
      People labeled "atheists" just go one god further – they don't believe in any god or gods.

      John Loftus poses an interesting way to think about this for believers called the "outsider test for faith". In essence, believers merely need to apply the same skepticism which they use to reject the claims of other religions to their own brand of religion.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  20. No way Atheists!!

    Atheists are Discriminated Against in the Media:

    When was the last time you saw an open atheist in the media — whether news media, movies, or television programs? It’s very rare, and often when we do see atheists they’re rarely portrayed as normal, well-adjusted people. Gay characters and individuals are far more visible than atheists, which is yet another example of how even gays are less despised in America than atheists.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Gadflie

      I watched "Bones" the other night. The lead character makes no bones about her atheism actually.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      In this age of openness there seems to be a sense of shyness or maybe just fearfulness among cultured pearls still on the half-shells. I believe in there being just one God with many sons and/or daughters who are as powerful as God and therefore gods in their own rights. Even the Gods face death and therefore they too are mortal. Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also [is] flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71
Advertisement
About this blog

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.