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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. Dyslexic doG

    Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. – 1 Corinthians 14

    Know your place Christian women. Every word of the Bible must be obeyed right?

    What a joke!

    June 25, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods …do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.
    – Deut 13:7-12

    Get to work Christians. Every word of the Bible must be obeyed right?

    What a joke!

    June 25, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  3. krhodes

    .

    June 25, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  4. Derek

    Sadly, the humanists have to remind themselves that there is no God. They cannot define themselves without mention of God. Good without God, grateful without God -

    June 25, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Mayer

      And it’s almost too good to be real
      And while it’s hard to define the transcendence we feel
      I don’t believe in a great power to say thank you to
      But it won’t take away from my grat1tude

      Song 'grat1tude' – Seagal

      The song of grat1ttude is about grat1tude without God. It doesn't sound grateful it sounds sad that it is all going to end one day-

      June 25, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • The measure of a man

      All great humanists believed in GOD

      June 25, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Wendy

      The only thing "sad" about it is that people are still taking ancient superst.itions like God seriously in the 21st century.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      It needs to be put in a context that followers can comprehend .. I've noticed that most can't comprehend NOT following or worshiping something, it's simply beyond their psychological conditioning. Using the term god is the only way to get the point across to those who otherwise couldn't understand the point without it .. even though they will likely choose to continue to ignore it anyway.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Wendy

      The measure
      I think you're mixing up the capital "H" Humanism of the Renaissance with modern humanism, which has largely become secular humanism.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      Nonsense, Derek.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • myweightinwords

      I'm sure that during their weekly services you will hear no mention of god or gods. However, in an article like this, it is a differentiation that needs to be made to clarify who they are to those who do believe.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • catholic engineer

      Derek, they do this for the purpose of feeling big and strong in defiance of God. It makes them feel powerful. The weak feel strong fighting something that doesn't fight back. Little do they realize that free will to defy is a gift, and a gift that they abuse to showcase their childish, criminal hearts.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Saraswati

      "Sadly, the humanists have to remind themselves that there is no God. They cannot define themselves without mention of God. Good without God, grateful without God"

      Humanism was actually originally a religious concept and many religious people still consider themselves Humanists. However, secular humanists are simply laying out the premises for discussion when they mention god. If you want to have a discussion about secular ethics, you need to clarify that not only gods, but karma, qi and other supernatural concepts are not a part of the discussion, otherwise. you have no boundaries for shared discourse and may as well be debatingn how psychic powerscan save the earth.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Greg

      @catholic engineer
      God would have fought back big time back in the OT days. Maybe he really did die back the the 60s?

      June 25, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • tallulah13

      Our culture has been inundated with the concept of "god". Atheists are simply trying to educate you that everything you see as coming from god is really just part of the natural world. The "without god" part is for you, to help ease you into the reality that there is no proof that any god exists, that humans don't need gods to exist and be good and productive citizens.

      Also, the headline "church without god" was written by the author - a believer. The words are the interpretation of the situation made by a believer. None of the people written about used the word "church" to describe their meetings.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  5. Len

    You can say this is like an atheist church all you want, but until they start passing around the collection plate and handing out the envelopes of bigger "offerings" it won't really feel like church. 😆

    June 25, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  6. JMEF

    To all the Christian believers/apologists.
    Many of you keep telling non believers in the Christian myth to just read the word, the bible and see the light. So I have both read the bible and been bombarded by bible stories and religious doctrine for forty years and still have come to the conclusion that Christianity is a scam and I remain a Deist. But you may still be able to convince me for I have not read the fifty or more different versions of the bible or studied the thousands of different religious cults and their off shoots. I know the believers have faith in their cult and its teachings but what kind of a useless god could get his message so fvcked up that every snake oil salesman could profit from the scam? So tell me which of the fifty or more versions of the bible is the real word of god, none is the correct answer.

    June 25, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Science

      Morning JMEF

      Agree !

      Can the pope be good and say............. no fairy in the sky needed ?..............lmfao

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/22/pope-francis-atheists-can-be-good

      So does

      A Conversation with Richard Dawkins and John Huddlestun (College of Charleston...

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21NoQuKTB8Q&w=640&h=390]

      June 25, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Vic

      @JMEF "....."

      You have come along way already!!!

      Believing in God is the core!!!

      I am not going to sell you on the Bible itself (which I believe it could have scribal, translational and/or interpretational errors) but the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout my life quest for the Truth, I have found that the Lord Jesus Christ is the ONLY that makes sense to me.

      When I look at God (figuratively speaking,) I see how supreme & wonderful He is, and when I look at people, I see why we need a Savior!!!

      June 25, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Vic

      @JMEF "....."

      You have come a long way already!!!

      Believing in God is the core!!!

      I am not going to sell you on the Bible itself (which I believe it could have scribal, translational and/or interpretational errors) but the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout my life quest for the Truth, I have found that the Lord Jesus Christ is the ONLY that makes sense to me.

      When I look at God (figuratively speaking,) I see how supreme & wonderful He is, and when I look at people, I see why we need a Savior!!!

      June 25, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • JMEF

      Sorry Vic, I have already rejected the diverse beliefs of Christianity and Jesus Christ was just an itinerant preacher using the messiah gambit, like many others at the time, to hustle the sheepies. No supernatural BS stories are going to get me to buy into the delusion but enjoy it for yourself and quit trying to sell it to others. Many other religions, gods, philosophies to study but I will probably remain a Deist, it makes sense to me.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Science

      That's a good talk.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • tallulah13

      Funny, Vic, I look at people and I see why we need better education. You want someone to save you. I say we are capable of saving ourselves. You can save yourself, too. All you need to do is grow up and realize that you are responsible for your own actions, that this one life you get is precious, and this one planet we get is precious.

      Heck, some of the words attributed to Jesus are a good place for you to start. Just remove all the supernatural nonsense and you get things like, "turn the other cheek," or let he who is without sin cast the first stone". That's pretty solid stuff. But that eternal life thing? That's just a bribe, one that you can't even prove is real.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Science

      Secular Humanist from Ohio ............it came from link below ..........

      RDFRS: When Christians become a 'hated minority'

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/.../5/5/when-christians-become-a-hated-minority

      June 25, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Nathan

      Certainly no exaggeration there.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  7. Science

    Hey creationists...............Evolution wins hands down.

    Two Mutations Triggered an Evolutionary Leap 500 Million Years Ago

    June 24, 2013 — Evolution, it seems, sometimes jumps instead of crawls. A research team led by a University of Chicago scientist has discovered two key mutations that sparked a hormonal revolution 500 million years ago.

    June 25, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Science

      Oops

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130624152617.htm

      June 25, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  8. GOOD NEWS

    Atheism under One GOD, by Design!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    June 25, 2013 at 5:05 am |
    • Science

      Hey GOOD NEWS...................and meeting to share IDEAS..............o LIFE.

      Imagine no more STUPID comments from the pope !

      What a joke below !!!

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/22/pope-francis-atheists-can-be-good

      CarnegieInst-itution

      Life in the Universe: Just Add Water?

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqkYLWMhv8M&w=640&h=390]

      Imagine No Religion 3: Peter Boghossian

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orW1AstN7AI&w=640&h=390]

      Steve Martin – Atheists Don't Have No Songs (Live on Letterman 03-16-2011) [HD]

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wogta8alHiU&w=640&h=390]

      June 25, 2013 at 5:11 am |
    • Wendy

      GOOD NEWS
      My daughter designed a better-looking web site back in 1997, and she was seven at the time. Nothing screams "crackpot" like old, outdated web sites like yours.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  9. tallulah13

    I keep thinking he's talking about Don Zimmer. Zim would be a very benevolent god, until faced by Pedro Martinez.

    June 25, 2013 at 1:23 am |
  10. PeterVN

    Well, like one of my favorite blog quotes said,

    "Religion is for the ignorant, the gullible, the cowardly, and the stupid, and for those who would profit from them.".

    In this case, here's a chance to profit without having to put on the religious facade.Seriously, though, good to see religion being put aside. Great stuff.

    June 25, 2013 at 1:15 am |
  11. Len

    Erasmus
    Satan is a character in a book. Personally, I'd be more inclined to believe that Wile-E-Coyote actually exists, and be more frightened of him than this Satan guy. He's completely ridiculous, but Christians insist that he exists as a real being outside of this book. If that were true, however, he'd have to be pretty lame not to clue into the idea of reading Revelation and making alternative plans, but we're to believe that he will stupidly stick to script. Give me a break! 😆

    June 25, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  12. Observer

    Nice Try,

    Do you tell fellow believers that they must divorce and sin no more if they previously divorced and remarried? After all, Jesus said they are ADULTERERS? Any hypocrisy on your part?

    June 25, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  13. faith

    Nice Try, you devil you... the only way you can get people to believe in God is to scare the chit out of them. Nice try will we know where you are right now.

    June 25, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  14. Late Term Abortion?

    "14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17 And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19 But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead." 2 Samuel 12:14-19

    June 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    If God is powerful enough to create the universe, don't you think he'd have a more foolproof way of getting his exact message across to future generations than this endlessly translated, edited, confused, modified, twisted, corrupted book of stories that is changed by religious power brokers to suit each generation?

    Wouldn't god's word be carved on the moon, unchangeable and for all to see? Wouldn't it be spoken unchanged by a species of animal? Wouldn't it be written microscopically on every stone or every tree? Wouldn't there be some space age material that had god's voice recorded, uncorrupted over the centuries and there for everyone to hear.

    Wouldn't there be parts of God's word that reflect computers or artificial intelligence or DNA or modern medicine or future medicine or electricity or space travel to other parts of this amazing universe he created? Wouldn't there be talk of gender and race equality? Wouldn't there be talk of Asia and Australia and the Americas and Europe and Africa?

    Instead the bible is limited to horses and carts and herbs and grain and swords and shields and misogyny and racism and slavery all set in the deserts of the middle east. The Bible is so obviously a product of bronze age man, you must be in denial to even argue that it is the word of god. There may or may not be a god or gods, but this book of bronze age voodoo and oppression has nothing to do with him, her or them.

    And stop it with this "not the word of god but words inspired by god" cop out. That just means it was written by greedy, evil men who got their way by claiming that god told them to do something. That's a self serving scam that should be laughed, especially by anyone claiming to love an omnipotent god. That scam is an abomination!

    June 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Athy

      doG, you're challenging the intelligence of the religies. You gotta lead them to the truth a little more gradually.

      June 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      doG's post will definitely get the " Nothing to see here!' treatment by those that should read it the most.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • David

      "don't you think he'd have a more foolproof way of getting his exact message across to future generations" Of course not! He only wants the one's that can pass his tests, figure out the puzzle and worship the right him among the plethora of other options, and if we don't pick well he gets to torment us in some demented spirit version of "Saw" which we can only assume is televised throughout the spirit realm for without redemption from heII it would serve no purpose other than entertainment to the non-tortured.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • David

      ones...for the speedy grammar police...

      June 24, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Wonderful post! Dd.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Nice Try

      Dyslexic… God did exactly what he wanted, and he got what he wanted. And being dumb enough to question his motives or actions will only earn you a dedicated place in the lake of fire and brimstone…

      June 25, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Nice Try

      Dyslexic… For your info, it never was God's intentions to write the bible so that even devils could take advantage of it and make it into heaven. Instead, the entire bible was written in a "mystery", so that only those who were authorized to know what it means could understand it. And all the rest, although they may read the same bible we do, they wouldn't understand it and would continue on to hell. And that was God intentions from the beginning…

      June 25, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Observer

      Nice Try,

      Since you consider people to be "dumb" to question God's motives or actions, can we correctly determine that you believe in unicorns, talking animals, slavery, and discrimination against women and the handicapped?

      June 25, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • blah blah blah

      Hearing the same trite arguments against the validity the bible sure is boring.

      You first hear a logical coherent question and discussion, and then you're like...."well, ok this person wants to know some serious answers," and then its back loaded with all this nonsense about all christians being dumb, greedy, people who love abusing women and punching gays in the face, and then you're like "O, this person doesnt care to have a logical discussion at all, he just wants to find any opportunity possible to insult Christians." Maybe try googling the Apostle Paul and see how greedy, and senseless he was. With the very first sentence of his letter in Romans, I was convinced of the validity of the Bible.

      I have never come out of a face to face conversation with a seriously questioning agnostic/atheist and come out of it going like, "wow what a dummy i've been for believing in what i believe." To be fair, I don't think the atheist was shaken in what he believed in as well. More dialogue is definitely needed to gain ground in terms of mutual understanding and possibly the openness to understand Christanity from merely a cerebral viewpoint.

      So don't give your 1 paragraph rant on the internet about how the bible is dumb and think you're so high and mighty hiding behind your keyboard. Go grab coffee with someone you think you actually hate because he/she is a christian and maybe you'll learn something and even teach him something.

      June 25, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • Kate

      blah: been there done that. And frankly, Christians really are deluded and/or cowardly. The world is gradually moving on from religion and it's about time.

      June 25, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Joe

      blah blah bah: It's just that, well, Christians actually are very dumb.

      June 25, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • Athy

      Well, not dumb really. Below average for sure. But mostly just brainwashed and deluded. Can't think clearly. Cut them a little slack.

      June 25, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • Roger that

      Blah, Dyslexic doG is right on every point. At the end of the day, you have to admit that it's silly to claim the Bible is the infallible word of a god.

      June 25, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Doobs

      For your info, it never was God's intentions to write the bible so that even devils could take advantage of it and make it into heaven. Instead, the entire bible was written in a "mystery", so that only those who were authorized to know what it means could understand it. And all the rest, although they may read the same bible we do, they wouldn't understand it and would continue on to hell. And that was God intentions from the beginning…

      You must be so very special to be one of the chosen ones who can understand all the "mysteries" of the bible. You are one of the few who can read your god's mind and interpret it correctly.

      What you are saying is that your loving god wrote a book that only a chosen few can understand, but creates billions of humans who have no access to a bible or means of understanding it, and sends them to hell. What a wonderful god you serve, who creates humans for the purpose of torturing them so you can feel special and loved.

      Aren't you the lucky one to have been born in a literate culture with free access to whatever information you want. Too bad for the suckers born elsewhere.

      Bullshit.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Saraswati

      "it never was God's intentions to write the bible so that even devils could take advantage of it and make it into heaven. Instead, the entire bible was written in a "mystery", so that only those who were authorized to know what it means could understand it. And all the rest, although they may read the same bible we do, they wouldn't understand it and would continue on to hell. And that was God intentions from the beginning…"

      I have said here many times that I don't think you can by default say that religious views are delusional (at least not by DSM standards), but this kind of thinking is a great example of how they meet the standards quite often. The most notable aspect of the more delusion type of religiosity is the tendency to rewrite the story to defend against attacks to their fixated belief. I'm not saying some more fundamentalist (positive) atheists don't also do this, but the Christian examples are fascinating.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      blah
      Hearing the same trite arguments for the validity of the bible sure is boring.

      Especially considering that much of it has been disproven.

      June 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  16. Observer

    Colin,

    Like I told bootfunk, my comment was based on the usage of the word "abortion".

    Both you and bootyfunk made much better comments that I did. Thank you both.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  17. myweightinwords

    SHFO,

    Funny enough, most people who are a part of the Church of Satan also are atheists. Not all, obviously. And they do like their ritual and to hear the story, fancy costumes, nudity and the occasional sex romp.

    Now, a greater portion of them are also part of other alternative groups (BDSM, leather, fetish groups, biker groups, etc) than the average atheist is likely to be...but the "faith" is no more masochistic or solipsistic than any other.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  18. Secular Humanist from Ohio

    Thanks Bootyfunk! I had no idea I was a satan worshiper!

    June 24, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  19. myweightinwords

    Satan is a part of the Christian mythos. Many Christians seem to make him all but a god that they fear as much as the god they claim to serve.

    Those who do not believe in a god, Christian or otherwise, certainly do not believe in Satan. Thus, it is impossible for someone with is an atheist to "worship" Satan. Worship implies an active action. It is a verb. One must believe to worship.

    Likewise, those who have beliefs that are not Christian do not worship Satan, who is, to our way of thinking, a god of the Christian pantheon.

    The Christian penchant for labeling anyone who disagrees with them as Satan worshipers is merely another fear tool, used as a method for keeping people from learning about others and realizing that we aren't scary monsters.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Colin

      It's a bit like claiming those who do not believe inthe Wizard of Oz are therefore, by definition, worshippers of the Wicked Witch of the West.

      June 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      That is a very good analogy, Colin!

      June 24, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I can see that you are not masochistic, but I cannot drop the charge of solipsism.

      June 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        Why is it you think that?

        We've only exchanged a few words. You know very little about me.

        In point of fact, if we're talking about "bedroom games", I am a bit masochistic.

        The dictionary definition of solipsism is: "The view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist."

        I disagree a great deal. In many ways I am a humanist. I am also a theist, though not likely in the way you are familiar with. I believe strongly in the gift of service to others. I believe that this earth and all upon it are our responsibility.

        June 24, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      I have never understood how people could buy the whole devil thing myself. A demigod or angel depending on the sect, who openly rebels against a being of limitless power, knowing that he ll ultimately fail? Furthermore, that Omnipotent being tolerating such a situation? No.

      If God did exist, exactly as he is presented under the current dogmas, then Satan would be operating under God's orders...which would immediately throw God's benevolence out the window. Hence why the churches really doesn't want people asking questions.....Christianity crumbles against even the lightest scrutiny.....they all do....

      June 24, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      christians like to pretend there is only one god in their mythos. of course, there is the anti-god, satan. the son of god. the son of the anti-god. all sorts of archangels and archdevils. it has just as many gods/mythological beings as greek or norse mythology. they like to pretend it's a monotheistic religion, but it's obviously pantheistic.

      June 24, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        Hmmm...I think I'd go with polytheistic rather than pantheistic. One implies belief in multiple deities while the other implies a tolerance for all gods and their "worship".

        June 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      If you stretch your arm out away from your body and suppose that is the age of the earth (4.5 billion years), bacterial life dominates to the middle of your forearm. Dinosaurs do not exist until the middle of your palm. All of human history is contained on the tip of your middle finger and can be erased in the stroke of a nail file. Humans are but a breath of cosmic time and thinking that the universe exists just for us is the utmost solipsism. That supernatural forces are concerned about humanity in any way is highly improbable. The universe has no purpose and is not concerned with humanity.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        I don't necessarily disagree. What I believe is fairly complicated and not readily put into words with ease.

        I don't necessarily believe in anything "supernatural" because I believe that all that we can and have experienced is natural.

        I consider myself a theist, in that I believe that there is more to our world than we fully understand and in some language, we call those gods. In reality, my beliefs about deity are something between pantheism, panentheism and animism...and then again, sometimes nothing like any of them.

        We are a part of the universe, and thus the universe is a part of us. Our conscious time here is short. We should do our part to make it meaningful.

        June 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I will not disagree that we are a part of the universe. All the atoms in our bodies came from stars that exploded a long time ago, releasing the atoms that build our bodies.The statement that there is some theistic involvement is highly improbable and most likely untrue. Being part of the universe does not imply that there is purpose or meaning.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        The meaning or purpose of our lives has nothing to do with being a part of the universe, other than for those of us who find purpose and meaning in taking care of the universe around us and the people in it.

        I can't help but get the impression that you are imagining something very different than I believe when you use the words "theistic involvement".

        June 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I didn't mention that the universe is almost 14 billion years.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        Is it pertinent to the conversation to say that the universe is almost 14 billion years old?

        June 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Consider that humans have existed for 100,000 – 250,000 years, living in fear, dying because of or during childbirth, disease, famine, natural disasters, not living much past 20-25 years, reduced to as little as 20,000 members almost to the point of extinction, and then suddenly, a few thousand years ago, the gods said, "Oh dear! this will not do!" and decided to intervene. The gods must be incredibly uncaring and unconcerned about humanity.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        If that's your understanding of gods, then yes, I would describe them as uncaring and unconcerned.

        It isn't my understanding of gods. Gods are human creation, this is why each culture has gods that look like them, that forbid the things that culture fears, etc. They are tools through which we access what is Divine, the Universe itself if you like. They are how we understand that which we do not understand.

        I don't believe any of the stories we tell about gods are literally true. They are stories to help us learn, to help us understand things, to bridge the gaps between us.

        I don't expect anyone to believe as I do. I believe as I do from 45 years of living on this earth, studying, learning, experiencing things. My beliefs change as I do.

        I think this is a good thing.

        June 24, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      "Is it pertinent to the conversation to say that the universe is almost 14 billion years old?" Yes.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        How so?

        Have I said anything that would contradict that?

        June 24, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Then why call them gods instead of opinions?

      June 24, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        Because they represent something bigger than ourselves, a collective consciousness, an aspect of the Universe, of Divinity...and yes, I can believe that something like that exists.

        I have previously described my belief about those we call gods by saying: They are a mirror that reflects who we are to the Divine while at the same time reflecting something of the Divine back to us.

        I don't necessarily claim that the Divine/Universe is sentient. It is that from which we come, and that to which we will return.

        June 25, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Nice Try

      myweightinwords... Right now, Lucifer is in hell laughing himself silly at your ignorance. Enough said...

      June 25, 2013 at 12:05 am |
      • myweightinwords

        As I have said before, should I find myself before your god when it is all over, and discover the Christian faith (or whichever version of it) is true, I will stand by the life I have lived and if I am judged unworthy or anything but hell and torment, I will go gladly knowing that any god who would condemn me for nothing more than not believing is no god I would willingly worship.

        June 25, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • myweightinwords

      I have enjoyed the conversation, folks. Thank you.

      I must sign off now and head to bed however. I have to be up early for work tomorrow.

      June 25, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Unbelievable. How intellectually dishonest.

      June 25, 2013 at 12:17 am |
      • myweightinwords

        How is it intellectually dishonest?

        And really, belief isn't an intellectual exercise, is it? Belief can be affected by intellect, it can change as you grow and learn, but belief itself is based in experience more than intellect.

        I consider myself fairly intellectual. I study and explore new ideas, new thoughts...and old ones for that matter. I'm willing to say I don't know something...and have no need for anyone to believe what I believe. I come by it thoughtfully and with no fear in being proven wrong.

        June 25, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Nice Try

      meweightinwords… You are deceived. When you end up in hell, it won't be because you refused to believe. Instead, it is because you are a sinner and you refused to accept the Lord's help to come out of sin. And the wages of sin is death…

      June 25, 2013 at 12:20 am |
      • myweightinwords

        There is no refusal to believe. Belief isn't something you choose, it is something that comes from experience.

        My experience has led me to what I believe. And I don't believe in sin. It is a concept that has no meaning to me...thus I'm not refusing to come out of it (whatever that means).

        I do hope you find your way free of your fear, Nice Try.

        June 25, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      All that's going to happen to MWIW is becoming worm food.

      June 25, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • Observer

      Nice Try,

      Do you tell fellow believers that they must divorce and sin no more if they previously divorced and remarried?

      June 25, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  20. Bootyfunk

    agreed, secular

    but when christians hear atheist, they (comically) call you a satan worshiper. obviously if we don't believe in god, we can't believe in satan (a being created by god). it's a silly defensive mechanism to label anything non-christian as satanic.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:37 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.