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After a schism, a question: Can atheist churches last?
Sunday Assembly founders Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans have begun to franchise their "godless congregations."
January 4th, 2014
09:00 AM ET

After a schism, a question: Can atheist churches last?

By Katie Engelhart, special to CNN

LONDON (CNN) - The Sunday Assembly was riding high.

The world’s most voguish - though not its only - atheist church opened last year in London, to global attention and abundant acclaim.

So popular was the premise, so bright the promise, that soon the Sunday Assembly was ready to franchise, branching out into cities such as New York, Dublin and Melbourne.

“It’s a way to scale goodness,” declared Sanderson Jones, a standup comic and co-founder of The Sunday Assembly, which calls itself a “godless congregation.”

But nearly as quickly as the Assembly spread, it split, with New York City emerging as organized atheism’s Avignon.

In October, three former members of Sunday Assembly NYC announced the formation of a breakaway group called Godless Revival.

“The Sunday Assembly,” wrote Godless Revival founder Lee Moore in a scathing blog post, “has a problem with atheism.”

Moore alleges that, among other things, Jones advised the NYC group to “boycott the word atheism” and “not to have speakers from the atheist community.” It also wanted the New York branch to host Assembly services in a churchlike setting, instead of the Manhattan dive bar where it was launched.

Jones denies ordering the NYC chapter to do away with the word “atheism,” but acknowledges telling the group “not to cater solely to atheists.” He also said he advised them to leave the dive bar “where women wore bikinis,” in favor of a more family-friendly venue.

The squabbles led to a tiff and finally a schism between two factions within Sunday Assembly NYC. Jones reportedly told Moore that his faction was no longer welcome in the Sunday Assembly movement.

Moore promises that his group, Godless Revival, will be more firmly atheistic than the Sunday Assembly, which he now dismisses as “a humanistic cult.”

In a recent interview, Jones described the split as “very sad.” But, he added, “ultimately, it is for the benefit of the community. One day, I hope there will soon be communities for every different type of atheist, agnostic and humanist. We are only one flavor of ice cream, and one day we hope there'll be congregations for every godless palate."

Nevertheless, the New York schism raises critical questions about the Sunday Assembly. Namely: Can the atheist church model survive? Is disbelief enough to keep a Sunday gathering together?

Big-tent atheism

I attended my first service last April, when Sunday Assembly was still a rag-tag venture in East London.

The service was held in a crumbly, deconsecrated church and largely populated by white 20-somethings with long hair and baggy spring jackets (a group from which I hail.)

I wrote that the Assembly “had a wayward, whimsical feel. At a table by the door, ladies served homemade cakes and tea. The house band played Cat Stevens. Our ‘priest’ wore pink skinny jeans.”

I judged the effort to be “part quixotic hipster start-up, part Southern megachurch.”

The central idea was attractive enough. The Assembly described itself as a secular urban oasis, where atheists could enjoy the benefits of traditional church - the sense of community, the weekly sermon, the scheduled time for reflection, the community service opportunities, the ethos of self-improvement, the singing and the free food - without God. I liked the vibe and the slogan: “Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More.”

Shortly thereafter, Assembly services began bringing in hundreds of similarly warm-and-fuzzy nonbelievers. The wee East London church grew too small, and the Assembly moved to central London’s more elegant Conway Hall.

The Assembly drew criticism, to be sure—from atheists who fundamentally object to organized disbelief, from theists who resent the pillaging of their texts and traditions. But coverage was largely positive - and it was everywhere.

In September, a second wave of coverage peaked, with news that the Assembly was franchising: across England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the United States and Australia. That month, the founders launched a crowd-funding campaign that aims to raise $802,500. (As of mid-December, less than $56,000 had been raised.)

Still, prospective Sunday Assembly franchisers seemed exhilarated. Los Angeles chapter founder Ian Dodd enthused that he would “have a godless congregation in the city of angels.” In November, his inaugural Assembly drew more than 400 attendees.

But as the atheist church grew, it began to change—and to move away from its atheism.

“How atheist should our Assembly be?” wrote Jones in August. “The short answer to that is: not very.”

Pippa Evans, Assembly’s other co-founder, elaborated: “‘Atheist Church’ as a phrase has been good to us. It has got us publicity. But the term ‘atheist’ does hold negative connotations.”

Warm-and-fuzzy atheism gave way to not-quite atheism: or at least a very subdued, milquetoast nonbelief. Sunday services made much mention of “whizziness” and “wonder”—but rarely spoke of God’s nonexistence.

The newer, bigger Sunday Assembly now markets itself as a kind of atheist version of Unitarian Univeralism: irreligious, but still eager to include everyone.

In a way, this is a smart move. According to the 2012 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 20% of Americans have no religious affiliation, but just a fraction of those identify as atheists.

A godless congregation is likely to draw crowds if it appeals to what Herb Silverman, founder of the Secular Coalition for America, calls “big-tent” atheism, which includes “agnostics, humanists, secular humanists, freethinkers, nontheists, anti-theists, skeptics, rationalists, naturalists, materialists, ignostics, apatheists, and more.”

But atheists who wanted a firmly atheist church—a Sunday Assembly where categorical disbelief is discussed and celebrated—will not be satisfied.

As the Sunday Assembly downplays its atheism, it also appears increasingly churchlike.

Starting a Sunday Assembly chapter now involves a “Sunday Assembly Everywhere accreditation process,” which grants “the right to use all the Sunday Assembly materials, logos, positive vibe and goodwill.”

Aspiring Sunday Assembly founders must form legal entities and attend “training days in the UK,” sign the Sunday Assembly Charter and pass a three- to six-month peer review. Only then may formal accreditation be granted.

This is not an East London hipster hyper-localism anymore.

Selling swag and charisma

Organized atheism is not necessarily new. French Revolutionaries, for instance, were early atheist entrepreneurs.

In 1793, secularists famously seized the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to build a “Temple of Reason.” They decorated the church with busts of philosophers, built an altar to Reason, lit a torch of Truth - and brought in an actress to play Liberty.

A half-century later, French philosopher Auguste Comte drew acclaim for his “religion of humanity,” which imagined an army of secular sages ministering to secular souls. London has hosted formal atheist gatherings for almost as long.

History suggests, then, that there is nothing inherently anti-organization about atheism. As Assembly’s Sanderson Jones puts it, “things which are organized are not necessarily bad.”

To be sure, Sunday Assembly members in the United States say they've long wanted to join atheist congregations.

Ian Dodd, a 50-something camera operator in Los Angeles, had long been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church; he enjoyed it, but wanted something more explicitly irreligious.

Nicole Steeves of the Chicago chapter found herself yearning for a secular community—a “place to check in and think about things bigger than the day-to-day”—after having her first child.

But it is one thing to support an atheist "church" - where the ‘c’ is small and the effort is local - and another to back an atheist ‘Church’ that is global and centralized.

The former responds directly to the needs and fancies of its community. The latter assumes that its particular brand of disbelief is universally relevant—and worthy of trademark.

Centralized atheism also feeds hungrily on charisma, and Sanderson Jones, who resembles a tall, bearded messiah - and who, despite the SA recommendation that Assembly hosts should be regularly rotated, dominates each London service - provides ample fuel.

But it remains to be seen whether the Sunday Assembly’s diluted godlessness is meaty enough to sustain a flock.

“Because it is a godless congregation, we don’t have a doctrine to rely on,” explains Sunday Assembly Melbourne’s founder, “so we take reference from everything in the world.”

So far, Assembly sermonizers had included community workers, physicists, astronomers, wine writers, topless philanthropers, futurologists, happiness experts, video game enthusiasts, historians and even a vicar. The pulpit is open indeed.

My own misgivings are far less academic. I’m simply not getting what the Sunday Assembly promised. I’m not put off by the secular church model, but rather the prototype.

Take an October service in London, for example:

Instead of a thoughtful sermon, I got a five-minute Wikipedia-esque lecture on the history of particle physics.

Instead of receiving self-improvement nudges or engaging in conversation with strangers, I watched the founders fret (a lot) over technical glitches with the web streaming, talk about how hard they had worked to pull the service off, and try to sell me Sunday Assembly swag.

What’s more, instead of just hop, skipping and jumping over to a local venue, as I once did, I now had to brave the tube and traverse the city.

Back in New York, Lee Moore is gearing up for the launch of Godless Revival - but still speaks bitterly of his time with the Sunday Assembly network.

Over the telephone, I mused that the experience must have quashed any ambition he ever had to build a multinational atheist enterprise.

“Actually,” he admitted, “we do have expansion aims.”

Katie Engelhart is a London-based writer. Follow her at @katieengelhart or www.katieengelhart.com.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Faith • Houses of worship • Leaders

soundoff (4,535 Responses)
  1. rell87

    I don't understand them. Not having to go to church is one of the perks of Atheism.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
  2. fred

    You would think they would use some other term than 'church' or 'congregation' and gather on some other day than Sunday. And the guy in the picture is going for the Jesus look. Go figure.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • doobzz

      You mean the blond, blue eyed European look? LOL.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You're right. Jesus was no dummy. He took a look at the weather forecast, and he too donned a sturdy cable-knit sweater. It says so somewhere in the Gospel of John, can't quite remember where.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • 1hiflyer

      You're right why counterfeit something you're trying NOT to believe in.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
  3. Kjustthinking

    I'm wondering why this is "news". Christian churches experience schisms and separations on a regularly basis, so why is it a big deal that an atheist "church" experience the same issues? This was a waste of a news spot.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  4. justme

    Can the atheist schism be healed?? Yes, God willing.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
  5. 1hiflyer

    This is a joke. These guys can't even decide what they want to call themselves. When God is absent from the equation there is nothing but confusion because people want their own way and there is no leadership, it's just a major power struggle. Didn't think it would last long.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Interesting point about "confusion." Why do you think god allows so much confusion about his existence and will for humanity?

      Certainly he could have made himself as obvious as gravity and he could have made his will as discover-able as the rules of chemistry or math or physics, but instead he chooses to present himself as invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant; therefore, he allows all the confusion around the world and across the ages of time about his existence and will. Stupid god.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
      • 1hiflyer

        Cpt. Obvious we deal with invisible things all day and without thinking about it. We watch TV from invisible signals of various wavelengths. We breath invisible air (unless you live in L.A. or New York) We are warmed by invisible heat we are examined by invisible XRAY and Ultrasound and yet nobody has a problem with believing in them and the world, the universe our bodies are all evidence of God and people like you have an issue believing. Just our brains that control so many different automatic functions and store a lifetime of various types of sensory information, are you of the belief that it all came along by accident in a slim pit? It takes way more faith to believe that BS than it takes to believe God created it. Also the force of gravity that you speak of it also happens to be an INVISIBLE force.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      So, by your lights, God must have been absent from the 5000 different flavors of Christianity, who ALSO couldn't get their acts together on a standard story for what Christianity comprises. I think you're on to something here. God is indeed absent from human affairs, and you've just demonstrated it.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
    • doobzz

      Your god must have been really confused when it made the mud man with just one tube for both breathing and eating. Talk about bad engineering.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
      • 1hiflyer

        In case you did not know there is a separation between the esophagus leading to the stomach and the trachea that leads to the lungs. So there are TWO tubes.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
        • doobzz

          Um, yes I do know that. They have the same tube to access them. Hence, the danger of aspirating food or liquid into the lungs.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
    • Defenestrater

      Thankfully, when god has been present in the equation, there has never been confusion and no one has wanted their own way and there has never been any power struggles.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
  6. Cheatham

    South Park already did it.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • isaiah432013

      A 'godless revival'? ........believing in nothing.........what a scam....and a waste

      January 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
  7. Joe

    Er, isn't "Atheist Church" an oxymoron?

    January 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
  8. BB

    Is it not delightful that the four most influential Atheists in history are, in no particular order:

    Lenin
    Stalin
    Nietzsche?
    Mao Zedong

    Nietzsche: the philosophical godfather of Fascism.
    Lenin,: the creator of communism.
    Stalin: arch 20th century proponent of “humanistic principles”.
    Mao: atheist "purge master"

    The result of their “humanistic philosophy”?

    At LEAST 180 million dead in approximately 50 years.

    The death toll from the Crusades and Inquisition ???

    2.1 million over several hundred years.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
    • Observer

      BB,

      The Bible says that God torturously drowned EVERY pregnant woman, child, baby and fetus on the FACE OF THE EARTH.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
      • BB

        LOL...you mean you actually believe in the flood myth as literal fact???

        Too silly.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
        • One one

          He didn't say he believed it, he said the bible said it.

          Do YOU believe god created the universe by magic ?

          January 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
    • Damocles

      180M in 50 years? That's appalling. How many is your deity credited with mudering in 40 days and nights? What's that you say? The world?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • Damocles

        *sigh* murdering, durn it all.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Well, none of those four were able to slaughter the entire planet's worth of humans, babies, animals (kittens!!) in a global flood or establish and maintain a lake of eternal fiery torture to throw people into for all eternity for millions of humans, so your god has still got them all beat. Yay biblegod! He's the most disgusting azzhole of all!!

      January 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm sure that christians would have killed more if the population of the world had been higher. Imagine if the population of the New World had been like the population of Europe. Imagine how many more millions of indigenous people would have been murdered in the name of god when the Europeans arrived, instead of the 20 million estimated?

      In both cases, most people died because of politics or greed, not faith or lack their of. However, you can directly attribute things like the inquisition and the witch hunts and the wars between catholics and protestants to religion. Millions killed in the name of god. This you can't deny.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, heck, if you're going to engage in blatant stereotyping, why not just ascribe all those deaths — and hundreds of millions more — to men in general?

      I personally choose to find the most fault with mankind's biggest scourge, the killer of more humans than any other agent, the mosquito race. And yes, since mosquitos don't believe in any gods, they too are atheists. You're underselling your argument.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
      • BB

        I did not realize mosquitos placed the assertion of the folly of belief in their social philosophy and acted positively upon it by murdering people who disagreed with this philosophy.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • One one

      How does that prove that gods exist ?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • Steve

      It saddens me that some people think Crusades and Inquisition are part of Christianity. Those people were not following Christ's or God's laws, therefore they were heretics. So, it is easy to blame evil people who supposedly speak in the name of God, but in all sincerity the doctrine condemn these practices.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Your personal denial does not alter the fact that these atrocities were done directly in the name of your god.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
    • Defenestrater

      I wonder how many people would have died from the Crusades and the Inquisition if the crusaders and inquisitors had possessed the tools of the Industrial Revolution.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
  9. Philip L

    Goes to show you that the worst in human relations cannot solely be attributed to religion. One way or another humans find ways of purging those that do not agree with their views, religion (or lack there of) and philosophies. For those that think humanity would be better off without religion guess again. Without religion we would still be the same humans the only difference is everyone would sleep in on Sundays.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      And hey! Wouldn't that make us all better off?

      Tell ya what, let's try it for 2000 years so we've got a solid basis of comparison, and see which one we like better.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
    • Damocles

      Yes, humanity would be much better off without all those humans screwing it up.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
  10. Sean

    How can there be a rift amongst a group that, by definition, does not believe in anything? Losers.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
    • Philip L

      LOL!

      January 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      How stupid are you? Atheists have all sorts of beliefs; they just don't believe in any god since none of them are visible, detectable, or relevant.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • Doris

      LOL – you don't understand the very basics of atheism – try wikipedia for starters – then dig deeper.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You have an unusual definition. My dictionary says that atheists are people who don't believe in GODS. Yours says they don't believe in ANYTHING? What dictionary are you consulting?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
    • One one

      What a stupid statement. The only way a person would not believe in anything would be if they were dead. BTW, do you believe in Allah ?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  11. tabitoo

    I don't understand? If you believe in nothing then how does one utilize their time promoting nothingness. How does one have a passion for nothingness....? Just wondering. I mean if atheist are right and I'm wrong then after death I will have the relief of eternal nothingness, which sounds pretty good to me. So Win. Though if I'm right and get eternal life in Heaven then again Win for me. However if you the atheist is wrong then there'll be Hell to pay for eternity. So Win Win for me and ...Nothingness or Hell for you. The passion for my Christ seems the smarter choice to me. Just saying.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • Doris

      That's silly. Lack of belief in deities is quite different from "believing" in common goals that you may share with those in your community and/or with other atheists.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Damocles

      What is nearly every believers fascination with thinking atheism is a belief in nothing?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
      • tallulah13

        It's pure ignorance, and probably fear. Some believers can't even imagine a world where they are not the center of attention of an all-powerful being.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • One one

      Suppose Muslims are right and you are wrong ? Maybe you should double down on your bet and take up Islam also.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Doris

      And the part you left out to go with "If I'm right", is that, from what I hear, those that think this way seem intent on making everyone suffer in this life to get to their goal.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • One one

      Oh, there's plenty of things to talk about. For instance, It's one thing for people to believe a magic man killed himself to save us from his wrath of eternal torture after death, and that if you do not believe this, god will send you to hell to burn forever. But it's quite another to teach this to other people's children and use them to promote their religious enterprise by trying to put prayer, creationism, "one nation under god", and the ten commandments in schools and other public places. Addressing this problem would be a good start.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • Agravaine

      Atheists do not believe in nothing. Their belief is that there is no God. Nihilists believe in nothing.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      And if we're both wrong, and it's actually Osiris that we meet when we die, we're both screwed. Google Pascal's Wager.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
  12. bradmin

    what is an atheist church?

    January 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
  13. One one

    I shall now pray. Dear heavenly Father, I pray for you to bring harmony between Christians and atheists. Help me understand why godless trash, who deserve to burn in hell, are offended by those of us who are holy, pious, and obviously god’s favorite people.

    Help the unsaved filth understand that by judging and condemning them I am trying to save them from your self centered, vengeful, & vicious wrath, of which they deserve, AND I APPROVE, as long as they refuse to believe what I believe. Amen.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
    • bostontola

      rAmen.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
    • Sean

      What is that? The MSNBC creed?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • 1hiflyer

      Hope you are just being sarcastic in that prayer. That is not God's thinking about us at all. He surely does not think of us as unsaved filth if He sent His Son Jesus down here to save whoever is willing to receive the gift of salvation. And receiving salvation does not make anyone better than the rest of the population, because God has no favorites, He loves all of us unconditionally. Which is why He's waiting so long to end this world. To give everyone a chance to hear His Word and make their choice because it IS a choice.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        Poe's Law vindicated once again.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
      • One one

        Really ? Please explain the choices and consequences of the choices.

        January 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
        • 1hiflyer

          Sure, I can do that!
          Deuteronomy 30:19 God Speaking, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore CHOOSE life that both you and your descendants may have life.

          Proverbs 1:29 Because they hated knowledge and did not CHOOSE the fear(respect) of the Lord.

          Proverbs 12:26 The righteous should CHOOSE his friends carefully. For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

          Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. (Being offered to take something means you have a choice to get it or not.)

          Hebrews 5:9 And having been perfected, He (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Jesus). (Indicates that some will obey and some will not – CHOICE is made by us)

          If you get the YouVersion Bible app for your phone, you can put in the word CHOOSE and you will get lots of places that shows where God gives you the choice to believe or not to believe.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
      • Defenestrater

        If he loves us unconditionally, then why do we need to hear his word?

        January 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
        • 1hiflyer

          If you have a wife, girlfriend or someone you love don't you listen to what they have to say? If you don't they go away.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • Defenestrater

      Excellent!

      January 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
  14. about time

    sounds like a church.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  15. Ron

    Seems that Godless Revival is one atheist equivalent to fundamentalism. Most belief systems, religious or not, have their fundamentalists. There are Protestant fundamentalists, Catholic fundamentalists, Buddhist fundamentalists, scientist fundamentalists, political fundamentalists, liberal fundamentalists, conservative fundamentalists, etc. Apparently there is a terrible need to be "right."

    January 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • Science Works

      From the state that has a few fundies ?

      Courtesy photo) | American Atheists A billboard on Interstate 15 near the 3300 South exit shows a South Jordan family who announce "We're Atheists" in support of the American Atheists' national convention this April in Salt Lake City.
      Utahns grace Mormon-inspired ‘We’re Atheists’ billboard

      http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57343596-78/says-atheists-mormon-church.html.csp
      Religion » Northbound I-15 ad is a spinoff of “I’m a Mormon” campaign; mother of teen girl is “not very happy.”

      January 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
  16. brad1001

    Many atheists I have met try too hard to come across as intellectuals, and aren't any more intelligent than anyone else. That's laughable. This new movement hasn't the ability to plan an Easter egg hunt, much less organize. But they'll take your money. " The God I believe in isn't short on change, mister" .. Bono – Or in their case, the "Nothing". To think there isn't something greater than yourself is to be quite arrogant.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I believe that there are many things greater than myself; most things, actually. What I don't believe is that there is a supreme being that is watching my every move and word, and waiting for me to die so that "he" can reward me with eternal life in paradise if I just say I like him best, or punish me with eternal suffering if I don't. I leave that sort of self-important delusion to christians.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
  17. Bryan Moffitt

    CULT Test- It is about the leaders, not the deity. It sounds like we have a positive match here. Founded in a bar. Ladies in bikinis. It might be easier to put down the bottle and meet God. He is very loving.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I'm willing to give it a shot. Where does he hang out? And could you please supply me with a brief description so I'll be able to pick him out of the crowd?

      January 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
  18. Edward Webber

    The entire premise of this argument is baffling in how little thought was put into it.

    Atheist churches likely to fizzle out because they don't all agree?

    You mean how Christian churches fizzled out when over 4,000 different denominations were created?

    It's entirely expected, and healthy, for splintering to happen in atheism. Some people focus different aspects of reality. Some focus on politics, some scientific discovery, some education, others personal growth and betterment, still others on community service and altruism. One style of gathering cannot effectively cater to all of these things.

    Where religious denominations focus on how the other is wrong, atheist "denominations" can simply focus on different aspects of life and reality. No atheist church is going to say another is wrong about accepting evolution, but there will likely become conservative and liberal atheist churches at some point.

    Not every atheist is the same, and to expect everyone to agree to a single focus is absurd. To asset just because two people disagree the entire concept of organized gatherings is going to fall apart is even more absurd.

    January 5, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • bostontola

      Spot on.

      January 5, 2014 at 11:59 am |
    • iriedj

      ΜΘΣΝΔ

      January 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
    • Desiree

      Thank you! Couldn't have said it better myself. I absolutely love how the "holy" people on here are just bashing non-believers. Tell me, when did it become OK with "God" for you to run around and bully the people who you THINK are wrong about religion. Am I wrong or aren't we taught that God is the only one who should judge? What about the whole "Do unto others" thing? I am an Atheist but, that doesn't mean I don't have morals, feelings, compassion, and just want everyone to PEACEFULLY COEXIST. You believe what you want, and I'll go on to believe what I want. We have the right to peacefully gather with other like-minded individuals. As a matter-of-fact I am going to look into this "church" to see if there are any factions near me.

      Be safe out there!

      January 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
  19. jim

    Once again cnn shows there lack of worth.

    January 5, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • sam stone

      "there"?

      January 5, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • sybaris

      and yet Jim, you read it

      January 5, 2014 at 11:58 am |
    • bostontola

      You're right jim, we must stifle all speech different from ours.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Jim, sooner or later that guy holding the gun to your head and making you read CNN is gonna fall asleep. That's when you make your break for it. Just a word to the, uh, you.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
  20. Glenn

    Now, atheists can gather a sense of how people collectively can disagree to the point where, it splits them off into other factions. The same thing they have branded Christianity with. Interesting.

    January 5, 2014 at 11:55 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Atheists don't claim to have access (by way of the Holy Spirit) to ONE INDIVISIBLE "TRUTH." Chrisitans do.

      January 5, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • tallulah13

      The good Captain has it right. The single commonality among atheists is that we don't believe that god/gods exist. We don't claim to possess the "immutable word of god".

      Personally, I have no interest in these so-called churches. I don't need to gather with others to reinforce my disbelief in god.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
    • Steel On Target

      Again, someone who doesn't understand the definition of atheism.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:23 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.