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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. Mick

    Atheism is not ONE thing – it comes in a million flavors. That's why I don't use the term to describe myself...if I'm filling out a form asking my religion, I put "None". So it's hard to see how an atheist church could last any length of time. It would be subject to the same forces of factionalism that affect any traditional church. Maybe more so...unlike a religion, we're dealing with people to whom you can't hand a list and say "Here's what you're to believe".

    January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • Uncle Albert

      Right !!!
      What you are dealing with is a bunch of people who believe what ever they want to believe.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        You mean exactly like christians and all their denominations? Have you ever noticed how a christian's god always agrees with them on every issue? How coincidental!!

        January 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
  2. magicpanties

    Sunday Assembly is officially doomed now; we've no need of another Unitarian wannabe.
    And I really dislike the idea of mimicking the silly services with things like sermons.

    There are plenty of atheist groups all over the country and I see no reason to "congregate" on Sundays like the organized fantasies do.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
    • stormsun

      You disapprove of atheists adopting elements of organized religion that they find appealing or attractive to others? Funny, since that is exactly what Christianity, in particular, did centuries ago. The early church founders coopted stories from other mythologies, and then took over the holidays of "pagans," including Christmas – or did you not know that Christ was not born in December according to religious scholars? Christmas was meant to displace the celebration of Winter Solstice, a popular time of festivities and social gathering in non-Christian lands. Christians have no monopoly on gather socially, nor having speakers present topics for reflection (sermons), nor the singing or performance of music, nor for that matter, espousing good moral values.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
  3. edwardst35

    The most beautiful woman in the world ever was and is, is St Mary. The most wonderful and honest man in the world ever was and is, is Jesus Christ. I really cannot find better role models to follow. I would rather not follow Satan because I feel he is a bit "tacky". To each his own. I am sure there will be some man or woman out there who will name their personal heroes as some NFL player or Madonna or some other talented creature who has a lot of money and no substance. That is called personal choice. Good luck to all. May the winner come out on top on the other side when we leave mother earth.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
    • magicpanties

      You may as well worship comic book heroes.
      It's all fiction, dude.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
    • tallulah13

      My heroes are my sisters. They are excellent people who worked hard to get where they are in life, and they are not shy about helping others. Also, they are not fictional characters.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • Michelle N.

      You "leave" Earth when it explodes in 14 billion years and your dust spreads out into the cosmos to form the next generation of planets. (hint * read a real book, not that TP rag from the bronze age filled with lies and foolishness)

      January 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      If you're so smitten with the beauty of "Saint" Mary, give us a few clues as to why. Her sparkling blue eyes? Her brilliant blond hair? Her 38" bust? The tiny little beauty spot just below her right eye? The gentle dimple in her chin? Pray tell, what EXACTLY do you find so beautiful about her? Since you claim direct personal knowledge, I figure you're just the one to satisfy our curiosity.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
    • doobzz

      "May the winner come out on top on the other side when we leave mother earth."

      What a sad way to live your life. I'm sure you'll be very happy standing around on a cloud, sipping champagne and listening to your mother, your sister, your child or your best friend scream in eternal torment. You'll be on top and the winner, and you'll feel very, very good about it, won't you?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
    • Ann

      "Mother Earth?" Isn't that a rather pagan concept? Whoops, you're doomed to hell for saying that. Sorry.

      God

      January 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
  4. ParticleMan

    They have the right to assemble. (So long as they keep the Queen's peace :P)
    They are attempting to find a way to make Atheism appeal to more people without negative implications of a name that has grown to be synonymous with the hateful and pompous. Seeing the number of soap box Christians who pass judgement in a public forum, I am not surprised that Atheism has this negative connotation.

    James 4:12
    "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?"

    See? Even this Agnostic can find the verse you need for this situation. (Thank you Internet! ... oh and King James of course) At least try to practice the teachings of the gospel you so fervently stand beside.

    ParticleMan 1:1

    January 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  5. Sarah M

    Cool!
    But not believing in the gods of Man is a wide ranging and diverse field of metaphysics. It would be difficult for everyone to get along with such a wide range of versions of what it means to not subscribe to any of Man's current god/heaven/soul/afterlife belief systems.

    Still, a step in the right direction to help get the world away from all the Gods silliness 🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
  6. Janus

    I believe in God, I just don't believe in people.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
  7. Christian7

    “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
    29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
    30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
    31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

    January 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      And your point?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
      • Christian7

        "warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment."

        January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I cannot respect a being who utilize a place of eternal torture like your god does. I find all such beings disgusting.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • JWT

          I agree completely Christian7. People should avoiid Philadelphia.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
        • Christian7

          Cpt. Obvious, That does not surprise me. That being is you. You are deciding against God. The absents of God is the uncovering of your dark evil heart. That is what will torment you.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          That made no sense at all, Chri7. I'm saying that my morality would not allow me to spend time in the company of a being who lets other people suffer for all eternity when he could end that suffering just as easily. My morals are so much better than your god's.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
    • Michelle

      Is that from the Koran? You do know that the Muslims have the One True God and not you, don't you? Allah beat Thor AND Odin in a grudge match after Yaweh defeated Ra and Tiamat trounced Ra. I had my money on Quetzltanango but Yaweh pulled some sneaky move and won (although he was red carded and sent to the hell he made so we really don't see him around much anymore)

      January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
      • John P. Tarver

        Jesus Christ is the ongoing spell of creation, there was never any doubt of the outcome.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • doobzz

          And he's coming back soon! Any day now....

          January 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
      • Christian7

        Allah is Satan who is a deceiver of many.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • Oola

          I am tolerant of Christians but I really don't like Christianity at all. Just seems evil and stupid (the evil comes from spreading lies about the true nature of existence)

          So if I am a good person but really quite...well....anti....Christ........does that make me Satan? Or am I simply a pawn of Satan, doing His work? I don't feel like the antichrist but since I detest Christianity (and any belief system that is false and silly) maybe I am the Devil? hmmmmm....

          January 5, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
  8. JP0

    If people feel a need to belong to something so they can go somewhere on Sunday mornings there's always the Unitarian Church. One of the better parts of being an atheist is not having to belong to an organized religion. It must be something in human nature that I'm missing.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      There is no shame in being spiritually impoverished.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
      • JP0

        I am a physicist. Spirituality doesn't enter into it.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          Einstein's Copenhagen Interpretation of 1935 says: "Quantum Mechanics and Relativity require a sentient being outside the universe to make the universe real." As an EE I have you beat hands down on wave theory, 'cause EE pays more and physics doesn't keep the best of the wave people.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
        • Christian7

          "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."– Isaac Newton

          January 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
        • JP0

          It seems odd that ones expertise in wave theory is relevant to the discussion, but your conclusion is based on unfounded assumptions. As for what other scientists believe, many public proclamations have been made to avoid being burned at the stake,e.g. Galileo. Whether the scientist quoted believed their public statements or not is irrelevant to my understanding of the universe. I can tell you it does not involve fairy tales.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
        • igaftr

          JPT
          Lying by misrepresnting what other people said does not further your cause.

          If Einstein used the word "god" he did not mean YOUR god, but rather the idea of a god or more that which we do not know as it concerns the universe I will refer to as god.

          you and many other christians like to misrepresent what Einstein said in this regard, but likely few understand what he meant, like they do not understand the rest of his work.
          He even spoke out against people like you.

          On 22 March 1954 Einstein received a letter from Joseph Dispentiere, an Italian immigrant who had worked as an experimental machinist in New Jersey. Dispentiere had declared himself an atheist and was disappointed by a news report which had cast Einstein as conventionally religious. Einstein replied on 24 March 1954:

          It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it

          Stop misrepresenting Einstein as if an opinion bolsters your argument. There is no evidence of any gods.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
  9. Evan

    If you're a Christian then you must believe every single word in that bible book thing. You must take every word as being perfectly true in a literal sense. Isn't your god perfect in your opinion? Yes? Okay, then is your bible the word of your perfect god? Yes? Okay, then every word of your perfect god must be perfect. So, therefore, you are an adult who believes there is an invisible man living in the sky. You believe in a talking snake. You believe a man lived in the belly of whale. There is NO getting out of it.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      There are two divergent versions of the holy bible in wide distribution and I have to believe you mean Islam in your rant.

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

        I believe he said nothing about Islam. I believe you can't read.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          Islam fights over the words in books, not Christians.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
        • Jonah Swallows

          LOL this guy doesn't know his own religion.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • doobzz

          "Islam fights over the words in books, not Christians."

          My goodness, you are a liar.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        There are actually MANY divergent versions of the Bible in circulation, and that's even after the early Christians did everything they could to burn and otherwise stamp out the ones they considered heretical. Even as it was, the committee that decided which candidate writings would or would not make the final cut — all of them "inspired" by the infallible deity, of course — only let a few of them in on narrow votes on the order of 55%. This is hardly the unanimity you'd expect if there really were an omniscient, omnipotent being directing the whole show but it's EXACTLY the result that regularly occurs from fallible, opinionated, often ignorant human beings, of whom it has been observed "a camel is a horse assembled by a committee".

        January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
    • are122

      If you believe the Bible then you also believe all things are possible with God. So why would anyone want to "get out of it?"

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

      OR, you can believe there was nothing, and that it suddenly exploded.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        I don't claim to know how or why the universe is or came to be, and I'm honest about that; however, I guess I could go the coward's way and claim that some big, invisible, undetectable sky wizard who thinks I'm important chanted magic spells for six days to make it all?

        January 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • Jonah Swallows

      Oh you didn't know? They can pick and choose what they want to believe and then mock others for not believing in Jeebus.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • EBH-NYC

      I suppose it's too much to ask from people like you to simply respect other people's faith systems rather than openly mocking them. Believe in what you want, but putting aside the whole issue of faith it is simply a repehensible personality aspect your types have that feel the compelling need to mock and villify those with opposing viewpoints. Do you do the same thing to people who happen to root for a different football team than yours?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
      • Jonah Swallows

        Since when did people tell others they were going to burn for an eternity because they root for a different team? Or when did politicians try to force laws upon women and what they could do with their bodies because they root for a different team?

        January 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        Faith is the world's all-time, gold-medal, blue-ribbon, undisputed world champion WORST method of making decisions ever, and it deserves all the scorn, mockery, and condemnation that we can possibly heap upon it. Nobody ever uses faith to arrive at conclusions about anything that matters — let alone anything that can be observed or tested for. Instead, it's responsible for such atrocious practices as religion, quackery, racism, jingoism, objectivism, astrology, etc. — each of which is founded on the unremittingly bad idea that you can "known" things without consulting either evidence or reason.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
    • Uncle Albert

      A Christian most certainly does NOT have to believe everything literally in whatever version of the bible he chooses to read. As a matter of fact, a Christian need not even read the Bible or have a familiarity with it.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
      • Observer

        Uncle Albert,

        Yes, for Christians, it's all pick-and-choose from the Bible.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
      • Jonah Swallows

        No, they can pick and choose and then use that against people trying to get married or have an abortion.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
    • cygnusryder

      You don't know much about true Christianity. No one can take the Bible literally, in a word for word manner. The New Testament clearly states that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but rather to fulfill it.

      There lies the issue with Christianity.... There is always a struggle of interpreting the Old Testament versus the New. And that is why the focus should be on the behavior and the teachings of Jesus and less on the mythological aspects.

      It would appear that you have more of an issue with Jewish teachings than those of Christianity.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • Kevin

      While I wouldn't have chosen your exact words, your point is right on. We laugh at Christians who refuse to see the fallacy and contradictions in a literal interpretation, of say, the King James Bible. But then that is what starts the slippery slope. If they admit that even a small portion of a Bible – I say "a" because there are hundreds of versions and translations – is invalid, then the open up the possibility that more or all of it is wrong. All I ask Christians to consider is that you are basing EVERYTHING on the belief that the writings later compiled to become the Bible were all written by the hand of God him/her self with no human error. To say that we don't believe has nothing to do with God or Jesus because God and/or Jesus had nothing to do with the Bible. We are saying that we don't believe in the HUMANS who wrote the texts. And there were many, many texts, many of which did not make their way into the final versions. Who decided what books would be included and which would not? The church did, by choosing writings which said that you had to go through the church to find salvation, and disregarding writings which said there were other ways; they did so by choosing writings which supported Jesus' physical resurrection and disregarding those which supported only a spiritual one. It isn't that we don't have faith in God. I don't have faith in the human beings who claimed to speak for God. Today, we know better than to listen to these people, so why are we so quick to latch on to the words of those who lived 1500 years ago?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
  10. sticky-armadillo

    Our answer to the Great Question is the only logical one. Our Science is great. Let us not forget the great Richard Dawkins who finally freed the world of religion long ago. Dawkins knew that logic and reason were the way of the future, but it wasn't until he met his beautiful wife that he learned using logic and reason isn't enough. You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn't think like you

    January 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • Christian7

      Why is Dawkins great?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • John P. Tarver

        Dawkin's inspires faith in racists.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
        • tallulah13

          And yet another liar for Jesus. It appears that some people think that the Ten Commandments don't apply when you are lying about atheists. If your god is real, I wonder if he would agree.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Dawkin's preaching Darwin's racism is hardly freedom and stopped being science in 1972.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        That which can be asserted without evidence can safely be ignored without regret.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          Darwin's work is the basis of English racism in Africa and the NAZI claim on the humanity of Jews. Dawkin's is just a modern extension of that fascist social political agenda.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I guess Darwin's ideas are more powerful in the mind than god's since Hitler thought he was a good christian doing god's work.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
    • EBH-NYC

      Your last sentence would be the perfect mission statement for the 'atheist church'.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • doobzz

        As opposed to the religious mission statement – "Believe as we do or burn in hell for eternity!".

        January 5, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh look. Another liar for Jesus.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
    • doobzz

      "You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn't think like you"

      Like telling them that they are going to burn in hell for all eternity because they don't think like you?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
    • hee hee

      Classy and pithy wit.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  11. hee hee

    It was only a matter of time before charismatic sociopaths discovered the atheist market.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
  12. jez

    This is ridiculous. I'm athiest and I feel absolutely no need go assemble with other athiests. If these guys want to go to church, then go there and try to get some faith. The stupidity of humans never fails to amaze me.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
  13. lared

    What they are doing is so coooooool.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
  14. elec_eel

    ok i got censored so here it goes again. i'm an atheist but an "atheists church" is the most hilarious thing i've heard.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      I think atheist churches make atheists more the fools, so I favor the notion.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
      • hee hee

        *Some* atheists.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
      • Mary

        Hi Tardo. Long time no see. Not long enough.

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

        well i'm pretty sure someone else have said it already in these comment pages that each atheist is a different denomination. so an "atheists church" is more like a babel tower (pun intended)

        January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
      • igaftr

        If you want an example of a real fool, find John P. Tarver on facebook...just check out his childish rants, his conspiracy theories and his favorite, making fun of peoples names (especially Obama) as if that is something clever. No kidding folks, check this guy out.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  15. Jimmy Moore

    Atheist church? The ultimate oxymoron. Speaking of morons, who cares about people too stupid not to believe in a god much less THE GOD?

    January 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • Edmonds

      RA?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There would be no atheists, and no other religions for that matter, if you could just prove that your god exists. But all these thousands of years and not a single shred of evidence. Perhaps you should concentrate on finding that evidence instead of mocking people who don't believe the same myth that you do.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • doobzz

      Yeah, just image – expecting evidence instead of blindly accepting whatever some preacher says!

      January 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jonah Swallows

      Too stupid? To believe a man was swallowed by a whale and lived? Too stupid to believe that an all knowing and loving god would allow such terrible things to happen to people? Too stupid to believe that just because a book written by men is THE book but that all other books are wrong even though they also were written by men?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Most atheists I know care about all of their fellow human beings, even the stupid ones, and even the ones who call people whom they've never met stupid.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
    • Norman Shrugged

      Zeus?

      January 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
  16. Dave Green

    As an atheist, I find atheist churches to be silly. They aren't really atheist churches,. Just like Christianity is a theistic religion, or better stated a theistic worldview, The common worldview of these particular atheists, are not necessarily the same as all atheists. Certainly not me.I have no desire to fellowship with people simply because they do or do not believe in a god. It's not that important to me. I would prefer they they decide what atheistic worldview they have and label it something then add to the already massive confusion concerning what is and is not an atheist.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      In an effort to help overcome whatever confusion may exist, I offer the same definition that most atheist organizations in the US go with: "An atheist is a person who does not believe in any gods."

      Note that this is subtly but importantly different from the version often quoted by religionists: "An atheist is a person who believes there are no gods." If this seems at first to be the same thing stated a different way, just consider the case of a newborn infant, who doesn't believe in ANYTHING yet. Under the first definition, the child is an atheist; under the 2nd, he or she is not.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
      • Dave Green

        But is that *really* the extent of their tenets? Because it seems to me many of them are not just people who do not believe in any gods, but people who believe that theism is something to be fought against. Anti-theists.

        I personally have no problem if people believe in gods.The meaning of life is to give life meaning. If that's the meaning they want to give it, I couldn't care less.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
        • G to the T

          I would agree it can reach the point of "anti-theism" but even then I think you'll find "anti-religiosity" is higher on the list.

          Personally, I just try to challenge people's assumption and misconceptions about science, the known history of the bible and whatever else I feel I may have input. Much like many christians, I see myself as a seeker of "Truth". In that search though I have begun to realize that there is very little "Truth" to be found and whole lot of "truths".

          January 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
  17. RichardSRussell

    "One Big Atheist Organization" is no more likely to succeed than "One Big Church" or "One Big Union".
    The old joke in the Army was that "one size fits all" really means "one size fits none".

    January 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
  18. Lonesome Cowboy

    What kind of church is it when it can't get along with its own members? Seems I is doomed for failure.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Probably the same kind of church the Catholics were running when Martin Luther came along.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • doobzz

      You mean like Quakers vs. Presbyterians, Lutherans vs. Methodists, Sunnis vs. Shiites or Catholics vs. Protestants?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
      • tallulah13

        I was just reading the history of the Stuart Kings of England. It's astonishing how many people were killed or imprisoned, and how many wars were started simply because protestants and catholics hate each other.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
  19. Jon

    The VERY first thing I thought of was the South Park episode with the Atheist Otters. They broke into different factions, even when there was no god to fight over.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • DaveYoung

      Key question – did they k i l l Kenny ? ( Those ba s t a r d s )

      January 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
  20. DaveYoung

    "Atheist church" = oxymoron

    "Gay marriage" = oxymoron

    January 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
    • CTexas

      Atheist church yes. Gay marriage not so much.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • alexb

      Compassionate Conservative = OXY MOR0N

      January 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
      • DaveYoung

        Liberal = oxidized brain matter

        January 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      An atheist church is a silly concept. But gay marriage is a civil right that most American believe should be supported.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:03 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.