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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. Rick

    Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me. everyone is a spirit clothed in flesh and the spirit never dies. Death is beng seperated from God. Spending an eternity in hell. The is no pleasure in of sin hell. Atheist and everyone else need God because everyone has sinned.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
    • tony

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25561810

      January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
      • Marilyn

        Good article, tony.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
    • a reasonable atheist

      Do you have any evidence that validates those claims?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
    • doobzz

      The idea of human sacrifice to appease an angry god for imagined transgressions is repellent to most educated people.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • tony

      If all the chineses fortune cookie sayings were collected and put ina single book, we could have a new great religion.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
    • Andy

      Ok Rick, you've done your job. Your selfish a** is now saved.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • Rick

      Everyone is heading to hell- Jesus is the ticket out Just ask him tor forgiveness from sins and to fill you with The Holy Spirit of God

      January 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
      • igaftr

        Rick
        You'll never get a prized view from Mt Olympus with an att!tude like that.

        Or

        Get into Valhalla if you don't die in glorious battle...

        OR

        Acheive enlightnement if you won't let go of your desires

        Or

        On and on, one baseless unfounded belief after another...yours is no different.

        My won't you be surprised when you face Quetzlcoatl...he is a most jealous god and does not appreciate you worshipping the wrong god.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
      • doobzz

        Why does your god require a human sacrifice to appease its anger? Why do you think human sacrifice is a good and holy thing? Why do Christians glory in bloodletting?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Again, this is the classic structure of every scam from 3-card monte to Dianetics to Bernie Madoff:
      (1) Invent some threat (whether it's hell or disease or poverty) and convince the mark that he's vulnerable.
      (2) Announce that you and you alone have the cure, and it's 100% guaranteed to work. No small denominations, please.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
    • Rick

      See evill spirits cast out at emmanuel. tv God is real and so is hell.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
      • Marilyn

        Lol...wut??

        January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  2. not an Athiest

    In other news, I'm starting a club for people who dont wear hats. Since most people don't wear hats, I expect it to be wildly successful.

    NO-HATS.ORG

    ...and for the record, I'm an athiest, not an Athiest.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
    • doobzz

      Or atheist.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        Maybe he/she wanted to be the most "athi."

        January 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
        • doobzz

          We have an Athy here, I think, so he/she would have to be more athi than Athy.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          Obviously. "I" precedes "Y" in the alphabet.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
  3. Colin

    In the posture of Christianity v. atheism, the question is a simple one. Either you believe that a being exists that is powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars and planets. This being then waits 13,720,000,000 years for the Earth to form and H.omo Sapiens to gradually evolve and then sends its "son" to Earth by impregnating a Greco-Roman Jewish virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself, then sacrifice himself to himself, to forgive the "original sin" of a couple we now all know never existed.

    Or you don't.

    I know where my money is......

    January 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
    • Me

      Or you're just ignorant and don't know what your talking about...

      January 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
      • Observer

        Me,

        Or you're just ignorant and haven't read a Bible.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
      • Tallus Rip

        Ignorant. Yeah, sure, cuz calling BS on a really tall tale that can't be proven in any way is being ignorant.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
    • Booker T. Whiteman

      But you sound a lot like a self-important nobody.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
      • Tallus Rip

        At what point in OPs ENTIRE COMMENT did he even mention himself being a superior being in any sense of the word? All he mentioned was the general synopsis of a crazy religion and the notion that you either believe it or you don't. There's nothing selfrighteous about suggesting you don't buy into the con.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • DK

      That about sums it up.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Hmmmm

    God willing

    January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
  5. Salaam

    Atheist = Idiot
    Atheism + Church = Oxymoron

    If it were not for Christianity, most of the world would be enslaved, illiterate, starving to death or already dead. You Atheist fool! Everything – and I mean everything, you enjoy and take for granted in life is the result of someone else's labor – primarily the labor of Christians over the past 2000. That includes the benefits of science, the arts, democracy/republic, education, hospitals, medicine, treatment of women, feeding the hungry, etc., etc., etc. And don't say anything about Christianity and wars, or slavery or native Americans, or science, the search for truth, kindness, generosity or anything else. Why? Because you, like the writer of this story, are an idiot. But you don't know that you are an idiot. When you speak, you talk about things for which you don't have a clue about, but you speak as if you are filled with wisdom and knowledge. Such is the life of an idiot.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      You should be more concerned with convincing people who don't agree with you. Calling people "idiot" isn't the best sales tactic.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
    • Lisa

      Are you a person of faith? And, if so, is this what you credit for learning to respect others, show kindness, and leadership?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Fon

      LOL!

      ...don't worry, when you die, you will ascend to Heaven and meet your god(s) and have a fun party with love and life and happiness for trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of years!

      Good boy!

      January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • ME II

      "Because you, like the writer of this story, are an idiot."

      Ever hear of an ad hominem argument?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
    • Observer

      Salaam,

      The Bible supports;

      slavery
      beating children with rods
      selling daughters into slavery
      discrimination against women
      discrimination against the handicapped, etc.

      READ ONE instead of looking so IGNORANT by calling others "idiots".

      January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
      • Salaam

        You are only repeating propaganda. Go study the Bible and find out what it really teaches about these topics. Stop repeating what you've heard on TV or the Movies or School. If you are interested in truth you could google and get accurate responses to these mis-characterizations. But I feel that you prefer to live in ignorance regarding Christianity.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
        • Observer

          Salaam,

          Speaking of ignorance, I said exactly what the Bible says.

          Please read a Bible SOMEDAY so you'll have a clue what it says.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          You believe his claim is false? Then give us you examples of why

          January 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

          So this doesn't say it's ok to buy slaves then?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
        • igaftr

          Salaam
          "You are only repeating propaganda. Go study the Bible"

          Oh the irony.....claim someone else is spreading propoganda so you refer them to the biggest book of propoganda ever written....

          January 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
      • Ann

        Don't forget about all the animal cruelty. Let's see; I had an impure thought today. Am I supposed to twist off the head of a pigeon for that, or two turtles? Do I wave the dead animal around before or after I set it on fire? I'd better check Leviticus. Hmm, nope, the two turtles are for childbirth. Whoops, forgot about sprinkling blood all over the place ... this is complicated ... !

        January 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • Marilyn

      Oooh. Such wisdom.

      Lmfao.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Salaam you are idiot.
      There see how easy that was.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
    • chipndale

      It appears you view yourself as an authority. The truth is that religion has shied away from science unless it suits their purpose.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

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

      January 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Of course, your comment is entirely conjecture because we'll never know what might have happened if christians hadn't spent most of their history wiping out other belief systems and cultures.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
    • Atheism is a Positive mindset

      Let us not forget the Dark Ages. For nearly 1,000 years, the Christian Church encouraged illiteracy, denied scientific discovery, and manipulated politics in order to maintain their wealth and power. It was the influence of Muslims and the ancient Greeks (Pagans) that brought back science, mathematics (as a study), and literature. Even still, the Catholic church burned 'heretics' who questioned their dogma and purposely hid the text of the Bible from its followers in order to continue to rob and manipulate them. When Luther finally called the Church out on this, he was condemned by the Church. Yet, these new Protestants continued the same practices as the Catholics. When the peasants rebelled under the umbrella of Luther's theological tenets, he not only abandoned them he ordered their destruction. His new religion grew for the simple fact that it allowed local German princes to maintain the power once held by the Catholic Church. In the end, Many of the advancements you celebrate as Christian happened in spite of Christianity and not because of it.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        hear, hear

        There were many Hypatia's and Bruno's who might have lived and brought understanding to the world faster if it were not for their being murdered by zealots for daring to question conventional views. Ubi dubium ibi libertas.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
  6. downhere53

    The term "atheist church" is nothing short of an oxymoron....

    January 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
    • Graeme from Ottawa

      agreed. Atheists are smarter than that.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
  7. Vic

    I find it testimonial that regardless of all the divisions within Christianity, that so many different churches stay afloat, that Belief/Faith in God is what matters to Him, and not doctrine.

    Taking God out of church is like taking the life out of the body.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
    • ME II

      I guess that testimonial works just as well for all the none Christian churches, correct?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
      • ME II

        ^ non-Christian

        January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
      • Vic

        You missed the point, God is what keeps church alive!

        January 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • chipndale

          Actually church means place of worship. Atheist worship life itself. So, if you remove the religious slant, church is pretty generic.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          Really, to me it always seemed like the offering basket and the trusting people who filled it.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • ME II

          @Vic,
          You missed the point. If your God keeps your church alive, then who's keeping all the non-Christian churches alive? Non-Christian Gods?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • fg

      which god? or gods?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
      • Vic

        I believe it is God the Father, Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • DarqueSide

      Why would a supreme being care whether you believe or not? Do you care if ants 'believe' in your existence? If there is a supreme being, he/she/it would have less in common with us than we do with ants. Ants at least share a common planet and carbon-based existence. What do we have in common with an omnipotent being capable of creating EVERYTHING in the universe? Why would he/she/it care more about us than about ants? None of this makes any sense.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
  8. Lauriloo

    I'm an atheist and think this is silly. You know what you call a group of atheists? A club. Go bowling. Do some charity work. Make a big dinner. As soon as you start to over organize someone wants to be the supreme leader and then you start having rules on how to behave and what you all are supposed to stand for and all of a sudden you are as bad as the bad religions you were trying to be better than. Just proves it's really hard to overcome human's strong impulse to travel in packs and break up into teams that compete with other teams. I prefer to just live and be a decent person as much as I can.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      CNN is just fvcking with its readers. A Unitarian Universalist Church is NOT an "atheist church." A few seconds of research will clear up the matter for you.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
      • Saraswati

        They didn't call it atheist, but "irreligious" and then went on to say how a devout atheist was not comfortable there.

        While "irreligious" may not be a term most UUs would use, their non-credal approach amounts to the same thing for many. Whiich is not, of course, to say the church doesn't have a set of principles, which of course they do.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  9. David

    To my knowledge, Houston Texas has two atheist "churches", one HCOF (Houston Church of Freethought) has been around for 10 years. It's modeled on the North Texas Church of Forethought in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The other Houston Atheist church is called Houston Oasis. Additionally, there is the Houston Atheist Meetup, while not modeled on a church, it has regular gatherings of Houston non-believers. I don't know what's so special about this London group.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Agreed. Various groups of people who don't believe in god have met for thousands of years. CNN has played this up multiple times as though it's something new. They must be counting on fairly widespread ignorance in the general populace.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
  10. Uncle Albert

    am just curious as to why atheists (a group which simply "lacks belief" in god), spend so much time posting and ridiculing others on a CNN blog dedicated to those who do believe in god???

    You have your gay bars. We have our churches. Get your own blog. And get a life. You atheist losers spend way too much time trolling and trying to validate your meaningless lives.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
    • hee hee

      How did you know that all atheists are gay? I wish no one had discovered that, because it really allows the religious right to oversimplify.

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

      Uncle Albert,

      You say Christians don't need to read the Bible and the results are obvious.

      That's why so many of them are world-class HYPOCRITES. They choose verses to pick on gays, while IGNORING the more important Golden Rule.

      They PRETEND the Bible ever mentions abortion.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
      • Uncle Albert

        I am not a Christian.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
        • Mary

          You are, however, a hypocrite who calls others out whilst displaying the same behavior.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
    • Mary

      Hey, genius, did you happen to notice that this article is about atheists, and you're doing a fair amount of ridiculing yourself? And how lovely of you to conflate atheism with gay. Trying to tell us something?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Freedom of speech is defended by the First Amendment of the Constitution - the same Amendment which protects our right to believe or not believe as we choose.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
      • BIll

        Well stated....If you want yo believe in the supernatural that is your right, and it is my right to disagree.....Freedom of religion can not exist without freedom from religion.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
    • David

      Because religion is being forced upon everyone. Religion pushes people to pray at every opportunity, in schools, at sports events, government meetings... etc. Religion tries to conform others to their point of view at every opportunity. Religions go around knocking on doors spreading their mind virus. All supernatural is fiction. You need to understand that fact.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • Lisa

      Irony much Uncle Albert? LOL.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • OhioMario

      Way to delve into stereotypes, Uncle Albert. Try to educate yourself, make some agnostic or atheist friends and acquaintances, treat them with respect and you'll get the same treatment. If you happen to read a trolling comment posted by a religion-dissing atheist, and you respond in kind, how are you, the religious person (Christian, Muslim, etc.) different from someone with no religious beliefs?

      Don't you have the golden rule? Live it.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • igaftr

      Unk Al

      First...saying I lack belief in any god is like saying I lack cancer.

      Secondly...it is a belief blog. not a preach to the choir blog. I believe many, many things, and here is a chance for me to come to express some of those beliefs. Too bad for you that I enjoy my right to free speech, and that CNN gives a platform.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
    • Cascade

      I agree. Atheists need to find something better to do than always trying to bash others.

      An atheist "church" is like a children's daycare with a bar. It doesn't make sense. They do it simply to spite and mainly because they have nothing better to do. Sadly, many atheists are full of hate, even though not all. Makes one wonder how hateful someone can be with no morals. Hitler, Stalin, Mao anyone?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Does it please your god when you lie about atheists? Does he tell you it's okay for you to break his commandments, just as long as you are demonizing people who don't believe exactly what you do? Or do you think your god is so stupid that he won't realize that you are bearing false witness?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Something on the order of 20% of the American public does not subscribe to any organized religion. Of that number, perhaps 3% overtly describe themselves as atheists, and another 6% as agnostics. And you seem to think that ALL of them are showing up here, eh? Well, that's about as solid a grasp on reality as one would expect from you.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
    • One one

      You assume all atheists are gay ? Your a bigot.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  11. Atheism is a Positive mindset

    As a born again athiest, I feel no need to go to church, but I understand why some might. I moved to East Tennessee in middle school and quickly came to question the church and religion in general. I discovered that most the people at my new church were jerks. I realized that a belief in a god does not make you a good person and the belief that there is no god does not make you a bad person. There were and are good Christians as well as bad. There are and were good atheists as well as bad. I discovered that morality and religion were separate things. Wow, the brain washing I had received since I was old enough to crawl had been shattered. So, I decided to be a good atheist. In high school, I realized that if I wanted to spend time with my peers I needed to do so from church. I joined a church and whole heartedly tried Christianity again. My social life greatly improved. I began reading the Bible on a nightly basis and going to Bible study multiple times a week. These Christians were much nicer, but as I read more and more of the Bible I realized why I didn't believe in (nor agree with) it. In college, I was able to find a social community outside of a church youth group. The opposite happened to my nephew. He had always been a smart, but awkward student. He had several great discussions with me about what he felt was ridiculous about religion. I just sat and listened as it was not my place to shape his beliefs. He proclaimed his atheism. In college, he got pulled into a slick, well-planned, hip church group with a ready-made cadre of friends. Like me, he gave up his convictions for the social life that the church offers. I have no problem with the Christian church offering this, but why can't athiests offer the same? I didn't need the fellowship to believe in what I felt was right and in the end I hope my nephew won't either. I am also confident that as he moves to the next phase of his life, he'll return to his natural state. Nevertheless, if a movement like this sprouts that gives people that same sense of fellowship without the religious dogma I cannot argue against it. I think everybody deserves a chance for fellowship regardless in their believe in a deity.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
    • Phil

      Sorry, but if atheism is truly nothing more than "lack of belief", it is, by definition, a negative mindset.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Do you have a negative mindset because you disbelieve in unicorns and Santa?

        January 5, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • Uncle Albert

          As far as Santa and unicorns, yes.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
      • Lauriloo

        Somebody flunked basic math. Zero is not negative.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
      • tallulah13

        What a silly notion, Phil.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
      • OhioMario

        You need to check a dictionary for the definition of the word “definition.” Let's say you lack the belief about Chinese dragons as benefactors (simply because you didn't know or because you weren't born Chinese). Does that make you automatically a person with a negative mindset?

        One thing is to prefer a football team, a political party or an art movement and be passionate about it. We need not be fanatics about it, as if we are right and everybody else who doesn't share our passion is wrong.

        You have a religion, good for you. Does it make you happy and contented? That's fine by me, an atheist. You don't need my approval or agreement to earn my respect anymore than I need yours. Is that good enough for you?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        Right! A negative mindset. Thus just as reprehensible as being an abolitionist, teetotaler, non-smoker, pedestrian, vegetarian, undergraduate, illiterate, newbie, virgin, bachelor, non-swimmer, landlubber, deaf-mute, snow bunny, apolitical, gentile, foreigner, stoic, dyslexic, or amnesiac — negative descriptors all.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
      • Atheism is a Positive mindset

        Christianity – Do the right thing because God is watching. If you do the wrong thing you go to Hell.
        Atheism – Do the right thing because it is right.
        Christianity – People who think differently than me are going to Hell and will suffer while people who are like me will live in luxury in Heaven.
        Atheism – We have this time on Earth and are all destined to the same fate. Live life knowing that we are all equals and treat each other in that fashion.

        I know which sounds more positive to me.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Nice!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
        • Mark

          You are misguided in your understanding of Christianity. The true Christian does not do what is right because he/she thinks God is watching. The Christian tries to do what is right or good out of obedience and submission to God.

          Also, a true Christian does not believe that anyone who is not like him (or her) will go to Hell. Trust me...you don't want to be like me. I am a sinner just like you. I have no inherent advantage to getting to heaven on my own. The true Christian believes that whoever has not put his or her faith and hope in Christ will be judged by God.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
      • Malex

        Sorry, but theism (believe in a particular god or you will burn for eternity in hell) is, by definition, a negative mindset.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I have a friend who spent most of his life as an evangelical missionary. A few years ago, he rethought his faith and was forced to conclude that he no longer believed. He doesn't miss the faith, but he misses the fellowship, so he has joined a humanist group that satisfies his need for like minded company.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Cascade

      Sadly, many atheists are filled with hate.

      I guess atheism and having virtually no morals is as positive as Hitler, Stalin and Mao, who didn't have a shred of belief in anything but their twisted views and actually outlawed religion.

      Last time I checked real Christians (not cults, scientology, or extreme versions who give Christianity a bad name), Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and many other religions preach peace and love for one another.

      Only angry atheists filled with hate see a problem with this.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
      • Atheism is a Positive mindset

        Sure, many atheist have hate. So do many, many Christians.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
      • Atheism is a Positive mindset

        I do see Christianity as a cult. It's only a cult that was started 2,000 years ago so most believe it is not a cult. But here is where you and I differ. I am OK with your belief in a deity. I really am. Just keep it to yourself. Stop postalizing. Stop trying to insert your belief in laws, government, and educational systems. When I can live my life without being influenced by your religion, I'll stop pointing out its fallacies and dangerous dogma. Until then, stop complaining that we're doing what you have been doing for thousands of years – exerting our influence and standing up for ourselves.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
        • Mark

          I believe you mean "proselytizing." Here's the problem. Christ's last command to His followers can be found in Matthew 28:19 – 20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...." Christians are commanded to proselytize by Christ Himself and by Holy Scripture.

          We have a right to freedom of religion. You do not have a right to never feel uncomfortable or to never feel offended or the right to be free FROM religion. As a Christian, I am often uncomfortable or offended by the acts and behaviors of non-Christians and am often exposed to the "religion" of atheists or believers of other religions. I simply "suck it up." In other words, I am simply tolerant, respectful, and polite to others and do my best to "tune-out" with what I don't agree with.

          If we were to live in a world where people could never do something that might offend or make someone else feel uncomfortable, then what ever could be done???

          January 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
        • Dandintac

          So, you say I don't have the right to be free FROM religion? I'm to be forced to choose? Who is going to make me choose Mark–you? And which religion and I going to be forced into, and who decides that?

          Freedom OF religion, must include freedom FROM as part of the deal. Otherwise there can be no freedom OF.

          So you can practice YOUR religion all you want. I won't try to stop you–I will try to stop you from forcing your religion on to other people. Part of that is telling people what kind of BC they can and cannot use.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm |
      • Dandintac

        "Sadly, many atheists are filled with hate."

        Cascade–who is filled with hate here? Judging from your comment, I'd have to say you fit this description. Your entire comment is positively dripping with hatred and acid contempt.

        You need to stop and take a good hard look in the mirror. Start with yourself.

        Thanks

        January 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
  12. Salero21

    Clown ought to stick to being clowns. 😀 Is a natural for them!

    January 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You are certainly an expert on being a clown.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Valerie

    I have to ask….what on earth do atheists needs with a church? Seems an oxymoron to me!

    January 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Read the article. It explains what they do in those "churches" and why they appeal to some people.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Your question would have been better phrased had you written "SOME atheists" instead of assuming that all atheists feel they need a church, because the latter is clearly not true. The largest group of atheists in the world are about a billion Chinese, and they generally don't have much truck with churches of any kind.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
    • Matthew Grant

      Because to contrary belief, atheist are just people like you and thus, enjoy having a sense of community. After all we are just human beings like your mom, father, sons and daughters. There are people who goes to church who does not believe in God but rather they go because they want to socialize. Isn't one of your reason for going is to feel a sense of community?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
  14. Atheism IS a Religion

    Anyone else find it hilarious that those who started out anti-religious are now creating and following their own religion?

    Hypocrirony much?

    January 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • hee hee

      Yes, millions of people are hypocritical because of the actions of a few people.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
      • Atheism IS a Religion

        Welcome to the world of the believer!

        January 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
        • hee hee

          You're right. Since there are no widely-held religious beliefs that I disagree with, I must be committing a logical fallacy whenever I criticize them.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      What are the doctrinal beliefs of atheism that make it a religion?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
      • Atheism IS a Religion

        Ask these dolts from the article who cannot agree on the best way to not believe in God.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Already did that; they sent me an email. Can you answer my question, now?

          January 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
        • RichardSRussell

          No, the people mentioned in the article do not claim that atheism is a religion. They claim that atheISTs can form social groups the same way that religionists do, and for much the same reasons.

          Literate people are capable of comprehending this, because they're able to read what the article actually says.

          January 5, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • One one

          With 35,000 denominations, it seems Christians can't agree on the best way to believe in god.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • Atheism IS a Religion

          You'd think someone with the name Capt Obvious would be able to discern obvious parallels when looking at a religious church and an atheist one. If atheism is simply the absence of belief in God, then why gather like a religious group at a "CHURCH" like setting? And one claims I have a lack of reading comprehension. Too funny and even more ironic.

          Listen, to each their own, I am not recruiting people to subscribe to my way of thinking, I just find Atheism itself to be completely hypocritical. I understand being agnostic and saying you see no proof of God, and admitting a Creator is indeed possible and likely the best explanation even science has for our origins. But, to criticize believers on the premise there is no proof of God / a Creator, then to say you're absolutely sure there isn't a chance of it, is hypocrisy at its definition.

          I challenge atheists to study topics like NDE's and to read books by FORMER atheists and what changed their minds.

          Good luck. God Bless!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          So, you're not going to answer the question?? 😦

          January 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          You seem to not understand the definition of atheism or are willfully misrepresenting it.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • One one

      Nonsense. Atheism existed before religion, and it will exist after any particular religion, or all religions disappear. It is the default condition in the absence of religion. Name one religion that has those characteristics.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
      • Uncle Albert

        There is not a single shred of anthropological evidence of a H. Sapiens society which existed without some form of religion, however primitive the conception.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • One one

          What evidence would be needed to demonstrate non-belief in gods ?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
        • Booker T. Whteman

          The know it all militant atheists have SO much in common with the religious right it is hilarious.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Someone had to invent the first god so there had to be atheism before the first god

          January 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
      • OhioMario

        Yup. Every human being is born without a religion or belief, or a sense of culture. Our “factory setting” is nonbelief. Pretty darn amazing, wouldn't you say?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • Phil

          evidence of a human culture lacking religion???
          Got any???
          Nope...

          January 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          God belief/myth has to be taught. Obviously. People tend to believe the god-myth of the culture in which they were raised. 99.999% of the religious kooks would still be religious kooks if they were raised in another culture, it would just be kookiness about a different mythology/god.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • One one

      Do you believe god created the universe by magic ?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
    • Matthew Grant

      I still do not know how you can make such a statement. Atheist means lack of belief. So, once again, Atheist is not a religion because religion has belief. Now, you can keep misrepresenting the word if you choose and play semantic word games if you choose but no one is buying that pathetic argument. The only reason you are trying to say atheist is a religion is because you are trying to justify your own belief. So do some self reflection and keep your cognitive dissonance in check. .

      January 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  15. Salero21

    Now atheists want to be ridiculous, not only that they insist in parading their ridiculousness for the www to see. 😀

    January 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • tony

      Are you talking about those two fake atheists, or the rest of us?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
      • Salero21

        Like who cares?

        January 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Well you posted the original statement so you then?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • Matthew Grant

      Compared to how religion people sound ridiculous in every debate I have ever seen on youtube. Let me tell you, you are losing your battle and rational will win the long run.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
  16. Salero21

    😀 😀 😀 😀

    January 5, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
    • Ann

      I think if you really want people to take you seriously, you're going to need to use more smiley faces. Just a suggestion.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
  17. Sunflower

    why do atheists rest on Sunday, like Christian God?

    January 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Because they can?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
    • tony

      Seems like we are posting here on Sunday. Do you a sensible question?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
    • Mary

      Why do you care what day anyone has off?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • hee hee

      My goodness. You're... you're right! Please, direct your razor-sharp logical abilities elsewhere. I beg you. I'm reeling.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
      • Marilyn

        You're cracking me up...keep up the good work.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • hee hee

          Yay! Someone noticed!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
    • Ann

      Actually, I'm working today. If I were at home, I'd probably be doing laundry. Pretty satanic, huh?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
    • doobzz

      Why do Christians worship their god on a day named after the Sun God, man?

      Oh, and man, man! You know, man? Yeah, man.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
    • Matthew Grant

      Why do some christian work on Sunday. Your God tells you to put to death these people who work on the Sabbath. Let me guess, it is because you follow the New testament and not the old right? How convenient. I just do not know why you just get rid of the old testament from your holy book because you do not follow it anyways.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
  18. Fred G. Sanford

    The Christian church has split into 41,000 different sects since it's inception.

    Will it survive?

    January 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
    • tony

      The pedophile sect seems to be doing OK. But then so is Al Quada.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • Fon

      Let's hope not!

      Maybe Apollo will come back?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • Vic

      Belief/Faith in God is what keeps a church going, and not necessarily doctrine, I believe.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Doctrine establishes which version of "god" you worship. For instance, the protestant god is not the same as the catholic god.

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

          Not exactly. It is the same God—Father, Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit— while Catholics have idolatrous practices, i.e. Papacy, praying to Mary, praying to saints, etc.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Thank you for proving my point.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
      • Science Works

        NO Vic it is money that keeps a church going !

        January 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • Vic

          Money is only a tool while God is the core foundation of church!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
  19. Vic

    More brainstorming:

    I think it is a gig, they both are standup comedians. LOL!

    January 5, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
  20. karek40

    I believe Paul said it best, if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. What could an atheist church possibly offer, why would someone go other than a social gathering. Christ offers eternal life.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Maybe the church is a place for like-minded people to congregate and commune together? Also, you have no proof exactly like the believers of other gods. Your god (as well as "the soul," "sin," and "the spirit") are invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So basically, you believe because you fear death. How very sad.

      I'm not afraid of death. I'm okay with my mortality because death is the logical and natural conclusion of life. I don't need the pretense of immortality to lead a happy, fulfilling life.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      It's a classic hustle.
      Step 1: Convince the mark he's got a problem. ("You're gonna burn in hell forever.")
      Step 2: Convince the mark you've got the solution. ("But keep putting money in the collection plate, and I can save you.")
      Neither of these steps has a lick of evidence to support it, but we hummin beans continue to be a gullible lot.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
    • tony

      That's why the graveyards are all empty?

      January 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
      • Mary

        You win.

        January 5, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
    • Greaves

      'why would someone go other than a social gathering.'

      They go for the social gathering, to gather with other people.

      'Christ offers eternal life.'

      That's your opinion and good luck with that, but you can't say that with certainty. I would rather congregate with other people who don't try to dictate how I should think with no evidence.

      January 5, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.