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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. Vic

    God—Father, Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit—is the LIFE of Church, and nothing else.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
    • Fake Fictional Items

      fiction. Get a life and go help people.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Your version of god is the life of your version of church. If christians could figure out just who their god is, then there wouldn't be over 30,000 denominations.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
      • Vic

        Christianity's God is the Father, Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. The schism within Christianity is over doctrines!

        January 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
    • bajadelmar

      Opinions are like ***holes, .....

      January 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  2. Fake Fictional Items

    Invisible pink unicorns.
    Gods.
    Dragons.
    Elves.
    Fairies.
    Devils.
    Pixies.
    Demons.
    Snow White.
    Batman.
    god.
    Thor.
    ...this list is infinite....GROW UP PEOPLE!

    January 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • theridge

      wind
      radiation
      your penis
      and anything else your pitiful eyes cannot see

      January 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Those items can be detected, measured, and verified by independent methods and observers. You fail.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • Vic

          "Quarks" cannot be seen whatsoever, they can only be detected by what they makeup, that is subatomic elementary particles!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          And?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
        • Vic

          And, likewise, God cannot be seen but can be detected by what He created, hence this universe and life in it!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Fail. God cannot be detected. If you have a method by which an experiment can detect god (as scientists detect quarks) then please publish your research and so add to our scientific knowledge. But be prepared!! You are about to become the most famous person in history and you will be inundated with prizes (the Nobel among them) and money and opportunities to go on tv programs across the globe.

          Good luck!

          January 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
        • Vic

          You are limiting reality to ONLY the physical while there is the metaphysical which we believe is behind the physical. While physical matter can be detected by empirical means the metaphysical is attested to by the logical deduction of the FIRST CAUSE. Knowledge is not limited to empirical science!

          January 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          We have no way of knowing if there is anything existing beyond the material world, so you may as well believe in a shadow universe with nothing but unicorns.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
    • RM4213

      Batman... really..you dont believe in Batman... fool!

      January 5, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • Observer

      Also:

      Santa Claus for Christians
      Easter Bunny for Christians

      January 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Elvis

    The biggest question I have not seen in this string is this: Who cares?

    If you believe in God or don't believe in God, then continue to follow your beliefs. To me it seems the problem is that everybody in this string is trying to sell others on their point of view. We'll all find out soon enough when it's our time to die... either we'll all go to that burning fire underground or that harp-filled cloudy heaven some believe in – or (my guess) – we'll just die. In any case, unless someone comes back from the dead with a definitive answer, just stick with your own belief and leave the rest of us alone.

    I do like the idea that non-believers should be able to assemble for good purposes despite not having a 'doctrine'. Maybe they can do good things for their fellow humans while they are alive and well.

    Have a great day all!

    January 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • ME II

      Usually I'd agree with you, but then creationist want creationism in science classes, believer's want to ban gay marriage, stem cell research, and women's reproductive choice, and realize that I do care.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
    • BigBankTheory

      Do you believe the earth is 6000 years old? In creationism or evolution? Does it bother you if somebody does?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
      • RM4213

        well it does bother me if someone believes the Earth is 6,000 years old and wants that belief taught to children in public schools. That is the equivalent of believing that 2+ 2 = 7.. if you want to believe in scientifically verifiable nonsense ..fine but please keep it to yourself...I BTW am a devout Christian.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • Jonathan

        Tthe bible never said that the earth was 6000 years old. As a matter of fact, the only timeline given, was the 7 days. But, what is a day? We'll, we know that the lifespan of a human in those days was significantly less than today. So, let's make an assumption that most only lived to see 50. Methuslimlived to be over 900 years old. Well, that tells us that what we currently view as a year is infact different than 3000 years ago. So the time span is off by a factor of roughly 20:1. So if we multiply 6000 x 20 you get about 120,000 years. Humans have been around for about 200,000 years. They weren't that far off.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
  4. Salaam

    Ok, I'm done, enough about gods, I quit.

    Satan I'm coming for you!!!!

    January 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • tony

      Don't accept a ride in his Porsche

      January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  5. Glenn

    YouTube: The Islamic Connection, by WalterVeith http://www.amazingdiscoveries.org

    January 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
  6. Booker T. Whiteman

    Let's see...I simply "don't believe" in something...therefore I will start a "church".
    And furthermore, I will spend much time preaching my "lack of belief" and ridiculing anyone who does not share my "lack of belief".
    Sounds a lot like religion.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • tony

      Nope. Sounds like a pastor.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  7. JLA1950

    Sounds rather like the proverbial 'chicken with its head cut off'.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
  8. uH-hUH

    My god promises me frozen bing cherries in Heaven....beat that.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
    • tony

      Bling Cherries?

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

        Are you trying to make his heaven a black heaven? or a rapper heaven?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Marilyn

          Do you think bling is soley a black word?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  9. Mark

    Ouch...an atheist church...religion...good lord, what will this mean here in the states as far as separation of church and state laws? Is the government not endorsing the Sunday Assembly when it pushes God out of schools or any other place? We have been told this kept religion out of government sanctioned activities but now it may be squarely involved in sanctioning the Sunday Assembly religion. Nothing like a wrench thrown into the gears of government.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      You will hurt yourself making huge leaps like that.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
    • uH-hUH

      Zeus, Odin, Ra, Tiamat, Yaweh...

      the Gods have had their time in our fictional stories, time to let them go so we can grow up as a species...

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

        Says the poster, 'Uh-oh', hahaha. You grow up first. 🙂

        January 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
    • Lisa

      Faith is pushed out – it belongs in the churches.

      For you, that might equate with pushing God out but that's not a true equality.

      If they pushed in "Deity Bob" to replace God in your child's school, would you object?

      Take care what you wish.. if your faith should one day *not* be the majority faith and school includes faith – I would be surprised if you'd be pleased with that.

      Church and faith belongs at home. Education belongs at school with an awareness that the faiths there are not uniform.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
    • ME II

      @Mark,
      Check out the Lemon Test. It says, among other things, that laws must have a secular purpose, i.e. just because a "church" promotes an idea does not mean that it would invalidate any secular laws as endorsing that religion.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
  10. Glenn

    Jesus said that those who hate Me love death, because when you reject the life giver and sustainer of life, you have no one to sustain your life any longer so your on the road to death. Jesus said, In Him we live and move and have our being. Yet will I show mercy to them but they will not learn righteousness. The bible says that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What is sin? Sin is breaking God law of liberty the 10 commandments for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Gods not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance and live. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins in return for eternal life and it's a free gift, the price has been paid by His own blood on the cross. The lamb that was slain from the foundations of the world. Unless their was a shedding of blood, no flesh would be saved. God came to this tiny rebellious planet as a man to save humanity from self destruction. YouTube; Cosmic conflict, The origin of evil. By dough Bachelor. Also youtube Discover Prophecy by David Asscheric, The war behind the wars. Amazing eye opener... Also youtube The privileged Planet. The truth will set you Free, I to was an Atheist until I stopped judging a book by its cover. Read it for yourselves, The bible is the human manual to life it means... Basic Instructions before Leaving Earth. Jesus is the word and the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and beheld His glory the only begotten of the Father. YouTube The a Fathers love letter. For God so loved the world that He Gave His only Son that whosoever, put you name their,believes in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life, I did not send My Son in the world to condemn the world but the world would be saved through Him. John 3:16,17. YouTube Open space in Orion, by Louie's Torres. There are things they are not telling you. Have a look, what have you got to loose?

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

      I don't hate Jesus or Unicorns. Or Vulcans or Klingons.

      There are lots of nice books to read about all of them though.

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

      His mom was taken by your god, poor Joseph!

      January 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Wow they really got their self loathing hooks into you didn't they?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • edmond kwan

      where did Jesus say that? I think it is a misquote. And what is eternal life? What is the difference between eternal life and immortality?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
    • Dave Kramer

      Well than it seem that Jesus is talking out of both sides of his mouth. If he says "those who hate Me love death". Don't all of his followers "love death? I thought loving (or not fearing) death fit in nicely with Christianity. What's not to love (about death)? If you believe in Jesus and ask forgiveness for you sins, you're supposed to be home free.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
  11. God is real

    (just kidding)

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

      Well, actually, science proves there is a God with every creation. Case in point. We create a single cell organism that can survive and multiply on Mars and within its environment. We send a batch there and over tens of thousands of years of evolving, an organism develops that has the capacity to ask, "Why". Thousands of years of seeking that question comes up when someone comes up with a theory of a 'creator'. Someone gave the creator the name of God. Everyone said this guy was crazy and ignorant. Is he? How would he prove he is right or anyone prove he was wrong? Time has a wonderful way of allowing us to do things we never thought achievable and ignorance has a wonderful way of allowing us to answer questions we cannot truly fathom. We may be the most intelligent being we know but we have no true understanding of the depth of the ignorance our intelligence affords us. From this place I can never proclaim one to have or not have the answers. We simply only know the fairy tales of the future which we tell today as fact. Yeah...impossible. Every generation says the same thing.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • sam stone

        So much conjecture, so little proof, marky mark

        January 5, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
        • Mopery

          What ever happened to the Funky Bunch?

          January 5, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
  12. Enough is Enough

    I am a theist. If I'm right.....then it's good for me and bad for the non-theist. If I'm wrong.... I'm no better or worse off than the non-theist. But then why would a non-theist ever think like that...they are WAY too smart for that.....Just ask them.....

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

      You think Thor is gonna forgive you for believing in Jesus instead?

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

      Stupid is thinking believing in a falsehood is somehow good for the soul.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Pascal's wager is fundamentally flawed with dozens of rebuttals. It's stupid to use it for obvious reasons. Do your homework.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • uH-hUH

      COOL!!!

      (which gods did you pick??)

      January 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      They are smart because unlike you they recognize a 3rd option that you seem to overlook......there is a god but it isn't the one you worship so you will be just as s crewed. Better worship them all to cover yourself

      January 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Gosh. How do you have time to respond on the internet? Thousands of gods to worship and only so many hours in a day... You must never get any sleep, because you sure wouldn't want to neglect the wrong god!

      January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • Atheism is a Positive mindset

      Do you believe in all of the gods or just one? If just one, your odds are not much better than mine. If you believe in them all, than you don't truly believe in any of them. Let's turn this though. Can we agree that Heaven and Hell were the greatest inventions of religion? Imagine how few followers these religions would have if they did not offer these consequences (positive and negative) that can never be proven (or disproven). The inventors of religion were genius in creating these two realms. I, as an atheist, have decided to focus on other things though. I will focus on life. The life I lead right now. I will treat people with kindness and love because I want to and not for fear of Hell. I will be happy and try to make others happy because it feels good and not because of a book written thousands of years ago or because it will get me that Golden Ticket. When it comes down to it, I am perfectly fine with you going to church and experiencing the power of fellowship. Why are you so critical of it for me?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
    • Sid AIrofil

      Do you really think that god will accept your "covering the bases" argument for believing in him? "I'm a theist...just in case" is NOT something a person of faith would argue.

      Sid

      January 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
    • doobzz

      I love it when someone declares this like it's a new thought.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
  13. Universe

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.” Quran [17:70]

    “O children of Adam, when messengers come to you from among you, and recite My revelations to you, those who take heed and lead a righteous life, will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” Quran [7:35]

    “O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe.” Quran [7:27]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
    • Colin

      Thanks, I would visit your site, but I read all I need to know about Islam in the NY Times on September 12, 2001.

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

        your a smart knucklehead

        January 6, 2014 at 7:28 am |
        • theridge

          funny, cnn won't let me use my free speech and say anything to the contrary of what you said about your corporate controlled newspaper. I see why nytimes is so good at controlling the simple minded masses!

          January 6, 2014 at 7:31 am |
    • igaftr

      Islam is as big a waste of time as all the other religions. It , along with Christianity has caused a great deal of suffering, so let me ask you this.

      Since Christianity and Islam have caused countless deaths and immeasurable suffering since their creation, How do you know that these relgions are not the work of satan himself?
      Both claim to be all about peace and love, yet the result of their existance has been death and suffering....whcih are the works of satan, correct?
      When you next read your Koran....think about the possibility that it itself is the work of your greatest fear...Satan himself.
      Same to you christians....the bible clearly has MANY false parts within it....why do you think it is inspired by God, and not Satan?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • tallulah13

      No thank you. There is no evidence that your god or any god actually exist. Plus patriarchal religions really don't offer much to women who don't want to be treated as second-class citizens.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Which bit of the Quran says if a girl wishes to learn then throw acid in her face?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
  14. Salaam

    What I think doesn't matter. God is the one who calls you an idiot.

    Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

    Atheists and their fair-weather friends pretend that the have traveled the universe and that they know all things, and say that God does not exist. That is the height of arrogance and stupidity. That's is why God Himself declares that:

    Fool = Idiot = Atheist.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
    • tony

      Name calling replaces experience in your mind.

      Try walking on the freeway and telling the cars thay are all stupid, as a way of staying alive.

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

      Atheists do nothing of the sort. Stop projecting.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • tallulah13

      A book that tells you what to believe tells you that you are a fool for not believing what it says... And you fell for that?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
      • Salaam

        Who is telling you what to believe? Again, are you so filled with wisdom and knowledge, you can declare that you know all things? Be wise. Read both sides of the story. Before making foolish conclusions.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
    • igaftr

      Standard braionwashing...re-affirm what you say, and denegrate everyone else.... If you call those who disagree with you fools...you have learned nothing from your Jesus character. Try minding what YOU do and pay no mind to what others do.

      I know in MY heart, it is a fool who thinks a book can make him see.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
      • Salaam

        You have to admit that you know all things in order to answer such high order questions. Can you really say that you know all things?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
        • igaftr

          of course I don't know all things. that is why I know that the bible is one of an infinite number of other possibilities, and it gets put right at the probability level of nothing to substantiate it...the very bottom tier of probabilities...meaning there are many scenarios of that infinite number that have higher probabilities of being correct.

          To think you have it right, and ALL other possibilities are wrong, is the ultimate arrogance.
          I do not know, but we are working on finding out...maybe we are closer to know, perhaps not.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      A book says that those that don't believe in the book are wrong.
      Well that is one really convincing argument you have there.
      It's like the ones claiming there is a chosen people just so happens to be the ones making the claim.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
      • Salaam

        Cedar,
        Don't you get it – only a fool can make the claims you are making?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
        • Observer

          Salaam,

          Speaking of fools, please tell us whether you believe in talking non-humans, unicorns, dragons, and people instantly turning into salt like the Bible says.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          No you don't get it salaam. Here is an example you can understand.....

          People that say I am wrong are fools.

          See how easy that was?

          January 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
  15. Colin

    A quick 10 question quiz might help explain why young Jews (and Christians) are deserting religion in droves. The core problem the priests, ministers and rabbis face is the internet. Suddenly they no longer have a monopoly on what they tell these kids while they are too young to know any better. The kids can fact check themselves and, of course, Judaism and Christianity are soon exposed as having a lot to explain. So:

    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in an “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Bad science fiction;

    (b) Children’s fairytales;

    (c) Hallucinogenic psychology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q. 2 What is the only thing capable of making 40% of the country utterly stupid enough to think the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake:

    (a) a horrid mental disease

    (b) a failed education system

    (c) a successful Al Qaeda plot to undermine academic advancement in the USA; or

    (d) Christianity?

    Q. 3 Please complete the following sentence. It is not uncommon in many parts of the World for a young man to strap a suicide vest to himself and blow himself up and members of a rival __________

    (i) corporation

    (ii) university

    (iii) research insti.tute; or

    (iv) church?

    Q. 4 It is only acceptable as an adult to believe Bronze Age mythology like talking snakes, the Red Sea splitting, mana falling from the sky, a man living in a whale's belly, a talking donkey, superhuman strength, a man rising from the dead and angels, ghosts, gods and demons in the field of:

    (a) history

    (b) literature

    (c) anthropology

    (d) religion

    Q.5 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am being obstinate and closed minded due to my:

    (a) hetero$exuality

    (b) genetics

    (c) nationality; or

    (d) religion.

    Q6. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naive child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian, Muslim or Jew who believes that prayers are answered

    Q7. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely absurd nonsense.

    Q.8 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.9 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas all religion is regional and a person’s religion, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than a matter of upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.10 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    In short, nothing in history of human endeavor can make otherwise smart, functioning people believe the most implausible of supernatural absurdities the way religion can.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
    • tony

      Actually Q1 is currently being attempted by the NSA with some measure of success.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • phazon

      How can they be fairy tales if there has been archeological proof that most the things written in the bible occurred? or don't you believe in science?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
      • Colin

        such as....

        January 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Does it surprise you that the people who wrote the biblical stories understood their local geography and knew the names of their kings? I'm not at all surprised. But there is not a single shred of evidence of any of the miraculous events described.

        Troy was found using geographical descriptions found in the Iliad. Does that mean that the Greek pantheon is real?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          It must mean Achilles was invulnerable.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
      • doobzz

        The fact that Egypt exists does not prove that the Jews were ever enslaved there, any more than the existence of Atlanta, GA proves that Scarlett O'Hara is a real person.

        Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Lot, Moses, Abraham, Jesus – not one shred of validated scientific evidence that any of these people existed.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        Believe in science?

        What a weird notion. Science is a method used to gain and interpret evidence for specific hypotheses. It has nothing to do with belief. Belief exits the room when evidence enters.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
    • Booker T. Whiteman

      Self-important windbag alert !!!

      January 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
    • GAW

      Do you do your own material?

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

      Brilliant!

      Now stolen.

      Soon to be propagated.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
  16. Booker T. Whiteman

    Why does no one get on their rooftops and proclaim that Santa Claus does not exist ???

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

      That's when they are covered in snow.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Because Santa Claus is a harmless fantasy that most kids outgrow fairly quickly.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Because, while both are invisible, undetectable, irrelevant and need humans to do their thinking and action for them, it's the god believers who try to shape the legal system and government and the rights of citizens.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Because innocent children who subscribe to THAT particular fantasy do not wield political power.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  17. Walt

    nontheist
    A nontheist sees the God question as insoluble and irrelevant. Nontheists approach the God question from an empirical position, which has so far shown them that it has been impossible to either prove, or disprove the existence of God. A Nontheist considers the god hypothesis as dealing with matters that are unfalsifiable, therefore placing the question outside the realm of human knowledge. Nontheists see the question of debating God's existence as irrelevant as debating the existence of leprechauns, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, Invisible Garage Dragons, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.
    Theist: God exists.
    Nontheist: Prove it.
    Theist: Well, just look around you. God created everything you see. See? That proves God!
    Nontheist: I see...and how do you know that everything wasn’t created by an invisible purple Gnome named Wilbur who lives on the dark side of the moon, therefore proving Wilbur?
    Theist: Because fill-in-the-blank-holy-book says that God did it!
    Nontheist: Just how do you know your book’s claims are reliable though?
    Theist: Because my book is self-authenticating, it says right here that it was written by God.
    Nontheist: Using a book that claims self authentication commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Assertions that are unfalsifiable and immune from disproof aren’t worth much. How do you know your book wasn’t written by the Invisible Pink Unicorn?

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

      Walt, are you really so ignorant?
      A single cell in your body should be enough proof of God's existence. The cell is one of the most complex object in the universe. It can do things – for example, replicate itself, that man can only dream of designing.
      How much proof do you need? You do know that the smarter you become, the better you understand your limitations – right?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Why does god allow people to be so confused about his existence and will when he could make it as obvious as gravity and as measurable/testable as math or chemistry? Why do muslims and christians use the same chemistry and math but believe all sorts of contradi.ctory things about god and his will?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
      • Salaam

        ...oops, but then I have to pick a god right? The right god. Or gods. Or is it Gods? or God?

        January 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Your scientific ignorance is not proof of god.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
      • Nodack

        You proved his point.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
      • doobzz

        Man can replicate DNA and has been able to for years.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
  18. Hawaii2001

    Me and my golf buddies are all atheists, and we have no need to assemble, except on the golf course 2 or 3 days weekly, and worship or cuss out the little white ball, then putt off to see who buys lunch. Secular life is SO GOOD!

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

      Sounds like a fine time was had by all. A good dose of guy time or girl time is definitely healthy for everyone.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
    • GAW

      And you can sleep in on Sunday morning.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
    • Sven

      Exactly ! Why would atheists need a church? To assemble and shout "NO"? Atheism is not a belief, it's a nonbelief. The only thing that I will rail against is extremism, religious or otherwise.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
  19. Booker T. Whiteman

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

    January 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • Tallus Rip

      What are you talking about? Atheists generally slide liberal, cuz reality tends to have a liberal bias. Not all of them do, but suggesting they all do is just incorrect.

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

      What atheists know can be checked. Not so with the RR.

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

        Atheists "know" more than believers??? I thought atheism consisted merely in "lack of belief'.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
        • Saraswati

          I imagine he meant "materialists". Many new atheists are still fuzzy on the distinction.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
        • Atheism is a Positive mindset

          you can know things without believing in a god. For instance, I don't believe in unicorns. However, I know a lot about horses and the animal kingdom. I believe the intent of his post was that faith often comes at the sake of knowledge. You believe in some that knowledge exerts to be false because you have faith.

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

      When was the last time an atheist knocked on your door on Saturday morning?

      January 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
  20. tony

    Now here's a far more interesting and thoughtful, brand new article.

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

    January 5, 2014 at 2:11 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.