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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. Teamski

    The ultimate oxymoron: An atheist church. Amazing.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  2. Vic

    Jesus Christ Is Lord

    January 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Jack is Lord.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • Harold

      He is a corpse rotting underground outside Jerusalem....so maybe Lord of the Flies?

      January 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
  3. NailOfBigFootToe

    Not an uncommon path to project effort onto existing religious establishment the way the Christians did with other religions.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
  4. Turtles All the Way Down

    Science is no closer to explaining the existence of the Cosmos today than it was 200 years ago.
    It cannot explain the ultimate nature of anything...not space, not time, not even matter/ energy.
    The ultimate nature of existence is the province of the divine, and will remain so throughout the bellows of eternity.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think what Turtle is trying to say is that he/she is not interested in honest answers, just easy ones.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
      • Turtles All the Way Down

        Let's hear your complex "answers" to any of the ultimate questions regarding existence.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I don't have any answers. I admit that I have no idea. At least I'm honest.

          But, I guess I could take the easy, coward's way out and say that some big invisible sky wizard chanted magic spells for six days and made a universe so fragile that one turn of a woman's wrist threw the entire thing into nuclear meltdown (sin/corruptibility). Would that suit you better?

          January 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
        • tallulah13

          I don't know. But I'm willing to wait for answers. If, as you claim, god did it, then you must have proof. Let's have it, then. The world has been waiting for thousands of years.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
        • Turtles All the Way Down

          Your bigotry and inflated ego perhaps disqualifies you from embracing the spirituality of Spinoza or Einstein. Not everyone who believes is a right wing Christian,

          January 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          The god Einstein believed in did not interfere with humanity, does not judge any humans, and does not grant any human eternal life.

          So what's the difference in believing in Einstein's god and not believing in any god at all? (Spinoza's is similar).

          January 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
        • Vic

          Sincere Belief/Faith in God is but a profound and scholarly virtue. The more you dig into science the more your realize the Divine Creator God. It is a 360º.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
        • Turtles All the Way Down

          @ Tallulah: God DID do it. The proof is in the simple fact of existence. No other proof is needed. Nor any dogma.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
        • tallulah13

          So basically, Turtle, you can't prove your claim. You can say it. Go on.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
        • Turtles All the Way Down

          @ Capt...LOL....the difference is in the denial which is the crux of the atheist position.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • Vic

          Sincere Belief/Faith in God is but a profound and scholarly virtue. The more you dig into science, the more you realize the Divine Creator God. It is a 360º.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I'll believe in Einstein's god if you will, Turtle. To me it makes no difference. A god who does not interfere with humans or judge them or grant them any eternal life is consistent with one that is invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant. So no big deal for me.

          You?

          January 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
        • Turtles All the Way Down

          @ Capt: Belief gives me a sense of serenity that I find incompatible with denial. I understand the root of "religion"...it is simply fallible mans attempt to explain and codify the unexplainable and uncodifable.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
      • Turtles All the Way Down

        @ Tallulah: Of course I cannot "prove" my claim. Belief in the divine will ever be the province of faith, simply because the human intellect is not capable of conceiving the complexity and scale (in both directions) of the Cosmos.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          That's what the believers of other gods tell me when they want me to believe in their invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant god.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
        • tallulah13

          So what you are saying is that you don't understand therefore it must be god. You are not interested in honest answers, just easy ones.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
        • Turtles All the Way Down

          Actually, it is not what "revealed religions" claim at all.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
        • Harold

          EXACTLY the way the Aztecs described their "God" 🙂

          January 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • NailOfBigFootToe

      ..wish the ever more expensive particle accelerator proponents would stop pitching for the search of that ultimate particle and forces that would explain everything.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
      • Turtles All the Way Down

        You obviously know nothing of quantum mechanics.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
        • Turtles All the Way Down

          Even the "Holy Grail" of physics, grand unification, would do nothing to explain the ultimate nature of reality.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Maybe. I have no idea. Maybe not. What if GUT allowed us to make better predictions and experiments and discover exciting new answers that seem beyond our current knowledge?

          January 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
        • NailOfBigFootToe

          What type of answer are you looking for to answer existence? Are probabilities (quantum mechanics) OK for you?
          May be you should define existence.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
        • Vic

          Even the so-called "Unified Field Theory" is but a fantasy. Science cannot reconcile "gravity" with strong and weak forces to form one field theory. Science only knows the effect of "gravity" but not what it is!

          January 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
    • igaftr

      2000 years of Christianity ...and no one can show any gods actually exist. Nor the Divine nor anything even remotely supernatural.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
    • doobzz

      "Science is no closer to explaining the existence of the Cosmos today than it was 200 years ago."

      This is a lie. We know far more about the nature of the universe today than 200 years ago, and we are full aware that it is a tiny bit compared with what we still have to learn. "I don't know" is a perfectly good answer. It does not mean "I don't know it must have been a god or gods."

      I work with scientists and I've never met one who is out to prove or disprove a god or afterlife. I imagine there are, but most are just trying to find out how the universe works, no matter where the evidence leads.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
  5. jonny

    I doubt it will make it. Kind of like the "Voter Apathy" Political party on Futurama! 😉 I'm an atheist and I have all day Sunday to pursue life. Why ruin a good thing?

    January 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
  6. Science Works

    From Nature and around the world

    What to expect in 2014

    Nature takes a look at what is in store for science in the new year.

    Several research groups, including a team led by geneticist Erika Sasaki and stem-cell biologist Hideyuki Okano at Keio University in Tokyo, hope to create transgenic primates with immune-system deficiencies or brain disorders. This could raise ethical concerns, but might bring us closer to therapies that are relevant to humans (mice can be poor models for such disorders). The work will probably make use of a gene-editing method called CRISPR, which saw rapid take-up last year.

    http://www.nature.com/news/what-to-expect-in-2014-1.14448

    No mention of godzilla !

    January 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
  7. Sean Kelly

    Congratulations to both groups for taking some of the elements that make organized religion such a serious problem and attempting to bring it Atheism. Ah, the wisdom of a group of 20-something.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
    • jonny

      Agreed. 20 something are group oriented to a ridiculous level.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      They'll learn. Eventually.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • doobzz

      It could be that many are on their own for the first time, just getting away from home and family influences, and need a safe place to try out new ideas.

      These sound a lot like the old coffeehouses of the late '60s and early 70s.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
  8. Paul

    One problem facing the organization (or lack thereof) of so-called "big-tent" atheism is its lack of a unifying doctrine. This is understandable, since there are no divine texts or recognized "prophets" that can be used as solid grounding for such doctrine.

    However, within "big-tent" atheism, there are smaller subgroups which do have common philosophies or ideologies which, while not set-in-stone doctrines, at least have the coherence to potentially unify those who subscribe to them. One of these are the humanists, who have the various humanist manifestos, which are more like a common set of values and ideals than a philosophical system in the traditional sense, and another are those who follow ontological or metaphysical naturalism, which IS a philosophical system in the traditional sense. Adherents of either of these, or the principles of some other atheistic subgroups, can likely be united into some sort of coherent organizational structure using their commonly held principles to serve the same general function as a doctrine serves for religious groups.

    The advantage of such a core set of principles is that they would tend to attract like-minded people and help generate a leadership structure with a fairly united vision of what the group is about and where it should be going. In the case of naturalism, the fundamental principles are already well-established, but the philosophy itself is open to further evolution at the margins. With humanism, the basic value-system seems to be in line with ideas to which the majority of atheists already subscribe.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
  9. roccop777

    Let me ask you an honest question: How many times have you met a person who was living a destructive, selfish lifestyle say:
    "I was on a self-destruction course until someone came to me with the good news, that man is the product of a cosmic accident - we were not planned or special at all. We're an accident. There is therefore no real purpose in life, that's all an illusion we make up to make life bearable. Also morals and concepts of good or evil, are things we imagine to get along with others. Free will is also imaginary - we are actually pre-programmed by the chemical reactions in our brains. And when you're dead, that's it. Nothing good or bad remains, it all dissolves into nothing (Friedrich Nietzsche , a professing atheist called this philosophy "Nihilism"). Since hearing this wonderful news it totally changed my life. It made me want to live a more meaningful life, be more considerate of others and caring. It saved me from my destructive lifestyle."
    Have you seriously heard anyone say the above?
    On the other hand I have heard countless numbers of people on a destruction course confess that when they heard the good news that we are not the product of chance, but made in the image of God for a purpose, that life does have meaning, there is good and evil and we have a free will to decide for good or evil - and that when you die, it's not over. We will have to give account to our Creator. This life is a part of something much bigger.
    Now this message has indeed transformed and saved countless people from destruction and made them more loving, caring, giving people. So from my experience, it does make a huge difference.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I've heard plenty of muslims, cult members, and health/nutrition freaks say the same thing pretty much, so the argument does you no good.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
    • igaftr

      I see a lot of addictive personalities and when I see them give up one addiction for another, it always makes me wince, though belief in that which there is no evidence for can have a placebo effect, often times those with strong addictions become obsessed with that belief, which is a very negative thing as well.

      To think that they are being saved, takes a load off that individual...for a short while, and ends up being a huge waste of valuable time...time they could have been getting actual treatment, rather than the placebo and the unfounded promises they see in religion.

      Don't tell me that feeding addicts religion isn't harmful...it very well can be, but it is FAR more important they get REAL help, not another addiction.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
      • roccop777

        The fact is the more godless a society becomes, the suicide, addiction rate rises as well. Why - because if we are the product of a cosmic accident then nothing really matters in the end, because it all dissolves into nothing. Faith in Jesus Christ has set many more people free from addictions than has atheism.
        Do you seriously believe that the amazing order in the universe and that the existance of life can better be explained by blind faith in "almighty chance"? Louis Pasteur said that life arising spontaneously from lifeless chemicals is an illusion. I recently talked to one of Germany's top biochemists on this subject and he freely admitted that even the latest discoveries in biochemistry just confirm Pasteur's assessment - abiogenesis is an illusion - and yet atheists blindly believe this illusion. You too? Face relaity - life comes from life - not via random, undirected mechanisms.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • James Cheatham

          Who says? Who's to say God (or gods, or the flying spaghetti monster for that matter) didn't set it up so that things could happen that way?

          January 5, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
        • igaftr

          roccop
          What I do know is that no one knows. There is nothing that backs up the supernatural claims of ANY religion, and what addicts need are not what might be, but actual help in dealing with the CAUSE of the problem, not the crutch of religion.

          Since you cannot show anything that can verify your beliefs as being true, to tach that they are is irresponsible, and we know the spread of religion has far greater negative effects than a slight rise in the suicide rate. Because of relgigions, there has been a higher MURDER rate ( as people like to murder those who don't believe what they believe) WAR rate...many, many wars waged over belief in various gods. DISEASE rates, as the catholics continue to teach using devices to prevent the spread of disease, and the church taught people to kill the "devils" familiars meaning cats, the best defence that there was against the rats who carried the fleas that carried the plague....

          On and on, the scars of religious belief are everywhere. so yes, I'll take a slightly higher suicide rate over the rest of the cancer that is religion.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • roccop777

          to J.Cheatham– You just confirmed how atheists are unable to differentiate between fact and illusion and how they have to resort to foolishness to support their position - when you refer to the flying spaghetti monster. If you haven't figured it out yet, that's an illusion. The flying spaghetti monster is not a creator. We can historically show when spaghetti was first made from wheat grain. Therefore it is a created thing - not the Creator.

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

          roccop
          You dsimiss the FSM without real consideration. There is just as much evidence that the FSM has magical powers as your man-god. Perhaps the FSM created everything and only revealed itself recently... that's the problem with UNFOUNDED beliefs...you easily dismiss the possibility that it is correct because it doesn't make sense, but accept yours EVEB THOUGH it also makes no sense.

          The FSM, though unlikely, is just one of an INFINTE nummber of possibilities.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Every religion can claim members that make the same claims but as all religions can't be right then is it 'god' making the change or the construct of the religion itself?

      January 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
      • roccop777

        I agree - there are many religions out there reaping the benefits of declaring the obvious - life is not the product of unguided, mindless, random mechanisms - but has a Creator and purpose. That doesn't mean they are all correct, since they contradict themselves. Step two is to check their claims and see which one is unique - a true revelation from the Creator.
        There are no doubt millions of copies of the famous Mona Lisa painting in all different variations. But it would be foolish and lazy to say: "There are so many copies out there - who are you to claim there is a unique original, there are only copies!" Not true! There is a unique original which gave rise to the others. After doing extensive research I have come to the conclusion that there are many unique signs that Jesus Christ is the unique original - Dozens of detailed prophecies foretelling his birth place, the time frame he would appear, where He would grow up, how he would die and conquer death - all made hundreds of years before the fact. There is nothing on par in the man made copy religions. Thousands of founders of religions did their thing - Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra, etc. they died and stayed dead. Jesus died and three days later was back and hundreds spent time with him. Very unique. The original!

        January 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
        • igaftr

          not unique...look up Horus and Mithras.

          Also, there is nothing that backs up the claim he rose from the dead, so again, you have belief....nothing more.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Jesus died and three days later was back and hundreds spent time with him. Very unique. The original!"

          Allegedly. The record of said event is of dubious origin, translation and compilation.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      If you need to believe a myth to be a happy, decent person, then I pity you.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
      • roccop777

        You claim I need a myth to be happy and decent person - not true - But I do need truth and a binding ethical basis for my life. I'm not ashamed to admit that.
        Im assume you believe in the myth and empirically bankrupt theory of abiogenesis? Does that make you a happier and more decent person? Stalin and H-tler took comfort in their belief that we are here by chance and that with death everything is over - no giving account for our lives. No final justice. Does that make you feel better?
        Many people hold the view, that we are the product of a cosmic accident, unplanned, no real purpose. You only live once and then it's over. They see it as a colossal waste of our short, futile existence to lose time sacrificing yourself for the good of others, being considerate of others. Survival of the fittest, most brutal and ruthless - get all you can as long as you can. What binding ethical basis does atheism have to offer, to say they are wrong?

        January 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
        • tallulah13

          I gather from your comments that you don't comprehend compassion or empathy or even simply human decency. You don't even seem to have a concept of honesty. What you need to do is actually meet and talk to real atheists instead of making things up about them or believing the lies other people tell about them. Until you do that, you are simply another hate-monger, spreading lies because you are afraid to know the truth.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
        • igaftr

          Hitler believed in the Abrahmic god. He attacked atheists and believed that a person could not be moral without belief in god. His god and yours are the same, even though he also did not the christian religion, his god was the abrahamics god. He used this belief to justify the holocaust, where he not only went after jews, but also the mentally ill ( and he believed both atheism and h0m0$exuality to be mental illness) and the physically handicapped....all for YOUR god, since your god and his are the same.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
        • igaftr

          Roccop
          "What binding ethical basis does atheism have to offer, to say they are wrong?"

          The same ethics that have evolved in us for millions of years. We get that from our anuimal ancestors...you can see it in our animal beighbors even now...the way an elephant will cry at the bones of another elephant, the way that mothers protect their children, and clearly show love...things like rats helping other rats, even those not known to them out of traps and share food with them....we are not unique...animal societies would never survive with your BS of total anarchy and do only for yourself.
          ALL social animals exhibit the very same behaviors....otherwise, they would not be social animals.
          If you want to learn more....study our animal neighbors...they have far more insight into our selves than your magic book.
          If there is a god, he writes with atoms....if the word of god is not DNA, what is? FOr my belief...no gods required....just amazing properties of physics, energy and chemistry.... like carbon...an amazing and utterly fascinating atom....incredible qualities...and that is just ONE of them.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
    • Roy

      Atheism is simply a rejection of theistic claims. It's not a world view. The belief that life is meaningless or just a part of cosmic accident have nothing to do with atheism.

      However I do know a lot of atheist that find plenty of meaning in this life without the need of supernatural beliefs.

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

        Roy gets it.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
      • roccop777

        If we are really the product of a cosmic accident then there is no purpose - other than an illusion we make up. Some leading atheist thinkers have recognized what you still refuse to see. For instance William B. Provine Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University:
        "There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either."
        Richard Dawkins agrees whole heartedly: "„In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication. . . there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference....This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous – indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose. “ (out of his book "River out of Eden")
        You need to think atheistic ideology out to its logical conclusion. Not a very good foundation for a "church".

        January 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
        • tallulah13

          So you take two quotes without context and think that these thoughts apply to all atheists. That is fundamentally dishonest and completely ignorant.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Here is the complete Dawkins quote:

          “The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

          January 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Religion tends to prey on the weak. Secular groups are starting to offer the same support without the attachment of a god.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • rodrigues

      I need to comment about it, but I am a Portuguese speaker, so be patient with some eventual errors, strange or incomprehensible things in my text.

      I had some big problems. I agree that when we feel that there's no solution to our problems (or that things will never be the same again), we tend to look for some meaning, some reason, some God or evidence that we are not finished.

      But, for me, it was never possible to believe in things like gods, heaven, souls and other amazing things religion offers. Today that there's the google, I think that many people will search for things like "there's evidence for existence of a god, a life after death, souls (or if there's a reason for people suffer so much), or people will read some books (like I did) that clains to prove that there's something that make humans especial and in some sense immortal. But, they will find nothing able to convince a skeptical mind (in fact, there's no evidence for god, souls, heaven etc.)

      So, when I was in trouble, the best thing that would happen would be that people around me were able to show me that the humans are subject to those things, but nowadays we know how to deal with them (it isn't the end): there are medicine to depression, treatment to almost everything and disease. People around me would be able to say that they will not condemn me (saying that my problems are result of my lack of belief). People around me would know things about human psychology and would advice me to search for help, and they would show that I can rely on them (even if you don't pray).
      Fortunately, this was what happened, although I had to listen a lot of advices to pray, I had my family support, medicine, psychologists, doctors (science) to help me.

      In short, I believe that religious beliefs works only for people who believe them, but other people only need to be reminded that life is still worth being lived even knowing they will have to face a battle to survive that moment.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
  10. Paul Preiswerck

    I'm an Anti-Theist so I don't see any benefit to having a church for nonbelievers, but I do see the danger of a cult forming when someone gets too much influence and power in one. Churches and other places of worship are wrong... Period!!!

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

      agree with you. The "Church" Christ speaks of is not a building, it is a place of believers in Him. Don't confuse Church and church. I do go to church because it was we are called to do (in the Bible)...to be in fellowship with others. I have no problem leaving a church if they start to fall into the category you describe...and unfortunately it does happen, but that is the sinful weakness nature of mankind, not God.

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

        well, Mankind created your god(s) so there's still that 🙂

        January 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
  11. Mark

    Denominational atheism....who would have guessed.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  12. Jonathan

    The beauty of athiesim is *not* having to go to church.
    What the the hell is wrong with these people?!!

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

      Maybe they used to be christians and miss the social aspect of it? Maybe they are surrounded by overbearing god believers and so they feel good when they go to a place where they are not judged for their lack of belief? Do you need me to list more reasons, or do you get the idea?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
  13. WhatDidYouSay

    There are two different types of Atheist. The comfortable Atheist who do not become upset or involved in something they do not believe in, and then there are the uncomfortable Atheist. The uncomfortable Atheist become upset at words like "Christ", "God", or "Christmas". At root of their discomfort, and unbeknownst to them, there is a internal conflict taking place. They know they should not be afraid, but yet they are afraid. They experience a fear in something their brain is telling them does not exist. Deep down inside they are evaluating that maybe there is a God and someday they will be held accountable for their mistake. So as the internal conflict begins to grow, their brain attempts to mask the conflict by transforming it into anger. And to justify their anger without acknowledging their fear, they ridicule God or spew out statements like: Christians are forcing their way of life on me, religion is dangerous, or Christians are holding humanity back. They will place themselves into a victim role. An uncomfortable Atheist will never really find solace until they understand the root of their fear. see Proverbs 1:7.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Or not.
      By your logic any claim of religion attempting to dictate is just a defense against fear and is thus not real huh?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
    • ME II

      Are you a god now, knowing what other people think "unbeknownst to them"?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  14. WhatDidYouSay

    Interesting...Atheist cannot agree on how to properly not believe.

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

      Interesting ... commenter not believe in know how talk

      January 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
      • Brenda

        They just didn't use apostrophe's around the last two words. I understood what they said.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
    • bajadelmar

      Pot to kettle. So how many different religions are there in the world zippy???

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

        I never denied what you are eluding to...just acknowledging that Atheist seem to be falling into the same trap that they themselves take pride in ridiculing. i.e. you.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
        • tallulah13

          The majority of atheists (that's the correct plural of atheist, by the way) don't actually attend these "churches". I'd say that this is a very limited situation, indeed. I doubt that anyone will be killed because of the differences, not like, for example, the tens of thousands killed just because catholics and protestants have a history of not getting along.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
  15. Terri

    Any disorganized group can turn into a dangerous cult or a hate group. Spirituality is a very personal thing. It's seems kind of weird that any group would get together just to deny the human spirit and hate people who like to read the bible. This is just a cult with a different flavor of kool-aid.

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

      "Spirituality" is just the modern, politically correct term for "superst¡tion".

      January 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
    • ME II

      "just to deny the human spirit"

      If by "spirit" you mean human nature, then how is this group denying that?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • bajadelmar

      Talking about hate, your post is full of hate. Typical xian, you say one thing and do another.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Hey, Terri, did you actually read the article and learn what these people do in their "church" or did you just assign them actions and motives based on your personal prejudice? Do you know what it's called when you make stuff up about people, Terri? It's called lying. Perhaps you should do a little research before lying about others.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
  16. Rick

    Demons being cast out at emmanuel.tv God loves everyone

    January 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  17. Special K

    “But, above all, it will confer an inestimable benefit on morality and religion, by showing that all the objections urged against them may be silenced for ever by the Socratic method, that is to say, by proving the ignorance of the objector.”
    ― Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

    January 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  18. TOR

    They should add a bingo night.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
  19. theridge

    Anything you use the phrase "I believe in" becomes your reality and therefore your religion. Atheism is a religion, football can be a religion, politics, and so on. The Creator of the Heavens and the Universe still IS whether your pitiful mind believes it or not.

    January 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
    • Fake Fictional Items

      Wanting and Hoping for you little deity to be real so you have a place to go when you die, doesn't make it real.
      Moron.

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

        Look Fake-
        Things are whether your poised brain understands it or not. You live in the matrix that has been created for your simple mind and that will be hard to break. Especially when your Penial Gland in the center of your brain has been calcified your whole life due to the drinking water you sip on. It's going to be hard to have a conversation with you and other peeps like you who get their knowledge from cnn 😦

        January 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Well, your brain is diseased and taken over by a disgusting myth, so....back at ya. Break the delusion under which you are living. While I normally don't recommend WhyWontGodHealAmputees, perhaps you should check them out.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      What doctrine do atheists share that make it a religion?

      January 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      You know saying I believe in doesn't make it a religion so you get off to a poor start from the beginning.

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

        ANYTHING you choose to believe in or not believe in is your religion. I know that will be hard for simple minded CNNers to understand. You create your own reality whatever it may be. That fact that a fine Swiss watch cannot blow itself together in the Sahara Desert no matter how much time you give it is your choice to believe in or not. A single cell (excepet those in many of your brains) is a billion times more complex than the Swiss watch.

        Ill give atheists this: at least they are searching for something and not just living life not giving their existence a single thought.

        January 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Again you make the claim and again you have no clue.
          Maybe you need to go read up on what a religion actually is.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          So, complex things need a creator, but the complex creator didn't need a god? How hypocritical of you.

          January 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      thanks for clearing that up for everyone, theridge

      January 5, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I believe in the law of gravity. I believe in the existence of the universe and the planets. I believe in my addiction to caffeine. I believe in the genius of the ancient humans and think that claims that Stonehenge and the Pyramids were built by aliens are beyond silly. I believe in the reliability of my Toyota. Gosh. I believe in a lot of things. I must be a polytheist.

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

        You believe in whatever you want son. That's free-will. Just understand the Rockefeller department of education is dumbing the population down and fluoridating the water we drink to keep anyone from having any kind of original thoughts. Sad but obvious when you read what these zombies write

        January 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          That's why I only drink rainwater and vodka.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
        • G to the T

          I see... I'm just going to back away slowly now...

          January 5, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Rick

    For God so loved this world that he sent Jesus Christ that who ever belives in him will not perish but have everlasting life. See evil spirits cast out live at emmanuel.tv

    January 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      Do you seriously desire ETERNAL life?

      If so, what are you doing here?

      Why not get a jump on it?

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

      Oh goody. More Ernest Ainsely/Benny Hinn casting out "demons" by bashing people in the head.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:44 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.