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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. Scott

    Is this article a joke? I couldn't have written a better satire. Here are the enlightened free-thinkers craving the very things they mock believers for "needing as a crutch", then acting in the very tribal, us-against-them divisive ways that they look down their noses at religious groups for doing. Can they even see their own reflections in a mirror?

    January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
    • hee hee

      The template for the "hypocrisy post":

      "Those very people who say/believe (insert statement/belief here) are hypocrites because those very people state/believe (insert apparently contradictory statement/belief here)."

      Hint: it's not hypocrisy unless a single person does this.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
  2. aldewacs2

    Atheists, in my experience, typically care little about discussing their non-belief. Maybe occasionally in a like-minded environment, ... but to seek out a regular gathering in a designated building with an agenda... sounds way too 'religious' to me. This looks to me like a religious cult started these groups, .. not at all what I would expect from any atheists I know.
    Needless to say I'd not be interested in joining.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
  3. Turtles All the Way Down

    Atheists need churches to get together and talk about what they BELIEVE.

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

      You didn't read the article, didja?

      January 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
    • hee hee

      Hey, why did you capitalize that last word? Wait, I get it ... Oh the IRONY! Ow! Ouch!

      January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
  4. Turtles All the Way Down

    Humans are hilarious. A tick of the clock ago we were brachiating through the trees of Africa, now we believe ourselves qualified to pass judgement on the nature of a Cosmos that is almost certainly eternal as well as multidimensional. That is a fair amount of arrogance for a species that shares 99.9% of its DNA with Chimpanzees.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
    • hee hee

      Jeez, you're right. There must be some other way to inflate one's ego. What could it be? Hmmm...

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

        Nice.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
      • Thurston Howell III

        Are you referring to the Upanishads, the Vedas, the Buddhist Sutras or the Tao Te Ching???

        January 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • hee hee

          GuyinVA gets it.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      96% not 99.9%

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

        98.4% actually...and about 16.2% with lettuce

        (although theists might be closer to 80% lettuce)

        January 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Sounds Fishy

    Ha ha. What's next? A godless "bible" for he flock to read and obey? A little Red Book, like Mao's ? And when the franchise system take off, may be the leader will do an IPO to make some cool billion ?

    January 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • felix

      Sure why not? Worked for Osteen and Warren, amirite?
      Their book can be "green eggs and ham" which is about as factual as the one you use.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • Mr. Black

      Well, they could always emulate the Catholic church and REALLY make bank.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
      • Sounds Fishy

        Shall the leader of the atheist church be called Mr President, or CEO, or Dear Leader, Supreme Leader, or the Pope ?

        January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
      • felix

        Those dudes make some serious coin.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
  6. KLN

    “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.”

    That sounds like a plan...let the world around us dictate our values and morals....
    That is exactly what we struggle with as a country. Everyone has created their own definition of what is morally acceptable and has abandoned God's. There is a God. He has defined what is right and wrong for us. His plan for our lives is laid out in the Bible. He is not trying to ruin our fun, but the opposite. We need to have healthy boundaries in our lives for our own protection. To prevent us from hurting ourselves and others. We can ignore it and pretend he doesn't exist, but the Bible says that eventually, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. It takes a humble person to admit they don't know everything and that we need guidance from someone that does.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh you poor thing. It must be horribly disappointing that you don't get to dictate the actions of others. Since you hate freedom so much, you should probably find a nice theocracy, like Iraq or Saudi Arabia. I'm sure you'll be happier there.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
      • KLN

        Tallulah13-I'm not sure why, but I feel lead to pray for you and whatever may be going on in your life. You sound like you've been hurt and are angry. I'm saying this with all seriousness and respect for you.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
    • WilltheFree

      That's not a problem with the world, it's a sign of progress. Whenever someone surrenders their own ability to think to a book and a few fairy tales we should all be worried.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
      • KLN

        I challenge you in 2014 to read the Bible...the entire Bible. Front to back. Don't pluck out bits and pieces. Spend time reading it and trying to understand it. It's the #1 selling book of all time in the history of the world. It must have some value to someone.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • WilltheFree

          Oh the bible does have tons of value. I'm not denying that. Not only is it a beautiful collection of stories, but in general the way the Jesus character tells people to live their lives is highly admirable. And should be emulated in many ways. But there's a big difference between good moral references and a belief in all that is written.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      "There is a God. He has defined what is right and wrong for us."

      Right, like slavery; abuse of children; oppression of women; mass murder.
      Good thing that the laws you must obey are made to fit everyone and are not based off of your book, or we'd still see witch burnings.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
      • KLN

        The Bible reported events of the times. Just because it's in the Bible, doesn't mean God condones a behavior. When Christ came, he became the sacrifice and made many Old Testament laws and traditions no longer necessary. We live in a fallen and sinful world. God hates sin, but he permits it to happen. He has permitted people to reject Him or accept Him. You cannot force someone to love you. That is not what true love is. If we were all programmed like robots, that would be taking away our free will and choice. You can choose to love Him or reject Him, but ultimately, it's your choice for eternity.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Why would any perfect being create a system that needed to be changed later on?

          January 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
      • stef1

        Sounds like your Atheist friend "Stalin" and "Mao" borrowed a page from the bible. Those to big Atheist were all about murder, and genocide.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          stef1: Not unlike your theist friend Hitler who was also all about genocide and murder and did so in the name of his belief. Stalin and Mao might have been Atheist but they did not commit their acts in the name of not believing in a god.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
    • Edwin

      The problem with your analysis is you think that believing in God means following God's moral outlook. This is clearly not the case: if I survey ten religious people, I will get twelve opinions on what is really moral and decent.

      Maybe you think the problem is that most religious people are following the wrong God – or perhaps not really following God at all. I can accept that, but it still leads to a problem: every one of these "wrong God" people will tell you that THEY are following the one true God and that YOU are not,

      So which person, out of all the billions in the world, is really following God? You claim that God's plan is written in the Bible, but a lot of deeply religious people will tell you that is wrong – that the Bible is a false text. What evidence do you have that the Bible is REALLY God's word, when literally billions of people say you are wrong?

      But let's accept for the moment that the Bible IS God's plan. We still have problems – because even in the religious family of Christianity we have people who read the Bible and disagree 100% on what it says. For example, I know Christians who tell me the Bible says to help the poor because they are in need; but I also know Christians who tell me the Bible says none of that, because the poor are lazy and greedy and undeserving of help. Some even claim that the poor are poor as punishment because they rejected God.

      If we need to follow the Bible, then we are in a lot if trouble – because NOBODY agrees about what it says.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
      • KLN

        All Christians should agree on several main truths that are laid out in the Bible. Jesus is God, he was born of a virgin, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. He was without sin here on Earth. You are absolutely correct. There can be interpretations between Christian denominations on issues that are not clearly defined in the Bible. The Bible does not tell us everything, which leaves some to speculate. However, the Bible is the #1 selling book of all time in the history of the world. It was written over the course of 1400 years by dozens of authors, yet tells the same exact story. There has never been any parts of the Bible disproved. It has proven historically accurate time and time again. My belief is the Bible should be treated as the inspired word of God. God's revealing of Himself to us.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
        • WilltheFree

          Now that comment is just nonsense. First, a best-seller doesn't mean anything. I think the Da Vinci code was a best seller for a while, and no one is saying that Tom Hanks' character was real. Second, the onus of proof is not on anyone to disprove the bible. I don't need to prove that the red sea never parted, you need to prove that it did. Also, basic science shows that the world is more than 6,000 years old, so there's that and plenty of other things that have been proven false. Why are you setting up a book of moral fables as if they are facts?

          January 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Dufus Dingleberry

    A little pathetic..... people who can't tolerate other peoples beliefs.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  8. oscar

    You can run on for a long time but God will bring you down.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Which one? There are thousands of gods. Of course, there's no proof that any of them exist.

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

        Maybe a little less time in the movie theater might do you a lot of good.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Haven't been to a movie in over 5 years. Next!

          January 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
    • Edwin

      Why would a God feel the need to do that? That sounds extremely petty, not deific at all.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • oscar

        So what you are saying is you want God to live by your terms. LOL!

        January 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • tallulah13

          But oscar, your god exists on your terms.

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

      That's the Christian fundy God oscar is talking about. He gives free will, but then chooses to do things on his own terms. Sometimes, rather than do anything about it, he likes watching little girls getting raped. I guess even God needs entertainment.

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

        God will not be mocked.

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

          Wow – I am the same way. In fact, I don't like turtlenecks at all.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • doobzz

          I think it just was.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
    • doobzz

      "You can run on for a long time but God will bring you down."

      Because he love you.

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

        *loves*

        January 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
  9. :)GAYLEADERSHIP:)

    🙂
    :)....................................................:)

    January 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
    • oscar

      LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
  10. EarthWorm

    If atheist only knew that the word CHURCH was first spoken of by Jesus Christ when he called Peter, the Rock, with whom I will build my CHURCH. Of course Jesus is GOD, the Son of GOD, so they are hypocrites for using the word that God first used...the word CHURCH.
    Atheists are nothing more than spoiled brats who think they know everything. One thing is for sure...death is coming and hell is moving for those who are not saved. Just because you dont believe there is a God will not keep you out of hell.

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

      EarthWorm,

      "One thing is for sure...death is coming and hell is moving for those who are not saved."

      You are completely confused about the definition of the word "sure". Also, look up the definition of opinion.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
      • oscar

        I will make a bit more simple. If one is not saved by the blood of Christ Jesus-–Christ JESUS-JESUS-JESUS!!!!!!!! that person will burn in hell.

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

          Interesting opinion. I'm sure the worshippers of Zeus held a similar mantra...

          January 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • doobzz

          Why do you believe in human sacrifice to appease an angry god? It seems so primitive and inhumane for your deity to expect that.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
        • Bigwillz

          He didn't expect it from people. He gave of himself

          January 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • sam stone

          i will make it simple for you, oscar

          your empty proxy threats are laughable

          fvck you and your vindictive pr1ck god

          January 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          sounds like you god is a nasty piece of work their Oscar.
          In his everlasting love and mercy of course.
          No idea how you lot listen to that complete contradiction and still think the story sounds right.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
    • igaftr

      Just because you believe in hell, does not mean it exists.
      Considering all the damage christianity has doen over the years, it is more likley that it was not inspired by god, but by satan. Preach love, teach kindness, practice prejudice, bigotry and kill those who don't believe as you do...sounds lie your Satan character more than any god I would have any use for.

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

        Hell is very real and unless you are saved you will burn

        January 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
        • WilltheFree

          Again, interesting opinion. I'm sure the worshippers of Zeus held a similar mantra...

          January 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • felix

          Bull. Chit.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • Fernando

          Oscar – It sounds like you are more likely to burn than most folks. You seem to be doing the work of the devil.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
        • Anthony Crispino

          True. My wife's groin doctor knows a fella who saw Satan walkin around over in Elizabeth just last month.
          But he can turn himself into anything at any moment:

          [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JuSfRgh0Vo&w=640&h=360]

          January 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • aldewacs2

          Oscar – stop trying to sound like you know any more than Joe average.
          People are starting to laugh at you.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
    • PS

      And it's people like YOU who have given Christianity such a bad name that you destroy any sliver of opportunity for non-Christians to develop any interest, or for those who left to feel it's safe to come back. It's people like YOU whose souls I fear for more than most atheists because of your self-righteous, shaming, and arrogance. Perhaps you should re-read the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple (Luke 18:9-14), then decide whose salvation you should worry about more.

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

        The holy Bible makes it simple -Unless we are born again/saved we cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Reads very simple. How can one be so blind as not see it.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • felix

          Being saved is an excuse to be as big of an ass as one wants to be, as long as they say they "repent" before they kick the bucket. Yep.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
        • tallulah13

          The bible is the written mythology of a specific Middle Eastern, Bronze Age tribe combined with the propaganda surrounding one of the many messianic cult figures found in Rome 2000 years ago. It was compiled and edited in the 300s by a group of men who directly benefited from a codified and structured church. It has been translated numerous times since, and has spawned over 30,000 denominations, all with their own interpretation of what it means. The roots of the bible are obvious and very human. The fact that so many people still believe that it is the immutable word of god is incomprehensible and rather sad.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • Gods are Fiction

          Mickey and Donald have stories about them too, doesn't mean they are real 🙂

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

          How can anyone be so blind as to not see that the bible is a fairy tale

          January 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
      • KLN

        You sound like you've been hurt by Christians before. I'm sorry if that is the case. We are not perfect, no one is. However, faith in God is a personal decision between you and Him. It would be a mistake to let your eternal destination be determined because of what someone else did or say to you. Your relationship with God is about you and Him only. You will answer and be accountable to Him on an individual level. No one else can be credited or blamed for whether or not you choose to have a personal relationship with Him. I pray that you do choose too. You obviously have read at least parts of the Bible. I hope you keep reading... It has a lot to offer.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • doobzz

          Wow, way to be condescending and arrogant. There's nothing in that post that indicates being "hurt" by Christians. Stop projecting.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There would be no atheists if there were any proof that your god exists. But your god is one of thousands, all with the same conspicuous lack of evidence to support their existence. If you can prove your god exists, please do so. Until you do, your threats are empty and rather silly.

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

        You will get your answer in due time.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
        • tallulah13

          In other words, oscar has no proof. Just his own insecurity and empty threats.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • aldewacs2

          Another empty threat. How original.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
      • KLN

        Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Yes, there have been false gods created by man. Jesus was and is the one true God. It takes more faith to believe there is no creator of our complex, perfectly formed and intricate universe than to believe in God.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Not really. What is required is curiosity and the willingness to wait for honest answers. I don't have those answers, therefore I am unwilling to give up and say "god did it."

          January 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          It really does take more faith to believe in a spell casting supreme being than nature you know.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:27 pm |
      • bernard

        Spot on Tallullah13. It maybe a mistake to think these threats are silly and empty. Devoted religious folks all over the world are proud to kill and maim for their beliefs....or at least they get smug satisfaction imagining how you will be tortured forever for not suspending reason and joining their group. Keep up the good fight brother. The power of evidence and reason is our hope for the future.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
    • WilltheFree

      Earthworm – it's funny how you describe atheists as thinking they know everything, then go right ahead and make statements that say the same about yourself. Religious, atheist – doesn't matter – being an obnoxious know-it-all can happen anywhere.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • oscar

        Come on already for there are no atheist for if there were then who is to say I am not aloud to hunt you down and kill your family? You? If so then you just made yourself God. The government? If so then you just made the government God.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • tallulah13

          I bet that made sense in your head.

          January 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
        • doobzz

          Good grief, are you really that stupid?

          January 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • Raoul Duke, Jr.

      You sound like someone who thinks he knows everything,.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
  11. Bribarian

    retards

    January 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Oh I think you misspelled that...it should be religitards, retard doesn't fit all of you.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
  12. Me

    So they ALSO have the need to worship something? Yes, that's how we all have been designed.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Is it really so difficult to read the article so that you actually know what goes on in these "churches" rather than making things up?

      January 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
      • igaftr

        Yes Tallulah...to someone who thinks we were designed, that would require too much.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
  13. tallulah13

    Honestly, these things sound atrocious. I can see how some people might enjoy the whole group thing, but it's sure not for me.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
  14. DisReverant

    My god's faster than your god,
    My god's bigger than yours.
    My god's better 'cause he gives salvation,
    My god's better than yours.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
  15. somethingstellar

    "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. "

    Ummmm, ironic, Christians getting upset that their texts and traditions were pillaged. How come when other people do it its awful, but when Christians did it, it was called the one true religion? LOL!!

    January 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
    • NailOfBigFootToe

      Precisely. Good luck to Christians trying to distill what was borrowed, interpolated, and what Christ actually said and did.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  16. troll#1

    Maybe if they pray real hard to their un-god....

    January 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      That's more like Troll #2, if you know what I mean.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
    • Sounds Fishy

      Haha. Sounds like a good plan.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
  17. Sounds Fishy

    The whole atheist church thing sounds fishy, and seems more like some people are out to make money from the godless. Yes, you hungry flock, please open up your pocket and donate generously so that your high priest can drive a Rolls Royca, and buy his dream mansion.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • aure22

      fishy is mildly said. I would keep words "atheist" and "church" apart after all. "Atheists Club" would be more suitable name

      January 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I've never heard of these "churches" outside of articles on CNN. I suspect that the majority of atheists find the whole thing to be rather silly.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
    • PS

      I'm a Christian but my friend base is very diverse, including many atheists and agnostics. I'm not going to claim I know everything about their beliefs, but I know why they differ from what I believe, and I respect their standpoint.

      I think a lot of them would cringe at this article, including the term "big tent atheism." Really? They're going to make it sound like some sort of evangelism now? Isn't that the exact sort of thing that puts a bad taste in many atheists'/agnostics' mouths in the first place?

      January 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
      • Sounds Fishy

        Eventually some charismatic guy will hijack the "church" and turn it into a cult.

        January 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
        • NailOfBigFootToe

          Many messiahs, but which one is the real one?

          January 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Devon

    An atheist church. They are so annoyed that people believe in God that they open their own church as an attempt pull in believers to make them non believers. that's pretty disgusting.

    January 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You know what's disgusting? People who don't bother to read the article so that they can make informed criticisms instead of uneducated guesses.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
    • Sounds Fishy

      A scheme to milk the godless. Donate donate ye godless . I need to buy that Rolls Royce and dream home. And I want to franchise this whole thing to milk the godless globally, and one day to do an IPO and be filthy rich like Zuckerberg.

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

        You mean Mark Zuckerberg, who in 2012 AND 2013 was the single largest philanthropist on the planet? He gave away 994 MILLION dollars last year alone ? Yes , we could use more men like him.

        How does your own charitable donations stack up?

        January 5, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
    • magicpanties

      A Christian church. They are so annoyed that people don't believe in God that they open their own church as an attempt pull in non-believers to make them believers. That's pretty disgusting.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:14 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.