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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. mariel

    Have no interest in joining an atheist church. Would have no problem in joining a science discussion group or a knitting group or a cooking group or a gardening group that met on Sunday mornings.

    I've been an atheist for a long time. Don't care if other people belive in magic daddies in the sky as long as they don't hassle people who don't believe in them or use their beliefs to hurt others. And unfortunately, they do both of these. My taxes are used to support "faith based" groups and chaplains in the military and my property taxes are higher because churches are exempt.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Makes sense. I might have a different view. Where I live, a person is expected to go to church, and it's a part of conversation at work and in public. I know a number of atheists/agnostics, but only two in my city. I can definitely see the appeal of having a community of like-minded nonbelievers to hang out with and do community outreach and that sort of thing.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Realist

    ____________________

    .. http://www.GodIsImaginary.com ..

    .. and thank goodness because ..

    .. he emanates from the ..

    .. http://www.EvilBible.com
    ____________________

    January 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
  3. kim

    You all are scary with your atheist talk... so glad I'm not one of you!

    January 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      back atcha

      January 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
    • JC Cody

      Hey! I'm not afraid of atheist at all. All atheists are the Children Of SATAN!! Hey Atheists, better be aware of Christans vs anti-christians will start the Civil War II in USA near the future. We look forward for it. 🙂

      January 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
      • Cedar Rapids

        A Christian looking forward to war and death? Who would have thunk it.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
  4. Gus

    he looks like jesus. I'm in!

    January 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm |
  5. Thom

    But if they can designate themselves as a "church", they can get a tax exempt status, just like a million other fraudsters.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
  6. Thom

    A "church" is actually the building, and many of them are now used for other things besides for worshipping.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
    • Bigwillz

      wrong. A church is the people in a Christian body of believers if you want to get technical. Churches that rent out schools and movie theaters and other venues are the church regardless of what building they are in

      January 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
  7. Maleficent

    All any church is is a social club, so I'm sure this "church" will survive like any other.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
  8. teresa

    I thought only real "churches" couldn't agree on the mission statement.

    Carry on, good atheists of the world! Carry on! Have your church, that isn't a church. Have your gathering that isn't a gathering. Have your "BELIEFS IN NOTHING" that aren't real beliefs. You don't have to do anything or assemble anywhere and I believe you are all good people.... as good as any true Believer. All equal, no need to organize. : )

    And above all, continue to do GOOD WORKS cuz they are a tenet of any good church/ assembly, that aint a church ; )

    January 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  9. Thom

    Most people with a high IQ or extensive education are non believers. Invisible men and "miracles" don't excite them. Everything that was said to be god made is soon to be explain as science and Darwin. To think a god created the entire millions of galaxies is like believing in the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause......except it's intelligent adults who are.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
    • Thoth

      SCARY!!

      January 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
    • RealityCheque

      Einstein is not in your group of 'most people'. You realize that right? Many more too ...

      January 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
      • hee hee

        Einstein quote, in reply to someone who was disappointed that he was religious:

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

        I trust that you will refrain from repeating this falsehood in the future.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
    • Doris

      True, Thom.

      As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains in his talk The Perimeter of Ignorance, throughout history many of the great minds give virtually no mention to any god for their discoveries and explanations. (Ptolemy, Isaac Newton, Laplace, Huygens, Galileo.) That is, until they reach the problem they feel they cannot and will never fully tackle.

      Perhaps that is all God has ever been – a placeholder for discomfort or frustration over the unknown; an excuse of last resort when, for one reason or another, one gives up investigation. It is at that point of discomfort over the unknown when one should remember what humanity has already witnessed: that today's scientific explanations were often yesterday's gods.

      What is the effect when man relies solely on his gap-filling gods? Consider this:

      Two-thirds of star names have Arabic names. They came from Islam's fertile period (AD 800-1100.) During that time Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world, open to people of all or no faiths. During that time were some of the greatest advances known to mankind: engineering, biology, medicine, mathematics, celestial navigation; this is the time and place that gave us numerals we use, terms like algebra and algorithm.

      Enter Imam Hamid al-Ghazali in the 12th century. The fundamentally religious period of Islam begins, and so begins the steady decline of free intellectual expression in that area of the world. Some would argue that it has since never recovered.

      Of course the effects of such reliance touches us today – even in the U.S. We see some who refuse medical care for their children for instance.

      "[If] the nature of... government [were] a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would] consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will] exclude the advances of information, and they [will] seem exactly where they [have always been]. And there [the] clergy will always keep them if they can. [They] will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope." –Thomas Jefferson

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

        Perhaps God was comforter to the masses created by the rulers. If the ruler provided everything, knew everything, and destroyed his enemies wouldn't that be nice?

        January 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
    • Vic

      360º

      January 5, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
    • John Fields

      that is a broad sweep of the brush that I don't think is supported by data. it is just a feeling on your part.
      faith is very personal and many are unlikely to admit it.
      I don't think I fall into the high IQ or education (only a master's in management) but my personal faith or what passes for it is always in flux. I was raised very Roman Catholic, and as the middle son I constantly heard about having a calling, which I didn't (I struggle with the fact that I have what one boss described as the most unforgiving nature he ever saw). but to get to the point, it isn't for you to judge other's faith, only to make decisions on your own. it is repellant and arrogant to sit and judge others like a deity you don't believe in.
      personally, I wonder that if the universe developed differently at any step that we wouldn't be here. whether that makes us lucky or beneficiaries of the divine I don't know, but I don't rule out anything that I can't deal with scientifically.
      but I also am not concerned about other's belief systems, as long as they don't bother me. right now, you bother me

      January 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
    • Rob

      You confuse "most" with "a higher proportion." In the US at least, a majority of people in every educational category have a religious affiliation. People with higher degrees are just proportionately less likely to have an affiliation.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
    • JC Cody

      Thorn, yes, but they are very few. Most of them are moron and evil-minded.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • massardi

      Really? Have you checked with all of them or is it this easy for you to say that all S are P? Besides atheists are believers. Neil DeGrace, on the other hand is not an atheist. He is an agnostic. See? Neil is not a believer. This S is P. Arrogance walks hand in hand with ignorance.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
  10. Cars are for Drivers

    Zeus became a bull and took that poor woman to make a child.
    If this Yaweh character did the same to Mary to make that Jesus person, how come no Christ follower ever feels bad for the poor sod who had his wife taken by a deity?

    Disgusting belief system.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
    • Mopery

      The whole Judeo-Christian-Muslim mythology is just a ripoff of other pre-existing religions.

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

        what religions? It is easy to throw stuff out there with no backing it up

        January 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
    • Bigwillz

      The biblical account is not similar to the Zeus situation, but I think you probably know that

      January 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
  11. Colin

    2,000 to 3,000 years ago, there were millions and millions of people on Earth. There were humans throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, Russia, Scandinavia, the British Isles, China, Ja.pan, Australia and North and South America. Millions of people and thousands of cultures.

    And yet, the entire Bible is focused only on the Jews, who made up less than 1% of these people. Hmmmm, did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?

    January 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • Mopery

      Taken literally, the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god spent a week creating the world around 3000 B.C.E., which must have been quite a surprise to the Sumerian and Babylonian farmers who were busy watching him do it.

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

        Taken literally. Who asked you to do that?

        January 6, 2014 at 1:32 am |
        • Observer

          Gollum,

          Are you saying that the Bible can't be trusted to be accurate?

          January 6, 2014 at 1:39 am |
        • Anon

          moronic xtians that believe the bible to be true and divinely inspired. just find some seventh day adventists online and try to debate them lol.

          January 6, 2014 at 1:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      It's all rather obvious if you actually care to think about it.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
  12. Chris Osborne

    Hi Katie. I think you meant to say '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, Melbourne AND LEEDS' Woohoo!! 🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Sue

    This is not a church, any more than a synagogue is a church. Its a club. Church is a Christian term for its assembly.

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

      burn the churches!

      January 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Mopery

    The very idea of an "Atheist church" sickens me. I was raised in the church, and knew from an early age that churches are little more than egocentric gossip pageants. While I do think it's important to have some kind of social group to attend, mimicking self-righteous organizations whose core beliefs you disbelieve is not the way to go. It's akin to holding AA meetings at the local bar.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
    • Cars are for Drivers

      Hey! We're not alcoholics, we don't go to meetings!

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

      Thanks for giving my immediate reaction to this article words, Mopery. It all seems quite hypocritical to me, which is ironic since atheists are so fond of calling believers hypocrites.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
  15. Peter strauss

    If I was god, I'd lobotomize myself after I realized I had killed my own son for Humans

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

      But, you are your own son...

      January 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
  16. aldewacs2

    This whole 'atheist church' seems to have a lot of religious folk wound up and thinking that "see, atheists really do believe ... something". Sorry guys, these 'atheist church founders' may just be looking to make a buck. Took a page out of the fundamentalist Christians' sheet music.
    Atheists do not need to have their non-belief validated and 'recharged' ever week.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
    • hee hee

      I think you nailed it.

      I said earlier, it was only a matter of time before charismatic sociopaths discovered the atheist market.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
    • Mopery

      Exactly, tax-free donations are hard to pass up, which is probably why there are so many churches in America. Everyone bow your heads and give praise to the profit!

      January 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
  17. Why Evolution is True and Why Many People Still Don't Believe It

    NO designer needed Vic and creationists !

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW9G2YVtBYc&w=640&h=360]

    January 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  18. i LIKE tHIS pOST

    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 3:59 pm |
    • Thurston Howell III

      Would you like to explain away the other world religions, both primitive and modern, as well???

      January 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
      • tallulah13

        In my opinion:

        All religions and gods reflect the morals and habits of the cultures that created them. Historically, humans have created gods in an effort to understand and bargain with the unknown. As more is learned about natural phenomena, fewer gods are needed. This is why very few if any thunder gods are currently worshiped in developed nations, except, of course, by neo-pagans.

        Christianity seems to have thrived because it offers an egalitarian solution to that final mystery: Death. If christianity didn't promise immortality and rewards to even the most wretched of humans, I doubt it would be any thing more than a footnote in a history book.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • Counterww

          That is a opinion, or it could be that God really does love us.

          January 6, 2014 at 1:59 am |
        • Anon

          god is either an ends justifies the means god (which is profoundly immoral, see mengele), or you just need to look at the Euthyphro dilemma. any god is not good if it has power by definition.

          January 6, 2014 at 2:04 am |
    • CrystalV

      Agreed! Very sad that otherwise intelligent, modern humans think mythology is real. It's like thinking Middle Earth or Hogwarts actually existed.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • CrystalV

      It's like thinking Middle Earth or Hogwarts actually existed.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Thank you. But next time you borrow a post, it's only polite to give credit.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
  19. Cool Lemonade

    "sermonizers had included community workers, physicists, astronomers, wine writers, to p less philanthropers, futurologists, happiness experts, video game enthusiasts, historians and even a vicar. The pulpit is open indeed"

    - Why not throw in some experts on love & s e x , fitness & body sculpting and fashion experts as well?

    The only taboo topic for an atheist church would be morality! 😉

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

      In addition to "morality" the only other topic that would not be appropriate for the atheist pulpit would be GOD.

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

      Cool Lemonade,

      Do you mean morality like supporting slavery in the Bible?

      January 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
      • stef1

        First of all the bible Yahweh the God of Isreal did allow inslaving captives of war, however according to Exodos 21:2-6 they were only to be enslaved 6 years and then set free. Yahweh was extremly fair, and was firm on how the slave was not to be mis-treated. To bad the racist white slave owners in the south skipped that portion of scripture. In addition the new testament has countless scriptures that command all christian converts who happen to be slave owners to treat there slaves as brother, and sister and provide a path to freedom. Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Do your research before you make such unfounded statements

        January 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Here is the result of my research....

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

          Care to explain why my interpretation of it is wrong?

          January 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Some people don't need to be told how to be decent people. But I guess you do. How sad.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
      • aldewacs2

        That's at the very core of why I suspect that not too many atheists would cross the street to join these 'churches'. Those with a bad taste after breaking away from their parents' organized religions would probably have zero interest to start with.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      Few atheists would feel the need to join a weekly gathering to discuss morality, unless it was to get a status update on what the RCC is (not) doing about its rap.ist members.
      Atheists, you see, are innately moral by default: they are immune to church influence, hence the wicked thoughts have no seed to germinate from.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
  20. Thurston Howell III

    From reading some of these comments it appears that only a complete moron could possible believe in God.

    The problem with this is that AT LEAST 99% of the geniuses in world history, even those post enlightenment, were not atheists. Don't confuse agnosticism with atheism.

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

      "I don't know" is the most honest statement a person can make....

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

        I don't know, and I don't care. I enjoy reading about religions. Knowing something about religions helps understand themes in science fiction. I had to read the Koran to better understand Rushdie's "Satanic Verses."

        January 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • Doris

      Especially strong atheism (as weak, or mainstream atheism is highly agnostic).

      January 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Right, Agnosticism is strictly defining knowledge...even a theist can be agnostic. Atheism strictly defines a disbelief in a god or gods...even an Atheist can be Agnostic.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
    • Olaf Big

      Agnosticism is essentially a timid form of atheism. Agnostics say that the existence of god cannot be proven or disproven. Any educated atheist (this does not include folks who found "atheist" churches) knows that, but chooses to assume that there is no god, because then the world around us makes a whole lot more sense, and is much more exciting too. Atheism is not a rigid belief that there is no god, it is a rational choice of a more likely answer to the question that cannot be solved from inside our system of knowledge.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:10 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.