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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. glauber

    This is all a lie. There hasn't been any such thing as a "dive bar" in Manhattan for many years now.

    January 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
    • Deathcampskinnygirls

      .
      .
      .
      .:)

      January 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
  2. alishasackett

    Um...Sounds just like every religion ever.

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

      Atheists don't claim divine azzistance and spiritual power. We're prone to the same human mistakes as those who claim to be above them with the help of their god. lol

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

        You are about the most brainwashed human blogging on this CNN site. You are going to one day bow down and confess who is God. What you see with your damaged little eyes are not all that exists-except in your calcified mind, your reality, your religion.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Back at ya

          January 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
        • theridge

          I hope you are some low level pee-on CPT in the United Nations military fighting a made up war on terrorists, unicorns, and santa clauses. Keep taking your vaccines laced with aluminun, mercury, and foreign DNA. Keep drinking that fluoridated H2O and calcifying your brain so you never have an original thought. I feel like I'm trying to get thru to a bunch of fools from Idiocracy here!

          January 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          theridge

          Isn't the first rule of combat to know one's enemy? Why are you giving up so easily? What are you so afraid of? Conversation?

          Oh my, yes, the words!!!! The words!!!!!! Ahhhh!!! The scawy, fwightening words the atheist puts in a particular order make me so afwaid!!!!

          January 5, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
      • theridge

        You have been on here blogging for hours. I can put $ on the fact you are a virgin, gamer, drooling over cnn blogs at your apartment saying "back at ya" to everything your brainwashed, rockefeller made mind doesn't understand

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

          You are most certainly welcome to any beliefs you may wish to hold-as proved by your belief in an invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant "god."

          January 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  3. L

    We all have known atheism is a cult religion. Leave them to their hypocrisy! LOL!!!

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

      Apparently you have been misinformed. The very definition of atheism is the lack of belief in god. That's it. These people may chose to organize and call themselves a church, but they do not represent the majority of atheists.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
      • L

        Blah blah blah. Atheism is still a religion and always has been. Fail atheist trolls! You cannot escape this fact despite your lies to get out of it!

        January 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
        • one more in a million

          your eloquence has convinced me, I now believe in a loving creator.

          January 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
        • Alex

          Working hard to prop up your beliefs and disparage others I see. Just an FYI, atheists don't care what you think. To me, you might as well believe in Zeus, Apollo, Santa or Ra or whatever myth you choose.

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

    🙂

    &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& 🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
  5. 3dbloke

    Good to see this article receiving appropriate serious comments 😉

    Who'd have thunk it? A gathering of atheists generating dissent and schism. Whatever next? Herding cats? Snail racing?

    What they need is some crazy dogma based on unsubstantiated stories, some funny hats and robes and a few deep and meaningful ceremonies to be held at intervals through the year that just happen to coincide with equinox and solstice. That ought to do it.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
    • James Wattson

      Funny robes and hats...please don't make fun of the pope

      January 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
  6. geno marcello

    sounds as though, like it or not, God somehow crept into that church of non-believers, call it what you will.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Nope. Christianity does NOT hold the monopoly on human fellowship.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
      • maggie

        replace the word christianity, with the word religion, or believers, that is believers of all types. As an agnostic (what do you call a dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac? someone who stays up all night wondering if there's a dog)...I think the idea of agnostic fellowship is a good one....accept I think they need to accept believers into the atheist fold.....if they are true non believers it doesn't matter what they believe.....human fellowship should be the only goal....there should only be one rule...no proselytizing....the worst thing about philosophy is zealotry and bigotry...unfortunately atheism seems just as vulnerable to this as religion. Cheers, Maggie

        January 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      How do you figure that? There doesn't seem to be anything in the article to support your claim.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
  7. KirkeCircleJerk

    :):):):):):):):)

    January 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
  8. stef1

    Funny how many atheist suggest that most world war's and genocide were sparked by religious zealots. So how do Atheist explain the behavior of Atheist like Stalin, who killed over a million of his own country men, Mao, and Lenin to name a few.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Stalin was an Orthodox Christian, schooled at a seminary....you dolt.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
      • lastochka

        Stalin was expelled from the seminary for poor performance. He was NOT an Orthodox Christian in any way. You are misinformed

        January 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
    • ME II

      Generally it's that Atheism, being a lack of belief, does not lead to any particular behavior by itself. Those you mentioned were generally acting in the 'name of' some version of Communism, not Atheism.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Those were totalitarian regimes who killed to gain and maintain power. I'm sure they killed some believers but not directly because of their beliefs, because they resisted the regime. Many deaths attributed to Stalin were as a result of rigid adherence to a failed agricultural policy, i.e. millions starved to death.

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

      If christianity is the religion of peace, how come christians have killed millions? How come christians have gone to war with other christians over dogmatic differences? Why do christians harm others when Christ commanded that you "turn the other cheek?"

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

        examples? Over generalize much

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

          Study a little European history. Tens of thousands were killed in conflicts between catholics and protestants. Conflicts between catholics and protestants caused civil wars in England and Scotland. Catholics targeted protestants during the St. Barthomew's Day Massacre in France – an estimated 10,000 were killed. These are just a few examples.

          As for christian violence against non-christians, you should look into the inquisition, the witch trials and the Crusades. A catholic priest demanded the slaughter of the Inca because they didn't respect the bible.

          History is rife with examples of abuses perpetrated in the name of the christian god. All you have to do is look.

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

          Hitler and Stalin and Mao were great religious leaders I suppose. There have been lots of killing for wrong/immoral reasons. Christians today are no more responsible for the Crusades than you are responsible for the actions of Kim Jong Il the great Atheist.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Big,

          Here's the difference. Stalin and Mao did not cite "atheism" as a reason for their brutality and policies. They cited Communism. The people who died were killed in the name of, and because of, Communism–not atheism. This is why Communism far more closely resembles religion than a lack thereof. Communism, as practiced by Stalin and Mao was hostile toward religion only because it was a competing power.

          There is no doctrine in atheism to drive any policies. No ideology, no doctrine or dogma, no list of things you must believe in, no blasphemy or heresy that must be punished. So atheism does not, indeed cannot possibly motivate anything–simply because it has no content. It is only a single answer to a single question.

          I'm sure Stalin didn't believe in Goblins, but it would never occur to us to blame his mass murders on his lack of belief in Goblins. Stalin did not purge and execute because of his lack of belief in Goblins or Gods–he did these things due to a lust for power and paranoia.

          While I would never blame every death or murder that happens to be committed by a Christian on their religion, I WOULD do so if they explicitly kill BECAUSE of their religion. The Inquisitions, crusades, witch-burnings, jihads, suicide bombers, terrorist attacks on 9-11, shooting of abortion doctors, the KK-K, Christian Identi-ty, Anders Brevek, The Lord's Resistance Army, the genocide in the Sudan, the Taliban in Afghanistan–on and on and on ad nauseum–these are all SPECIFICALLY traceable to the religion these perps followed.

          They did these horrible things BECAUSE of their religion, and their religious texts carried in them all that they needed to justify their horrible deeds.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
    • L

      It disproves the atheist fairy tale that it takes a religious person to do evil. Fairy tale disproved atheists! Don't be hatin' on facts!!!

      January 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
      • doobzz

        "It disproves the atheist fairy tale that it takes a religious person to do evil. "

        This is a lie. Please show where an atheist said only religious people do evil, please.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
  9. James Wattson

    Religion is a unit of division that will prevent the human race from uniting toward one common goal: peace.

    The absence of religion would further the cause of human peace and unity as well as lift lines of division that have plagued human existence since the beginning of recorded history.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Your target should be dogmatic thinking, not religion. Nonbelievers can be more dogmatic than believers. Atheists can be more "religious" in a particular line of thought than theists.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
    • Bigwillz

      People don't need religion to be divisive

      January 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
      • James Wattson

        I agree but you cannot argue that religion is a major line of separation among the human race.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
  10. Catherine

    I'm not sure why it bothers these unbelievers that there are people who believe in God, if I don't believe in something I don't acknowledge it, talk about it and/or bother with it – js

    January 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Get back to us when the thing you don't believe is believed by 90% of the population who want laws passed based on it.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      When christians stop legislating their faith, when street preachers stop shouting about hellfire and damnation where I am forced to listen, when christians stop posting signs that declare the damnation of non-believers, when they stop mailing pamphlets and knocking on doors, when they stop whining every time some non-christian stand up for their rights, then you can complain about the actions of non-believers.

      Until then, maybe you can take the opportunity to learn in a very moderate way, how it feels to be treated as your religion has treated others.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
      • Bigwillz

        Where do you live/work that you are forced to listen to street preachers?

        January 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
  11. Robert Simonson

    Atheists are almost always young, immature and angry. They generally have a love for ridiculing anyone who is not an atheist, even though almost every great genius in world history qualifies.

    When you ridicule "believers" remember you are ridiculing Einstein, Darwin, Decartes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Locke, Spinoza, Berkeley, DaVinci, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire and almost every other important thinker in world history.

    And yes, intellectual lightweights, A deist IS a believer.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • ME II

      Theists are almost always hasty generalizers.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
      • Astonished

        Do you even see the irony in your post?

        January 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
        • ME II

          Do you even see the intent of my post?

          January 11, 2014 at 11:30 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think you are posting from a position of ignorance. Perhaps you should learn more about atheists before posting about them. That way, you won't look so foolish.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
      • Robert Simonson

        Wow, yet another atheist who likes to hurl pejoratives.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
        • tallulah13

          How am I mistaken? You made a generalization with a basis in your opinion. That makes you look foolish.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
        • Robert Simonson

          I qualified my statement, thank you very much.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • ME II

          @Robert Simonson,
          you are hardly one to condemn others for hurling pejorative.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Great Products of Atheism

          [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnPvb9HtSWw&w=640&h=360]

          January 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
        • Jerry

          You are the one that first started hurling insults, do not be surprised if they are thrown back. Not all atheist are angry and want to ridicule believers. I am an atheist and I have some very good conversations with believers all without issuing a single mean word or insult, from either side. I find that when you can have a calm and meaningful conversation when the goal is simply to understand each other and not to try and convince each other then a lot can happen.

          January 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Dahmer's got nothing on biblegod who slaughters an entire planet's worth of humans and animals and plant life AND allows people to exist in a state of eternal torture forever and ever.

          If Dahmer is sick and disgusting, your god is unimaginably fvcking gross!

          January 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
    • James Wattson

      You make no sense. Your generalization of atheists goes to further show how narrow minded you are.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
      • Robert Simonson

        I can read the comments on this thread and can conclude that the overwhelming majority are just as bigoted and hateful as anyone on the religious right.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Look at you go. All judgement, no fact.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I understand that you really want to believe what you say, but the facts prove you incorrect. I doubt that will cause you any pause, though.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      You really might want to check your list of historic Christian scientists– half the names you provided there were not in any way, shape, or form, believers.

      Einstein was not a believer and has stated as much in many different publications. He was borderline anti-religious.

      Darwin was not religious– contrary to popular Christian myths that he recanted on his deathbed (which would be meaningless anyhow). His daughter verified those claims as false.

      Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle lived centuries before Christianity even existed– they do not count at all (unless you are including all believers in "something- supernatural", like Zeus or Odin worshippers?).

      Why do religious arguments always involve misrepresentations, generalizations, and outright fabrications?

      January 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
      • Robert Simonson

        You really need to read my post again.

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

          Robert Simonson,

          and you really need to do more research.

          Einstein was an agnostic and characterizing atheists as "young and immature" shows that you know NOTHING about the Nobel Prize winning atheists and famous celebrities today who are atheist and not young.

          Please try to put MUCH MORE thinking into further comments. Those were embarrassing for you..

          January 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • igaftr

      RS
      "When you ridicule "believers" remember you are ridiculing Einstein, Darwin, Decartes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Locke, Spinoza, Berkeley, DaVinci, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire and almost every other important thinker in world history"

      Many of those cannot be confirmed what they believed...often times you HAD to give the appearance of belief or be killed, or in Socrates case...he was an iconoclast...his beliefs were all over the place, but he questioned everything ...until they made him kill himself because they did not like him questioning the gods de jeur.

      In Einsteins case....he considered himself agnostic but a closer examination reveals that what he referred to as god, is no where near your definition of god...he just didn't have a better term for what he believed so he used "god".

      As for the others.... It is moot what people believed....it lends no crediblity to the beliefs themselves. whether 1 believe or 10 billion believe...it lends nothing to the validity of the belief.

      So basically, you entire argument boils down to...these guys believed (though you cannot confirm that) so the belief is valid, which is not the case.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
      • Robert Simonson

        My point is simply that belief should not make one a target for ridicule. Most believers are far more sophisticated than they are generally given credit for by the atheist crowd.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • igaftr

          When the beliefs themselves are ridiculous, as in the case with believing the ridiculous stories in the bible, one should expect ridicule. If someone whole heartedly believed in the Great Pumpkin, one should expect ridicule.

          January 6, 2014 at 7:59 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Nope. Could not be more wrong.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
    • Astonished

      Ok the post below makes sense now.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
  12. valeria joseph

    WITH OUT GOD NOTHING CAN LAST AND NO HOPE FOR HUMANITY

    January 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think your Caps Lock is stuck.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
    • James Wattson

      I would argue the opposite.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Our sun is getting hotter and hotter and will begin its death throes in several billion years. The Y chromosome (male) is weak and will slowly die away. We don't have enough resources to last forever, either. So unless we get out of this star system, humanity and all life on earth is without hope.

      You can enjoy life, now, though!!

      The universe will be around for quite a while though. Unimaginably long if you count the time it takes for all the black holes to slowly radiate away their stored energy...

      January 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    these fools should join a social club.

    "atheist church" is an oxymoron.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm |
  14. Rob

    SCIENCE DAMN YOU!!!!

    Seriously, the only way this could be better is if an atheist Martin Luther posted 99 theses on their facebook wall.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
    • Science Works

      And it is CRAZY cold for the packer game.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
    • tina

      Then what – take one down, pass it around?

      January 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
      • Rob

        My bad, should've been 95 theses.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
  15. cjb122

    Too many self absorbed gods in one building creates confusion.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There is no such thing as gods, silly.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
      • cjb122

        Sure there is – the god of self

        January 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
        • tina

          true – that's the kind that tells you to avoid church and read the bible on your own..

          January 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Oh, you mean ego? That's not a god. That's just another part of the human psyche. Some people have a higher opinion of themselves than others. You seem to have a fairly developed ego yourself. Maybe that's why you think your ego is a god.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
    • Robert Simonson

      LOL...

      January 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
  16. Babylonisfallen,fallentwice

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
  17. jones

    these people are not atheists and it's a shame they are giving us a bad name

    January 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      exactly.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
  18. SRSwain

    This is a well-intentioned try. Human beings need connection with each other. That in and of itself is helpful. But it's sad to see these nice people seeking something to fill "the God-shaped void", as Blaise Pascal called it, with good intentions and scholarliness. Why not just look up at the starts on a dark night and say: "Oh God of the Universe, whoever you are, I am not complete. I feel empty sometimes. I feel so alone sometimes and abandoned, and nothing seems to be able to fill that void. I want to be filled and warmed and loved and completed. I have an open mind and heart. Please send some one or some sign or something into my life to let me know who you are." I guarantee this: The God of the Universe will respond to that request, in a timely manner, in ways that will be unique to the seeker. Guarantee it!

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

      True – just ask Charles Manson.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
    • WilltheFree

      I think you missed the part where the people attending are atheists. They think your suggestion is as silly as them telling you to look up in the sky and pray to Rainbow Brite to send you a sign.

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

        as silly as starting a club and calling it a church to stick it to Christians?

        January 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
        • doobzz

          My, aren't you a delicate flower, if the thought of some people getting together on the same day Christians do is so threatening to you! How exactly is this "sticking it to Christians"?

          January 5, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
      • SRSwain

        I got the part about their being atheists. That is why I stated the invitation in naturalistic terms. Atheists are not stupid. They just have not realized that this enormous universe is not, as the scientists seem to THEORIZE, a great big happenstance. Christians and Jews and Muslims all believe that this universe is a very particular kind of intentional creation. I am a Christian. I have never been an atheist, but I have been very angry for a long time that "God", whoever I thought he was as an angry young man, seemed to have bailed out on this experiment. I am not young now. And I am no longer angry. I just realize that my frame of reference was way, way too small. Those nice people can look all they want into every dusty corner of atheism, and they will not find what they are seeking. They will find something, a lot of somethings, but they won't find the very personal energy that has their unique name on it. Of course, that's just a belief, like the belief in gravity or electromagnetism, or the strong force or the weak force. But it works for me and for about a billion other people at this moment. We couldn't all be wrong. The odds are against it.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
        • lisa

          argumentum ad populem ad nauseum or something like that

          January 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
        • G to the T

          If so, he created an awful lot of universe that is hostile to our kind of life...

          January 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm |
    • Observer

      "I have an open mind and heart."

      That is contradictory for MANY Christians.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • SRSwain

        So you may think. But there are many who are not so afraid that they are shackled by dogmatism. The rule-makers and the rule-followers were responded to by Jesus this way: "The first and greatest commandment is: thou shalt LOVE the Lord thy God …; and the second is like unto the first, thou shalt LOVE thy neighbor as (you love) yourself." It's a mystery, not a formula.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
        • Observer

          SRSwain,

          Sadly too many are NOT following the Golden Rule but instead CHOOSE verses to pick on gays or pick on pro-Choice supporters by PRETENDING the Bible ever mentions abortion.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
        • SRSwain

          That is very sad. Anything cruel, hurtful, arrogant, self-centered and so forth is sad. It's part of the proof that this creation is still working its way toward some final solution to its contradictions.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
      • Bigwillz

        Contradicted by many atheists

        January 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • tallulah13

      When I was lonely and sad, I got a cat. You know what's cool about cats? They actually exist.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
      • Bigwillz

        I've never met your cat. I just read your post about your cat, but I don't know you. I have no idea if your post about your cat is reliable or has any truth at all to it. I think I will be super smart and choose to believe that you don't have a cat. After all, your post was written 10 minutes ago from a place I have never been. I just can't bring myself to have faith that you have a cat sorry.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
        • Hank

          True, you never saw his cat, and you may choose not to believe it exists...but which story is sillier not to believe? Is it sillier not to believe that someone in the modern world, with access to pet stores was lonely, and therefore got a cat,or is it sillier to not believe that the creator of the universe was so angry at his creation for eating an apple, that that he banished all of his creations descendants to burn eternally, but then changed his mind and decided to fix it by sending himself down, disguised as his son,so he could be killed by those he had condemned, in order to tell them a few more rules he forgot the first time around, and ultimately call it even on the apple? At least that's the story according to folks that we don't know, and who most likely wern't even born at the time of his grand gesture.

          Hmmm Bigwillz, I think you might be on to something with this Cat Fraud thing. We should look into that a bit more.

          January 5, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
        • Bigwillz

          @Hank

          I would disagree with your characterization of the Christian faith. It isn't that God got angry about the apple. Adam was made to rule the earth, but through his disobedience sin entered the creation ruining the perfect creation. I am sure God was not pleased, but he also clothed them and made a promise to Eve that someone would come through her line that would make things right. All of his descendants were not condemned to hell. Quite to the contrary he maintained relationships with people throughout the Torah first through individuals, then a family, and then a nation.

          The Bible doesn't suggest that Jesus came just to give more rules. God gave enough rules in the Torah. He came to take on the sin of mankind and die a death he didn't deserve to reconcile creation back to himself. I would challenge you to read the Bible and decide for yourself what it says.

          I am sure you will say it is still much harder to believe my view of the Bible than it is to believe the poster has a cat. I get it. But I just wanted to present what I believe to be a more fair teaching of the Bible so that you are at least rejecting the right thing.

          I think the point with the cat is applicable. I can never prove he had a cat when he posted. I could go to where he lives and see the cat, but that doesn't prove he had the cat when he posted. He could have picked up a cat today after he posted. My point is just that it is really difficult to "prove" anything. While it is easier to believe someone has a cat, than to believe that God died to provide salvation to those who believe, the matter of God has much more importance than that of a cat.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
    • igaftr

      Guarantee it!

      Seriously?....Exactly what form does your guarantee take, since there is no evidence anywhere that any gods have ever done anything.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
  19. Saad Awan

    These idiotic hippies are turning Athiesm into just another religion, disgraceful.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
    • Thurston Howell III

      Atheism IS just another religion.

      January 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
      • WilltheFree

        Atheism is not a religion, anymore than bald is a hair color.

        January 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • Bigwillz

          To not believe in God is to believe in something = the absence of a God.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
        • igaftr

          bigwill

          False. Atheism is NOT believing in gods. There is no belief to backfill as you suggest, otherwise you would need a name for not believing in the Billions of things I can make up everyday.

          There is no faith behind not believing in Santa or the tooth fairy.... this is no different.

          January 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        go back to the island!

        January 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
  20. couyon

    Most churches were well attended in the past because of a winning formula of religion, social gathering and family tradition. With people's lives getting busier and busier, families drifting apart, and fewer organized social gatherings, attendance at churches is diminishing. There are so many people now who calls themselves christians but only go to church for baptisms, marriages, funerals, at Easter and at Christmas. What this indicates is that people's religious convictions are on the decline and although they are not admitting it, they are in reality atheists in the making.

    January 5, 2014 at 4:29 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.