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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. kebos

    A church for atheist. A very, very dumb idea.

    January 5, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Not really. A really good church would be indistinguishable from a parking lot. We really need more parking.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
  2. Reality # 2

    For new members of this blog:

    Churches for atheists? Give us a break!! It is obvious a money-making con. We will see when said "church" files their IRS Form 990 this year.

    For the real atheists out there:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life e.g. Do No Harm.

    No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    January 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
  3. Felix Sinclair

    It's a neat idea in principle, but it's sort of like non-equestrians having regular meetings at a racetrack.

    January 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
  4. correctlycenter

    Atheism is the ultimate denial of reality...

    January 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Who threatens to deny you of reality?

      January 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
    • Snafu

      Whose reality?

      January 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
      • LongBeachBums

        How do you define reality??? Belief in a ghost or some mythical being that no one has ever seen or heard??? Who says worshiping the sun or the seasons is wrong? Have you ever met any devout Christians, Muslim, Buddhist, or any other religious sect? All you meet are radicals or followers. There is not proof of any kind of supreme being out there. You bible has been rewritten so many times and changed with each writing so none of them resemble the first one and that one was written by humans with agendas.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
  5. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    There is no such thing as an atheist church... those people are as retarded as the Christian churches...

    January 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
    • Bob Bobson

      Agreed.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:16 pm |
    • Keith

      seems like a good idea to me

      January 5, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
    • Kirke360YES

      🙂

      POP

      January 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      People have been calling me an unchurched atheist for some time.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm |
  6. Fred G. Sanford

    There are 41,000 different Christian denominations, with new ones cropping up every day.

    They all believe that they are the true Christian church.

    If there is only one Christ, only one of them can possibly be right.

    Which church is the true Christian church?

    January 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
    • Doris

      I think it could be those folks who also follow that saint "Santa Muerte". They still believe in sacrificing people now and then.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
    • eddie

      Christians follow Christ. Denominations are imperfect human's practices of belief's based on each denomination's interpretation of the Bible. This is where "religion" screws up everything. Religion can send you to Hell if you believe you have to do this or do that to get to heaven. Christianity is about the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ. We as imperfect humans are separated from God because of sin. Jesus died for our sins. He died to bridge that separation that we may have eternal life with God.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
      • G to the T

        Sooooo... your's then?

        January 6, 2014 at 11:33 am |
    • Gollum

      It's not about which church is right. It's about if Christ is right.

      January 6, 2014 at 1:05 am |
      • Anon

        I wouldn't worry about christ being right really. The supernatural things attached to him are all supernatural mumbo jumbo anyways.

        January 6, 2014 at 1:12 am |
      • Chikkipop

        "It’s about if Christ is right."

        About what?

        January 6, 2014 at 11:14 am |
  7. Bishop Bob of Linguine

    Hey- the Immaculate Mother Church of His Holiness the Flying Spaghetti Monster lives today. All hail his noodleness the FSM- may the sauce be upon him- R'Amen

    January 5, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • Fred G. Sanford

      R'Amen...with extra sauce please.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
      • CON-sensuous!!

        ........ 🙂

        January 5, 2014 at 6:14 pm |
  8. Christianssuffernobigdeal

    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

    🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  9. Fred G. Sanford

    So far, the Christian church has fractured into 41,000 different denominations and counting.

    The so-called "Atheist Church" has 2.

    At this rate, it will take the Atheist Church another hundred thousand years or so before they are anywhere near as dysfunctional and crazy as the Christian church.

    January 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
    • lisa

      Bingo.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I would hope that there are as many "denominations" of atheism as there are atheists. One day I hope there are as many as there are people. People should think for themselves.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Sadly there are always people who fear thinking for themselves. Thus we have churches. Even atheist "churches." Sigh.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
        • jakinak

          Thinking for yourself is hard work, which is why so few choose to do so,,

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

      In some cities that is a different Baptist church every few blocks

      January 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
      • Doris

        LOL – very true.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
        • Keith

          Thanks

          January 7, 2014 at 3:04 am |
    • Mopery

      I used to make regular visits to Our Lady of 134th Street, although I was never the one on my knees...

      January 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
    • Bigwillz

      There are over 3 million church congregations in the world. How many atheist? Less than 10 with 2 "denominations"?

      January 5, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
  10. Marc

    The story of atheists putting up churches only reinforces what Blaise Pascal declared:

    "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

    Churches without the Lord will not fill this void. I pray that they get to realize this.

    January 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      People like the company of like minded people. It's not just for christians. Stop being so selfish.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
    • Fred G. Sanford

      There's 41,000 different Christian denominations and supposedly only one Christ.

      Which one is the true Christian church?

      January 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
      • Great Atheists in World History

        There really is no such thing as a "Christian" in the Eschatological sense. The term is simply semantic.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
    • rh

      I believe the opposite of what Pascal said, paraphrasing: "Why should I not believe in God? If there is a God, I am doing the right thing; if there isn't, I am not losing anything".

      The real truth i: "Why should I believe in God? If there is a God, and he is petty enough to worry about whether I believe in him and not whether I am a good, moral, honest, and compassionate person, I don't want his "mercy" and would be content to burn in he11 with the other "unbelievers". If there isn't a God, I have gained free will, the belief that I am responsible for my own actions, and that our life on Earth is indeed all there is, so we should spend time being good to each other and not hating.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
  11. Great Men of Faith....Albert Einstein

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNqha5IK4xE&w=640&h=360]

    January 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      "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."

      Einstein, 24 March 1954

      January 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
      • Great Atheists in World History

        "Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."
        --Albert Einstein

        January 5, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Einstein was most likely an agnostic, but people like you are happy to lie about his words in order to somehow legitimize your own beliefs. Pathetic and dishonest.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
        • Maani

          Actually, Tallulah, it is far more dishonest for so many atheists to try to claim that Einstein was an atheist, rather than an agnostic. As the video and many other quotes prove, he was clearly NOT an atheist – even though, as you yourself are well aware from having been on these "boards" as long as me, all too many atheists here try to "claim" Einstein for themselves, i.e., as an atheist.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:16 pm |
        • Doris

          Mainstream atheism today is highly agnostic.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm |
        • felix

          Actually, Maani, that's what tallulah said.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm |
        • Dandintac

          It's hard to say exactly what Einstein's actual beliefs were. He appears to have never been more than a Deist, or may have been what we call today "agnostic", or even secretly an atheist. It is largely conjecture. We must remember that open atheism could lead to social ostracization in Einstein's time. It was a good way to be marginalized. During earlier times open atheism was pretty much forbidden, and could get one killed.

          I find it likely that Einstein's beliefs in this area most likely evolved over time, which is why you can find statements of his that appear to conflict. But it is disingenuous to label him a Christian and proudly advertise him as such.

          You will find the same to be true with many famous personages. They may have been conflicted, or their views changed over time. But whether an admired person was a Christian, or a despised person was an atheist–it has no relevance whatsoever to the actual question at hand–does a god exist? Or similarly–was Jesus divine and the son of such a god?

          January 5, 2014 at 9:41 pm |
      • Keith

        Glad to see you posting again Tallulah. I appreciate your views

        January 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      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. (Albert Einstein, 1954)

      I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. (Albert Einstein)

      January 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
      • Great Atheists in World History

        Exactly. Einstein was a deist. He was not an agnostic and CERTAINLY not an atheist.

        Why don't you trolls start mocking his imbecility???

        January 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
        • tallulah13

          I find it funny that you call other people "trolls".

          January 5, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
        • Observer

          “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish supersti-tions.”
          - Albert Einstein, letter 1/3/1954

          Ooops!

          January 5, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
        • Great Atheists in World History

          No oops. Not at all. Einstein was a deist. Not an agnostic. And CERTAINLY not an atheist.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
        • Observer

          Great Atheists,

          "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses" – Einstein.

          OOOPS! Please be much more careful IF you read quotes.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
        • Great Atheists in World History

          Einstein said "the WORD god"...not the concept of divinity. There is overwhelming proof that Einstein was a deist and believed and loved the concept of the divine in the most profound sense.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I've got no problem with Einstein's god or people believing in a similar god; there's really not much practical difference between believing in that god and being an atheist. It's invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant, so atheists and deists treat it accordingly...as if he doesn't exist.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
        • Observer

          Great Atheists in World History,

          LOL. See if you can read it this time.

          “The word GOD is for me nothing more than the expression and PRODUCT OF HUMAN WEAKNESSES, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. NO INTERPRETATION NO MATTER HOW SUBTLE CAN (FOR ME) CHANGE THIS.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
        • Great Atheists in World History

          See if you can wrap your pea-brain around this: What has the Bible to do with belief???

          January 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm |
        • Observer

          Great Atheists,

          Speaking of being "pea-brained":

          "My position concerning God is that of an AGNOSTIC. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment." Albert Einstein, letter to M. Berkowitz (25 October 1950

          OOOOPS AGAIN. Please do some RESEARCH in the future so you won't continue to EMBARASS yourself.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
        • Observer

          Typo: should be "EMBARRASS"

          January 5, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
        • Great Atheists in World History

          @Observer:
          "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."
          ----Albert Einstein

          January 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
        • Observer

          Yep. No mention that such a "spirit" is God or any god. There are MANY types of spirits such as the human spirit to learn.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
        • Great Atheists in World History

          We now know you have a complete inability to admit when you are wrong.
          Take heart, that capacity comes with maturity.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
        • Observer

          Great Atheists,

          SOME day you will be hopefully MATURE and no longer make MINDLESS claims that Einstein was lying when he said he was an AGNOSTIC. Education could be helpful. Good luck.

          “I see only with deep regret that God punishes so many of His children for their numerous stupidities, for which only He Himself can be held responsible; in my opinion, only His nonexistence could excuse Him.”
          - Albert Einstein, letter to Edgar Meyer, 1/02/1915.

          Still one more OOOOPS!

          C

          January 5, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
    • Maani

      This is wonderful. It is important to note that Einstein did not believe in a "personal" God, in the sense of an "ent.ity" to which one can pray, etc. But his "spiritual" beliefs were, as the video suggests, far less atheist than many atheists suggest: indeed, Einstein was an agnostic, possibly only one stepped remove from deism.

      I am surprised that the video did not include my favorite Einstein quote:

      “Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

      January 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
      • Great Atheists in World History

        Just you remember, Maani, that because Einstein believed in a higher power...that he was an idiot and his concept of divinity was just like believeing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
        • G to the T

          He believed in "spinoza's" god – a god that is indistriguishable from the laws that govern the universe. If anything, he was a pantheist.

          January 6, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • Peter

      Who cares what Einstein said in this regard?

      Just because he was knowledgable in astrophysics doesn't mean he understands faith...or cooking, etc.

      Riding his tails is just sad..

      January 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
  12. pourmonamiJC

    I've always thought that it takes a lot more faith to be an atheist than a believer. What most atheists are really saying is that they are intelligent. I can understand many of their objections when I look around me but you don't need to set aside your intelligence to be a believer. Au contraire, you need to bring it in and yes, few believers actually do this. You may want to check who is the father of the Big Bang Theory. While at it you may want to check who's the father of genetics.

    January 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Why is that? Because atheists are content to say "I don't know all the answers" when confronted with the unknown, rather than claiming "god did it", even though there is no actual proof that any god exists?

      January 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      "What most atheists are really saying is that they are intelligent."

      No, what we are saying is that we so reason to believe in a god or gods

      January 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Many discoveries were made by Muslims and people who believe in a much, much different version of god, too. If all scientists worshiped the same god, then we'd have to look into that, or if any scientist had proved any sort of god, then we'd have to look into that. As it is, god seems completely invisible, undetectable, and irrelevant, so it makes sense to treat him that way whether as an atheist or as a deist (as Einstein who believe in a god who did not involve himself with humans or judgment or eternal life).

      Either way, I think it takes a lot more courage and honesty to admit that there are huge mysteries that we just don't have the answers to than to claim that some big invisible sky wizard chanted magic spells for six days. Can you respect that?

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

        To answer your question, yes. And yes, there are a great deal of mysteries for all of us so we can't rule out that a Creator exists within these mysteries. And to try to understand the creation in six days one has to take in consideration the literary genre of Genesis. No intelligent christian will tell you that the book is talking about six literal days. That's one of the many reason that Sola Scriptura is considered a "heresy" by the Catholic Church. And faith is not something you decide to have, it's a gift that you only get if you are open to receive it. God is too respectful to impose on anyone. And as a believer, I really appreciate Voltaire's (an atheist) quote ; "Dieu créa L'homme a son Image et l'homme le lui a bien rendu" which basically means that mankind keeps projecting his own nature on God's nature and that's why we end-up very often with a conception of God that any intelligent human being will reject. Faith and reason are highly compatible providing we can be objective.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm |
  13. Great Atheists in World History...Adolph Hitler

    "The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that's left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity."

    — Adolf Hitler, from Hitler's Table Talk (1941-1944)

    January 5, 2014 at 5:53 pm |
    • lisa

      Hitler was a Christian

      January 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. ...Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. ...

      – Adolf Hitler, speech on April 12, 1922

      January 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
      • Great Atheists in History

        The Fuhrer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of their religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end they will be destroyed. The Fuhrer is a convinced vegetarian on principle.

        — Goebbels Diaries, 29 December 1939

        January 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
        • Observer

          Yep. Likely Hitler couldn't have succeeded without the help of Christians in his country.

          “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
          - Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

          January 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
    • Dominic

      Boy, that sounds a lot like some people who regularly "contribute" to the Belief Blog !!!

      January 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Gosh, you sure admire despots and dictators. But you seem to forget that guys like Hitler got all their power from their followers. It didn't really matter what Hitler thought. He used religion to manipulate the catholic and protestant population of Germany. They happily followed him in his efforts to commit genocide. I guess it goes to show that christians can easily be manipulated by their hate and bigotry.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
      • Great Atheists in History

        It is simply a function of the moral vapidity of atheism and what happens when a committed atheist exerts complete control of his surroundings.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Christians happily followed when told to kill. You can't change history.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
        • AD

          Re 'moral vapidity of atheism'. Help me to understand how it's worse than dividing all people on 'us and them'.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
      • George

        If you believe in God, you should also believe in Satan!!! they co-exist!

        January 5, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
    • Maani

      Thank you for this, if only to underscore my point that Hitler was NOT a Christian, but only "used" Christian rhetoric and symbolism as a means to an end. Another Hitler quote might interested you. Upon assuming the Chancellorship in 1933, Hitler held a meeting of the party faithful. During that meeting, he said, "It is through the peasantry that we will finally destroy Christianity; one can be a German or a Christian, but not both." Note that this was LONG before the "Final Solution" had been created or implemented. It suggests that, after the Final Solution, Hitler would have gone after the Christians as well. (And let us not forget that, in addition to 6 million Jews, Hitler murdered 2 million Christians, and 5 million others.)

      January 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
      • Great Atheists in World History

        You got it.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
      • lisa

        "but only "used" Christian rhetoric and symbolism as a means to an end."

        LOL. Something most Christians become experts at so maintain the "validity" of their sect among the over 41,000 sects.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
        • lisa

          *to* maintain

          January 5, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Look up No True Scotsman Fallacy...you've nailed it here. Just because his actions don't fit your small comprehension of your belief system does not mean he wasn't a christian.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
        • Great Atheists in World History

          If I call myself a Scotsman, does that make it so?

          If I call myself a Christian does that make it so???

          January 5, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
        • Maani

          This has nothing to do with "No True Scotsman." Hitler's goal was a "master race" of "Aryans." But Aryan is a bloodline, NOT a religion. Hitler had no problem "using" anything he could to further his goals of a "master race." As I noted, as early as 1933 – only months after assuming the Chancellorship, and YEARS prior to the Final Solution – he told the party faithful, "It is through the peasantry that we will finally destroy Christianity; one can be a German or a Christian, but not both."

          It is also instructive that by 1942, Hitler had all but dismantled the Protestant Church throughout much of Europe, and continued to do so. There is also the fact of his having murdered 2 million Christians among the 13 million that he killed during his regime. And then there is his plot to kidnap, and possibly kill, the Pope, with whom Hitler did NOT have a cushy relationship.

          Finally, there were eleven main “precepts” of Jesus’ ministry: love, peace, forgiveness, humility, compassion, patience, charity, selflessness, service, justice and truth. Christians may (and do) “fail” at one or more of these at various times. But if one self-proclaims as "Christian," one is presumably at least making attempts to live these precepts, and feels genuine remorse when one fails to do so.

          What of Hitler? If we consider the eleven precepts above, we find that Hitler lived and practiced the POLAR OPPOSITE of all eleven: he was unloving, warlike, unforgiving, arrogant, lacking in compassion, impatient, uncharitable, egomaniacal, self-serving, unjust and a liar. And there is no indication anywhere that he felt remorse for any of his actions.

          Given all of the above, under what rubric can Hitler be said to be a “Christian?”

          January 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          The fact that he self-defined as christian is what makes him christian, the fact that you fail to comprehend this means you have used the No True Scotsman Fallacy. It doesn't matter if his actions had anything to do with his belief, it doesn't change what belief system he accepted.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
      • Keith

        Most Christians are the same kind Hitler was

        January 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm |
    • lisa

      Hitler, upon his death, was still a member in good standing of the Church of Rome.

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

      Hitler's Table Talk was edited by Borman, who was anti-Catholic. Furthermore, the anti-christian quotes cannot be found in the German original. You know why? They were FABRICATED by François Genoud, the translator of the French version! This is the version the English translations come from!

      Here are some of Hitler's real views on Christianity:

      "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.." – Mein Kampf

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter." – Speech in Munich on 12 April 1922.

      "In the life of nations, what in the last resort decides questions is a kind of Judgment Court of God.... Always before god and the world the stronger has the right to carry through what he wills." – Speech in Munich on 13 April 1923

      "We are a people of different faiths, but we are one. Which faith conquers the other is not the question; rather, the question is whether Christianity stands or falls.... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our movement is Christian." – speech in Passau, 27 October 1928.

      "The fact that the Vatican is concluding a treaty with the new Germany means the acknowledgement of the National Socialist state by the Catholic Church. This treaty shows the whole world clearly and unequivocally that the assertion that National Socialism [Nazism] is hostile to religion is a lie." – 22 July 1933, writing to the Nazi Party.

      "The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity." – 26 June 1934, to Catholic bishops

      There are many, many of them in his speeches, letters and writings.

      Hitler was born and baptized Catholic. He never renounced his faith. He never criticized or repudiated God or Jesus. He proclaimed that he was and would always be Catholic. The RCC never excommunicated him. The only high Nazi official who was excommunicated was Josef Goebbels–for marrying a Protestant! Hitler's first treaty was with the Vatican. The RCC was put in charge of education in Germany. There are clips showing Catholic priests and Bishops doing the Nazi salute and party events. The church never came out in opposition to Nazism. In fact, the RCC publicly celebrated Hitler's birthday every year right up until his death! "Gott min uns" was on the belt buckles of Nazi stormtroopers (God with Us). Hitler also bragged about crushing atheism in Germany. He despised atheists and persecuted them.

      Now with many public figures–expressions of doubt or disbelief will come up here and there, but there are very few with Hitler. You could probably find more doubts and disbelief in the writings of Pope John Paul II or Mother Teresa. Christians, in a desperate effort to paint Hitler as an atheist, will latch on to these, but the evidence for his belief is overwhelming when the whole is looked at.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm |
      • Great Atheists in World History

        There is overwhelming evidence that Hitler was not a Christian and abhorred everything about the faith. Overwhelming evidence.

        January 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
        • Maani

          You know, GAWH, it is perversely ironic that atheists accuse believers of being intransigent in their positions, no matter how much evidence is allegedly provided against such positions. Yet here we have atheists who are being absolutely intransigent in the face of overwhelming evidence that THEIR position is incorrect. LOL.

          January 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
        • felix

          No, there is overwhelming evidence that he WAS Christian, which would put a little damper on you "hate atheists" rants, wouldn't it?

          January 5, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
        • Dandintac

          So basically, your response to the evidence I posted above is basically:

          "La la la la–I can't HEAR you! La la la la"–with fingers in figurative ears.

          You ignore evidence, like what I posted above, and keep saying the same thing over and over. You can say something all you like–but that doesn't make it true.

          January 5, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
    • BVLLSH1T

      The Tischgespräche of Hitler are a known fraud...

      "The historical validity of remarks in the English and French translations of Table Talk dating from the 1950s was challenged in a new partial translation by Richard Carrier and Reinhold Mittschang, who went so far as to call them 'entirely untrustworthy', suggesting they had been altered by Francois Genoud as part of a deliberate forgery to enhance Hitler's views."

      January 5, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
  14. aspblom

    The number of people given deportation orders by Finnish authorities has risen sharply over the past four years.

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

      And......????

      January 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
    • Gollum

      Well, I guess you can say they have been Finnish-ed.

      January 6, 2014 at 1:26 am |
  15. Puzzled in Peoria

    Proof positive that atheists can be extremely silly.

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

      Humans are silly beings.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
      • tallulah13

        But not as silly as dogs. Have you ever seen one roll on it's back and wave it's legs in all directions, all the while snorting? Now that's silly.

        January 5, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
  16. JBK

    Really can't see the point of an atheist church? If you don't believe in anything , what are you meeting for, except maybe to prove a point of some kind ?

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

      If you read the article you would learn what they do in their "churches". It's all right there.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
    • Felix Sinclair

      A lack of belief in deities does not equate to a lack of belief in anything.

      January 5, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
    • MAGIC IS NOT REAL

      >"If you don't believe in anything"

      ...said the man who believes in a magical fairy.
      There is no bigger NOTHING than the idea of a magical wizard.
      Kids have Santa Claus, and adults who never grow up have god. LOL.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
  17. CRG

    An atheist church is as illogical as atheism. If I say I do not believe in something that means I accept the possibility of its existence. One cannot believe or disbelieve in something that does not exist.

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

      That's a rather silly statement. It's only sensible to not believe in things that don't exist.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
      • CRG

        The statement is logically sound.

        January 7, 2014 at 3:34 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Nice to meet a fellow unicorn believer! Cheers!

      January 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
      • theridge

        It's Obvious you are a product of this manufactored enviroment. Mainstream science knows evolution is complete fraud. Things only adapt to surroundings- nothing further. So now they are pushing terraforming so people like you who can't think for themselves have something to run to when their pitiful brain doesn't understand. Good luck when you die of cancer from all your shots and drinking water!

        January 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • fookinGod

      explain farther

      January 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      do you believe in bugs bunny?

      if not, do you accept the possibility of his existence?

      January 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  18. 6ball

    Do not celebrate too much religios. Take a look around the world at how many xtian sects there are.
    That humans split into divergent groups should be no surprise to anyone with their eyes open.

    January 5, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
  19. Great Atheists in World History...Nicolae Ceausescu

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3lTw0WMhpg&w=640&h=360]

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

      I find it rather disturbing that you admire despots.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Yep. Just another tyrant who wanted to be a god to his people.

      January 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
  20. Hermes&Kirkes..........LOVE

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 5:46 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.