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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. Sunflower

    I wonder if atheists have levels of atheism too like......orthodox atheists, conservative atheists, reformed atheists, liberal atheists!!! just wondering....

    January 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
    • Brian

      There are two levels of atheism:
      The stupid level...these are called "atheists"...
      and the intelligent level...these are called "agnostics".

      January 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
      • Snafu

        You should have asked for a dictionary for xmas.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
      • Robert Raulerson

        A-theism means you have no theistic belief. An agnostic has no theistic belief. Same-same.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • Brian

          Your ignorance of Latin, etymology and contemporary English usage is profound.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm |
        • HalS

          Being agnostic means that the knowledge of proving or disproving whether there is a God is beyond human comprehension. Being an atheist is flatly denying there can possibly be a God. Not the same! However the common ground is that both do not accept any one interpretation thus far, of God's existence.

          January 5, 2014 at 9:04 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Being an atheist is flatly denying there can possibly be a God." No – only that sufficient evidence has not been provided to prove there is a god. Do you believe everything until it's been disproven or do you not believe in things until they have been proven?

          January 7, 2014 at 11:06 am |
      • JJ

        Hey dipshit, how about giving your particular definition of what an agnostic is and what an atheist is.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • Brian

          An atheist denies the existence of god.
          An agnostic believes the existence of god can be neither proved nor disproved.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm |
        • JJ

          OK, so that's your particular definition but the rest of the world defines it as "lack of a belief in a deity". I see where the break-down is. I assume you are agnostic towards fairies and leprechauns as well? I mean, you want to be consistent, right?

          January 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
        • Brian

          I suggest you consult Webster's to determine the exact current definition of atheism.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
        • Doris

          Not all atheists deny the existence of god(s), Brian. Read about strong/weak atheism. Weak (mainstream) atheism is not mutually exclusive with agnosticism.

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

          Well there's your problem, Brian. I don't think you'll get good details on atheism from Webster's. Do they even mention strong/weak atheism?

          January 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Sorry Brian but atheists don't deny the existence of god. They don't believe there is evidence to prove a god.
          A distinct difference.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
      • Johnny Noir

        Are you agnostic about Zeus, Quetzlcoatl or leprechauns as well?

        January 5, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
        • Brian

          Absolutely.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
      • just wondering

        God bless you Brian...If there is one. Otherwise just keep up the good work making sense while others just propagate an agenda.

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

      Atheism has fundies as well. In fact most internet atheists are fundies.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
      • JJ

        No, those are atheists who can't take it anymore with you Christians forcing your beliefs onto all the rest of us.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm |
        • L

          And atheists respond with the same method. Force atheism onto others. No difference.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Where is atheism being forced on people?

          January 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
        • G to the T

          L – Force atheism onto others. No difference.

          You confuse secular, with atheistic. Secular protects everyone equally, atheistic would be as bad as theistic government.

          January 7, 2014 at 11:08 am |
      • Robert Raulerson

        By 'fundies' you mean fun-seekers. Fun-filled. Fun guys to be around. Not the same a religious fundies who handle snakes and say 'yall'.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
        • L

          I don't say "ya'll" idiot.

          January 5, 2014 at 8:10 pm |
  2. Robert Raulerson

    " I have faith. That means I don't want to know the truth. Cause Truth makes me feel bad. And I don't want to feel bad. So I have faith. Tho the faith don't really make me feel good. Just less bad. But less bad is better than more bad. Yall."

    Brother BillyBob Barnburner
    Snakehandler and Republican.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
  3. Brian

    Being intolerant of other people's belief's is the hallmark of bigotry.

    These boards are proof that atheists can be just as narrow-minded and bigoted as the worst fundamentalist Christians.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
    • Robert Raulerson

      Did the Witches burn the Xtians???

      January 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
      • Brian

        Did the Christians murder 100 million people during the purges of Mao ???

        January 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
        • Goodie Proctor

          Again, Brian to you too, not relevant to current times.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
        • Robert Raulerson

          Mao was a witch?

          January 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Currently in Africa there are christians who are accusing other of witchcraft. The accused (some of them children) are being tortured and sometimes killed for their alleged crimes. So I'd say that the witchcraft question is a valid one.

          January 7, 2014 at 11:16 am |
      • Goodie Proctor

        The sixteen hundreds called, they miss you.

        January 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
        • Brian

          The twentieth century called...Atheist dictators have murdered in excess of 200 million people in this century alone...a far greater number than the sum total of religiously motivated murders throughout recorded history

          January 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • Conspiracy

          Darfur?

          January 5, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
      • HalS

        Atrocities against perceived enemies have been a norm since the dawn of man. It doesn't matter if one is Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Mao, Bolshevik, Mongol, Persian, Turk, Assyrian, Roman, Greek, Aryan, Egyptian, Canaanite, Sumerian etc., human nature is to loathe and conquer those who are not like us. Throughout human history into the present, we've all hurt one another at some juncture.

        January 5, 2014 at 9:37 pm |
    • Bryce

      What irony.. you say that the atheists are being bigots as a result of intolerance, yet you also said that atheists are all stupid in another comment. There are stupid atheists, the rebellious teenage group, but that's different than an honest view on a deity or the lack thereof.

      January 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
  4. DamienFish

    In other words they are Druids.

    A Stonehedge revival.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
  5. L

    So atheism has always been a religion?! Atheists have lied to us!!!! Now watch as atheists try to lie more by saying atheism is not a religion. It's still a religion regardless of what you dumb trolls think.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
    • Bryce

      re·li·gion
      riˈlijən/Submit
      noun
      1.
      the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

      Almost all definitions of religion involve an element of the "sacred", something pure and above the level of human experience. The few that don't involve a grander purpose designed for the followers of a religion, so marxism=religion in those definitions, but not the overall school of thought of atheism.

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

    Okay, yall may have Thomas Edison, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Kurt Vonnegut on yer side, but we got Honey BooBoo on ours! Yall.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm |
    • Copytwitties........noinheritance..........nodad

      Tesla beat the snot out of Edison. His dad was a preacher.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
      • Robert Raulerson

        Tesla was right about AC, but he sometimes got messages from The Other Side!

        January 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
    • Copytwitties........noinheritance..........nodad

      Society beat the snot out of Tesla. You win!

      January 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
    • Brian

      You can have the fascist Edison, the alcoholic chain-smoker Vonnegut and the hopelessly insane Nietzsche, but actually, Lord Russell, though certainly no Christian, described himself as being agnostic and not atheist.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
  7. Copytwitties........noinheritance..........nodad

    %
    %
    %
    🙂

    January 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
  8. Robert Raulerson

    Yes I'm gonna Rapture
    Yes I'm gonna Fly
    I'm headin straight
    For the Pearly Gate
    And I won't even have to die!

    Praise the Lord and Pass the Rattlesnake!

    January 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
  9. Buglebutt

    From the photo, seems like a good-natured get together of socializing over coffee and cookies. What's to criticize about that? They'll all be in agreement, so there won't be any debating about an afterlife. Wonder what kind of topics will be discussed?

    January 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
    • Sunflower

      investment opportunities!!

      January 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
  10. afnmvet

    Apparently even in an atheists church religion is ok as long as it is their religion.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
    • theridge

      Anything can become a religion-football on sundays, politics, and of course atheism. Anything that you make your reality is true only in your mind. However there is a one true reality that few folks will ever know. Corprate controlled cnn will not give it to you either.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
      • HalS

        You do know that all media (CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX and so forth) are "corporate controlled", right?!

        January 5, 2014 at 10:31 pm |
        • theridge

          yes I do -I highly doubted your IQ would have led you to know this but I underestimated you. Anyways that must be where you get all the newly published mainstream science-which is cooked to lead the sheep in whatever their agenda want to go ie man-made climate change, evolution from whatever animal they say, terreforming, gay from birth, flu-shots to protect you from influenza, and i could go on and on in this 2014 matrix!

          January 6, 2014 at 7:15 am |
        • HalS

          @theridge: I highly doubt you are an ideal candidate to judge the IQ of anyone or anything for that matter. Any person who posts that the Rockefellers and Rothschilds are Lucifer worshippers and then proclaim to see dead people (spiritual world) should be locked away in a padded room and heavily sedated with psychotropic drugs.

          And by the way, I don't get my "science" information from CNN, NBC, FOX, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck or Sarah Palin. I am a Biomedical Engineer.

          January 6, 2014 at 10:17 pm |
  11. singletrack74

    Hipster church! A church where they worship themselves, cell phones, gluten free burritos and think they're being original. I see this being extremely popular.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
    • Robert Raulerson

      Xtian Church. Where they make duck calls. And look like Hell's Angels. And say 'Yall'.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
    • Sheri

      It could be about anything really, couldn't it? You could have an entire sermon dedicated to soil erosion, then a few songs about Kentucky and a quick moment of silence for those suffering in excessively long lines.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
  12. Common Sense

    There's no difference between the beliefs of Scientology and Christianity, they're both founded on absolute BS

    Religion is a thick poison that destroys with a hidden agenda. Those who are dying from it will try to get you to join by quoting psalms, it's just sad to know people can't research correctly on their own.

    People are so afraid of the unknown that they're take any answer from snake oil salesmen, just to feel better... And yet they prefer to believe in the easter bunny over what's actually happening in the Cosmos.

    So sad

    January 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
    • theridge

      keep drinking your fluoridated water and calcifying your brain. You and many others have never had an original thought in your life!

      January 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
      • Observer

        theridge,

        Do you get all your thoughts from a 2,000-year-old book?

        January 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
        • theridge

          It is an incredible accurate history book. Where do you get yours- from a rockefeller controlled DOE text book?

          January 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
        • Nelly

          Where do you get yours, FOX news. figures

          January 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
    • Nelly

      The bible agrees with you surprise surprise,James 1:26-27
      If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:53 pm |
    • Sigi

      Just curious: what do you believe in then if anything?

      January 5, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
  13. Robert Raulerson

    Vic
    -----

    You are an atheist as far as Zeus is concerned, for He is the One, True Gawd according to Homer and I'd really like to see yer proof that Zeus doesn't exist. Can you prove it? Then you don't know He doesn't – do you?

    January 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
    • Answer

      People like Vic, are just retarded.

      They can only accept the fact that they've read about ONE god. And that god can only be "their god". That god is the only god out there in the whole universe.

      This ONE god is all their summation point. There can only be one because they have to accept it.

      The logic is always there staring right at them.

      ~If you believe that only one god exists, then logic will tell you that you have to accept the following conclusion:

      ::When only one god exists in your accepted worldview then you are wrong. Plain and simple.

      The notion that only one god exists and then NO other god would exist if a false viewpoint.
      The correct notion of ~if one god exists, then other gods can exist~ is the true position; pertaining to the existences of gods.

      When taken, into context, that if one god does exist and that follows that other gods exist out there; then the conclusive argument is ~ how do you know if your god is the one that created everything.

      In order for a believer to continue in their falsehood they have to lie to themselves. The lie is to maintain the line of :

      "There is only one god and that god is my god; it is the god that created everything. Because there is only one god."

      ~We all see the flaw in their argument.

      ::

      January 5, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
      • eddie

        There is only one God, the creator. There is only one truth. God's truth.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • eddie

          The universe was only created once. Do you think there's a God committee that got together and this is what they came up with?

          January 5, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
        • Answer

          Still the same smelly story of "the only one."

          Self platitude to protect the dogma. Congrats.

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

        What is YOUR belief of how the universe came into existence. I say my God created it which you do not believe. That's fine. If I'm wrong then what is right? You have to have an opinion so what is it? Don't just tell me I'm wrong-tell me what you believe and why you think you are right.

        January 5, 2014 at 8:52 pm |
        • HalS

          I too have a few questions for you: Which one God/Creator, created the universe? And how do you know that "your" God created the universe? Why couldn't it be my neighbor's God? And how does anyone know if they have the same or a different God?

          I remember hearing (more so watching) an argument between an Atheist and a Christian. The Christian ever so proudly proclaimed, "I believe in something because I believe God created us. But you believe in nothing because you believe we were created from nothing". The Atheist – grossly unprepared, didn't know how to rebut such a statement. Had I been in his place, my question would have been; "And who created God? Was he created by another God or did he come from NOTHING?" I asked that very same question when I was 8 years old in First Communion class. No one answered me then, nor since. Can you answer that one question since you are so sure as to what or which God created the universe?

          Here is my take: Would it not be fair to imagine that whatever force (atomic or supernatural) created a God, could have created the universe as well? And if that is the case; then that same force would have no requirement of an intermediary (a middle man such as a God) to create the universe.

          January 5, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
        • eddie

          When you asked the question "Who created God" someone should have told you this–only created things need a creator. God has always been, is and will always be- He is not a created being and therefore has no creator. Einstein's Theory says that time, space, and matter came into existence at one time. These things did not create themselves because there was nothing, no physical force to set the world in motion. Therefore there had to be a creator of the universe (perhaps the supernatural force you mentioned). I believe a logical explanation is there is a Creator. Science tells us that something can't be created from nothing. Scientists agree- until you get to the beginning of the universe. Then all of the sudden, because they don't want to believe in a creator they throw out all that reasoning and say "it just happened". You tell me what takes more faith – a person believing there is a Creator of the universe or someone who believes something just came from nothing?

          January 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • HalS

          So then you are agreeing; it is most logical that a subatomic particle reaction created the universe (which I believe), rather than the "Christian God" theory but that same subatomic particle reaction created God? Then admittedly, God has no real purpose other than to those who are weak, helpless and fearful. God gives them the strength to live with the clinging hope that the happiness they could not achieve in life, they will have after death.

          January 6, 2014 at 11:04 pm |
        • Eddie

          No I'm not agreeing. Even a subatomic particle is SOMETHING. And something is not nothing. Therefore subatomic particles could not have existed prior to creation.The supernatural force I was referring to is God. by the way, I am happy, with an able body and mind and not afraid of anything this world has to present to me. I look forward to the remainder of this life and the next one too. So you are saying subatomic particle reaction caused creation. And where exactly did the subatomic particles come from?

          January 7, 2014 at 12:42 am |
  14. Jonathan

    So a message, no matter the merit,is null in the absence of the author?

    January 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
  15. Oops they did it again...

    After reading the article, I don't think their atheists, sound more like evangelical agnostic episcopalians. They have become what they denied, an organized religion. Which in some strange way supports their theory that man invented religion. By next year they will be speaking in tongues and handling snakes.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
    • Robert Raulerson

      If they do handle snake I hope it's Cobras and not those piddling rattlesnakes the Xtians use.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
    • HalS

      LOL.....God (pardon the pun) I hope they don't come anywhere near my house to evangelize with their gibberish and snakes. Looks like I'll have to add one more group to my No Soliciting sign.

      January 5, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
  16. Robert Raulerson

    Everybody on this site is an atheist. There is some Gawd you Xtians don't believe in. Zeus for one. Odin for another. Isis for a third. Krishna, Buddha, Oogah Boogah. It's easy to not believe in someone else's Gawd. It's just the one that was hammered into yer own little head that you have a hard time getting rid of.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm |
    • Vic

      Not true. You can only be an atheist if you don't believe in the existence of God. Having a certain belief/faith as opposed to the others, only makes you a follower of that belief/faith.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
      • Lester

        Existence of gods. Not your special one, ALL gods, Vic.

        January 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
        • Vic

          I believe God is the Father, Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit.

          You are referring to something like Pantheism.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
      • A Candid Look

        So, I am hearing you say that religion is a belief system...

        What do you call it when you believe there is no God? Is that not a belief system as well?

        January 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
        • Vic

          Yes, religion is a belief system. Now, when you don't believe in the existence of God that is strictly Atheism and different of any Theism. In other words, there are theist religions and there is Atheism.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
        • Vic

          "..different from any Theism."

          January 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
        • A Candid Look

          It is still a belief system...

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

          I know it's all the rage to try to equate atheism and religion, as if they are all the same. But I actually agree with Vic on this. Atheism is not a belief system.

          First of all, it's not a "system". It's only a single answer to a single question–do you believe in a god? No. You cannot make a system with only one part.

          Second it's not a belief, it's a non-belief. I know you can play a lot of semantic games and say–"yeah–you BELIEVE there is no God." Well maybe, but if you do so, then you must categorize every thing else people don't believe in the same way. Do you believe in Sasquatch? No? Well you have a Belief system there! That's pretty silly.

          January 5, 2014 at 9:57 pm |
      • Doris

        Strong atheism is the belief that there are no gods. I suppose you might call that a belief system.
        Weak (mainstream) atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods (while maintaining there is insufficient knowledge to claim for certain that there are no gods). Weak atheism could also be someone who has never even heard of any gods. I suppose you could also call mainstream atheism a belief system, but is seems rather silly. As others have pointed out, it's like calling the activity of not collecting stamps a hobby.

        January 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
        • Doris

          Obviously mainstream atheism is highly agnostic.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
        • A Candid Look

          I disagree with that Doris... Agnostics are afraid to commit. But we can agree to disagree on that one

          January 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
        • Vic

          Atheism is strictly 'not believing in the existence of God.' Weak and strong correspond to non-theism and anti-theism, respectively.

          Now, what you have described is basically Agnosticism.

          Last, any organized stance in this regard is a belief system.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
        • Vic

          Agnosticism IS NOT Atheism.

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

          No vic – here's a bit more to clarify:

          Explicit strong/positive/hard atheists assert that "at least one deity exists" is a false statement.
          Explicit weak/negative/soft atheists reject or eschew belief that any deities exist without actually asserting that "at least one deity exists" is a false statement.
          Implicit weak/negative atheists would include people (such as young children and some agnostics) who do not believe in a deity, but have not explicitly rejected such belief.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
        • Doris

          But I agree, Vic, that agnosticism is not atheism. They can, however, overlap.

          January 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
    • Kirk

      And yet it still didn't occur to any of them to set up a meeting hall where they talk about their non belief in Xenu.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
  17. Dave

    Sounds like a church squabble like any other religions. Atheists are just as bad as creationists. You both act like you know the answer to God and the afterlife.

    The only true answer is no-one knows.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm |
    • Snafu

      The dead know, but they're not talking.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
    • Thank you

      Very well said

      January 5, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
    • G to the T

      "the answer to God and the afterlife." Your bias is showing. Atheists don't believe in "god" (and most don't believe you can prove/disprove god either way). "God" (i.e. El/Yahweh) is a very specific god with attributes and characteristics that can be evaluated and discrarded if found wanting. In my studies, I have found it wanting.

      January 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
  18. Rymond James

    I think they should call themselves Humanist Assemblies . I don't get why they would use church in their name. .

    January 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm |
    • Snafu

      Why do they call it 'Madison Square Garden'? I don't see any freakin tomatoes.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
  19. sburns54

    Typical process for a religion. Initial inspiration, and a small fervent group; attempts to capture the initial flash en masse, by imitating the actions of the originators; routinization sets in, some guy puts on a funny hat and starts collecting money. Then someone nails a bunch of objections to the rich guy's door and starts their OWN club.
    Happens all the time.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm |
    • Gollum

      There's only one truly atheist land on earth. North Korea. All else falls short.

      January 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Communism, cults of personality and atheism are not synonymous

        January 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      It's always all about who has the best hat...

      January 5, 2014 at 7:27 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.