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. Truth Today

    He is Jehovah–The God of Israel. He exists. He is all powerful, holy, righteous, and good. His son, Jesus Christ, created all things by His Spirit. He created all things out of nothing and for his eternal purposes. He designed the universe in a way that requires faith to believe in him. Hebrews 11:6 states that without faith it is impossible to please God. Science will never prove or disprove God's existence. They will never prove it since God did not design the universe to prove it. They will never disprove it since God is real and that would make him a liar and He cannot lie. I am glad God gave a choice, I wasn't to spend eternity with people that really believe in God.

    January 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You can't know that God exists. Also, if God does not exist you cannot bring God into existence by claiming that God exists.

      January 6, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
      • Truth Today

        It is not my claim. It is His Word as revealed yo His servants. I just believe it.

        January 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
    • Colin

      Wow, you really drank the kool aid, didn't you?

      January 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm |
      • Truth Today

        God is real good when you think about it. He is much better than kool aid.

        January 6, 2014 at 11:09 pm |
        • doobzz

          "God is real good when you think about it. "

          If you were actually thinking, you'd realize that gods don't exist.

          January 7, 2014 at 12:20 am |
    • Andres Torres

      But Truth Today, how can God kill nonbelievers at Armageddon if he set them up to not believe in the first place? Sounds rather mean-spirited don't you think?

      You know, for an obvious Jehovah's Witness you sure don't know your bible, nor your WBTS doctrines. You're not falling into the trap of independent thinking are you?

      "The heavens are declaring the glory of God;
      The skies above* proclaim the work of his hands." -Psalms 19:1

      For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their senseless hearts became darkened. Although claiming they were wise, they became foolish – Romans 1:20-22

      January 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
      • Truth Today

        God will destroy those who have chosen to fight against him. They are destroyed because of their evil and refusal to repent, You should probably read the whole book. You may learn something.

        January 6, 2014 at 11:07 pm |
        • Former Xtian

          I've read the bible cover to cover numerous times. You can't fight against something you don't believe in. Either god will reveal himself or he'll hide and cause millions to burn in hell because he was too stubborn. What a nice guy.

          January 7, 2014 at 1:55 am |
        • Barcs

          Bingo. That choice to stay in the shadows is 100% on god, not us. Expecting us to just guess about a religion and judging our souls for it? Really? I just don't know how people believe some of this nonsense.

          January 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
        • dm

          "Impressive... Most impressive. Obi-Wan has taught you well, you have controlled your fear. Now release your anger, only your hate can destroy me." – Lord Darth Vader, Star Wars

          January 9, 2014 at 12:50 am |
  2. Truth Today

    Any person who rejects the existence of a good God is clearly not using the reason He has given to all. The entire universe speaks of purpose–every law, every thing, every person. The orderliness of the universe alone negates chance. The design of galaxies and solar systems could not happen by random non-directed events just as their atheist church could not happen without planning and purpose. Unfortunately, there are some people just hell bent on not believing in God. God knew this and created a Hell so we believers would not have to listen to them contradict everything God is for all eternity. Thank God for His wisdom and goodness.

    January 6, 2014 at 10:16 pm |
    • Observer

      Truth Today,

      Not one thing you said PROVES that God exists. There are an INFINITE number of possibilities for how the universe came about.

      January 6, 2014 at 10:26 pm |
      • Truth Today

        Nor is it my responsibility to prove God exists just like God need not prove anything to you since He is sovereign. The burden of belief is on you. It is your choice, it is your soul. Choose you this day. Just be willing to live with the consequences of your belief for all eternity.

        January 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
        • Observer

          Truth Today,

          God's message for the BILLIONS of good people who never heard of him: "tough luck".

          January 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
        • Former Xtian

          So I should blindly choose Christianity? Why not Islam? Why not Hinduism? Scientology? Either way you're risking your soul right? What makes you so sure the bible has it right and isn't a deception by Satan? You're right, it's my responsibility to choose my beliefs, and the responsible thing to do is use scrutiny and critical thinking when determining such a thing.... not blindly believe it cuz mommy said so when I was young because her mommy said so when she was young. Humans lie, and there's no way to tell which stories are true, which stories are false, which stories are metaphors and which ones are bed time stories used to teach lessons about morality.

          You seem to think you KNOW the answer about god. I'm just wondering how you know, with all the different scriptures and gospels and versions of god out there. If god exists and plans to punish my soul for eternity because I used my 'god given' brain to scrutinize the various belief systems and still don't see any evidence for any of them, then he's a huge hypocrite and he intentionally set me up to fail along with millions of others unfortunate enough to be born in the wrong location and indoctrinated into the wrong faith. If he exists, but won't confirm his existence and instead chooses to let us gamble our souls on the hundreds of belief systems out there, then he's really a dirtbag when you consider what's on the line. If god's gonna pull that, then he can at the very least show us he's real and let us know which one he is and heck, maybe update the bible to modern times. The "truth" is that god hasn't been seen anywhere since biblical times, so if he was real, he's long gone. Think about it. God was probably a ruler or group of rulers back in the day, not some soul judging enti_ty that won't even reveal himself. We're just suppose to guess and get it right? By all means, show me how you figured it out.

          January 7, 2014 at 1:53 am |
        • Barcs

          Hmmm, no answer from Truth today. No surprise.

          January 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      your god is a vindictive, petty pr1ck. enjoy eternity on your knees

      January 7, 2014 at 5:44 am |
    • Brainwashed Christians

      @truth..... "Thank God for His wisdom and goodness."

      All you are doing is thanking your imagination.

      January 7, 2014 at 8:46 am |
  3. Ellen DeGenerate is a no TRUE SCOTSMAN.

    ___^^ 🙂 ^^-

    January 6, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
  4. encisoc

    The couple in the picture look like people from UC Berkeley, CA.

    January 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm |
  5. Ellen DeGenerate is trying to stop the wife from running off with the cash.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 🙂 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    January 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm |
  6. Robert Raulerson

    The World is coming to an End! So send me your money.

    So sayeth the Televangelist.

    January 6, 2014 at 9:28 pm |
  7. Robert Raulerson

    If there is no Afterlife then the grave is the End of the Trail. That is LIKE A TOTAL BUMMER! I don't want that to be true!

    So sayeth the Believer.

    January 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
    • Pegasus

      There is no god. And I hate him! sayeth Robert Raulerson.

      January 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm |
      • Robert Raulerson

        Might as well hate Winnie the Pooh. Religion is the problem.

        January 6, 2014 at 9:37 pm |
  8. Robert Raulerson

    Ambrose Bierce called religion, 'the child of fear.' "I'm afraid I'll fall and no one will catch me!" So sayeth the Believer.

    January 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm |
  9. Age of Reason

    ..."Jesus Christ" NEVER existed and DO NOT believe in him!

    January 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm |
    • Truth Today

      History declares differently. Stop creating your own reality.

      January 6, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        There is very little evidence for Jesus and none that he was divine.

        January 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm |
        • Truth Today

          Little evidence foes not mean no evidence. You better be believing.

          January 6, 2014 at 11:11 pm |
        • Former Xtian

          No objective evidence. Subjective evidence AT BEST as none of the biblical stories can be verified and there is no sign of god anywhere.

          January 7, 2014 at 1:56 am |
  10. Robert Raulerson

    The question is not 'Does Gawd exist', but 'Why do some people need to believe Gawd exists?' What Nietzsche called 'the psychology of the believer.'

    January 6, 2014 at 9:19 pm |
  11. okmike

    Sounds very much like your typical church split.

    January 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm |
  12. Rajinder Nijjhar

    People became atheists because they did not agree with the present churches which are Synagogues of Satan as defined by Jesus in Matt.12v43-45, the arid temple priests could not find a green pasture. So, they returned to the Church of God with forbidden Jewish leaven, the old testament and caused confusion by loving Darkness to Light. So, In Jesus, you are to be solitary and give your own account to God. This creates Fellowship of Brethren who are Royal Priests. None is above them. Atheists are Royal Priests because they are masters of their own destinies as the born- blind young man of age was.

    Watch my over 3400 Youtube Videos, Channel nijjhar1 to become solitary like me.

    January 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
    • Rodents for Romney

      Wrong, troll.
      That's not why I became one.
      Prove it. Post the poll of ALL the atheists.
      (Oh, you didn't do one, and just made that crap up ? Why am I not surprised ?)

      January 6, 2014 at 8:58 pm |
      • Rajinder Nijjhar

        Hi Brethren,

        The religion of Jesus was to treat others as you wished to be treated. And He exposed the hypocrisies of the Temple Priests in which they were telling others what to do but they themselves were not doing.

        That is why Jesus set us free of the Yokes of the Rabbis but the Messianic Jews soon occupied the Church of God to enslave people stronger than before the arrival of Jesus – Matt.12v43-45.

        So, you cannot blame the religion but the crooks who killed the Light of Jesus for they loved Darkness. Today, these Dog-Collared hirelings of Mammon are greatest hypocrites and that people of discerning intellect have left the Churches as the Jews of discerning intellect did leave the Temple Priests to be baptised by John, the Baptist in the name of Abraham and not the present crook form in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Anybody who possess discerning intellect would leave such Churches of Anti-Christs where the spiritually blind Dog-Collared Priest would ask them to pray as if our Father God is not living in His Temple of God within us but outside in an unknown heaven. That used to be the Jewish Prayer, our Father in Heaven and in Jesus we have, "Why should I fast what sins have I committed and why should I pray, what wrong have I done". Atheists should expose these hypocrites working for Mammon and not God leading the people into the sectarian riots. Ask them that when Jesus died on the Cross, the Curtain of the Holiest of Holy was torn from top, Temple High Priest or its present worst form Pope, to Bottom, the village Rabbi or its present form these hireling Dog-Collared Priests in the Churches of different denominations when Jesus declared One Fold, Church of God, and One Shepherd, Christ Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Solitaries, which is similar to the Atheists. Church of England has Queen, the Head of Mammon in Great Britain, as the Head of the Church of England and not Christ Jesus. That is why, you have statues of Army Generals, Viceroys, etc. in the St.Paul's Cathedral, and not of the men of God like the Salvation Army man Brother William Booth. A Temple of Mammon is declared by the people as the Temple of God because of these Robed Robbers in colourful dresses, or white-washed Cups, that Queen would love to see.

        Do the Atheists would not agree with me?

        January 7, 2014 at 5:26 am |
        • Barcs

          "Do the Atheists would not agree with me?"

          Shhhwwwha? No wonder you chose religion.

          January 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
    • Are you...

      ...here just to spam your garbage?

      January 6, 2014 at 9:02 pm |
  13. moo

    I worship the Great Moo of Mooland.

    Thus my name.

    January 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
    • Barcs

      I will prey for you. Literally, I could use a steak right about now!

      January 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
  14. Atheists have the other father. Confusion say lots.

    -^ 🙂 ^-

    January 6, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
    • Are you...

      ...we todd did?

      January 6, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
      • G to the T

        Sofa king...

        January 7, 2014 at 8:21 am |
  15. allenwoll

    Theists AND Atheists are BOTH Faith-Based !

    January 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
    • M-W says

      1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions 2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust 3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs

      No, atheism isn't faith based.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
    • Rodents for Romney

      In your dreams.
      "asymptomatic" : absence of symptoms
      "asymmetric" " absence of symmetry
      "atheism" : absence of theism
      The absence of belief, is not belief in absence.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm |
      • I agree with the OP

        "The absence of belief, is not belief in absence"

        A-theism is the absence of any gods, therefore the presence of the belief that there are not any.

        Agnosticism would be the absence of beliefs entirely.

        January 6, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          No. Theism is not the"presence" of gods, but a belief in gods.
          Atheism is the absence of belief.
          Agnosticism is the position that we are not able to know. (Gnosticism is "knowing")
          You don't get to re-write the dictionary.

          January 6, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
        • I agree with the OP

          Isn't disbelief in a god the same thing as a belief that there are no gods?

          January 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          Dismissal of ridiculous claims (that there are gods) is not belief.
          If it is, then YOU also BELIEVE the moon is not made of green cheese.
          In fact you DISMISS preposterous claims.
          That the 70th son of El Elyon (the chief Babylonian deity) who was named Yahweh Sabaoth, IS actually a god,
          is preposterous, and can be dismissed.

          January 6, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
        • I agree with the OP

          If you draw a conclusion on a subject with no evidence it can not be knowledge, therefore the conclusion can only be belief.

          January 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          Look up the word in the dictionary, fool.
          Dismissal is not belief.
          You NEED to define it your way. It's about your NEEDS, not about reality, or the REAL use of language.
          You NEED to understand it YOUR way, or your little world falls apart.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:01 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          The absence of evidence IS evidence, (in itself).
          It's not about belief, but EVIDENCE. There is no evidence for a god.
          If you are right, your definition of "faith/belief" is awfully "common", and in fact so "common" it's EVERYWHERE about EVERY opinion.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
        • I agree with the OP

          The argument is not on if any gods exist the argument is on the definition of disbelief. Let me give you another example. It is my "belief" that there are no monsters in Lochness. It can only be my "belief" because I haven't personally checked.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
        • I agree with the OP

          Also you seem rife with attacking me rather than the point.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          But have have not checked, and you will never check. You KNOW you do not need to check. You are intellectually dishonest, equating two concepts that have NO equivalence. (BTW, "rife" is not correctly used in your sentence ... I see you have no education). You are equating the OPINION that there is no teapot orbiting the sun, with "faith" in a deity. You are saying BOTH are "belief". Interesting that you think "faith" is so utterly "common-place".
          How fascinating. Maybe someday you will take a Psychology course.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm |
        • I agree with the OP

          Why the personal attacks?

          January 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          You obviously did not look up the word "belief" in the dictionary if you actually think the opinion or position concerning the presence or absence of a monster in a lake is the SAME THING as faith in a deity. What are you ? Like 2 ?

          January 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          noun: belief; plural noun: beliefs

          an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
          "his belief in the value of hard work"
          something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.
          "contrary to popular belief, Aramaic is a living language"
          synonyms: opinion, view, conviction, judgment, thinking, way of thinking, idea, impression, theory, conclusion, notion More
          "it's my belief that age is irrelevant"
          a religious conviction.
          "Christian beliefs"
          synonyms: ideology, principle, ethic, tenet, canon; More
          doctrine, teaching, dogma, article of faith, creed, credo
          "traditional beliefs"
          trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
          "a belief in democratic politics"
          synonyms: faith, trust, reliance, confidence, credence More
          "belief in the value of hard work"
          antonyms: disbelief, doubt

          The definition says NOTHING about "belief" being about a negative.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
        • I agree with the OP

          Do you believe that there are no gods, or do you with hold a conclusion?

          January 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          They are not "personal attacks" The position you express is the common street level MISCONCEPTIONS and prejudiced opinions that are always thrown around at atheists. It's simply disgust that so many people are so uneducated about the subject, and accept the general theist party line about something they know nothing. It's ignorance. Nothing more.

          January 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
        • AtheistSteve

          Precisely Rodents for Romney.

          I'm an agnostic atheist and no one is going to dictate what I intend by using that label...I'll tell you!
          I wont have to dance with the obscure alternate definitions to make my position crystal clear. The primary definitions will suffice.

          a·the·ist (th-st)
          One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

          Sounds good. Anything I might know about the topic of God or gods came to me from theists or books written by theists.
          I don't believe them. They haven't made their case. Next.

          ag·nos·tic (g-nstk)
          a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.

          Yeah that makes sense to me. It's impossible to know. There might be some as yet unimagined or undiscovered god. Done.

          So I'm an agnostic atheist. I don't know there's a god and I don't believe any of the ones theists have come up with. The reasoning is simple. If it's impossible to know a thing then it's likewise impossible to know anything about it.

          January 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm |
      • I agree with the OP

        below are the definitions:

        a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty
        Opinion is a person's ideas and thoughts towards something
        eliminates editorialized words or statements.
        a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in one person's mind about a particular matter

        any cognitive content held as true
        Belief is assent to a proposition.
        This means that an individual is convinced of the truth of a statement or allegation.
        Religious faith

        Source: Philosophy forums

        Belief vs opinion by this standard would only amount to degree of an opinion's strength.

        January 6, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
    • Dandintac

      On what basis do you make this claim? I've yet to hear any atheist ever say something like – "I have faith there is no god" or "Nothing can shake my faith that there is no god." Believers say the opposite all the time. as an atheist, I say I do not believe in gods. If asked why, I'll tell you because I have not seen any evidence for such an extraordinary claim. Do you call that faith?

      So let me ask you. Do you believe in the Easter Bunny? If you say no, is it fair for me to declare that you have faith that there is no Easter Bunny? Seems pretty silly to me.

      January 11, 2014 at 10:11 pm |
  16. See the new Al & Ted Bundy Show about love.

    ^ 🙂 ^

    January 6, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
    • Troll is..,

      ...obvious troll.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm |
  17. cosmostheinlost

    All, I'm going to say is, a true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death:


    January 6, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
    • Nothingness after death

      I don't know about opium, and it may be correct, but it definitely stops any further questions from that point on.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
    • Rodents for Romney

      There is no evidence that human consciousness persists after death. In fact, from what we know of brain chemistry, it is impossible. Get over it.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:41 pm |
      • Egon

        Didn't you ever see that episode of "Through the Wormhole" where they showed people predicting the "next" set of pictures in a series in advance of the picture? Also there are some other theories of consciousness worth the look.

        January 6, 2014 at 8:47 pm |
  18. Dumb Nazis Greek kirke circe circus circles one again, flat?

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 🙂 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    January 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
  19. ?

    Nicely stated; good luck trying to convince believers who are certain they know the atheist mindset.

    January 6, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
    • AE

      Uh... you just implied you know the mindset of all believers.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
      • ?

        This was on reply to jensgessner's post; let me just just say that I should have qualified it by saying the believers who post here presuming to argue about what an atheist believes. Something you would NEVER do, I'm sure.

        Better now?

        January 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
  20. jensgessner

    Calling Atheism a 'religion' betrays profound ignorance in the matter. Since religion is usually defined as a belief system in a higher power like a deity or any number thereof, Atheism can not be a religion. Atheism is barely even an '-ism', because an -ism usually refers to political philosophies, ideologies or practices.

    Atheism is merely a particular position on a very specific question, namely the belief in deities. Atheists assert that there is not enough evidence to justify believing in deity. We don't practice 'not believing' (nobody practices 'not fishing' or 'not being member of a political party', either). The Atheist position is definitely not enough to build an entire philosophy or ideology on.

    As I see it, the Sunday Assembly is a way to offer community, especially for those that left their church after they 'lost' their faith. However, the effort may be short-lived, because once Atheists are comfortable with their position, they will find community elsewhere.

    January 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I agree. It seems like a temporary stopping off point for people who are trying to figure stuff out. I'd guess few stay around more than a year or ao.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
    • Scotus 1997 ruling


      January 6, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
      • ?

        Now, if we can just get those pesky states to change their laws denying atheists the right to hold public office....

        January 6, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Except that didn't say it was "protected as a religion". They said atheists are protected from state declarations of religion.

        January 6, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
    • Defining "religion"

      Definition of religion in English


      Pronunciation: /rɪˈlɪdʒ(ə)n/

      Translate religion | into French | into German | into Italian | into Spanish

      [mass noun]
      the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods:

      ideas about the relationship between science and religion

      • [count noun] a particular system of faith and worship:

      the world’s great religions

      • [count noun] a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion:

      consumerism is the new religion

      Source Oxford dictionary.

      Atheism qualifies by at least definition "B".

      Or under this phrasing

      "ideas about the relationship between science and religion"

      January 6, 2014 at 8:18 pm |
      • M-W says

        Robert Raulerson says:
        January 6, 2014 at 5:26 pm
        I told them the Austrian Corporal with the funny little mustache was an Xtian. They don’t like to hear that.

        Hey says:
        January 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm

        Main Entry: re·li·gion
        Pronunciation: \ri-ˈli-jən\
        Function: noun
        Etymology: Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at rely
        Date: 13th century
        1 a : the state of a religious b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance 2 : a personal set or insti.tutionalized system of religious atti.tudes, beliefs, and practices 3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness 4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

        Just a tad bit different, no?

        January 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
        • M-W says

          Please excuse the first two paragraphs; inadvertently copied them, also. Apologies.

          January 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      In the legal sense, atheism is a religion in exactly the same way that "bald" is listed as a hair color on a drivers license.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:21 pm |
      • Just me

        Maybe it's just my opinion but I think the word "religion" should be defined as "an existential opinion".

        January 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
    • Vic

      While Atheism is the logical negative of Theism, it is construed as a religion due to the fact that it is not a passive lack of belief in God, rather, atheists are actively engaged in their stance.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm |
      • Just me

        If religion is defined as an opinion on the nature of death, or something like that, then agnosticism would be included in that blanket statement.

        January 6, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
      • Uh huh

        Lots of unsupported opinion there, Vic. If that makes you feel comphy and superior, ok. Total bs, tho.

        January 6, 2014 at 9:06 pm |
      • Brainwashed Christians

        Is not playing chess a hobby?

        January 7, 2014 at 9:01 am |
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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.