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Speak Your Mind: Atheist Church

It seems that “atheist mega churches” are becoming a thing. In fact, Skepchick Heina was the main speaker at the Los Angeles Sunday Assembly just last weekend.

The whole concept of atheist church leaves me cold. Not because I fear that it just lends credence to the argument that atheism is just another religion, but because I’m unconvinced of their utility.

It should be noted that I’m in a relatively privileged position. My family has no disowned me for being a non-believer and all of my friends have accepted this part of me without hesitation. So I’m not in need of a community like others. The fallout of my atheism was almost non-existent.

However, I can’t help but think back to the time when I was a believer and I did go to church. I didn’t feel close to the people I went to church with; I didn’t feel like I had anything in particular in common with them other than we congregated in the same building once a week. I thought maybe I felt so removed from this group of people because I didn’t really believe what they seemed to believe so completely.

Several  years later I joined an atheist group. I thought that maybe I would feel some kind of kinship. I didn’t. I didn’t make lasting friendships with anyone and eventually stopped going to meetings. See, neither a belief nor disbelief in God was enough to sustain a meaningful relationship.

What do you think of the atheist church movement? Do you think it fills a void, or unnecessary? What would you get out of an atheist church?

Featured image credit: Lucy Fischer via Flickr

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Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


  1. November 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm —

    This is kind of… A toss up, really. My biggest issue with it is that churches are, pretty much by definition, divisionist. They tend to exclude people not in them, by definition. While completely delusional about certain aspects of reality, and their own history, a lot of Christians have managed to avoid this, to an extent, only by lumping everyone, universally, into a, “Just like me, but a bit confused, so I hope they see the light eventually, but I will pray for them to do so in the mean time.” They are the ones that the rest call “not really Christian”, because, well.. in a sense they are breaking the core tradition of thinking everyone else is damned, unless they get saved, and that there needs to be a pro-active, insensitive, even possibly violent, attempt to “fix” everyone. But, even as nice as they are… they still assume that something is “wrong” with people that don’t believe, and will, more often than not, come up with absurd things like, “Well, everyone believes, even if they don’t admit it!”

    So.. What does an atheist church do? Hmm. At best, its becomes the anti-version of the above, a group that proposes, “Well, everyone really doesn’t believe, really, if they just admitted that they come up with their own choices, and that belief is just an excuse for why those choices where good, instead of bad.” This may even be true, but the reason that “nice” Christians are still a problem is because they often support not-nice ones, as a means to an end. So.. what are the odds of us ended up with not-nice “atheist churches” (i.e., the ones causing strife, and separating the world into people too stupid to get it, and those “saved”), and the “nice” ones, however unintentionally supporting the not-nice ones? Given human nature… pretty high I would say.

    We are, by nature, prone to form “in” groups, and exclude others, with the only exceptions being where we either lump everyone into “like us, but with some problems”, which isn’t too bad.., or, “not at all like us, so we need to fear them” (something we see already from some atheists, when ever they go off on Islam, or even, in some cases, Feminism). The last thing we need is to codify this behavior in a “church”.

    On the other hand… When churches are the only thing that gets respect among the truly ignorant and obsessive, and half the laws, courts, and politicians, even if technically unconstitutional, give special privilege to such an edifice… do we risk creating them, precisely to take advantage of the innate idiocy of the whole situation, and just try to be really careful which “churches” atheists as a whole support, and vastly more progressive than Christians have been, in condemning them when they cross lines? Can we risk it, or.. has the skeptical movement, and flat, semi-disinterested, and even sometimes hostile, reaction to Islamaphobes, and accusations about sexual assault, when exposed, a sign that the line has only “not already been crossed”, purely in the sense that too many of them are, and have always been, on the wrong damn side of the line already? And, what, if that is the case, does it say about the risk of crossing lines that such a “church” may, depending on who founds it, not even see the line at all? In other words, is it too late, already, to avoid the mistakes other “religious churches” have made, and the only thing to be done is fight harder than our neighbors, in their churches, all have, against the presence of the same problems?

    Does it matter if we call it a church or not, and have we already made the same mistakes, even without one? Is forcing recognition, by the every fool who currently insists, at the same time, that it is a religion, but isn’t, so shouldn’t get the same protections, and privileges, if any worth the possible inevitable codification of our own mistakes, at the same time?

    I really don’t have an answer, and.. in some respects, it is, ironically, only even a meaningful question in places like the US, where being “non-religious” is like being the one cat someone has tried to enter at a dog show.

  2. November 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm —

    First, “church” has been tacked on by the media. Sanderson and Pippa’s gathering is “The Sunday Assembly”.
    Second, we sing nice songs and hear inspirational speakers. And the make us laugh.
    There’s tea and cake after.
    What’s not to like?

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