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Why atheist megachurches are a great thing, and should be encouraged

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Even if the music isn’t as good.

Further to: Religion can certainly be without God but it can’t be without consequences (because ideas have consequences in a way that entertainment doesn’t), here’s an article at the Huffington Post on atheist megachurches:

Sunday Assembly — whose motto is Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More — taps into that universe of people who left their faith but now miss the community church provided, said Phil Zuckerman, a professor of secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont.

It also plays into a feeling among some atheists that they should make themselves more visible. For example, last December, an atheist in Santa Monica created an uproar — and triggered a lawsuit — when he set up a godless display amid Christian nativity scenes that were part of a beloved, decades-old tradition.

“In the U.S., there’s a little bit of a feeling that if you’re not religious, you’re not patriotic. I think a lot of secular people say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We are charitable, we are good people, we’re good parents and we are just as good citizens as you and we’re going to start a church to prove it,” said Zuckerman. “It’s still a minority, but there’s enough of them now.”

That impulse, however, has raised the ire of those who have spent years pushing back against the idea that atheism itself is a religion. More.

Well, excuse us, but if people want to spend as much time advocating that there is no God as others spend advocating that there is one, it is not meaningful to say that that person’s activities are “not religious.” In a functional sense, they are. Especially if they think that their beliefs can generate moral prescriptions like the Ten Commandments of atheism or result in the growth of megachurches.

This trend should help with assessing cultural fairness in schools regarding statements about the universe and life derived from atheism vs. those derived from theism. If the atheist megachurch is fronting the Darwin-in-the-schools lobby to the exclusion of all other approaches to evolution, no matter what the evidence base, how long will it be before something long obscured becomes obvious: They are proceeding from cultural presuppositions too.

Rather than deciding winners and losers, we need a more pluralistic approach, and eventually one will probably emerge. The alternative is, one cultural group is forced to fund the imposition of another cultural group’s key assumptions about life on all children in compulsory school systems.

Sure. Recipe for needless social conflict #3…

One driver of this atheist megachurch trend could be profound discomfort with the new atheists, who not only aren’t liked as a group but aren’t liked for good reasons. (If you are an atheist who does not routinely want people fired for espousing other traditions, maybe you would prefer to non-worship with non-new atheists?)

While we are here, see also guy at Salon wants atheists to stop behaving like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins. Sorry. Horse. Out. Barn.

Also: New atheism: When you’ve lost The Nation, you’ve lost all

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21 Replies to “Why atheist megachurches are a great thing, and should be encouraged

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    It’s not as if you can just go next door and find an atheist to worship with.

    You have to come a website that has absolutely nothing to do with atheists to find a lot of atheists.

    Odd that.

  2. 2
    Andre says:

    The universe just created itself and for no reason mud magically became alive, I must admit I don’t have that much faith.

  3. 3
    leodp says:

    “it is not meaningful to say that that person’s activities are ‘not religious.’ In a functional sense, they are”
    I agree and in a functional sense no one is truly an atheist. Everyone gives their ultimate allegiance to something or someone. If not God, then to self or something else. And every allegiance requires faith.

    ” ‘Hey, wait a minute. We are charitable, we are good people, we’re good parents and we are just as good citizens as you and we’re going to start a church to prove it,”

    I’m intrigued by this. From an atheistic/materialist frame, how do you define ‘good’? Why is it ‘good’ to be charitable? Nietzsche argued that helping the weaker only hampered evolutionary progress. Let them be naturally selected out. Seems to me Zuckerman is stealing ideas of ‘good’ that flow from Christian theism and that flow from a transcendent, moral and eternal Creator. The brute struggle for ascendency over the others does not lead necessarily to this moral conclusion, or to a transcendent moral standard. If this life is all that there is (for me at least), then why not an utterly self-centered pursuit of whatever makes my personal life more pleasing to me? Arguing that if we all live like that could lead to our extinction is of no help here. If this life and my own brief sentience is all there is for me, then why should I care?

    Still, I’d like to visit an atheist megachurch where they worship the universe, nature or humanity, and praise our own innate ‘goodness’… if only to engage in amicable discussion and contrast the emptiness of that with the worship of One who is immeasurably greater than the universe, humanity or self. And who demonstrated how to live and why:
    Humility

  4. 4
    mahuna says:

    I know any number of people who go to church just for the “fellowship”. Ask them ANYTHING about Theology (as opposed to Bible quotes) and they haven’t a clue.

    And of course there is a LONG tradition of people who have no skills (or morals) starting a store front church because it’s easy money.

    But Active Atheists, i.e., people who regularly tell other people how much they disbelieve in God and want all organized religions (or at least all Christian churches) banned are VERY religious.

    So I agree that it would be great for the Active Atheists to come out of the closet, start formal church-like organizations and then get regulated by the IRS and the courts (separation of church & state and all that).

    Some years back I read that the City of San Diego, CA, used public funds to build a “park” that included a replica of an Aztec temple. The park and its temple were for Hispanics (and undoubtedly Atheists) to celebrate some modern kludge that was intended to be restored pre-Columbia religious services. There was absolutely no complaint (except from a few Christian churches) that this was in fact “establishing a state religion”, which used public money and public land. In practice, public religious ceremonies are only “wrong” when they’re run by Christians.

  5. 5
    JWTruthInLove says:

    There are at least two famous atheist megachurches. One is called “North Korea”. The other is “Scientology”.

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    Andre @ 2

    The universe just created itself and for no reason mud magically became alive, I must admit I don’t have that much faith.

    That’s right. What you need is science.

  7. 7
    leodp says:

    Hello, Aurelio Smith. You said: An atheist must think this is the only life she has. She has to make it count here and now. … The only way to live on is in the legacy of achievements you leave, the fond memories people have of you. There’s more reason for atheists to care about this life than theists who can escape to the next world with a deathbed confession.

    The universe: unintended; no purpose or meaning, just is.
    All of life: unintended; no purpose or meaning, just is.
    If the whole painting has no purpose, then the individual brush strokes have none either. Whatever achievements and fond memories will soon yield to the laws of physics and decay in a universe destined for an ultimate heat death; an infinite expansion into the void.
    You say you know how hard it is for a theist to, “think outside of the box”, so please help me. Where do you derive meaning, morality and purpose in a meaningless, purposeless and amoral whole? Who or what does an atheist worship that is worthy of it?

    A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
    All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
    The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
    The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.
    — Isaiah 40:6-8

  8. 8
    Querius says:

    The initiative will certainly fail.

    Why? Because there are already an abundance of churches led by people who, thanks to their seminary, have stopped believing in a sentient God. Instead they teach a mix of pop psychology, social responsibility, and epicureanism.

    Oh, they still wear their silly garments and facilitate sociologically and emotionally “affirming” religious traditions and rituals that they see as a significant and necessary mythology in people’s lives for ephemeral happiness, and the smoother operation of society.

    To them, God is a multi-dimensional human construct that exists in history and people’s minds, but has a noble psychological reality along the lines of the famous 1897 editorial that included the words, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

    Also, for many of the participants, religion is a wonderfully satisfying opiate that that dulls the anxiety of a pointless life in which everyone suffers and dies. Why does it matter in the long run that anyone remembers you, that anything evolves, or whether or not the earth will someday look like Mars?

    But religion provides a wonderful illusion of hope, significance, and self-justification. It might be a surprise to some that atheism is firmly coupled to religion. In contrast, I’d be willing to bet that no other animal even thinks of religion or atheism.

    The only snag in this soft and wonderful philosophical feather bed is if it turns out that a living, sentient God really and truly exists after all.

    This would make everything really awkward for a lot of people. 😉

    -Q

  9. 9
    Andre says:

    Seversky

    Darwin was just a crazy old coot, angry at God for the loss of his daughter, if you think Darwin’s racist, works, is science then you friend are lost to any truth.

    Did you know that none of Darwin’s work is peer reviewed? It is total nonsense and a theory conjured up from his observation of artificial selection aka intelligent design….. perhaps you should actually read his books and then decide if you want to be affiliated with such a racist imbicile.

  10. 10
    mike1962 says:

    Aurelio Smith: An atheist must think this is the only life she has. She has to make it count here and now.

    Which is why narcissism and hedonism makes the most sense.

    The only way to live on is in the legacy of achievements you leave

    Why ought anyone care about leaving a legacy?

    the fond memories people have of you.

    Why ought anyone care about what memories people have of them after one is dead?

    There’s more reason for atheists to care about this life

    Then why isn’t narcissism and hedonistism a superior lifestyle?

    than theists who can escape to the next world with a deathbed confession.

    If there is an afterlife, maybe a death-bed confession will help, maybe not. But if there is no afterlife I can see no rational reason not to be a complete narcissist and hedonist. Can you offer a rational reason why I ought not?

  11. 11
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: Did you know that none of Darwin’s work is peer reviewed?

    That is incorrect. Most of Darwin’s works were published in scientific journals, including Darwin & Wallace, On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 1858. Lyell and Hooker both urged the joint publication, which was read to the Linnean Society and subsequently published in the Proceedings.

  12. 12
    Box says:

    How about this for an atheist sermon?

    YOU’VE GOT TO STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY

    THE ILLUSION THAT THERE IS SOMEONE INSIDE that has thoughts about stuff is certainly as old as the illusion that there are thoughts about stuff. They almost certainly evolved together as a package deal. But if the physical facts fix all the facts, there can’t be a me or you inside our bodies with a special point of view. When it fixed the facts, physics ruled out the existence of selves, souls, persons, or nonphysical minds inhabiting our bodies. It’s easy to see how it ruled them out, much easier than it is to see the illusion of aboutness that fostered them. Seeing the illusion of self helps loosen the hold of the illusion of purpose, plan, and design. If there is no one to cook up and carry out plans, purposes, and designs, then they couldn’t be real, could they? As for free will, it’s also hard to see its point without a self to have free will.

    So, what should we scientistic folks do when overcome by Weltschmertz (world-weariness)? Take two of whatever neuropharmacology prescribes. If you don’t feel better in the morning . . . or three weeks from now, switch to another one. Three weeks is often how long it takes serotonin reuptake suppression drugs like Prozac, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, or Luvox to kick in. And if one doesn’t work, another one probably will.

    [Rosenberg, THE ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO REALITY]

    edit: Seversky #7, you may want to check this

  13. 13
    Andre says:

    Right Zachriel

    I’ll call your bluff, Darwin’s biggest two works are?

    Origin and Descent of man…..

    Are these works peer reviewed?

    You tell me…..

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/timeline.html

  14. 14
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: Are these works peer reviewed? Origin and Descent of man…..

    As we already pointed out, Darwin’s theory of evolution was originally presented a year before “Origin of Species” to the Linnean Society. See Darwin & Wallace, On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 1858.
    http://darwin-online.org.uk/co.....;pageseq=1

    Furthermore, your claim was that *none* of Darwin’s works were peer-reviewed. That was false. Darwin was a prolific scientist and published in scientific journals on a wide variety of subjects.

  15. 15
    Andre says:

    Zachriel

    His most prolific work published in peer review was on geology, not biological evolution. Origins and Descent of man is work of fiction, not science, hence the reason it was never published in any journal. Seriously are you defending this racist old coot?

  16. 16
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: His most prolific work published in peer review was on geology, not biological evolution.

    Most of Darwin’s published work was about biology, though he did publish about geology as well.

    Andre: Origins and Descent of man is work of fiction, not science, hence the reason it was never published in any journal.

    Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was published by the Linnean Society. See Darwin & Wallace, On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 1858.

    Have you abandoned your previous claim that “none of Darwin’s work is peer reviewed?”

  17. 17
    Andre says:

    Zachriel

    Darwinian evolution has many theories, natural selection is one tidbit, of all his published papers this one was co published with Wallace of course Wallace and Darwin’s view on evolution was polar opposites Wallace is an ID guy and most of us that actallyfollow the evidence agrees with him. I sent you a link of Darwin’s time line. Darwinian evolution your belief system has not been peer reviewed, I stand by that and you are welcome to prove otherwise.

  18. 18
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: Darwinian evolution has many theories, natural selection is on tidbit

    Huh? Natural selection is one of the two primary ideas of Darwin’s theory, the other being branching descent. Both ideas were broached in the joint paper with Wallace in 1858.

    This I believe to be the origin of the classification and affinities of organic beings at all times; for organic beings always seem to branch and sub-branch like the limbs of a tree from a common trunk, the flourishing and diverging twigs destroying the less vigorous—the dead and lost branches rudely representing extinct genera and families.

  19. 19
    mike1962 says:

    Aurelio Smith,

    Alrighty then

  20. 20
    jstanley01 says:

    Suggested slogan for their new religion:

    There is no God at all, and Darwin is His prophet.

    You’re welcome.

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    LOL jstanley01! 😉

    -Q

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