Posted by: amharmon | May 13, 2009

Atheist Churches?

I thought that I would expand a bit on what I discussed earlier in my post about the Christian Atheists. So this idea of Atheists having their own churches and meeting places is a bit strange to me, as is the fact that they even call them ‘churches’. As I mentioned before, there is not a huge number of atheist churches and there is an even lesser number of Atheists who actually attend them. The ones that do attend, usually meet up in small congregations on Sundays, of all days. Some prefer to attend the services of Humanist groups and Unitarian-Universalist churches which profess no belief in any God and discourage the believe in the traditional, orthodox understanding of God. One of the most notable Atheist churches is the North Texas Church of Freethought, established by 3 former Catholics and 1 former Methodist. Their church has a membership of just over 200 people, thought to be the biggest atheist congregation in the world. They meet on Sundays at the same time as other religions so that their members ‘can enjoy the same social and community benefits that other churchgoers enjoy’.  This church is mostly concerned with issues of justice, honesty, and values and believes that making the correct moral choices has everything to do with a person having a rational thinking mind. The church focuses on the human condition, living a better life, making moral decisions, and seeking meaning. There are a varitety of sermon topics and the lastest of which included, “Gratitude, Our Amercian Freedoms, Bioscience, Biotech, and Bioethics.”  The church also offers “Freethought Sunday School” in which the members childern are taught moral critical thinking and the right moral choices without a religious aspect. Though I believe their reasons for meeting are completely understandable, I disagree with their use of religious terminology. Using the word ‘church’ seems to defeat their purpose for being so-called atheists. I believe that many of these atheists that attend these churches are converts from other religious traditions who seek to retain some of what they think are the important apsects of their former religion. Just like a Christian parent may sometimes desire for his child to get a Christian and God-filled education, an Atheist may want their child to attend a non-theistic based class or school. However, many other Atheists oppose the idea of Atheist churches. The head of the organization American Atheists it not fond of the idea of Atheist churches because she represents an organization based upon the opposition of organized religion, which is what these Atheist churches seem to be. I am curious of  what the New Atheists would have to say about this, but with Dawkins calling himself a ‘cultural Christian’,  I can’t imagine him opposing the Atheist churches.

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Responses

  1. This is really interesting. I certainly understand atheists getting together in social function and to be united with each other but to call them churches as well as to meet on Sundays is a bit ironic. As you mention, it seems like Atheism is opposed to organized religion and by forming churches it is like they have formed their own organized religion.

    I don’t particularly take offense at the churches but I think this is certainly like Dawkins trying to claim that without religion we would have the same morals but a different society. What I think Dawkins fails to realize and these Atheist Churches is that almost everything they do or the culture they live in is dominated and deeply influenced by religion whether they like it or not. It seems as if they are giving in to the fact religion is here to stay as they try and keep up by building churches and meeting on Sundays.


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