Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Atheist Church: A Most Unholy Dumb Idea

I don’t remember the exact time I converted to atheism, but the September 11 attacks were the nail in the coffin of religious faith for me. The deadliest faith-based initiative in New York’s history, the attacks illustrated religious fundamentalism and proved that human decency and religious faith were two very separate and unequal things.

            For years I had tread that line in the middle of the road as an agnostic, but that’s long over. I don’t believe there is a God or any gods. Of course I could be convinced if presented with evidence of the Devine, but so far none has been forthcoming. It’s not something I like to argue about or point out in conversation; most of my family and friends follow some sort of religion or another. But I left religion behind and never looked back. I gave up church for Lent years ago and my life has been improved.

            So it’s with a church scold’s dismay that I have learned that the “atheist church” that was started in London as a joke has become a real mega church with branches in several cities including New York.

            These gatherings, known as The Sunday Assembly, feature some interesting speakers at times, at least according to their web site, but otherwise seem to promise all the obnoxious kumbaya of hippie-poisoned religion with the self-congratulating zeal of evangelical nonbelievers.

            The atheist church is an illustration of the spineless nature of our times. People want the comforts of religious faith while being able to look down their nose at people with religious faith. They want to revel in the label of atheist while cocooned in a congregation of followers.

            Atheists don’t go to church and that’s one of its greatest benefits. We don’t have to sing hymns or put money into collection plates. Atheism is turning away from the comfort of religious faith because intellectual honesty and cold hard facts make it impossible to accept.

            Be above the constant navel-gazing identity affirmation that gums up so much of the current discourse. Not believing in God is a fine thing, but replacing faith in a mythical creator with an obnoxious need to belong just makes you another weak drone.

            These atheist groups are either a smug mocking of people who are religious or a sad admission that people can’t live without religion. When atheists flock to church, or some sad excuse for a church, they’re trying to have it both ways.

            The whole point of being an atheist is that you can’t be a follower like that. And this whole free-form meeting to read and discuss whatever you want, that’s been done already. The Society of Friends (a Christian denomination) beat you to this racket by almost 400 years, so congratulations: you’re Quakers.

            This is the same garbage attitude that sends people to new age religions. People want the transcendence of spirituality but don’t have the stuffing to make up their minds about the tenets of a religious faith.  

            So please, if you’re an atheist, be an atheist. Atheists don’t go to church. 

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Personally, raised very religious by an angry and physically abuse Southern Baptist, I myself do not have a lot of patience for organized religion of any kind. The rampant hypocrisy... it is the straw that broke my back long ago. Or was that the heavy leather belt? History gets fuzzy when I think of that time. The surprising part of this story is that my mother was an amazing individual and her faith was something akin to the exact opposite of all that my father stood for. Within me it has given me a deep spiritualism while at the same time abhorring anyone collections of back stabbing, attention seeking pew snoozes. I do have a great respect for any and all faiths, but I have to agree with your blog entry that blind commitment to a set of non-wavering religious principles is sad. A fictional character in a book I have read once explained this best, I think. He said that if people want to chase after and follow their fantasies of blind allegiance to something greater than them; hide and find some comfort in those beliefs, then peace be with them. However, he didn't feel the need to pray and worship. Rather his faith, his way of honoring his beliefs was through the purity of his actions and deeds. I have not met a church goer who has a response for that philosophy. But then again I have not met a church attendant of any religion who lives a life of purer and honest intention than I. I don’t mean free of vice, I mean free of half-truth, hypocrisy, gossip, or small minded pastimes which church congregations seem to propagate. I think that the burden of proof falls on these religions to prove a cleaner and better life. If they were true about maintaining the purity of their faith then millions of true believers would rise up and smother these religious zealot offshoots and keep them from spreading and blackening the name of their religion.