Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Atheist Churches

That’s right friends and neighbours. You read correctly. There is a small but growing movement afoot world-wide to create churches, or something, free from the tyranny of religion.

When I first heard about this brand spanking new phenomenon, all I could think was `everything old is new again’. Back in the nineteenth century there was a movement called the `Rationalist Church’, where atheist ‘preachers’ went from gathering to gathering denouncing God. It died out early in the twentieth century as atheism itself waned in Western society. This new movement seems to be a kinder, gentler version. Those involved simply gather together and socialize with those of their kind.

Humans are social animals. Atheists, denied the community of faith-based churches, need feedback and approval from those like themselves; so they have chosen to recreate a familiar and even comforting experience. Also, since life in heavily urbanized areas tends to be isolating, these gatherings provide what could be called face time with people who acknowledge your existence.

Proving the social nature of humans, many of these `churches’ have reached out to others like themselves, some have reached out to the broader ecumenical community, and a few have begun stirring the pot to see what kind of shit they can disturb.

They may be social clubs, but they’re not merely social clubs. Most examples that I’ve been able to research have a charitable and philanthropic bent. Some raise money for local charities, some for a national or international charity. They have speakers who talk about living ethically without religion, being kind to your neighbour, and that sort of thing.

There’s another fact about humans, we don’t like change. We prefer things to stay familiar. It’s all about evoking the familiar and comforting rhythm of ritual. The ritual, for want of a better word, of most of these groups seems to follow that of religious churches with a lecture, discussion, singing, and donating.

What I find highly amusing is the fact that these gatherings, which are for all intents and purposes social clubs, call themselves churches. It’s either an ironic misappropriation of nomenclature, a cynical thumb in the eye of the religionists, or an oblivious Pavlovian response; the last being that they call it a church because that’s what they’ve always called it.

To see some of these atheist churches in action, I have a couple of links to follow: here and here. I’m especially impressed by the fact that the Secular Church has Ten Commandments, just like the Christian Bible. On the other hand the Satanic Church managed to codify eleven.

So, since the motto of the militant agnostic is, “I don’t know, and neither do you.”, I’ll leave these fellow travellers to their mumbo jumbo and just wish them all the very best.

Tell me what you think.  Is this a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Or is it just some passing fad?

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4 thoughts on “Atheist Churches

  1. In my opinion, all things in time become a passing fad… some pass in days, weeks or months… others pass in years, decades, centuries or millennia.

    All things shift and change to meet the needs of the human mind in the time and place and then shifts again when the old things no longer fit. This just happens to be a broader shift than any we have seen in awhile.

    • Shimoniac on said:

      It took me a while to find the quote I remembered but couldn’t think of… On a long enough timeline. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero. – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996

  2. Just wait till the main-line churches become aware of these. They’ll quickly become denounced as the Devil’s meeting-places. There’s no “live and let live” among the evangelical Christians. The Good Samaritan wasn’t Jewish, and he certainly wasn’t Christian.

  3. Would calling one’s group a church have a tax advantage? I believe it might down here in the 48. I recall some stuff in the code that gives ministers some perks. So that begs the question, does the IRS require belief in a higher power to qualify? If not, I hope the GOP doesn’t find out. They’d be incensed.

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