FreeThought Fort Wayne

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Atheist churches

Posted by JD on May 14, 2008

VJACK over at atheist revolution had an interesting post about the idea of atheist churches.

There were a lot of interesting reactions and replies to the idea.

I think there has been a serious misunderstanding over the years of reading too much into the word atheist. Many theists continually use the word to imply the “religion” of the unreligious, and many times this use is intended as a derogatory slant toward anyone who doesn’t believe whatever specific dogma they call their own. It is a loaded word with a negative connotation built right into it. It is reminiscent of the Romans calling the early believers of Christ “Christians” or little anointed ones in an effort to slight their belief in a monotrinistic (oxymoron: belief in one trinity god) god.

Many atheists convolute the problem by giving too much importance to the label. Much of this is in self-defense. I know I have certainly found myself having to explain what my definition of atheism is and having to justify it with numerous arguments and posts. It is such a mind-numbing waste of time and energy arguing repetitive points to people over and over. It is necessary, but it takes time away from the more important topic; and that is, what do you center your life around that gives it meaning and value while leading you astray of organized belief in God?

I find I hardly ever dedicate time to this question, which I have read several times in different places and phrases. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in something.

The following is part of my reply to VJACK as to why atheists do not need to compete or mirror their organizations after churches, especially since there are already plenty of worthy, secular candidates to choose from to donate your time and energy to:

I don’t want to get caught up in a theological arms race and waste loads of cash and time that can be better spent by donating to local secular charities and organizations.

The reason why there is not a proliferation of atheist churches is because (at least from my point -of-view) atheism is not the central tennent of their belief systems. It’s already been said, but the only thing the label “atheist” does is let others know one’s stance on religion.

Being atheist is not what is important; it is secondary. What is important are beliefs that different atheists stand for and what their lives are built around, such as teaching, practicing science, medicine, etc.. There are no holy books that must be scrutinized and regurgitated. The closest atheists come to dogma is learning how to think critically and rationally and the scientific method and peer-review. Those things are there for our education, not for worship.

The punny guy that I am, I do find the idea of “atheist churches” to be attractive from the perspective of irony and ridicule. But it is not worth the problems it will cause by adopting the idea, no matter how comforting some of the social aspects are of belonging to a church. Even if most atheists are by metaphor black sheep that have been led astray of the flock, there is always some comfort in simply talking with like-minded people in a brick-and-mortar building no matter how effective and helpful the internet freethought community may be.

2 Responses to “Atheist churches”

  1. Jim said

    Hey there. This story came up in my “possibly related” auto generated links, on a story about being the only atheist at a Christian funeral, which I recently blogged about – and I’m just saying hello and well done on a great blog.

    If I could shamelessly bait for visitors to my site while I’m at it, you can click my name (above) and go to my wordpress, say hello and comment on the many atheist threads I have there, that’d be great.

    As for the idea of an atheist church – we Brits already have loads of them. They’re called pubs! I was at one last night, in fact. The communion wine is particularly yummy and, best of all, it’s really beer!


  2. Theo Doersing said

    Cool, Jim. Glad you found us. I’ve added your blog to my bookmarks and will read it soon.

    We have those atheist pubs, I mean churches, here too. In fact, I’ve been to most all of them trying to see which sect of beer, I mean atheism, I should call my own.

    I prefer to drink, I mean pray, at home. No sense showing off how pious I am in front of the whole congregation!

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