CultureWatch

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Our Atheist Churches

Nov 25, 2013

If God indeed exists and has made us in his image, then it should be not in the least surprising that we have an incurable longing for eternity in our hearts, that we find a search for transcendence everywhere, and that everyone appears to have a religious side to them.

As C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So even those who scream that there is no God also have the need to discover something more than a life of mere materialism. Even they seek to transcend the mundane world they find themselves in. While shaking their fists at God, they give the game away by imitating religion.

I have already written about atheists who just can’t get enough of religion, so they are now holding their own atheist Sunday services. I kid you not. See here for an Australian example of this silliness: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/08/04/the-first-church-of-atheism/

But such pagan worship services seem to be spreading. Now we even hear about “atheist megachurches” spreading throughout the West. With just a hundred people or so, I am not sure that “megachurch” is an accurate title, but it does reflect this growing trend of pagans meeting together on Sundays to celebrate their non-belief.

Of course they are in fact believers: they believe in themselves, and see self as the centre of the universe, and worth worshipping. In a world in which God really does exist, all men are worshippers, as all men must have a god to latch on to. So if it is not the living God of the Bible, any number of fake gods are generated instead, including self.

As Chesterton is said to have written (but the exact source remains elusive), “When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything.” Or a variation thereof: “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”

So to find atheists holding counterfeit church services is not all that surprising, at least from a biblical point of view. Here is how one write-up goes about this:

“It looks like a typical Sunday morning at any megachurch, except there’s one thing missing – God. Sunday Assembly, Britain’s atheist church, is a gathering for the non-believers and it’s making its way to Australia. Nearly three dozen gatherings nicknamed ‘atheist mega-churches’ by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the US and Australia – with more to come – after finding success in Great Britain at the beginning of the year.

“And the movement, fueled by social media and led by prominent British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, is no joke. ‘The Sunday Assembly has been called the atheist church, but we prefer to think of it as all the best bits of church but with no religion and awesome songs,’ Jones told ABC. ‘Our motto is “live better, help often and wonder more”, and our mission is to help everyone live this one life as fully as possible. I am at the moment doing this phone call from Nashville, Tennessee, and we are launching a Sunday Assembly in the buckle of the Bible Belt.’

“The faithless faith doesn’t have a doctrine to rely on, instead taking reference from the arts and nature. About 100 people turn up for each assembly. A typical service includes inspirational talks, readings and sing-alongs and always finishes with tea and cake. Melbourne has already hosted five Sunday Assemblies.”

Obviously all these fake church services do is make it clear just how untenable the atheist position is. We all know that there is more to life than the material or physical. We have a sense of needing something more, and we are all on a search for meaning and purpose – including beyond the grave.

These universal longings make perfect sense in the Judeo-Christian worldview, but make no sense whatsoever in the atheist worldview. Recently Jerry Newcombe had a piece on this matter as well. He begins: “There’s an old joke that says: How do you describe an atheist at his funeral? ‘All dressed up with no place to go.’ Now, all jokes aside, there is a place atheists can go on Sundays. There’s a new type of ‘atheist church’ that has been founded by a couple from England, and apparently it’s taking off.”

He continues, “The services consist of singing secular songs, inspirational talks, and times of reflection. Basically, it’s religion without God. It’s a free country, because of our Judeo-Christian base (and that of England), so the atheists are free to assemble or not, just as anyone else is. Only in nations tied to a Christian base does that freedom exist. (It certainly didn’t exist in the Soviet Union, which was based on atheism.)

“But why accept a cheap imitation when you can get the real thing, possibly down the street? . . . The idea of atheists going to church brings home to me the notion that we are all hard-wired by the Creator to worship. We all worship something. According to the Bible, we’ll ultimately either worship Jesus, or we’ll worship something less; we’ll worship the creature rather than the Creator.

“The 17th century French mathematician and Christian apologist, Blaise Pascal, said there’s a God-shaped vacuum in every heart, just waiting to be filled. The Bible says God created us, and we will give an account before Him one day. In the fourth century, St. Augustine wrote in his classic book, Confessions, ‘You have made us for Yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You’.”

Of course our theologically liberal and/or theologically vacuous Christian churches are little different to the atheist variety: “I remember years ago when an atheist acquaintance told me he loved to watch a certain preacher on TV every week. He loved his sermons because they were filled with motivation, goal-setting, uplifting stories. If the preacher mentioned God, the atheist would just edit that out, in his mind.

“Unfortunately, many Christian churches have unwittingly done the same, removing essential tenets of the Christian faith. It’s sad to think that in some of our Sunday assemblies of professing Christians, there is no longer an emphasis on Christ’s atoning death for sinners and His resurrection from the dead. But that is the heart of the Christian message—from Day One to the present. Note the ancient creed, still repeated in many churches to this day: ‘Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.’ In one sense, a ‘cross-less Christianity’ makes just as much sense as an ‘atheist church’.”

It is likely the TV preacher mentioned above was Robert Schuller, but of course it could equally be somebody like Joel Osteen. Both have watered down the gospel message into a mushy, therapeutic, feel-good bit of humanist porridge. No wonder atheists are comfortable with it. And when atheists even like your stuff, then you know the real gospel is not being proclaimed.

But let the atheists do their thing. However it is all rather silly, sad, and pointless. It is a bit like holding weekly fake feasts, comprised of sticks and rocks, while just down the road the real deal is taking place, full of sumptuous fare with plenty to go around.

As Lewis put it: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

And far too easily deceived as well it seems.

www.news.com.au/national/atheist-megachurch-coming-to-oz/story-fncynjr2-1226757725802
townhall.com/columnists/jerrynewcombe/2013/11/21/church-for-atheists-n1750309

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13 Responses to Our Atheist Churches

  • Well, atheists can’t deny they aren’t like organised religions anymore.

    Slight nickpick. Chesterton apparently wasn’t responsible for that famous quote. Rather, Belgian poet Émile Cammaerts was. He was a fan of Chesterton’s works and made that statement whilst describing some of Chesterton’s writings. That’s probably how Chesterton got mistakenly associated with it:
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton (in the misattributed section down a bit)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emile_Cammaerts

    Mark Wong

  • Hi Bill, I received a reply from the ABC regarding my complaint about Tony Jones’ inability to moderate the Q&A session with Peter Hitchens and Dan Savage, with a focus on Peter Hitchens’ treatment:

    Q & A does not select its guests on the basis of their views on any other particular issue; it seeks a variety of perspectives and interesting personalities.

    The ABC Code of Practice does not demand that equal time be given to all sides of contentious issues during any particular ABC broadcast. It requires that the ABC:
    Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.”(section 4.2)

    Through the course of the year Q&A invites a very wide range of guests, including many from the conservative side of politics and social opinion. In this episode, Mr Hitchens was a strong and articulate advocate for his conservative views, and despite being interrupted occasionally, he was given ample opportunity to state his arguments. Mr Jones treated him with respect.

    Accordingly, while noting your concerns, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied the broadcast was in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards. Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to the producers of the program.
    Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated.

    For your reference, the ABC Code of Practice is available online at http://about.abc.net.au/reports-publications/code-of-practice-2013/

    Neat sidestep of the issue. My complaint was in regard to Tony Jones’ inability to moderate the show, not the behaviour of the guests, or the inherent balance, or lack thereof of the panel.

    Matt Patchon

  • It’s ersatz religion.

    John Bennett

  • Thanks Mark. Yes as I said, often attributed to him but nowhere actually found. See here as well:

    http://www.chesterton.org/discover-chesterton/frequently-asked-questions/cease-to-worship/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CUltureWatch

  • Thanks Matt. yes we are all getting the same lame form reply. We all need to write again, telling them this is just not good enough, and it is unacceptable for them to keep pushing this baloney, bias, and anti-Christian bigotry.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CUltureWatch

  • I was amused when I initially read the report of “atheist church services”. Essentially, they are entertainment venues. They might even be interesting for even the religious to attend if they were held at a different time. Presumably the rental of the hall, speakers’ fees etc would be equivalent to the cost of a church collection. No doubt they will have some attraction to people who are bored on Sunday mornings, but I wouldn’t have thought such boredom would be common enough to give them much of a future.
    Malcolm Smith

  • I wish them well and hope they find what they are looking for. Atheists I have met all seem profoundly ashamed and embarrassed about any talk of God or Jesus and all that and I personally would never force it upon them. Jesus himself spoke in parables for those who loved the truth to hear. I can see how a social get-together run by two jokers with great songs, reflections on life, games, a laugh, socialising with new people are all acceptable activities which will satisfy a sense of emptiness – with no embarrassing talk about God and stuff. It’s a social club or social assembly that runs in competition with the church – giving it more edge, because the idea of a social club to most people is as much of a turnoff as a church!

    Although I enjoy local social gatherings with local people, church choir singing etc. I would personally not want to spend too much time on such a large impersonal show. It would ring hollow for me. There is much more for my own gratification in the seriousness and deep spirituality of private reflection on the tragic and transitory nature of life today and through the ages; the opportunity for joy; and to learn about the wondrous story of Jesus the Messiah; and to engage in earnest, joke-free prayer to God,the all pervading Presence.

    To me, jokers and the laughing face of cynicism are what separates a person from God and the salvation of his or her soul.

    Rachel Smith

  • Why should the atheist religion have its creation myth be the only view taught in the school science classroom and be protected from any alternative competing view or any cricticism.
    Tasman Walker

  • Any room for humor, Bill? If so, here’s a spoken scene at an atheist’s funeral –

    “Here lies Joe Atheist who lives life to the full and now going to eternal rest … oop!… going to rot… oop! I mean, going to waste away in this box that we are about to bury.

    Whatever he has ever done is never to be judged. The good he has done is good! Whatever wrong, evil or hurt he has inflicted is now completely immaterial! Lucky guy, he finally made his greatest escape in death!

    May he finally find peace…oop!… I mean may he rest in peace until consumed by mother nature underground. Aah, that is purposeful, Mr Joe Atheist, even in death you are not wasted after all!”

    Richard Chieng

  • Atheist churches? What a daft concept. As Dinesh D’Souza wrote in his book ‘What’s So Great About Christianity’ that atheism will never be popular.

    Carl Strehlow

  • God said that he will cast out the lukewarm – need we say more.
    Regarding homosexual/atheist churches. Over the centuries there have been many cults that have practiced many blasphemies in many grand locations often to some deformed man/animal or fertility delusion.
    However as regards Homosexuals I have always said that if they do not agree with the rules of God and still want to be married in a church or practice their objectives as normal let them start their own church with their own beliefs but don’t try to change the biblical teaching of our God in our church and the tenets we adhere to.
    Unfortunately they know that only the true Christian church has the blessing of God so they will persevere continually to gain that blessing, possibly from a fallen or misguided disciple who in doing so will himself fall from grace.
    Yet there is a way to attain forgiveness and Gods blessing by the full intent of repentance. Albeit to sin no more.
    Lest their state become worse than their last.
    Similarly if they start their own “churches” without abiding by Gods explicit instructions then it will be of no account and just a gathering of unrepentant sinners having to accommodate so many other evils lest they too face persecution.

    Dennis Newland

  • In my reply from the ABC they said that four against one is not considered bias.

    Roger Marks

  • Many years ago, when I was young and very naive, and before I became a Christian, a friend took me to a homosexual church in Darlinghurst. I remember being shocked and horrified at the goings-on there, and totally disgusted – even as a non-Christian, I respected God. After the service, my friend introduced to me to a 6’4”, painted, bewigged personage in high heels and a tight dress and dripping with fake jewellery, who was clearly a male. I got out of there as fast as I could. It was my first encounter with satanic mockery and caricature….which is exactly what the atheist “churches” are.

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