Back in 2007, I posted a piece wherein I explained why I think that Atheism is a religion. The piece was unimaginatively entitled, WhyI Believe Atheism is a Religion, and in reviewing it for the preparation of this particular blog entry I found that the ensuing years have not changed my mind. In fact, news stories that have been published in the years since that time have only cemented in my mind the correctness of my original arguments.
Today, for example, a colleague of mine in the work of Apologetics whose base is a fine website called The Apologetics Response (hopefully, he will add the CADRE to his friends roll on his blog) referred me to a story on the CNN Belief Blog that has served to confirm my convictions even more. The article is entitled, Church without God – by design and is a story about two churches in Massachusetts and Louisiana which aren't really churches at all – at least, not if the atheists who claim so adamantly that Atheism is not a religion are correct. You see, these churches are churches of Atheism.
It’s Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a rapt congregation listens to a chaplain preach about the importance of building a community.
A few dozen people sit quietly for the hourlong service. Music is played, announcements are made and scholars wax poetic about the importance of compassion and community.
Outsiders could be forgiven for believing this service, with its homilies, its passing of the plate, its uplifting songs, belongs in a church.
If so, it’s a church without one big player: God.
Sunday’s congregation in Cambridge is a meeting of the Humanist Community at Harvard University and the brainchild of Greg Epstein, the school’s Humanist chaplain.
A longtime advocate for community building, Epstein and his group of atheists have begun to build their Cambridge community and solemnize its Sunday meetings to resemble a traditional religious service.
So now we have a gathering of these Atheists on Sunday mornings, no less, to sing songs and rhapsodize about their humanist beliefs. They call themselves a congregation, and they even have a chaplain – a humanist chaplain it seems, but he calls himself a chaplain. I suppose it never occurred to these Atheists that a chaplain denotes a chapel which, of course, is a place for religious worship. Or perhaps it has. After all, if Atheism is to advance as a religion, they need to begin having services and symbols, and this congregation, led by a chaplain, singing their a-religious songs (from “An Atheist Album” no less), and attending Sunday school classes is just the way to get there.
Seriously, Atheists can deny that they are a religion, but they are showing all of the signs of being one. And I certainly don’t disparage them for stepping up and forming a congregation. After all, they must recognize deep down that there is something missing from their lives, and gathering with other Atheists on Sunday mornings to sing the Atheist version of “Kum Ba Ya” (which is probably John Lennon’s “Imagine” or “Give Peace a Chance”) is a good way to try to capture the fellowship that is missing from Atheist society. I don’t begrudge them their meetings any more than I begrudge Hindus or Buddhists from meeting. They have the right in this free country.
There are, however, two things that concern me. First, the fact that they are taking a step towards adopting religious symbols and language without making the clear admission that Atheism is a religion. C’mon people, it’s time to do the AA thing and recognize that you have to be honest about who you really are before you can become cured. Atheism is a religion and the quicker Atheists acknowledge it the better off they (and society) will be.
Second, the article makes a point that this particular congregation is not a place to attack theists. The article notes:
There's little talk about organized religion, positive or negative.
Likewise, down in Louisiana, said his atheist services will not be anti-religion.
"What we are looking at doing is different," DeWitt said. "If you are a religionist and you come and sit in our pew, the only way you can leave offended is because of what you don’t hear and what you don’t see. We won’t be there to make a stance against religion or against God."
I certainly don’t doubt Chaplain DeWitt when he says the services (another religion-laden word) will not be anti-religion – at least, not under his watch. But my problem is that there are radicals in his religion. Many of his fellow Atheists are not willing to coexist or play nice. Just the other day on Facebook, a friend of mine posted one of the supposedly funny (but not really), captioned photos that made a reference to “worshipping a deity that demands that you live in a perpetual state of fear.” My wife responded to our friend by noting that “The God I worship I do not live in fear. The fear that is noted in the Bible refers to a very healthy respect.” But, naturally, our friend had one of the radical Atheists as a friend who immediately went on the attack.
Your "God" sounds like a spoiled little child that lashes out in vain and punishes you if you dont [sic] spoil him with affection and attention. You can keep your imaginary friend. I'll stick to REALITY. P.S if you believe the only way to experience or understand love, compassion, and justice is through religion then you are sadly mistaken.
This person is a hater. He is a radical Atheist who is a follower of the Ayatollah’s of the New Atheists – people who say that religion should be shown no respect. These people hate Christianity and religion because they have been falsely taught that religion is the cause of everything wrong in the world. And these people are not a small part of the Atheistic religion – they are a large and growing branch.
Given that the Atheist churches will not be tied down to any dogma (the article notes that Atheists “don’t want to be associated with any sort of dogma or belief system”), what’s to prevent them from having radical Atheists in their midst? What centralized principal in their dogma-free world says that people who hate historical religions (such as Christianity) should be excluded or told that they are out of place? When Chaplain DeWitt leaves, who says that the next Chaplain won’t be a disciple of the Ayatollah Dawkins and spew hatred and disdain on other religions? And when the group is now emboldened with their thinly-disguised religious zeal, who is to say that they won’t become a hotbed of anti-Christianity, anti-Semitism, and anti-other religions?
Yes, I have concerns, but at least they are beginning to come out of the closet and show what they really are.