A Church without Faith!

Atheist_symbol
Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atheist_symbol.jpg

I get it when someone says he(no gender preference meant) is an atheist! I agree with him when he says “I don’t believe in God or, gods for that matter”, he is unassailably right in stating his belief! It is only when the atheist asserts that “There is no God” that, in my mind, he has allowed his belief to get the better of him…he needs a reality check on this one!
What I find difficult to get a handle on is why atheists congregate under the banner ‘church’! Why church? At a time I thought the whole point of being an atheist was an attempt to free oneself from the rigidity of religion and sectarianism!
Now, pardon my old-fashioness: the human component of a church extends wider than a Christian congregation to include ‘any assembly dedicated to religious activities’ and religion is universally defined as ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.’ Therein lies the dilemma; you do not believe in or worship a superhuman controlling power so, your endeavor cannot be described as religious yet, when you come together with like-minded fellows the assembly becomes a Church, i e, ‘dedicated to religious activities’!
A front line atheist congregation, The First Church of Atheism has a system of laity, clergymen and clergywomen! With their rising profile, we are not far from having atheist Bishops and Reverends or, would it be atheist Imams and atheist Lamas when the East catches up?
Also, supporting the concept of ‘No to faith, yes to church’ the atheist Sunday Assembly co-founder Pippa Evans in an interview said that “And when I left (Christianity) I realized it wasn’t God that I missed or Jesus, it was church. I really missed church.”
A church without faith, who knows, the Pope may not be Catholic after all?

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15 thoughts on “A Church without Faith!

  1. I won’t speak for the atheists specifically. But this has occurred to me personally, as an ordained minister without a “regularly established church,” as the law puts it. I.e. I don’t serve a congregation that meets on Sundays. However, those who do, whether Christian, atheist, or otherwise, have legal protection because of their “church” establishment. For this the 501(c)3 status exists; yes, it affords tax exemption, but also the right to define the organization’s own religious practices. Those who don’t take advantage of incorporation, may or may not have those protections, should we ever need them. It’s a risk we take. But better that, than huddling under someone’s pre-defined church banner.

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    • Thanks Rev. for sharing your thoughts! Let us think of the era of Christ and early Christianity; the main objective was to touch as many souls as possible with the Message of salvation! Does that not sound like what you are doing? Did Christ found any “regularly established church” and do you honestly need one to carry out the Divine commision?
      Like you alluded to, incorporation and other “permits” are merely external tools to define and guide any collective endeavor; to give the endeavor an identity, rights and privileges “in the eye of the law and society”. That does not mean that one has to “unequally yoked” just to satisfy the so-called “letter of the law”.
      The atheists are equally free to spread their beliefs either individually or collectively but, in my opinion, not as a church! A church cannot be separated from religion, recognition and worship of a higher-than-human Source of power or being/s. That is what the post is all about.
      sorry for taking so much of your time and do have a glorious Sunday!

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      • Thank you for responding. I understand your original meaning better better. Your post was not unclear, I just inferred something different. Thank you again for your enriching words, and kindness! Many blessings!

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    • We do agree it is not easy when not being part of the establishment or recognised institutions.

      Not falling under the system makes that no adaptations have to be made. In Belgium we can see enough examples of the established institutions. Rabbi’s, priests and imams and those who serve the five religions recognised by the state, receive a monthly income paid by the department of justice, plus they also get some funds from their organised institutions, be it the Jewish society, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican, Reformed, Belgian Protestant, Pentecostal or other main church or main Islamic Faithgroup. All outside the five accepted faithgroups do have to find funds for themselves. For the Hindu’s and Buddhists this seems no problem at all because they have very wealthy people being part of that community.

      The Jehovah Witnesses, being the largest group of very active believers next to the Muslims, do have to do it with funds from gifts anf from the sales of their magazines and booklets.
      For very tiny groups, like us, the Christadelphians, it makes it very difficult to survive without any chance of having any private or own property. Each member being free to give what they want to the community, doe snot bring enough funds into the till to cover all the costs, so help from abroad is more than welcome and can keep us going.
      But this independence from the state or from any particular local community or political party gives us the freedom to be open of what we think and how we present our faith. And as such we can stay pure in line with the Bible, giving the caesar what the caesar wants, but holding fast on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

      In the past we have seen that by depending on a big Church made that people had either to adjust to the leaders in command or leave the Church.In Europe, a few years ago we saw the American Southern Baptist Union becoming stronger, and making it that the members in several baptist churches got the trinitarian thinking presented to them to take or leave. Thousands left the Baptist Church to become member of smaller non trintiarian churches, like the Nazarene Friends, the Brethren in Christ or Christadelphians, or went to the bigger churches like the Jehovah Witnesses and to the Church of God and the Church of Abrahamic Faith.

      In other by the state subsidised churches we have seen that certain teachings had to be agreed to or had to be decicded to have eucoemenical services.

      For the smaller groups it depend on the country or state they are in if they can get tax exemption or not. For example our brothers in Holland, Germany and England can deduct their gifts to our fellow communities. In case you can manage to create a good working aid organisation you too could perhaps get such a possibility in your country or state. But naturally than this would demand already sufficient funds to have such a working.

      Opposite what you think would give you the right to define the organization’s own religious practices, it is just no connection with any main organisation or governing organisation which can make you define your own religious beliefs and way of worshipping.

      As you conclude yourself it is always better to stay independent and perhaps having less financial opportunities “better than huddling under someone’s pre-defined church banner”.

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  2. I’ve often wondered; are there atheist’s on a sinking ship or a turbulent airplane? Who do they call out to, pray to, and what is the last thought as they approach what could be deemed their last moment…

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  3. Reblogged this on Stepping Toes and commented:
    Too many atheists forget that they themselves do belief. They might belief many things, like that there is no God. some belief there was a Big Bang, others have other beliefs about the beginning of this universe. They also forget that they too have services and forms of ‘worship’ though they are not called as such and do not take place in buildings to be recognised as such, though in some places we can clearly recognise straight ahead their meeting places, which are often also signalled by plates or names on the building.

    In certain countries, like Belgium and Germany, they also receive working funds from the government like the other groups of beliefs, be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu , Laic or humanistic covenant, which they do not refuse, and as such should have to be honest for themselves to recognise to be willing to be part of a faith group.

    Like many others they assemble or gather at regular intervals. They too are divided in different main groups with subdivisions of different laic thinking. You could compare it with denominations in the different churches, and by ‘churches’ we do not mean only churches of Christian religion but also of the many other religions we have in our surroundings.

    Though what we can notice is that it is only the atheist group which like some conservative evangelicals and Pentecostals, try to force their belief onto others as the only right belief. Being in the majority, those who want others to take it that there does not exist a God, often forget that the so called “freedom” they claim in their banner becomes very restricted in their way of thought, because it are just they and a few fundamentalists, who try to impose their thinking onto others as the only way of thinking to be allowed.

    They should come to realize that human beings have an inner feeling of togetherness and somehow are attracted to the feeling of being part of something and needing to gather with others to keep that feeling strong. That is also the reason why we can find certain philosophers and laic thinkers finding it necessary to have regular gatherings or to have people like the atheist Sunday Assembly co-founder Pippa Evans who had to admit that when he left Christendom he realized “it wasn’t God that I missed or Jesus, it was church. I really missed church.”

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  4. Interesting post – thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    I’m an atheist and I can probably shed some light. At the heart of the matter is humanity, and community. We all like to belong, and some people transitioning from religion to atheism find they really miss the sense of community & companionship that comes from meeting regularly with a number of people with similar views/interests.
    The terminology of “church” is a little unusual, and some have attempted to steer clear of the term. One prominent former preacher in US Jerry DeWitt calls his “church” the “Community Mission Chapel”. I guess this piggybacks off the term chapel, as used even for secular chaplains.
    Anyhow, think it’s mainly about having a network of like-minded friends around you (not that I’ve yet attended a secular church!)
    Thanks again for your post!
    Kind regards
    Scott

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  5. ‘First Church of Atheism’ is an oxymoron. Church, Temple, Synagogue or whatever are names symbolizing the gathering of devotees to a deity. Atheism has no deity, so those who still feel the need to congregate are fulfilling an inner need for something to believe in: therefore they are agnostics, not atheists. Even the word ‘belief’ betrays a tribal connotation: the need to have a unifying point beneath that all-pervasive panoply of fear and cant.
    To proclaim oneself an atheist is not to deny the presence of some great defining plan: doubtless there is, and it would be an act of supreme arrogance to pretend one is privy to all the Universe’s laws. No, atheism simply says there is no point in praying to, or supplicating this great plan, because on our lowly level it has no presence. If Gaia is a god she has far too much work to do conducting the orchestra of life to worry about the lone fiddle player in the fifth row. He lives and dies and decides his fate like all the other fiddle players, and bassoonists and tympanists….
    I do not ‘believe’. I am attracted by, and interested in, concepts like Buddhism and reincarnation, but I don’t ‘believe’ in them. If they happen I might be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised but I will not spend my time on this earth pleading with a god-figure which claims to represent them. I was the product of the most natural act in nature and I have grown and matured as a member of my species should. When my span is elapsed I will sink back into oblivion, and I find peace and contentment in that. It is beautiful and it is simple, and it is the way it is meant to be.

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