Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Atheist "Church"

 In the past several years, alternative meeting formats for atheists have become more popular and captured the media's attention. Many atheists have objections to meetings like the Sunday Assembly, Community Mission Chapel, and Oasis.

Objection: I don't like it.
I don't care. You don't have to go.

Objection: Why don't they just meet at the bar or have a lecture?
If you're not plugged in to the atheist community to know that's the STANDARD format, you need to STFU about anything in the atheist community.
Objection: The word "church"
You'll be glad to know that they don't even use the word church. It's Sunday Assembly, Community Mission Chapel, and Oasis. "Church" is a media term.

But what if they did use the word?

If your objection is anything out of the dictionary, that's prescriptivism. I don't care that the dictionary defines it as a Christian congregation. The word can be used as a format label. These meetings are churchy, they have singing and testimonies and fellowship behavior.

What word does illustrate the difference between groups that use a churchy format and groups that just do lectures and pub meetups? Because I dare you to find another label.

Objection: Confusing Christians about atheism being a religion
I DON'T CARE. I don't care about your internet debates with Christians. How dare you tell atheists not to do things that help them because of your debates?

Meeting together is not the definition of a religion, that's trivially easy to point out to a Christian.
Atheists are people with social needs,and many ex-Christian atheists enjoy the churchy format. Any Christian who pretends to be confused with this explanation is not confused, they're LYING and HATEFUL.

Objection:Something about brainwashing and groupthink
STFU, please. Getting atheists together is like herding cats. Nobody's going to be brainwashed by having a fun little meeting.

Objection: Atheists shouldn't have to get together as atheists, we have nothing in common
Thank you, you little privileged asshole who probably doesn't live in the bible belt. Or you might be asocial, in which case, STFU about something that's for socializing.

Why can't I just go to a local knitting/hiking/blah group to get friends? Because if you live in the bible belt or many other places, you will get asked where you go to church, not if you go to church. You don't want to make a scene, you don't want to keep your mouth shut, and you don't want to hang out with people who think you're going to hell.

Objection: We need to get beyond churches/evolve/give up these formats
Religion does not own community, potlucks, singing. talks, fellowship or any of that. Don't let them have it.

The ONLY thing anyone can say about these meetings is if they would go or not. Any other assertions are baseless.

Perhaps you ask why my answers are so mean. Well, I am hostile to what are essentially subjective preferences being wrapped in a cloak of objectivity. I'm hostile to the outsider nature of such questions as why should atheists get together or talking about their preferences for bar meetups without realizing that they're already catered to. I'm hostile to the denigrating of ex-Christians when it seems like lifelongs are voicing these. I'm hostile when it seems like antisocial basement - dwelling trolls are asking this of "normal" people.

 If your first impulse is to put down something fun that other people are doing, without a damn good demonstration of harm, I basically don't trust you. So perhaps you should rethink your objections if you've said these things before.


  1. I'm sorry, but since when did you become the High Priestess of Atheism to dictate what "the atheist community" can and cannot do and what atheists can and cannot think??

    1. I'm guessing it was more or less around the time you were crowned Price Straw Man.

    2. I'm guessing it was more or less around the time you were crowned Price Straw Man.

    3. No, those high priests would be the people I'm responding to.

  2. An atheist 'church' is a horrible idea. I've consistently criticized the idea of using ecclesiastical language and format for gatherings of non-believers every time I've heard it. Fundies are already calling atheism a religion. This just add fuel to the idiot-fire.

  3. I <3 my Sunday Assembly Detroit! Its a place for me to meet like minded people who love life.

  4. It doesn't matter if the Sunday get-together is called Sunday assembly or Our Lady of Perpetual Bingo, we are social creatures, and socializing is a mental and physical healthy activity. Robert Anding

  5. Hmm. I see where you're coming from and I personally agree with you, but I don't think the vitriolic, combative tone was really necessary. To me, atheism is all about reason and logic, and being insulting and rude detracts from that message. I feel like the atheism community is so small already, we don't need this negative attitude to break us up smaller, or even to alienate us further from other reasonable but religious people. I'm afraid that the "angry atheist" stereotype holds us back more than anything else, and this piece does nothing to fix that.

  6. I myself loathe the bar meetup setting, especially since I have epilepsy and am thus unable to drink, and when I explain why, I'm still looked upon as "the weirdo who thinks he's above us by not drinking", and as the night goes on, it becomes increasingly awkward being the sober one. Of course, I always hated going to church, too, but since I was Catholic and you were literally forced to go, the attitude was "get in and get out as fast as possible". I myself would prefer a coffeehouse/library/lecture-then-pie setting.

  7. When I responded to your question, I was genuine and earnest. I was one of those that said “It would give more ammunition to the “Atheism is a religion’” crowd. I was brief and polite in tone. I know you tried to explain the reasons for the “mean” answers, but I don’t get it. I have been an atheist for about 15 years but only recently have I been working my way out of the closet. The social experience of atheism has yet to find me, so maybe I don’t know the complexities of gathering as a group. Regards – Baffled in NW Ohio

  8. I've been to Sunday Assembly London a few times. It's been good.

    And there's tea and cake.

  9. I love the message and the way it's presented.

  10. While I agree that things like Sunday Assembly(the little I know of it) are generally harmless, I also think that whining and awfulizing tends to be counter-productive. Even more egregious is giving a disproportionate reaction to something that may not even deserve acknowledgement. I'm not enjoying your or Matt's writing/podcasts as much as I used to, but I generally like what you do. I've not heard of people who are against atheist "churches" e-shouting to this degree, but I also am not living the life you are living so perhaps I don't understand your reasoning.

    1. I deal with these objections daily. The harmlessness of SA us why I have such a reaction to these. It's one of my pet peeves.

  11. as someone who was born and raised in spain,the whole idea of churches as places where people go to do anything other than listen to a priest preach seems like heresy already.

    to me just seems pretty sad that people need some kind of churche like system to be able to have fun.

    1. Yeah, I don't care what you think is sad. You're obviously ignorant of the community aspect.

    2. Here, in the American South, church takes up a huge part of people's lives. There's Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Monday bible study, Tuesday pot luck supper, Wednesday youth club and missions reports, Thursday choir practice and Friday youth activities. Sometimes there's something on Saturday, usually for teens. If a church member misses one of these (except choir practice, if they're not in it), everyone else will say, "We missed you at the pot luck (or whatever you decided to stay home from)...hope to see you tomorrow at bible study..."

      They try to suck up as much of your time (and they're always collecting money for something) as possible, so that your entire social life is focused on the church. They have Drama Ministries, if you're into theater, and assorted bands you can join if you're musical. They have singles groups who have picnics in the park, lock-ins for teens, and they go carol singing at Christmas.

      I was raised Church of England and Anglican, and, as far as I can remember, we went on Sunday if we felt like it, and Mom had Women's Auxiliary once or twice a month, and every so often they'd have a rummage sale.

      It is really overwhelming, the way the southern protestant churches can take over your life. So, if you've been raised in that, and suddenly there's nothing, you really miss that sense of community. I totally understand why some atheists like the "fellowship" that the assemblies provide. If you have hobbies and other things you do, of course you're not as interested.

  12. I was a Christian for over 30 years and when I became atheist, I used to vehemently oppose anything that remotely smacked of "churchiness". I learned a lot more....words are NOT religious or "spiritual", they are words. Like any tool, they can be used in many ways. NO ONE owns any language or any words. I am a rather anti-social person. I have no need at all to "socialize" in any way at all, except if you include online. But I understand most people do. This is like a long list of others things....if you don't like it don't do it or don't have it, otherwise STFU and leave people alone.