• An ‘Atheist Church’ Makes a Shocking — Okay, Maybe Not so Shocking — Discovery

    Surge Summary: A gathering of atheists trying to imitate church meetings without God’s involvement finds out it’s not as easy as it might look to some. 

    “Fine mess”, “jumbo shrimp”, “genuine imitation” – these are examples of oxymorons: seemingly self-contradictory figures of speech.

    Here’s a current, real-world example of another one:

    The Atlantic recently reported on Justina Walford’s spiritual journey from faith in God and church involvement to atheism and eventually into “Sunday Assembly”, an “atheist church”;

    a secular community with meetings much like church services but devoid of God. [Jenny Rose Spaudo/Charismanews.com]

    So, stylistically it’s like a conventional gathering of followers of Jesus – minus all the “God” stuff. Other than that, just like the ekklesia, the church!

    Admittedly, that’s a pretty hefty qualifier…

    The church was comprised of members who didn’t believe in God but missed the communal elements religious churches provided. It was a perfect solution for people who were even uncomfortable with the spiritual aspects of Unitarian Universalism, which purports that all religions are valid and lead to God.

    Note: when Unitarian Universalist gatherings are too “religious” for you? You’ve got a serious case of unbelief going on.

    And it turns out the “perfect solution” didn’t work out as perfectly as originally presumed: things were not all atheistic peaches-n-cream for Walford and company. Her community of the faithless found out

    it was difficult to maintain a secular church. The few volunteers they had found it difficult to keep up with the weekly demands of putting on “a big show.” In addition, any members were skeptical of requests for donations, so funds were limited. And then leaders had to navigate the conflict of some members wanting to rail on religion.

    Some builders of actual churches – i.e., those that promote worship of God — might want to take a lesson here: the vital component of a true “church service” isn’t entertaining the crowd, but coming together in Jesus’ name so that His presence is among you.

    Moreover, why would unbelievers want to part with their hard earned dollars for a just to underwrite a meeting with no eternal purpose? Selfishness and greed don’t go away just because someone says, “Hey, let’s have a meeting!”

    And bitter people – i.e., “members wanting to rail on religion” – present in a group of individuals who have repudiated the Being who is responsible for their very existence? Whoever could have guessed that might be a negative consequence?!?!

    So, three years after Jessica Walford’s particular “Sunday Assembly” started? While presumably not all chapters of the enterprise have been shuttered, the one she attended closed its doors.

    Walford is certainly not alone in her journey of non-religious identity. Pew Research reported in 2012 that the percentage of “religious nones” in the U.S. is on the rise. …

    But many former atheists are now sharing their stories of how their spiritual dissatisfaction drove them to believe in Christ–even after years of denying His existence.

    Spaudo writes about evangelist/apologist Ray Comfort who, although raised in a non-religious household, was driven by a realization of life’s fleetingness to a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ.

    “The reason atheism is so attractive to the unsaved is because it gets rid of moral accountability,” he says. “If there’s no God, there’s ultimately no right or wrong, and there’s no punishment for right and wrong.”

    Then there’s former Australian politician Bill Hayden who, after a lifetime of atheism,  surrendered to Jesus at the age of 85, owing in part to a persistent nun who continued sharing the truth with him.

    Similarly, comedian Jeff Allen was an atheist for many years. But after he realized he couldn’t keep living with his addiction to drugs and alcohol, he tried every ideology he could. He read humanistic self-help books and investigated New Age philosophy and Buddhism.

    Soon Allen discovered Jesus Christ was his only hope for true freedom. Now, he seeks to honor God with clean comedy.

    The testimonies, to be sure, of self-professed unbelievers turning to Jesus Christ from their hearts and having their lives transformed as a result could go on and on.

    As secular churches like Sunday Assembly struggle to pass their non-faith on to the next generation, former atheists like Comfort, Hayden and Allen are eager to share the truth that set them free.

    Man is an incurably social being. He was fashioned by a merciful and loving Creator for a relationship with Him first, and other people second. The two “Great Commandments” reflect this dual objective: Referencing Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19, Jesus declared:

    “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:37-40]

    Connecting with or meeting together with human beings is only part of the picture as designed by the Creator of all things. The unshakable foundation of a meaningful life is to be God as our primary love, leading to healthy and redemptive relationships with other men and women.

    Prayerfully, some of the folks thinking their “atheistic church” neutralizes this existential reality will come to their senses and find something far beyond and far more satisfying than a bunch of people convening for a “Sunday Assembly” once a week.

    Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44347381


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