Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Churches that aren't Churches?

The above picture has been taken from a BBC news magazine article entitled What happens at an atheist church. Atheists are using a redundant church to meet to together to celebrate: But celebrate what?  “.... a celebration of life” according to master of ceremonies Sanderson Jones. But somehow it all feels just a little uncomfortable and embarrassing: One senses that an object fully worthy of our celebratory focus and abandon is missing from the ceremony and this only serves to recall that phrase  "The God shaped hole".  A yearning for the numinous and eternal seems to be part of our nature.

Atheist Alan De Botton, who is a fan of atheist “churches”, says:

It should never be called [a church] because atheism isn’t an ideology around which anyone could gather. (as if we didn’t know! – ed) Far better to call it something like cultural humanism.

Militant anti-theist blogger PZ Myers, as I have reported before, hates this sort of thing, perhaps because it could be the thin end of the wedge and construed as admitting that humans have some innate spirituality that seeks satiation; we have an itch that needs scratching. If it's any easier for him to come to terms with PZ could think of it as mental baggage that is part of our "evolutionary heritage". As the psychologist James Moray has said:

The psychological mechanisms are the way in which God makes himself known

Ironically the neighbours of the atheist “church” are an on fire for the Lord black church. (I couldn't think of better and more non-threatening juxtaposition – thank God for black churches!). Their pastor, Bishop Harrison, seems to be a wise man. According to the article:

…he does not see his new neighbours as a threat, confidently predicting that their spiritual journey will eventually lead them to God. “They have got to start from somewhere” he says.

What I do commend is the good humour that exists between the two “fellowships”; so far there looks to be none of that nasty polarized venom we have seen in some quarters where there is a hostile stand-off between anachronistic “heretic burning” Christians and blinkered “rationalists”. May it remain so. But should any of the atheists seek for that “something” which is really worthy of sincere worship, focus and celebration I’m sure Bishop Harrison will be there to help!

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