To be honest, it makes sense to me on so many fronts!
While reading a recent article on The Sunday Assembly Church (launched in East Nashville last November), I wasn't really surprised that the congregation has grown to two services already. What might be surprising for some, though, is that this “church” is an atheist church. In this church, God and religion are not mentioned when they meet once a month to “celebrate life.” The article I read explained that "[they] gather together for about an hour to sing some ‘sing-along-songs’ and hear an address from someone also trying to figure out this world, there is reading of poetry and other ways to celebrate this one life together that we know we have."
Perhaps it’s surprising to hear me say that this atheist church makes sense on so many fronts. For one, as humans we are created (contrary to what an Atheist might believe) to be in community. One doesn’t have to look at the Bible or any kind of “religious system” to realize that. Just look around at human nature. We are drawn to community; it is hardwired within us.
I certainly am not shocked that the “atheist church” is growing - simply because of that deep seated need within us all to be in community with others. This is why people join clubs, sports teams, and any number of other activities - because of the powerful, God-given, human need for community. This is seen throughout the pages of Scripture from the very beginning of time.
Wait a second… this doesn’t matter to an atheist. Stay focused here, Blair!
This self-declared “godless congregation” plans to plant 40 atheist churches in a year and as many as 1,000 worldwide within a decade.
“We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together," says the Public Charter of the Assembly. “We don’t do supernatural, but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.”
The article continues, “We want The Sunday Assembly to be a house of love and compassion, where no matter what your situation, you are welcomed, accepted and loved.”
That sounds amazing…. or does it? I mean, really, let’s think about this for a second. What or who determines the criteria for love? Does our society determine what love is? That sounds a little frightening for me to imagine: the essence of love being shaped by the ebb and flow of our society.
The question then becomes: If humans have no soul and are merely evolutionary, advanced animals, is ‘love’ anything more than instinct, hormones, or the accepted norms of the surrounding culture?
So I understand the needs we all have to be in community, but the whole idea of organized atheism seems contradictory. A Christian man responded well to the article on The Sunday Assembly when he said, “Because they spend all their energies fighting against God, who they claim does not exist. If they really believed it, they wouldn’t care.”
Although we are wired to be in community, it isn’t community as the end, but rather as the means to make the glory of God known to the world around us - that gives purpose and meaning. This is the way God made us; He is a missionary God. As Christians, we are adopted into the family of God to be the children of God - the community of God who will reflect the very essence of love to the world. Real love cannot be created nor find its origins in society, because the very essence of love is not found in a "what," but in a "who." God is the very essence of love.
1 John 4:8 says that God is love: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Why settle for a false imitation of love when we can have the very essence of love in a person - Jesus Christ. Don’t look to cheap substitutes to find the object of your worship. The question is not whether we worship; the question is what - or more importantly - who do we worship?
I admire The Sunday Assembly for their desire to make people feel welcomed and accepted, but at the end of the day, a car with no engine is still a car with no engine.