London's first atheist church is ready to open its doors for its first "service" this weekend, and Londoners don't quite know what to make of it.
Founded by comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the church service is described as more of a "foot stomping show." A speaker and band are planned for each monthly service.
The notion of people who don't believe in God having a church was too much for some people to wrap their heads around.
The Rev. Saviour Grech, of St. Peter and St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, said, "How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. ... It is important to debate and engage with atheists but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far."
Rev. Grech, like many people, misses the point. Atheism is and always has been a religion. Establishment of the London church is, if anything, a refreshing dose of honesty.
In the U.S., atheist churches and church-like groups are nothing new. FirstChurchofAtheism.com, based in Pennsylvania, is one example. According to the website FAQs, the site was founded in order to ordain atheist ministers so they could perform marriages, funerals and other ceremonies. The site's operators claim to have legally ordained more than 6,900 ministers.
The modern atheist movement likes to call itself a "nonbelief," a phrase that has been widely picked up by non-atheists. The implication is that atheism is somehow different from all religions, that it is unique and therefore requires special treatment.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and other atheist groups have gotten a lot of mileage out of that spin in courts.
But atheism isn't a "nonbelief." If it were, then other people's religious expressions wouldn't torment atheists the way they claim in their myriad lawsuits.
Rather, atheism professes a very active negative belief that produces atheists' worldview and motivates their activism.
As the First Church of Atheism site states:
"The First Church of Atheism is formed around the belief that the mysteries of life can be explained through science and reason. We aim to provide a place for atheists to become ordained, for free, as well as a hub for atheists to find ministers to perform their ceremonies. This is our doctrine:
“Nothing exists besides natural phenomena. Thought is merely a function of that natural phenomena. Death is complete, and irreversible. We have faith solely in humankind, nature, and the facts of science."
Pretty strange for a "nonbelief" to have ordained ministers and use words like "belief," "doctrine" and "faith," huh?
The word "atheism" simply means "without God." The word "religion" comes from the word "religare," meaning "to bind." "Religion" therefore is the state of being bound to an idea and the worldview, beliefs and morality that idea generates.
Other religions such as Buddhism and Taoism don't require or encourage any belief in God, yet no one disputes they are religions because they do indeed "bind" their followers to a central belief about the nature of the universe.
And so it is with atheism. But point that out to one of the "nones," and you'll likely get a bumper sticker response, such as "calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color."
Bad analogies don't change the facts. Atheists have ordained ministers, churches, a worldview, beliefs, doctrine and a throbbing need to proselytize about the superiority of their religion.
Pretending to be a "nonbelief" has given atheist activists a political advantage in establishing theirs as the de facto view of government, effectively a state religion that is actively forcing Christians out of public life in increments.
It's time atheists 'fess up and join the rest of the world's religions.