Skip to comments.Help! My paradox meter broke: an “atheist church”?
Posted on 07/29/2014 6:56:36 AM PDT by lifeofgrace
Image credit: Jimmy Demello Artworks[/caption]
The last time I was in Houston, I had to change the fuse in my paradox meter after meeting a self-described pro-choice Republican woman, who was also a lawyer. I told her at least she was better than Wendy Davis, to which no response was offered. I said it a second time, and with a puff of white smoke, the paradox-meter died.
Dang, the fuse just blew again, reading Times August 4 issue, Religion section article Atheist Churches Gain PopularityEven in the Bible Belt (behind a paywall). Yup, the Atheist Church they wrote about is in Houston. I think the heat and humidity is corroding peoples grey matter in that city.
Not that theres anything wrong with a group of people who share their non-belief in a supreme being or beings getting together on Sunday morning to listen to non-worship music, meet and greet with a non-pastor, and listen to a non-sermon, but it seems rather pointless. Mike Aus was a Christian pastor for 20 years, then came out as a non-believer, left religious life altogether and became active in the free-thought community in Houston. He founded Houston Oasis, which is the non-church, or maybe more accurately, the un-church for un-believers.
At this point, I want to apologize for any possible offense to Christian churches who bear the name Oasis. In my town, we have one, and Im related by marriage to the pastor. Listen Pastor Ken, you have a great church, and I hope all the atheists here grace your doors, every Sunday, week after week. Amen. Thats the paradox. Christian churches want atheists to come and hear the Gospel, or at least they should want that, and heres a whole church full of them.
I suppose there are more than enough country club believers who simply want to sing three hymns, hear a 12 minute homily, eat a biscuit, sip wine and go home in 45 minutes flat. If atheists have a choice between an un-church gathering, faking it through sit-stand-kneel-so-I-feel-accepted, and staying in bed on Sunday morning, I think the rational choice is bed. Or going for a jog. Or walking the dog. Or anything except joining a bunch of atheists who have nothing better to do than play church without God.
At Houston Oasis, they play church.
Each Sunday, Aus welcomes his congregants at the door before leading them through many of the motions of a religious service. Theres music, meet-and-greet time, guest speakers and Aus message, which is part TED talk, part uplifting reflection on the wonders of the worldthis worldaround us.If I want to hear a TED talk, I can go to Youtube and watch one on about any subject I choose. If I want to hear an uplifting reflection on the wonders of the world, I can watch reruns of Cosmos, billions and billions of times. Neither of these choices require me to get out of bed on Sunday morning and sit with a bunch of people I dont know. In fact, I can watch them in bed, whenever I want.
The Time article circles around the reason for places like Houston Oasis like a hawk planning to have field mouse for lunch. Then it dives in for the kill.
Being an atheist may be Americas last closeted identity, but the door has been opening over the past decade A number of academics and authors have recently espoused the benefits of religious practices and institutions minus the theology. Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists, argues that religion should be understood as an explanation of the origins of the world and the afterlife as much as a set of rituals and social practices.Is being an atheist a stigma that would require some closeted identity? It seems so: many people who are atheists have a hang-up about their atheism. They would prefer the term freethinker or humanist. Apparently, atheists feel like they are unfairly stigmatized, at least here in America. America is a country of deeply-held beliefs, one of the most religious countries in the world, where only 2-3% claim to be atheists, with an additional 3-5% agnostic (meaning having great doubts about the existence of God). Then theres an additional 8% who say they are secular unaffiliated.
Im not sure what secular unaffiliated means, but I think it means someone who would like to get up on Sunday morning and go to church, or get up on Saturday and go to synagogue, or skip a party on Friday night and attend a mosque, but just doesnt have the willpower to do it. Ive had conversations with some of these: yeah, I believe in God, but, you know. Yeah, I know. Why actually do anything with your beliefs when its so much easier to do nothing. Its so much easier to believe nothing at all. Party on.
Another 5-7% are religious unaffiliated. These are the buffet-religious. Ill have a little bit of this, a little bit of that, whatever tastes good today. Many of them have been hurt at church; theyve read the Bible but theres no way youll get them to join a church. Theyll go here and there, occasionally, or maybe theyre CEOsChristmas and Easter Only. They crack open the 30 pound family Bible on Christmas Eve and spend 10 minutes looking for the book of Luke (its Luke, right?) to read the story of Jesus in the manger.
Getting back to the 2-3% atheists. Thats more than the percentage of Jews in the country. Most Jews are not afraid to tell you they are Jews, or that you served them cold soup, or that youre nuts if you think Im going to pay for that dreck. Especially if theyre from New York. My mother was born in Brooklyn, and yes, were Jewish. I know this. Now shut up.
Why are atheists so stigmatized? Maybe its because being openly atheist attracts evangelical Christians like moths to a flame. They all want to talk to you about Jesus and convince you how Jesus is the answer. My step-father used to ask whats the question? Some atheists see this witnessing as a bothersome exercise in hate, versus Christians who see it as an act of love. Atheists just want to be loved for who they are, is that so wrong?
Atheists want to be accepted, so they gather together, have rallies, and celebrate their belief in not believing in a god. According to some studies, theres a strain of religious intolerance running through America, at least when it comes to trusting atheists.
A study reported in the December 2011 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that only 33 percent of respondents would hire atheists as day care workers, but 65 percent would hire them as waitresses. ts no wonder that atheists poll so badly; according to the same survey, religious folks believe the godless are about as trustworthy as rapists. While atheists may see their disbelief as a private matter on a metaphysical issue, explained University of British Columbia psychologist Ara Norenzayan, one of the researchers, believers may consider atheists absence of belief as a public threat to cooperation and honesty.This is pure speculation. A 2007 Barna report found that evangelical Christians and atheists may be two sides of the same coin. Survey: Evangelicals, Atheists Consistent in Faith and Practice found that
"There are important distinctions between evangelical Christians and other segments within the Christian community," stated George Barna, who directed the study, in the report. "That small 8 percent segment of the public is substantially different from others in how they apply their faith principles to every dimension of their life.A core group of atheists and evangelical Christians are both secure, sure, and active in their beliefs. Nowhere is this more evident than a Christians encounter with Penn Jillette. Jillette, an atheist, said about the encounter: How much do you have to HATE somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? Its ok for a Christian to talk to an atheist about Jesus, without spouting all kinds of sin, Hell, and you gonna burn. Its also ok for an atheist to be gracious about it and say thank you for the offer of a Bible without invoking crusades, Bible-beater and ignorant woman-hating, gay-bashing trash.
"The only other faith group demonstrating similar consistency between faith and practice were atheists, whose fundamental dismissal of social conventions and participation in favor of more self-centered views and behaviors helped them to stand out from the crowd in a different way."
What kind of atheists fill the pews at Houston Oasis?
Im speculating here. I think its a mixture of the curious (what the crap is this?), the lonely (hey maybe Ill meet someone special), the evangelical atheist (you must not believe!), the doubter (I question my faith), and the bored (I got nothing better to do). There may even be a smattering of believers in God who show up, even some evangelical Christians who think this is a great mission field (maybe it is).
One thing I know, after I put a fresh fuse in my paradox-meter, is that you wont see me at Houston Oasis. I am an out-and-proud Christian, an evangelical, Pentecostal, Spirit-filled believer in the Son of God. A messianic, blood-bought Jew. On Sunday mornings, I have something better to do with my time: I worship God in spirit and in truth. Im perfectly okay with atheists gathering to play church. Its no threat to me. In fact, I wish them well, and hope that in some way they feel more fulfilled by joining together on Sunday mornings to, um, join together. As long as they dont beat me to the Shoneys for lunch.
Pretty much the description of the Unversalist Unitarian church. All are right, no one is wrong, no base theology. Atheists are the same as pagans, as are the Jews, as are the Muslims, as are the Christians, etc, etc. totally disregards that there are massive theological differences between beliefs.
Homilies, etc, don’t worry be happy.
But again, I can point to some mega-churches who profess to be Christian which are no better.
Perspective, reality, truth...these things don’t exist in New LalaLand
While they’re there maybe they could discuss God...; )
> Mike Aus was a Christian pastor for 20 years, then came out as a non-believer, left religious life altogether and became active in the free-thought community in Houston. He founded Houston Oasis, which is the non-church, or maybe more accurately, the un-church for un-believers.
I suspect he “came out” in more ways than just one.
Pretty much the description of the Unversalist Unitarian church. All are right, no one is wrong, no base theology.
One need not go to a church to worship oneself.
The whole “no one is wrong” thing cracks me up. A guy who had been to some diversity training once tried to use an example of how people see the world differently thusly: He asked me what I would do if I was walking down the street and saw a snake on the sidewalk. What would I do? He said I might walk around it or call animal control. But what if another person saw that it was a rope? He might pick it up and throw it in the trash so someone doesn’t trip in ot. Then he said, “Do you see how two people can see the same thing but still see it differently?”
I said, yes I can, but if it really is a snake, the second guy is going to get bitten. The guy had nothing after that. I swear he had never even thought of their being actual consequences and that often someone is right and someone is wrong.
Welcome to the “feel good” side of the liberal mindset.
I have long said that I don't care what a man tells me he believes in as much as what he hopes for. And if a man doesn't hope that God exists then he cannot be trusted to any degree, because his only Commandment is "don't get caught."
IT takes as least as much faith to deny God as it does to believe in Him.
So Atheist Church, yeah, I can see that.
So atheists need a church too. Ain’t dat sumpin’.
Been to a UU Church. They are pretty awful.
I remember one sermon was about “How to Greet the Sun.” When the got to the part about the hymn sung by an Aztec priest, I was just barely able to NOT blurt out “...and lift the hot, still-beating heart of the sacrificial victim in salute...”
It was my sister’s church and I didn’t want get her shunned.
That is an excellent point an well worth remembering.
1 In the beginning nothing created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the nothing was dark and void; it was really nothing. But then there was something hovering right in the middle of it. How about that!
3 And there was a really big bang, and then there was light. 4 The light was really, really bright. The big bang separated the light from the nothing. 5 The light was called universe, and the nothing was forgotten, because if anyone knew about the nothing, theyd never believe any of this. And there was evening, and there was morningwell, not yet.
6 And a planet formed at just the right distance from an average star. And the planet was goodvery good. It was a rare planet where something interesting might happen. 7 And an expanse of water formed on the planet. And if you have water, you might as well just admit that you have life. Ever hear of Mars? 8 The water was very good. And there was evening, and there was morningbut if no one was there to see the sunrise, did it really happen?
9 And the elements were gathered to once place, and they combined in new ways, randomly, inexplicably. 10 The elements begat biomolecules, which begat amino acids and phospholipids, which begat nucleotides and lipid bilayers, which begat RNA and mRNA, which begat ribosomes, which begat proteins, which begat fully-programmed cells with three meters of DNA folded neatly inside a microscopic nucleus with its own mitochondrial power supply. Things like this just seem to happen.
11 And the life-bearing cells produced cyanobacteria and vegetation. At least, once the asteroid bombardment abated. 12 The cells used mutation to produce various kinds of species. And all the mutations were good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morningyada, yada, yada.
14 And there was that time when a really huge asteroid slammed into the planet. 15 After things settled down, there were two lights in the expanse of the sky. 16 The greater light governed the day 17 and the lesser light governed the night. 18 It sure was pretty. 19 And there was evening, and there was morningfinally.
20 And even with the bacteria modifying the atmosphere from one type of toxicity to another, new life still formed. 21 Individual cells teamed together and figured out how to create complex organs with full nutrition, oxygenation, and waste removal systems connecting them all. 22 These new creatures were blessed, for it all just seemed to happen so quickly. They were fruitful and increased in number, filling the seas and the air. 23 And there was evening, and there was morninggive or take a billion.
24 And the mutations just kept getting better. The creatures became more complex, which was really amazing, what with smaller population sizes and longer gestation periods and one type of mutated creature preying on another. But somehow they still produced more kinds. 25 Oh my, there were lions and tigers and bears. And monkeys, too. We cant forget the monkeys. They werent really that good, but theyre important to the story later on.
26 Then one creature appeared that could rule them all. This creature ruled over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that moved along the ground.
27 Male and female, they had an image that was unique: thoughts and language and art and multi-year courtship rituals and stupid religions and opposable thumbs and tools and creativity and guilt and consciousness and a lot of fun when trying to have kids and self-reflection and emotions: they got it all, even though their DNA only differed by two percent from other creatures.
28 They were blessed and ruled over everything. But when they mutated, none of the mutations were good.
29 And they ate a lot, too. 30 Not just the plants, but the animals, too. None of plants or animals seemed to be mutating much, either. Adaptation? Sure. Speciation? Not really.
31 And it was all very good, until the image-creatures started trying to explain it. And there was evening, and there was morningbut with no purpose and no reason to exist, you might as well sleep in.
The “North Texas Church of Freethought” has been around for at least ten years, performing the same function.
They see it as recreating the community of like minded people that gives the religious lower rates of depression by fostering social bonds, as well as giving them a way to celebrate life milestones like marriages, funerals and naming ceremonies. They’ll do other types like “coming of age” if you pay the officiant for that, too.
They see it as using the best of the “church” experience with social bonding and reinforcement of their values, without god or Gods.
Now I’m cleaning up coffee spit out on my desk. Thanks a lot.
I’m a Christian. I absolutely despise the UU. I think of them as potential Cthulhu Cultists.
My sister made the mistake of asking me what I thought...
I’ve argued for a long time that atheism is a religion that requires faith in the unknowable. It’s nice to see them finally admitting it.
Non-belief is not irrational, but it's called agnosticism.
Atheists believe there is no God, which is irrational, because a negative can't POSSIBLY be proved - ever.
That requires faith....
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