Former Pastor Starts Church and Teaches Atheist Bible Study

Back in March, on the weekend of the Reason Rally, Pastor Mike Aus declared his atheism publicly for the first time ever on Up with Chris Hayes:

You might be wondering: What’s he up to now?

Among other things, he has started a “church” for atheists (Alain de Botton would be proud):

Aus, along with several other atheists, freethinkers and secular humanists in Houston, launched Houston Oasis, a community grounded in reason rather than revelation, celebrating the human experience as opposed to any deity. The first of these Sunday morning gatherings was held in early September and featured live music by local artists, personal testimonies, a message and time for fellowship.

While Houston Oasis may look, sound and act like a traditional church, it is fundamentally different, reaching out to the growing population of religiously non-affiliated “nones” who are leaving established religion in droves.

Houston Oasis had 40 people at its first service and organizers say its audience is growing.

Aus also gave a recent seminar introducing the Bible to atheists and video is now available (as is a separate Q&A). Who better to talk about the subject than a former pastor!

Former pastor and Houston Atheists Co-Organizer Mike Aus provides a general introduction to the history and contents of the Bible, with a special focus on the New Testament. Mike discusses the process of canonization, as well as some of the more blatant contradictions, anachronisms, and other problems in the text.

As always, if you see any part you particularly like, please leave the timestamp and summary in the comments!

(Thanks to Vic for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • LJ

    Good luck to them! Would love one of those around me.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    It sounds like what everyone wishes their weekly MeetUp groups would be. A place to collect donations for works, a place to get updated on social issues, a place to ORGANIZE. Good work, Mike!

  • ConureDelSol

    It’s becoming more and more appealing to move to Houston…

  • Marco Conti

    I didn’t think I would have approved, but I have been growing more convinced that the major missing piece of the puzzle for us humanists and skeptics is community.

    naturally, we can all foresee the religious mocking us for ‘copying” them. So what. We have always said that if religion had a benefit it was one of community. I say let them mock. 
    I think we can do a lot more united than we can individually.
    It also sounds like fun, the only change I’d make would be to meet in the afternoon. I am not keen on giving up my Sunday (the day of Sun worship, BW) mornings coffee in bed with my wife and youtube.

  • Sam B

    The whole reason I’m an atheist is to sleep in on Sunday mornings… now we have atheist church! At least move it until after lunch.

  • Sven2547

    Expect Christians to completely miss the point, and point to this as “evidence” that atheism is a “religion”.

  • jflcroft

    Fantastic! The idea is taking hold in more communities across America, and in more sectors of the atheist community. I’m happy, but not surprised.

  • Annie

    What I specifically like about this is the idea of a group having their own physical space.  My local humanist group meets at a UU church, but it would be great to have a physical building for classes, food drives, etc.  

  • toth

    What’s the point of being an atheist if you have to get up Sunday morning?

    • Stevie

      Well, you don’t have to. You truly only go if you want to . . . there is no fear of damnation if you don’t go :)
      And you know, Oasis is an oasis. In bible belt TX it is pretty worth it to get together with secularists and share something. And Sunday morning just works, because of the American schedule. Saturday morning anyone with a child is at a soccer/baseball game.

      Or . . . volunteering with Houston Oasis: http://tinyurl.com/mg86k3p

  • Vic Wang

    Thanks Hemant for posting this!

    BTW for those curious about what the Houston Oasis services are like, the first several services are on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/HoustonOasis

  • Thin-ice

    I tried one of these Sunday morning secular humanists meetings just after I de-converted. TOO SCARY! It was too similar in structure to the church I just left: singing, testimonies, main speaker, offering jar at the door, Sunday School for the kids. 

    Now that I’m four years “out”, I guess I could give it another try, except that my Sunday morning in bed is just too sacred to give up . . .

    • Brendakind

       Now you can have an idea why religion can be difficult to follow especially since we are all human an enjoy a good sleep (or something else we love doing that your particular religion would expect you to do). Especially when Christians are measured beside their book (the Bible).

      It’s just so funny that the church has something that appeals to unbelievers.

    • Stevie

      Every community is going to be different in structure. Houston Oasis tried to avoid some very traditional feels.
      We have local musicians come perform, but we don’t sing; no hymnals or anything; and testimonies? If you want to preschedule to be a speaker, you are welcome to do so, but no, not testimonies :)

  • Emmet

    Has anyone watched the whole thing? Where’s the bit about canonisation?

    • Vic Wang

      The part on canonization starts around 41:20.

  • Guest

    Interesting talk though the demeanour is a bit pompous. I am waiting to see him debate a Christian. Did his anti-church pass the offering bag around like a church does? Maybe the next lecture can be on another untrue religion. Can’t wait.

  • Kaylya

    It’s not for me, but best of luck to them! Some people do miss the community and musical aspects of church after they leave. 

  • Earl G.

    It’s not just religious lies I can’t stand, but also their eerie rituals and group singing and emotionalism.  I would not enjoy a secular version of that stuff.

    • Vic Wang

      Earl G: Having been to several of the Houston Oasis services, I can tell you that there are no “eerie rituals” or “group singing” (nor will there ever be, as most of those who attend probably feel the same way you do!).

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    it seems to me there are  basically two kinds of atheists/secular/humanist folk. the first are like me, and perhaps even less so, in the sense that i come to this blog while i’m having my morning cuppa or taking a break from work or whatever, but it’s not the center of my life or anything like that (no offense, H, of course i adore you). it’s just a great place to keep up on my #4 favorite discussion topic, after radical politics, queer issues, and feminism. i read five or six other blogs in addition to this one to stay sharp on those issues, and of course there is a lot of overlap in terms of coverage. but anyway, if i had to go a month without reading any atheism news, i wouldn’t break down.

    but there is another group of atheists, and maybe they are the newer sort, or the kind still in recovery from being part of some cult, for whom atheism really is a substitute for a certain element of the believer’s experience. the valuable part of that experience, one i’ve never begrudged believers, is the sense of community and fellowship you get from going to a house of worship once or more times a week. hanging out with your neighbors, having some person stand up and say “be a good person. do good. feel good. know you’re loved” must be powerful, and perhaps even addictive. esp to people who don’t get a lot of that in the rest of their lives, because they’re too busy working two jobs, raising 3.4 kids, trying to stay sane in this insane world, whatever. 

    so as much as i sort of recoil at the idea of the “not-church” church of atheism, i endorse this effort for folks who have the need for it. as i’ve often said, community building is wonderful and everyone should do some, for whatever their favorite cause is. if you feel the need to hand with other atheists on a regular or semi-regular basis, this is a great time to be a part of that. conferences, gatherings, clubs… all sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain. there’s nothing better than being involved in a movement right when it’s picking up steam. those are the best times. 

  • Denise

    You cannot teach Atheist the bible except as ‘just a book’!The Bible is a ‘veiled book’ if you do not have the Holy Spirit and you canNOT understand/interpret the bible!! Good luck w/ that! lol!

  • Denise

    It is so sad that so many that have been in church all their lives never encountered the one true God; something is wrong with this; I grew up baptist and had the same problem; just went cause I was expected to go and felt guilty when I didn’t; then I went to a pentecostal church and omg; the Spirituality was undeniable; I wanted what they had; I believed and God gave me the gift of tongues; I’ve never doubted again; the truth is like most atheist I was too arrogant to humble myself before so I couldn’t see Him; you have to come to God like a little child and believe that He is “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13


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