Schism in the atheist church, already

The atheist church we’ve blogged about, the Sunday Assembly, has split over doctrinal issues, worship style, and fellowship controversies.  The breakaway denomination is calling itself Godless Revival.

From After a schism, a question: Can atheist churches last? – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs:

In October, three former members of Sunday Assembly NYC announced the formation of a breakaway group called Godless Revival.

“The Sunday Assembly,” wrote Godless Revival founder Lee Moore in a scathing blog post, “has a problem with atheism.”

Moore alleges that, among other things, Jones advised the NYC group to “boycott the word atheism” and “not to have speakers from the atheist community.” It also wanted the New York branch to host Assembly services in a churchlike setting, instead of the Manhattan dive bar where it was launched.

Jones denies ordering the NYC chapter to do away with the word “atheism,” but acknowledges telling the group “not to cater solely to atheists.” He also said he advised them to leave the dive bar “where women wore bikinis,” in favor of a more family-friendly venue.

The squabbles led to a tiff and finally a schism between two factions within Sunday Assembly NYC. Jones reportedly told Moore that his faction was no longer welcome in the Sunday Assembly movement.

Moore promises that his group, Godless Revival, will be more firmly atheistic than the Sunday Assembly, which he now dismisses as “a humanistic cult.”

You have got to read what Anthony Sacramone says about this:

As I tweeted earlier today, the news that First Church Atheist has already fractured only means it needs the equivalent of a papal office, and that a TEC bishop would probably do just fine. But if a Vicar of Nothinginess is too much to stomach, then may I suggest the various atheist denominations follow a Protestant paradigm.

First, compose a confession of faith that sets out your distinctives. Perhaps your atheist church doesn’t believe in God but believes in aliens who may have created Earth, or life on Earth, as some grand experiment, or perhaps as a way station (see Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan).

Or maybe you are 99% uncertain that there’s a god, but are willing to admit that a 1% possibility qualifies as agnosticism, and so agnostics are welcome so long as they refrain from speculating on attributes of that hypothetical deity.

Or maybe you are 110% certain there is no god and equally convinced that anyone believing in such a notion is a threat to the future of humanity, even though the overwhelming majority of humanity believes in the supernatural. So you may want to insist that any member of your church shun friends or family members who are theists.

Some of you will not want to mention the word atheist per se, for fear it will scare aware “seekers.” You may want to follow the Unitarian Universalist model in that case. You also may not want to claim that only atheists are destined to eternal nothingness upon death. Emphasize that all people share that fate. Exclusivism breeds arrogance.

The list could go on and on. Also, you should probably state explicitly whether you believe members of other atheist churches are also true atheists, even if in error about some incidentals, or beyond the pale, closet deists, perhaps. Pulpit and guillotine fellowship must be denied to the latter, of course.

Atheist clergy should be licensed. An atheist seminary, one associated with your particular denomination, is desirable. In short, any public college will do.

[Keep reading. . .]

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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