I was looking at a couple of articles I had bookmarked within the last couple of weeks in order to find some inspiration on what to blog. And, as usually happens, another article caught my attention because it relates well to what I have been posting about.
This article is about the rise of Sunday Assemblies – atheist “churches” that gather together on Sundays to feel good about themselves and not worship God. That’s my quick criticism of the religious movement.
If you think I’m exaggerating, then look at this quote from the article:
The group’s motto, “Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More,” encourages people to believe that you can be good without god.
My point here is not to rip on atheists for essentially copying what religions have done for centuries. No instead, it’s to point out something.
This assembly, or whatever it is being called, is fulfilling some important human needs. From what I can tell, these needs include:
- the need to gather with others who believe similar things.
- the need for some kind of religious ceremony/ritual/something that signifies that life is important and has meaning
- the need to continue to work on relationships
There are other things that I’m sure the assemblies fulfill, but I think you get the gist of it.
Here’s what I find interesting. Some of the people there (at the Assembly) were Christians who felt alienated by their own church. What an opportunity for churches.
These are people who are recognizing that they have a hole inside of them that needs to be filled by something. The Assemblies are an effort to fill that hole in a positive way.
We all have this hole in us. For Christians, we believe that only God can fill the void within. Church assists us in filling that void. Church helps us with our relationship with God, self, others and the rest of creation. Or at least it should. Obviously some churches are failing in this respect – why else would Christians, even nominal ones, go to an atheistic “church” to fill the void?
I hear people talk about the death of the church. Yet, I see atheist “church” forming. The need is still there. The church has a lot to offer people. And the church has been doing it a lot longer in an organized fashion than atheists have.
My guess is that these atheist Assemblies will grow for a while, then diminish. They can’t fill the void in a way that works long-term. Augustine once wrote something like this: I can rest when I find my rest in you. He was referring to God. He spent his early life wandering through philosophy, other religions, sex, etc. He stopped wandering when the void was filled by God. Churches have something to offer people – God.
Instead of seeing the rise of atheist Assemblies as a threat or a negative, what I see is that there is need that people recognize. This is an opportunity for churches.