I saw this article by Drew Miller, entitled “Why ‘Atheist Churches’ Are Making Us Atheists Look Ridiculous,” and rolled my eyes at it. I was going to write a full response to it, but Rebecca Watson already said a fair amount of what I would have said. The original article asks several questions that pretend to be deep but are really just silly.
But atheist Drew Miller isn’t happy with other atheists hanging out every week. He writes:
But it raises an important question: do non-believing assemblies differ from theistic congregations in any meaningful way?
Well gee, I’m just spitballing here, but I guess I would say that maybe theistic congregations are focused on worshipping an all-powerful supernatural deity, while non-believing assemblies have nothing to do with that. Maybe?
And this is the primary problem with Miller’s ruminations. He really does seem to think that building communities and having a dialogue with one another somehow undermines our claim to have left religious dogma behind.
But why are these atheists still gathering on Sundays?
There are a few likely answers to this question. Perhaps former churchgoers are simply too conditioned to seek guidance on Sundays. It’s also entirely possible that many of the congregants simply see church-like communities as a good way to empower atheism. This is quite a stretch.
Another possibility, though, is that those who have been told all their lives that they’re incapable of being good without a god have internalized that message. Consciously or not, those who have joined the Sunday Assembly likely still yearn to look outward for moral guidance. Any atheist will defend his or her potential to be a good without a god, but truly personalizing your morality and living like it can be more difficult.
In other words, it’s one thing to conceptually reject a top-down, dogmatic morality and the herd mentality that goes with it, but it’s another thing altogether to remember that every human being can lead a fulfilled, moral life without a weekly appointment.
Or maybe they just like the regularity. And maybe Sunday just makes sense for a lot of people because they aren’t working that day. And maybe they’re seeking out a community to replace the one they lost when they left religion. And maybe they like group singalongs (though I personally despise them). And maybe they’re just looking to meet interesting, like minded people. All of these are normal human behaviors that religion often provides the opportunity for, but the fact that one leaves a religion doesn’t mean that they leave the need for community behind.
I really wish all this absurd hand-wringing would stop. Secular-minded people are forming all kinds of different types of communities because people have different needs and interests. I have zero interest in going to an “atheist church.” So guess what? I’m not going to go to any of them. Everyone else is also welcome not to go to them. But please stop this inane faux-concern about how it’s making “us” look bad. That pearl clutching is making you look bad.