Why Atheists are Forming “Churches”

(Adapted from my comment this morning on a LinkedIn group)

(Regarding the movement among atheists to form weekly gatherings that look and sound surprisingly like church)

First, they don’t call it worshipping as they worship nothing such as a deity or dogma. But, they are human and part of our DNA is the urge or need to be social with one another. People like to gather with those who share their likes and dislikes and activities and atheists are no different.

Culturally, most of us share the experience of gathering at a specific time and specific place on a regular, such as weekly basis to share stories, music, focused intention, mutual support, and guidance. Atheists share this cultural experience, so why wouldn’t they seek to meet this social/cultural/biological need in a manner that is familiar to them?

I was a co-founder of a spiritual community that first identified as a church, but moved away from using that word as it now carries far too much negative baggage. The form was recognizable, though as each week’s gathering had a consistent, but flexible agenda and provided the space for people to share their spiritual paths with one another.

As was earlier mentioned, many people today are losing trust in the traditions of the past for many reasons. Yet, as social creatures we all want and need to gather to share what’s important to us. In the past, churches, mosques, temples, etc., filled this need. However, these places have too often become symbols of intolerance, hatred, political power, and bigotry and do not represent gatherings of empowered, intelligent, people of equality but are places at which people are told what to think, what to believe, who to hate, who to love, who to vote for … If people are leaving the church or mosque or temple, it is perhaps time to consider whether the people are the servants of such places or such places are the servants of the people.

This is the ongoing question of the age begun with the teachings of Jesus ben Joseph. Is the individual soul/heart/being superior to the state/religion/corporation or is the individual subservient to mass organizations and dogmas?

One of the great promises of an interfaith approach to religions is that we find that the individual’s relationship with what they experience as sacred seems pretty much the same when we cut away the cultural practices such as religions. By finding ways to connect with one another at that place of sacredness, our individual and collective humanity increases and our differences become cherished for their variety and not feared for their, ‘otherness’.

As the Sufi saint Inayat Khan wrote, “Raise us above the distinctions and differences which divide us.” A timeless prayer that rings with, “that certain truth,” today, in my opinion.

Blessings, all.

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