Claim: “So Atheism really is a religion … look at the Sunday Assemblies” 1

A rather common claim that is often raised by believers is that non-belief is a belief. It usually goes something like this … “Ah I admire you, it takes a lot of faith to not believe in god” … or similar. (Yes, time to roll your eyes, it is a very common card for believers to play)

The response is one you are of course familiar with, if Atheism is a religion, then …

  • bald is a hair colour
  • off is a TV channel
  • not playing football is a sport
  • not collecting stamps is a hobby
  • etc…

I’m sure you can think of lots more.

Well, the news is that the Atheist church is expanding, as reported in the Sunday Times yesterday … (Apologies, this one is behind a paywall)

IT’S BEYOND belief. A network of godless churches is to open in Dublin and Belfast to give non-believers the sense of community associated with organised religion.

The Sunday Assembly, an atheist congregation set up earlier this year in a deconsecrated church in north London, will start monthly services in Dublin in November and in Northern Ireland in December.

The assemblies are modelled on traditional Christian services, but without references to God. Instead of sermons, there are talks and science lectures, while singing pop songs such as Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi replace hymns. A typical gathering includes time to sit in reflective silence and ends with tea and buns.

The Sunday Assembly’s motto is “live better, help often and wonder more”

And so the usual believers pop up with the usual claims, but add, “look it really is a religion, you even have churches now”.

Er no … religion is believing stuff on the basis of exactly no evidence at all, or to use the religious word “faith”, and in stark contrast, the sunday assembly folks are not in any way shape or form promoting supernaturalism. There are in fact many groups that happen to assemble on a sunday to do non-religious things … tennis clubs, football clubs, writing groups, etc… are they all religions? Nope, and neither is the Sunday assembly.

Actually one rather interesting direction that it is taking is the observation made by the Sunday Assembly folks themselves … (its an interesting Salon article)

“‘Atheist Church’ as a phrase has been good to us. It has got us publicity,” Evans elaborated. “But the term ‘atheist’ does hold negative connotations. Atheists are often thought to be aggressive, loud and damning of all religion, where actually most atheists, in the UK anyway, are not defined by their non-belief.” At a recent assembly, Jones opined: “I think atheism is boring. Why are we defining ourselves by something we don’t believe in?”

Now that is indeed a good point, and is one that I very much agree with.

In the end atheism is simply the dismissal of god claims due to the lack of any credible evidence; in other words, it is just a conclusion and nothing else. There is no dogma, no mantra, no holy book (not even the god delusion), no prophet, no second coming, no winged horses, no demands for submission … and yet we have the Sunday assembly. Now that last one is a reflection of the fact that we are social animals, and not because those that meet in such assemblies have a belief in non-belief.

I must confess, I do like the idea of such assemblies moving away from the idea of defining themselves by what they don’t believe in, and on to something more positive. Personally, if asked, I do not generally volunteer the word “atheist” to define myself, because it says nothing at all about many other things that I do embrace, and so my preference is to use far better more descriptive terms such as skeptic or humanist.

As for meeting together as a reflection of the fact that we are indeed social animals, well this is not at all a new idea for non-believers. Apart from the Sunday assemblies, there are other alternatives that are currently far more popular and have been running for a lot longer; for example …

Question: So what other alternatives have I missed? If you know of something cool, please do drop a comment so that others can then discover it.


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One thought on “Claim: “So Atheism really is a religion … look at the Sunday Assemblies”

  • John Reagan

    re·li·gion : riˈlijən/ noun: religion : the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods. **No belief in God..Therefore not a religion. Simple. Believers are always trying to drag others into their absurdist thinking.