"Atheist Church" Poll is Counter Productive and Ill advised

I was sort of surprised when I signed in a few minutes ago that there was a poll asking about whether one would approve of / attend an atheist "church". Frankly , and with all due respect for the poll's author... I was disgusted for a number of reasons.

First, the term "church" is antithetical to atheism. A church is a place of worship, for theists. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/church

Secondly, with all the mentally impaired theists calling atheism a "religion" and atheists working to counter their idiocy by telling them that atheism is a religion "like balness is a hair color, like NOT collecting stamps is a hobby" ... here we go talking about an "atheist church", giving them ammunition to renew their claim of atheism = religion.

Thirdly, exactly what do all of us have in common to justify a close knit social structure akin to a theist church? Do we all share a "belief system" in common? A common "world view"? I doubt it. You don't know mine, and I don't know yours, and nothing in being atheist defines one.

Do we feel the need for some "spiritual support" (oy!) by a group of like minded "non-believers"? I'd proffer that we all share in common only one thing...the ONLY thing inferred by "atheism": No belief in God/gods. period. Not much there around which to form a close knit "church" like structure.

Oh yes, we likely have some basic axiomatic principles we all support, like respect for science, the need for evidence to accept a "fact". Most of us accept Evolutionary theory as genuine. Some large percentage of us support the equality for women, and womens right to control their reporductive processes.

But there are already science clubs. There are already womens rights organizations. There are abortion rights orgs. etc. The concept of a Church (argghhh) which seeks to somehow service MY need or ANYONES need driven by one thing and one thing only: "No belief in God/gods" is not only unnecessary, but I find it both irrational and counterproductive to how Freethinkers are perceived.

That's not to say I object to clubs, reading groups, discussion forums, even activist organizations to ensure atheist rights of non-belief and separation of church and state are kept sacrosanct. Hell, I belong to a number of those and they serve a clear and defined purpose. But a formalized "church" is down right misguided. The very concept sets us back 50 years. The poll is misguded and ill advised.

That's my opinion. I could be wrong.
But I doubt it.

Yours in Reason and Reality,

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understood. and thanks.
You're not the first to say so.

You Nazi. Can we move on now ?
there's no reason to close a thread.
When all perspectives on the topic are explored /submitted, the thread eventually closes itself.

I don't believe in truncating free speech. Moving on is the option of the group. It happens when the subject is exhausted and no additonal comments are tendered. I guess I have more confidence in this group's abilty to survive family squabbles without having to cut off discourse than you do.

If I've learned anything from this discussion, it's that this camel possesses an intellect far superior to anything I've ever seen on A|N. Perhaps in my whole life. We're graced(kindly forgive the religious-sounding term but nothing else conveys my feelings so honestly) to have the camel here. I'm not sure how we made it up until his blessed appearance, but now I rest peacefully in the warm glow of his presence with the knowledge that matters are being set aright.

The only question that we must all ask ourselves: Will we show ourselves worthy of this most fortuitous visitation?
Please... you're embarrassing me.
Arise, be fruitful, mutliply, and sin no more.
Thank you, great one.

May your hump always be plump.
I concur. When I first noticed the poll I mentioned my discomfort in an AN blog. I wasn't sure why it made me uncomfortable but think you've pretty much nailed it.

The idea of an atheist church is, to my mind, a nonsense and its mention in the poll here does bring with it the danger of reinforcing the misconception that atheism is a religion.

It's a shame this thread was derailed by people too busy being on the defensive to respond to the original point but such is the way of things. I doubt anybody visiting would be put off by it: this is, after all, the internet.
Wow. Really?

I just got back in town from LA and was surprised to read an email about this forum post. Of course, it was after I changed the poll again.

I am not interested in debating, especially since the author did not ask for clarification, but instead proclaimed his disgust and judged the poll to be misguided and ill advised. Why should little old me compete with such an intellectual? However, I thought I should clarify things for the many who commented.

First, we started posting random polls when Atheist Nexus began. They are in no way scientific and have no hidden agendas. They are just fun. We have covered topics like:

How OUT are you as an atheist?
How will atheists gain social equality?
Do you celebrate Christmas?
When will America elect an atheist president?

The poll in questions was: What is your opinion about atheist churches? This is quite different than “…asking about whether one would approve of / attend an atheist church.” The poll in no way endorsed or gave an opinion. When the poll was created (and since) there were quite a few of these “churches” being established and reported in the news. By the way, there was an option to vote: NO.

Also, the term “atheist church” was used in the poll because this is what these groups call themselves. Not to mention these entertainment polls require short titles. We didn’t really have the room to say, “Even though the word atheism means “without god,” and has nothing to do with any particular belief system, do you agree with groups of individuals who assemble together, and happen to not believe in god(s), but wish to gain the sense of community that theists who congregate together experience, happen to call their groups atheist churches?”

Personally, I don’t like the word church. However, many of them have stated some good reasons to use it. If I am not mistaken, The Church of Freethought used it to legally obtain the many benefits Christian churches do. Plus, if anyone is interested, check out their recent podcast. In the first few minutes they do a good job explaining why they use the word.

It just so happens, that I don’t like the word “religion” either. However, many great organizations that I respect use the word (American Ethical Union, Universal Unitarians, Society for Humanistic Judaism, and many other Humanist groups). Like the word “church,” it is not for me, but I have no desire to execute judgment on those who do.

If anyone has ever read my writing (by the way, I created the poll), you quickly find out that I continually clarify the definition of the words atheist and agnostic. Here’s an excerpt from a something I recently wrote:

The word atheist comes from the Greek word: ἄθεος. It is defined as "without god." You can find it in Ephesians 2:12. It has nothing to do with the knowledge of a god's existence. It deals simply with belief. Most people are atheists concerning Zeus, Krishna, and the thousands of other gods. An atheist just goes one god further.

As apposed to atheism, the word agnostic has to do with knowledge. It does not mean you aren't sure if any gods exist (as most people believe). It means you feel it is impossible to know whether a god exists.

I am an agnostic because it is impossible to "know" if a god exists. I am also an atheist because I have no god, and I don’t “believe” in any of the gods presented to me so far. Unlike most believers, I am open to truth and wherever it will lead. Maybe someone will prove there are leprechauns, but until then, I remain an aleprechaunist.

It is also important to point out that the words atheist and agnostic, have nothing to do with ones: world views, politics, morals, ethics, happiness or sadness. Atheists can be positive people, or they can be nihilists. They can be narcissistic, or they can be humanists. They can be naturalists or, believe it or not, some believe in the supernatural.

Now, that I explained my beliefs and knowledge of gods, let me tell you what I DO believe in...

I then went on to explain that I was: a humanist, a skeptic, a naturalist, a rationalist, etc.

During my trip to LA, I spoke about building nontheistic communities. If we all wake up tomorrow and find that no one believes in god(s), what do we do then? Many atheists do nothing but complain about and insult theists continually. While this is sometimes needed, it does nothing to meet the needs of individuals and families who happen to be atheists. Many need the support and kinship they received from churches. Whether they call it “church” or “fellowships” or “clubs,” is the least of their concerns. Why should atheists be forced to go to a Justice of the Peace to get married? Who is going to bury our loved ones? Why can’t we gather together and celebrate the various wonderful rituals and holidays without the superstition? Of course those who do not want to attend are free to stay home.

Finally, it is my opinion, that it is counterproductive to call theists mentally impaired or idiots. While many may be, quite a few are intelligent and well educated. For various reasons, they have created a little faith box in their minds where they don’t allow reason. Calling them names will not change a thing. It is about as productive as automatically lashing out at our fellow nonbelievers instead of asking them their intentions. But hey, being an atheist has nothing to do with being a jerk. I think Stephen Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Of course he is a mentally impaired Mormon idiot.
Hear hear!
Brother Richard,

Thanks for that thoughtful explanation. I understand from where you are coming, I trust my continued disagreement with you is welcome if not accepted.

Clarity of language means a lot to me and many atheists, especially when in converstaion with theists. That some orgaizations have seen fit to co-opt the term "church", which is ONLY a theist construct, and encorporate it with the term atheist should not infer we need to promulgate application of the oxymoron.

That some very small percentage of respondents liked the idea of an "atheist church" is of course not at all the point. My objection is that the poll, coming from an esteemed atheist message group/organization with large exposure, feeds theist misconceptions about atheism being a religion. As an activist, I don't see that as a positive thing... we've come too far to adopt theist terms in a non-theistic application.

I would deplore equally any poll that asks "What are the sacraments of Atheism?", or "should atheists take communion?" , or "Should atheists worship Darwin?". The concepts are antithetical to non-belief and the definition of atheism.

Now, if you wanted to poll the membership and ask "What is your opinion of an atheist mosque" or synogogue, or coven, the absurdity becomes perhaps more clear, albeit, it would not be one iota different than the misuse of the term "church". That "church" is the prevalent theistic house of worship designation in the US / Europe does not make it less oxymoronic, irrespective of those groups who see fit to apply it to their non-Christian organizations.

For those to whom word meanings are unimportant; for atheists who have not been actively combating misconceptions and falsehoods of those who insist atheism is a religion; this seems like small point. To me, and dare I say to those of us who are activists, offering a poll such as the one we have been discussing is counterproductive because it ledgitimizes the theist misconception.

Anyway, that I took, and continue to take, umbrage with the poll topic / usage of the term and some members here found my vehement opposition to it so distasteful as to have to email you during your conference, tends to confirm your supposition that atheists do not have a corner on the market of intellectual acquity, nor maturity or tolerance of opposing perspectives. I will take that as a learning experience.

"Calling them names will not change a thing.... I think Stephen Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Of course he is a mentally impaired Mormon idiot."

LOL !! :)

Yours in Reason,
It seems we agree more than we disagree.

Again, the poll used the wording "atheist church" because this is what these groups call themselves. If I was asking for comments on a drink called "Catholic Cola," I would use those words. Even though it doesn't make sense.

As someone who has come from the religious world, and understands the benefits of community, I have often wondered what word we should use. There are: fellowships, assemblies, associations, societies. However, these all have negative connotations as well. Whatever we choose, the groups themselves are definitely needed by many people.

I had the same dilemma when I had to choose what moniker to use when I was secularly ordained. I did not want to use Rev., Father, Priest, Rabbi, etc. I settled on "brother" because it was the only label that represented a horizontal and equal relationship. However, some people are offended by it as well. In some ways, you can't win.

The worst thing we could do is only argue about such things and never actually accomplish anything.
Brother Richard,
Fair enough.
Thanks for the reply, and for having this site.
Just sorry I have been absent so long.






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