The very concept of an Atheist church seems like an oxymoron. After all, Atheists don’t believe in God and church is an institution based on belief in God. But like so much else in modern culture, what used to be considered abnormal has somehow become the new normal.
Jerry DeWitt is a former pastor from Louisiana who has thrown out his Christian faith and become an Atheist. That said, he missed the community he experienced in church life. He figured that if he did, other Atheists may feel the same thing. So he decided to begin a secular church complete with singing, a sermon, passing the offering plate, and ministry opportunities. His new church is called Community Mission Chapel of Lake Charles. He wants it to feature everything that any religious community might have minus any reference to the supernatural.
Now this concept is not original with Mr. DeWitt. A few months ago a group in London made big headlines when they did this. Recently in the U.S., we have seen Atheists church services pop up in New York, Massachusetts, Texas and other places.
But why “church?” There have been all kinds of Secular Humanist/Rationalist/Atheist organizations around for a long time. The Unitarian Universalist Church has essentially been this kind of organization for years. In fact, many mainline Protestant churches have long since thrown off biblical teachings and followed after naturalistic beliefs. While this last group still likes to use Christian vocabulary and formal church forms, their theology is essentially atheistic.
Here is the deal. Human beings are persons created in the image of God whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Denying reality does not change reality, it only creates a fantasy land framework to help individuals who wish to deny God. The reason people want to gather together and create a “spiritual” environment for fellowship is because the reality of our objective spiritual personhood exists even when it is denied. People are simply compelled to seek after spirituality. Those who don’t want to be accountable to God still have the tug, but have to create an alternative mental framework in order to try and deny the reality within.
Crazy as it may seem, according to research by the Pew Research Center, 18% of Atheists say religion has some importance in their lives, 26% say they are spiritual or religious, 14% believe in “God or a universal spirit,” and 12% say they pray.
The reality is, God exists and he can be known in a personal relationship. The reality is, there are many who claim to know God but deny him by the life they lead. The reality is, there are many who claim God does not exist but cannot get away from his influence on their thinking.
It is a truly messed up world we live in. And the only way to straighten things out is for individual Christians to begin to take seriously the call of God in their lives. We have to begin to apply ourselves and learn how to effectively share the message of Christ, then become bold in our witness. Until that happens, the number of Atheist churches will only increase.