This morning, I stumbled across an article on PolicyMic titled Why ‘Atheist Churches’ Are Making Us Atheists Look Ridiculous. Events like the Sunday Assembly have recently gained popularity in the UK and US, encouraging people to gather together each week to learn, discuss topics like morality, do charitable acts, and apparently sing a few songs. I’ve never been, but if there were one nearby and if I didn’t have to wake up too early, I wouldn’t mind checking it out one of these days.
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?
Miller may as well be whining about a secular choir practice. “So you’re telling me you get together EVERY week, and you sing songs together? How does that differ from a religious choir in any meaningful way?”
“But why are these atheists still gathering on Sundays?” asks Miller, before dissecting the moral failings of everyone who has ever participated in the event. Allow me to make another guess that differs slightly from what he posits: because it’s fucking fun? Again: I have not been to Sunday Assembly, but I did start Boston Skeptics, where we regularly gathered together in a pub to listen to someone talk – sometimes about morality! – while socializing. We even had a regular brunch. Much like Catholic Mass, it took place on Sunday and included food and alcohol. How did it differ from Catholic Mass in any meaningful way? Well, we didn’t worship an all-powerful supernatural deity and IT WAS FUCKING FUN.
Don’t get me wrong: not every skeptic enjoyed Sunday brunch. But when they went and did their own thing, it wasn’t a “schism” as Miller labels someone starting a different kind of Sunday Assembly (as an aside, that person is Lee Moore, a creep who tried to get famous last year by attempting to convince me and other women to engage in an open debate with the people who are harassing us).
Miller quite stupidly refutes his own points repeatedly, including by referencing the “the centuries of bloodletting between Sunnis and Shias, or Catholics and Protestants.” How do those “schisms” differ in any meaningful way from some atheists meeting up in a bar instead of a music hall? Geez, let me think for a second . . . maybe the atheists aren’t worshipping an all-powerful supernatural deity and THEY’RE NOT KILLING EACH OTHER?
My headline is a bit tongue in cheek: I don’t think Miller’s boneheaded opinion piece is ruining atheists’ reputation. But, it sure isn’t helping disabuse anyone of the notion that atheists are boring asses who have a kneejerk negative reaction to anything that even superficially resembles something a theist would do.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s Friday and I have a lovely fish dinner to plan.