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Atheists at prayer, or, at least, Sunday fellowship

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Molly Worthen is one of the most perceptive historians of American conservative Protestantism. Her book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism is the most astute analysis of modern conservative Protestantism I’ve ever seen. I loved it and assumed that she must have been an evangelical at one time. I had hoped she was still a Christian of some sort. But judging from this column, she isn’t.

In this column she reports on “a godless alternative to church founded in London in 2013.” The whole thing sounds exceedingly silly. Why would I want to go to a worship service constructed by atheists who don’t believe there is anything or anyone to worship. The answer is THE FELLOWSHIP, THE COMMUNITY, THE SHARING. “So happy together.”

This is the Achilles’ heel of atheism. Ultimately, their view of life leads to nihilism, nothingness. They don’t like that conclusion. Of course, they don’t! They weren’t created for nothing. They were created to love. Materialism is unnatural to who we know ourselves to be. The materialistic universe mocks all their aspirations for justice, love, signficiance, purpose, etc.

Bertrand Russell, the great twentieth century British philosopher wrote with great articulation and passion: “Man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving. His origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are nothing more than the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms and no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, So now, my friends, if that is true, and it is true, what is the point?” (Kresta paraphrase). He ends where the book of Ecclesiastes begins: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”…. Ecclesiastes end with God. Atheism ends with the realization that there is no point. It’s all BS. When all the lights are turned off, we are food for maggots and other insects that serve as clues for CSI and Bones.

Atheists just have a hard time living with a godless universe so they congregate with likeminded people to reassure themselves that life isn’t meaningless or cruel and forget the annihilation soon to consume them. They sing pop songs like “Lean on Me”; they thumbwrestle at the “sign of peace”, they reassure one another that they aren’t alone but are persecuted. Humanist fellowships aren’t new but this one sounds saccharine.

They want you to know that atheists are people too. It’s unnecessary. There is no doubt that atheists are human beings made in God’s image with all the same concerns, fears, loves and aspirations as believers. The reason the American people aren’t interested in electing atheists is because they aren’t convinced that an atheist’s philosophy doesn’t ultimately come down to survival of the fittest. But read on. It is full with the kind of insight she showed in her book. Her intelligence is being trivialized, however, with this article.

– Al Kresta

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