This week (11/10/13) in Los Angeles, the Sunday Assembly--a congregation of atheists--celebrated it's first "church" service. "It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God."
Atheist churches are springing up across the country, and internationally as well. They are the brainchild of Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans--British comedians whose spoof involving raising money to plant atheist churches has become a bona fide movement. Their goal is to raise $800,000 to help "pop up" congregations, of which they've already raise $50,000.
Jones is reported to have gotten the idea after leaving a Christmas service:
"There was so much about it that I loved, but it's a shame because at the heart of it, it's something I don't believe in," Jones said. "If you think about church, there's very little that's bad. It's singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?"
This really isn't new. People have been singing awesome songs and enjoying community in churches all along, without necessarily having any interest in, let alone having a personal relationship with God. Although this may appear to be a new phenomenon, Jesus predicted that churches would be composed of both wheat and tares, right up until the end of the age.
"Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather you together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matthew 13:30).