This one has me scratching my head. I always thought one of the reasons people bail out of Christianity is that they don’t want to clog their Sunday mornings with worship services when they could be on the golf course or sunning themselves over croissants at the local patisserie. But now I find out that atheists in Great Britain, feeling cheated out of the traditional Sunday morning congregation experience, are busily reenacting what Christians do.
The faithful (or faithless) I read about in Britain’s The Guardian meet in a former Christian church in Islington, north of London, and rather than “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” or “How Great Thou Art,” they sing “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. There is a moment of silence, a passing of the basket (even atheists have to pay the rent), and a lecture in place of a sermon. I am amazed at how slavish the imitation. Why, they even have “missionary tours” like Paul’s, to check up on their satellite congregations in Leeds, Dublin, New York, San Diego, and other church plants. Their vision, “Sunday Assembly” founder Sanderson Jones told The Guardian, is “a godless gathering in every town, city, or village that wants one.”
A couple of things come to mind as I scramble for comprehension. One is that man cannot escape his mannishness (as Francis Schaeffer used to say). Fellowship and worship are hard-wired into our natures and will express themselves in one way or another. Or, as the saying goes, there is a gaping hole in man, and it is God-shaped. But if you do not want the lordship of God but only the feel-good perks of belonging to something, what better solution than this? It’s like marriage without the stipulation of sexual fidelity.
Another reason why the birth of atheist religion should not surprise us is that Satan is the supreme counterfeiter. He was the angel who was “the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12) but who would be God (28:2). Covetous of God’s perfect sevens (Zechariah 3:9), the best he can do is always 666 (Revelation 13:18). Why shouldn’t the one who displays as an unholy trinity (Revelation 13) against God’s holy Trinity also get into the business of parish churches?
Nevertheless, for all that, it is hard for me to imagine the proselyte zeal of this band of mostly young and professional and white flock for their cause. Back in my college days when I thought there was no God, the last thing I would have wanted to do was join a club with membership dues and bylaws and social causes.