Considering atheists’ views about God, the last place one would expect to find a non-believer is attending a church service. However, as TheBlaze has noted, the secular community has taken some intriguing actions in the past few years. On a regular basis, non-believing activists are seemingly borrowing templates and blueprints from religious movements in an effort to rally their own base. But what about churches participating in this process, too?
In September, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, launched a new service directed at atheists and humanists. The weekly “religious” gathering, like most other church services, meets on Sunday mornings. Called “The Point,” the weekly non-theist gathering was created by the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar when he realized that, despite rejecting God, many non-believers are caring individuals who have a need for community.
“These are people who are not inspired to live their lives a certain way by ideas of God or by Scripture but who have the same human needs for community, compassion, meaning and marking the significant passages of birth, coming of age, marriage and death,” he told Tulsa World.
TheBlaze has noted the growth of the “nones,” those individuals who are unrelated and detached from any faith community. Among all religious groups, this cohort is the fastest growing. Already, one-in-five Americans are a part of this cohort. While not all of these individuals are atheists and agnostics, they are, at the least, not a part of a grander faith community. It is the growth of the “nones” that caused Lavanhar to create the atheist church service.
“If I can’t make my case for loving your neighbor without reference to God and Scripture, then I am truly going to miss a huge segment of the population who may find themselves permanently outside the walls of organized religion,” the faith leader explained.
The weekly church services are attended by between 100 to 200 non-believers, but they sometimes attract even more humanists. The meetings, which begin at 8:30 a.m., are described as follows on the church’s official web site:
“The Point is a service that draws from history, philosophy, literature, poetry, and nature. Come and experience love beyond belief in this Humanist service. No robes, no hymns, no prayers, or scriptures. Just a relevant message, inspiring music by Rick Fortner and friends, and a community committed to the common good. Join us on this journey of depth and discovery…”
Tulsa World notes that, while the rhetoric is different at these services when compared to the comments uttered at a typical church, some of the structure is not. Instead of opening with the line, “This is the day the Lord has made,” one of the humanist services opened, “This is a day not of our own making.” Not invoking God’s name is intentional, as Lavanhar claims that using such language “turns a lot of people off.”
In place of religious music, of course, was a song from “The Book of Mormon,” a Broadway show that is viewed by some as an offensive assault on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints theology.
As for Lavanhar, he believes deeply in God and is hopeful that his efforts will successfully bring different people together in harmony. While he rejects the notion that Jesus is a deity, he believes that Christ is one path through which people discover God. Despite coming to the church as atheists, he told Tulsa World that many people do end up adopting theistic positions after attending services and learning more about the church’s teachings.
(H/T: KFAQ’s Pat Campbell)
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