church for atheists

At the moment, I’m working my way through (famous atheist) Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion – it’s the first book I’ve read that seeks to persuade someone who is sitting on the fence to embrace atheism (the belief that there is no God) as a life-philosophy: as a faith, if that’s not a poor choice of words.

I’ve read a Christian response to the book, entitled the Dawkins Confusion: certainly Dawkins’ arguments aren’t watertight, but I’ve never had much of an understanding of how someone who didn’t believe in God might understand the world, and how it came into being.

Reading the book has – I think – helped me understand the way that someone with an atheist belief framework thinks, and during church tonight I found myself trying to see church from that point of view.

Of course, it makes no sense at all. Singing in a group is a stirring experience: I was playing the piano, so I couldn’t concentrate on the words too carefully, and especially couldn’t consider them from another’s point of view, but singing how great God is would certainly be hard to cope with, I would imagine. Prayers, and bible readings: a sermon – a talk from the bible about how to live… all seems quite foreign. It would seem that for someone to make the journey from atheist to Christian would not be something that would happen in a church… there’s just too much ground to make up: it would be too intellectually jarring.

What kind of forum would be suitable to engage with ideas of atheism and theism, do you think?

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1 Comment

  1. It seems to me that it was expected in NT times that non-Christians could and would turn up in Christian gatherings (1 Cor 14:23-25).

    This should, at the very least, raise questions for how we ‘do’ church. Do we follow the way of Hybels, Strobel etc. in ‘dumbing down’ church for non-Christians? Or is there another way to celebrate God, encourage the saints, and yet create a forum where non-Christians can come in and at least recognise that they are sharing the space with other human beings, and not just weirdos?

    If your street-level pagan comes into a church where she is made to feel welcomed and cared about, where she can ask her honest questions and not have them avoided or damned, then I think that will go a long way – regardless of the ‘final form’ of a church service.

    I guess we need to be think in a more ‘missional’ way about how we do church, bible study groups etc.

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