At a friend's prompting, I attended yesterday's Sunday Assembly (The Guardian chronicled the event). It's fashionable nowadays for atheists to attempt to salvage whatever's deemed good in religion. Alain de Botton even wants to go back to building atheist temples. As if humans have ever built anything but atheist temples, or held anything but atheist worship services! To the eye unforgetful of the simple fact that all gods are of our own making, any temple, shrine, synagogue, church or mosque is an atheist monument. There is barely a need to invent an atheist alternative. The cityscape is, as ever, saturated with atheist sanctuaries.
While it's true that I enjoyed the “sermon" on Dirac's equation, it's no less true that I found the address delivered in last December's Christmas Carol Service at St Paul's Cathedral equally atheistic, humorous and enjoyable. Whether it's Freddie Mercury (“Don't Stop Me Now") and Stevie Wonder (“Superstition"), or Herbert Howells (“A Spotless Rose") and John Tavener (“God Is with Us"), music is music. Whether one attends a spiritual retreat, a party conference, or the Super Bowl, words are words, ritual is ritual, emotional manipulation is emotional manipulation, the money collected is money collected. One cannot escape being religious and atheistic. And, by the way, tautology is the atheistic font of all religion (“I am who I am").
An atheist church can be no better and no worse than any other religious congregation. More reasonable, maybe. More meaningful, not at all. Will I go back?