Perhaps your eye also caught this little news item this past week. I find it both interesting and quite charming.
It seems a group of atheists in Europe have raised the possibility of establishing Sunday Assembly times for folks who want the benefit of church life and activities without all the religious underpinnings.
According to the group, atheists have been missing the positive communal aspects of religious life, as in, regular times to gather with others of a similar mind, communal time for listening to speakers on topics of interest, opportunity to sing songs with emotional value, occasions to share personal concerns and receive support and encouragement, coordinated activities for youth and family, and, surprisingly, too few opportunities to indulge in pastries with friends.
In other words, they are asking why people of faith should have all the fun.
I am heartened by such news. After all, if there are positive aspects (and I do believe they outweigh the challenges) to being a part of a faith community, why shouldn’t those same gifts be encouraged and celebrated by all people? Good is good, and, biblically speaking, the God of all creation has the good of all people at heart, not just people of faith.
Anything that positively builds up and strengthens human community is an enterprise worth pursuing. And whether or not it’s accomplished under the name of God, it remains a good and godly thing worth doing.
My hope is that, should such an assembly become current on our side of the Atlantic, people of faith would, on occasion, join in with the atheists as a quiet witness to the depth and breadth of God’s love and care for all people (including those of great faith, little faith or no faith).
And, perhaps, on occasion, people of faith might, in return, invite the assembly to come and share in the positive aspects of religious community from the inside. I suspect that, after a while of intermingling in such community activities, the fear, anger, mistrust and common tendency to stereotype by all sides might begin to fall by the wayside.
What strikes me as most intriguing about all of this is how atheists seem to see what they are missing, while people of faith are failing to see what a treasure they’ve got every Sunday, every day.
Matters of Faith columnist Kim Latterell can be reached by email at email@example.com.