In 2013, Sunday Assembly was begun in London, England. Founded by Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, it’s a non-religious gathering for people who want the same communal experience believers get in religious services.
In other words, it’s a church for Atheists.
The biggest question I have with this admittedly-novel idea is: What would you sing about? Seriously, I can only imagine services with the most depressing music imaginable.
“Thanks for joining us today at Sunday Assembly. Now let’s turn our hymnals to and sing together ‘Dust in the Wind’ by Kansas. Then later Sister Marge will perform ‘Is That All There Is’ accompanied by a children’s choir…”
And you thought Christian church could get boring!
Comedian Steve Martin even wrote a song he performs with his bluegrass band called Atheists Don’t Have No Songs. He pokes fun at the fact that while Christians sing passionately about their faith, Atheism’s lack of poetry and meaning leaves little to sing about. Even Nietzsche himself, the proud atheist philosopher, admitted, “Without music, life would be an error. The German imagines even God singing songs.”
Sure, I admit I’m biased about religion. Just like everyone else.
Atheists often claim to have arrived at their beliefs simply by following the facts. But no one is unbiased. Everyone has had positive and negative experiences that shaped their beliefs. And atheists often blow their cover by protesting so passionately against a belief system they claim to be so dispassionate about.
While I’ll admit there are good arguments against believing in God, there’s nothing you could ever say that would shake my faith. Absolutely nothing.
You may be grinning now over that last statement, but let me double-down on it even further. Even if God’s existence were somehow undeniably disproven by a consortium of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and, um… Bill Nye the Science Guy, I would still strongly believe in God.
Why? Well, several things…
Music, for instance.
Have you experienced this? That feeling you get when you hear beautiful music, even just instrumental music, with no words to manipulate you? And yet, it touches something deep within you. Something beyond just emotion. Something spiritual.
This happens to me when I listen to Rachmaninoff or Ravel. I sit there, at first moved, then emotional, then blubbering like a child who just got spanked on the playground.
So how does a sound, with no real connotations to any life experience whatsoever, communicate emotion? Why does a switch to a minor key make things sound more serious, perhaps even tragic? And then, how can a high string line suddenly turn things around from tragedy to a melancholy bitter-sweetness that gives the tragedy added nobility?
And then, there are babies.
Scientists tell us our love for them is all hormones and genetic evolution. They say the child’s helplessness triggers some survival instinct in us to further our species. They want me to believe that the rush of love I feel while cuddling with my daughters is just some primal chemistry set exploding in my brain.
Seriously, that’s the best you’ve got?
It makes no sense that when a 2-year-old takes off her clothes and runs outside, the neighbors think it’s adorable. Yet if I do the same thing, suddenly you call the police. No fair!
But I digress…
In fact, it’s not just music or babies. It’s art and laughter and joy and wonder and whimsy. It’s how allegory and symbolism, metaphor and simile, infuse mundane daily events with meaning and spiritual depth.
For me, those things point directly to God, because they are transcendent of this material world. And without God, nothing can be transcendent. All that’s left is just matter, electrical charges, cause and effect, cut and dried.
And where’s the fun in that? That’s why “atheists don’t have no songs.” Good songs are ultimately the cry of the soul for something more, whether it’s love or meaning or whatever.
Atheism says, “There is nothing more. Stick a fork in us, we’re done.”
God says, “There is nothing but more; more than you can ever imagine. And it’s all filled with immeasurable meaning, wonder, and joy!”
In fact, the Bible says God is so passionate, He sings love songs over me! Imagine that – Nietzsche was right about God in one aspect. God does indeed sing!
“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17
Ignore that Voice if you choose, but you’ll never hear a more beautiful song than his. In fact, ignore that Voice at your peril.
Because without God, your life has worth only as long as everyone else say it does. Apart from a divine Judge, we’re left with no higher ethic than the whim of majority rule. God help us if the majority ever loses their minds. As history has taught us, every so often that’s exactly what they do.
If Jesus is not the Truth, he should be. He’s simply too beautiful not to be true.
So please don’t waste your breath trying to convince me there is no God. Nietzsche can stomp his feet from the halls of history and yell “God is dead” at the top of his lungs. It won’t even phase me.
My response will be with a childlike confidence the doubters can never know. And just like God, I’ll be singing too: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
If you can’t sing that song with me yet, I hope at least you’re listening. Because that sound you hear right now is his voice. And he’s singing to you.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.