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6.08.2012

The Atheist Community, part 2 with Penn Jillette

One supposed atheist in the back row at the CFI event asked Penn, "Do you think there will ever be a community that unifies atheists as much as church unifies religionists?"

The question was intriguing from an "outsiders" point of view, to be quite honest.
The answer, however, was heart-breaking.  Penn enthusiastically replied, "We have rock and roll!"  The audience cheered and laughed.  He continued, "But seriously, we have art..."

Rock and roll?
Art?

Is that it?  Is that the hope that unifies atheists?  Music and art?
I love music.  All kinds of it.  I crank it up with the best of 'em. 
But if that's all the hope I have in this life, something's missing.  Drastically!!

I'm not a big fan of art.  I'm not artsy-fartsy, but I can appreciate neat works of art when I see them.
But if that's all the hope I have in this life....

My heart was broken for Penn, for my friend, and for all the people around me who are without greater hope than "rock and roll" and "art", with what this temporal life has to offer.  It has some great things to offer, but they are merely temporal.

Christian, don't you see that others are watching us?  Others long for what we have together, because our unity is not in something that will fade with the next "new release" or the next developed photograph.  Our hope is in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of all that is.  He is our living hope, today and beyond the grave! 

What a great Hope we have, and others crave what we have.  What a great motivator this ought to be to share the glorious gospel message of the Cross with those around us, to give them what they need!

6 comments:

  1. I think you left out the part where Penn said he didn't think we needed that type of a community due to atheists tending to be more individualist than believers tend to be. I also think Penn was being a tad facetious when he said art and rock n' roll.

    I think there is this strange meme that floats around the atheist community where people think the church is something special when it comes to community. I would argue that it is not, but that it's merely a hub where like-minded people can make friends. Most churches meet once a week, and maybe have a small group meeting. You're talking around 4 hours tops out of 168 hours where people do church stuff. The rest of the time - if people are getting together it's to have a barbecue, play golf, go to a movie, etc. It's called having friends, and being social - which is something that we social primates like to do.

    There are a few problems that atheists face when it comes to connecting with people. One of which is that religion tends to be a big deal for people. The first time a believer asks where you go to church, and you say, "no where" - look out!

    "Just haven't found the right church yet?"

    "No, I just don't think there are such things as gods."

    You'd be better off if you had leprosy at that point. If you're fortunate enough to live in a larger metropolitan area, there may be a CFI or similar organization for you to get involved with and meet people at, and have the same barbecues, golf games, etc that Christians have. The problem is, many atheists are isolated, and sometimes even shunned in their smaller communities. Trying to find someone when you don't have a hub can be difficult.

    Overall, I think Penn didn't do a very good job answering that question, and it's probably because he has a ton of friends (many of which who are atheists), and therefore isn't really lacking anything. "Community?" "I've got friends, art and rock n' roll - what do we need a community for?"

    Singing songs and listening to someone preach once a week isn't something atheists find attractive. They're looking for friends who will accept them as they are, and many therefore look for some type of hub to make that happen.

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    1. Eric, first I agree Penn was being facetious when he said rock and roll. But I don't believe for a second he was when he said art, because he talked about all the forms of art (Blue Man Group, eg) that are beautiful and important. Nevertheless, the implication was basically this: "We have nothing."

      The "Church" thing is more than simply gathering 4 out of 168 hours a week. It's not about how long or how many times we meet that make it attractive or effective. It's more than "singing songs and listening to someone preach". It's worshiping the Creator and hearing His articulated Word. And we are united in Christ, a common headship.

      By the way, atheists also LOVE this same format, they just don't want to hear the bible. After all, not one person in CFI doesn't like to attend a concert and sing along with the band with their hands raised in the air in "triumph". And they love sitting around listening to and engaging the spoken word, just not God's word. That's why you all went to listen to him.

      So, please don't speak as though atheists are a peculiar group who have "attained" and are above gathering together, singing, and listening to the spoken word, because it's simply not true. And you cannot deny that whatever unites atheists will ALWAYS be temporal...by your own position's beliefs that THIS is all we have. And that is a grievous situation to be in, in my view.

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  2. "Nevertheless, the implication was basically this: 'We have nothing.'"

    Like I said, Penn answered that question poorly, but being he's not a spokesperson for all atheists either, and I certainly don't think he'd claim to be.

    "It's worshiping the Creator and hearing His articulated Word. And we are united in Christ, a common headship."

    Muslims certainly do the same thing, and articulate the same benefits and responses, but I doubt you'd say their worship or headship is legitimate.

    If you picked 1000 random church attenders across America on the street, and asked them what their pastor had preached about the previous week, and to name as many of the main points of the sermon as they could, what do you think the results would be? You and I both know the results wouldn't be too hot. About 98% of the Christian life is spent outside of worship and preaching. If you asked those same random 1000 people why they go to church, how many do you think would say, "To worship the creator, and hear his articulated Word" as the first thing that came out of their mouth?

    "After all, not one person in CFI doesn't like to attend a concert and sing along with the band with their hands raised in the air in "triumph". And they love sitting around listening to and engaging the spoken word, just not God's word. That's why you all went to listen to him. "

    I'm sure there are atheists that are a part of CFI that don't like music, just like there are Christians that don't like music. Music is a human invention that has evolved as human culture has evolved. Music continues to evolve. Chimps and other primates also like to drum on things and make some noise while doing so. Music is something that originates from humans, and that most humans enjoy, though not all do. The same thing goes for listening to speakers. A lot of people don't like to listen to speakers. You go to preaching and Biblical conferences, but most Christians don't. I'll go and listen to select speakers if they happen to be coming to town, and I listen to a lot of podcasts, but most people don't.

    My intention was not to imply that atheists have graduated above gathering together. Again, humans are social primates who enjoy interacting with others, regardless of religion. I'm not really sure what rock concerts have to do with worship. If an atheist goes to a rock concert, and they happen to sing along, they're not under any impression that they're singing to an invisible force. They're simply enjoying the music for the sake of the music.

    "And you cannot deny that whatever unites atheists will ALWAYS be temporal..."

    I don't deny such. Anything that unites any human being will ALWAYS be temporal - even religion.

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    1. "If you picked 1000 random church attenders across America on the street, and asked them what their pastor had preached about the previous week, and to name as many of the main points of the sermon as they could, what do you think the results would be? "

      Fair point. I've wondered the same and wish I could do that very study. But to be fair, I don't even remember what I ate for lunch last week. To be fairer still, do you even remember all of the main points of a particular podcast you listened to last week? Most talking-head stuff doesn't get this much attention as you and I are giving the Penn talk, but many church bodies try to get conversation going like this throughout the week.

      "Anything that unites any human being will ALWAYS be temporal - even religion."

      I'm not talking about "religion". I'm talking about Jesus Christ. If the bible is true, and if Jesus died for my sins, and if he rose from the grave, and if his promise of eternal life is true, then my hope does not die with my bones.

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  3. Remember thereis no loss in this life acknowledging Jesus as Savior. Only gain forever.

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  4. As far as remembering podcasts goes, I probably listen to 30 different ones each week, and I do retain a lot of the information. I have a pretty good memory for details though, and I'm usually listening to stuff I'm pretty interested in, but my memory certainly isn't perfect. That's sort of the point though... people are interested more in the relationships they have with others in the church than they are the preaching or worship. The thing that keeps people from walking away from the church longer than anything else tends to be the relationships. Everyone likes having friends, and when people no longer believe in gods, they tend to lose some.

    Chadek, I would argue that's a pretty unbiblical position...

    "Do not think that I came to [a]bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household." -- Matthew 10:34-36

    Jesus is reported as saying not only that there would be loss, but that he himself had intention to bring about that loss, that strife, and that discord. Talk about family values!

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