What Constitutes a Congregation of Believers?
I was slightly bemused by an article in a recent issue of Time Magazine that dealt with a new non-belief system that is taking hold in the USA, even in the Bible Belt. Meetings take place in function centres and halls to listen to sermons about losing faith. Leaders in these movements are former Christian ministers, who have become non-believers and conduct secular Sunday services. There are atheist and agnostic congregations, some of which adhere to traditional forms of religious worship. They appeal to people who have lost faith in Christian doctrine, but prefer the rituals of traditional religion. Recent statistics reveal that 6% of Americans now explicitly identify with atheism (a lack of belief in God) or agnosticism (the view that knowledge about God is unknowable).
What does this tell us? People, regardless of their professed lack of doctrinal religious belief still have a need for identity and intellectual support through communal activities. Having forsaken the divine knowledge of the Old Testament and Christ’s teachings in favour of contemporarily held opinions and orientation has not detached them from the traditional value of sharing and caring that is implicit and binds us in our faith based activities. It identifies a deep felt human need for fellowship and interaction in a friendly supportive environment that extends beyond a weekly gathering. What is sad is that atheists and agnostics have failed to explore the full potential of God in all its manifestations that forms the basis of our very existence. It cannot be replicated in a secular society, which lacks the elements of spiritual fortitude that enable human beings to deal with life’s crises where our belief in God’s all-embracing presence enables us to face and accept adversity.
What it comes down to is that God doubters and deniers are depriving themselves of the existing knowledge handed down in Holy Scripture to find answers and solutions to 21st century problems in a futile attempt to exclude the Creator Who is ever present.