I am an atheist minister
I know. “Atheist minister” seems like an oxymoron. It’s definitely a source of cognitive dissonance. I feel like I’m in the “I, Mudd” episode of Star Trek TOS where the robots were defeated by Kirk and Harvey Mudd when they introduced a logical conundrum. “Atheist minister”: The blank looks — the confusion on people’s faces is alway interesting. (Rarely does smoke come out of their heads, but it would be fun.)
No — I was not once a Christian who “lost” his faith. I’ve always been an atheist and I came from a Christmas-Tree Jewish background. The odd thing was becoming religious and an atheist. This wouldn’t have happened without Unitarian Universalism, which has long insisted that religion and supernatural belief are not inextricably linked.
“What do you do?” They ask. “Do you have like a church or temple?” “Do you have meetings?” “Do you <gulp> sing?”
So, I am minister of a strange and wonderful congregation in London and have been for nearly ten years, following a massive mid-life conversion from secular atheist to religious atheist. I’m not a proselytizing atheist, though. I don’t care about what people believe — just what they do.
The weird and wonderful congregation I lead has diverse beliefs, although none are traditional anything-ists or they would be somewhere more normal. We have strong shared commitments about what the world should be like and how we should be in it. Justice. Love. Relationship. Understanding. Joy. We’ve been forcefully in favor of marriage equality before it was a Tory thing and feminism was born in our chapel, where Mary Wollstonecraft worshipped in the 18th century. We’re working on welcoming refugees, dealing with the London housing crisis, and we give all our collections to local charities.
Of course, we’re hated by the traditional religionists who say it’s not religion without God or theology. We’re equally hated by angry atheists and secular humanists who reject the whole notion of religion, with or without belief in the supernatural. (Except Buddhism, which always gets a pass because meditation is cool.)
So, I’ve fallen into something pretty wonderful. Religion without patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, hierarchy = a place where people find and give support, have room to grow, and work together for a more just world.