I am the minister of a church for atheists!!
Of course, it is also a church for theists. It is also a church for all kinds of other "ists."
I was speaking with a member of my congregation yesterday who said her friend wouldn't want to come to church because he's an atheist. I waited for more... yeah? and? Oh, I get it! He thinks that church is not for atheists. He's right of course - usually...
Just about no one who calls him/herself an atheist would expect to be welcome in a "church", much less to find something there to nurture, inspire, and sustain them.
They would be wrong - at least in the case of some Unitarian/Unitarian Universalist congregations, such as mine in north London. [I've heard it said that a Unitarian is an atheist who likes to sing hymns - as long as the words are suitably modified!]
What! Atheists in church and not to be forcibly converted or burned at the stake? I know it's unexpected, but yes, atheists sitting beside monotheists, polytheists, pagans, humanists, agnostics... all of us trying our best to find meaning in life, to be more deliberate and present in the moment, and to figure out how we can work together to make our world more just and peaceful.
In general "I am an atheist" really means "I am not going to believe the unbelievable supernatural stories that traditional religions present as truth. I have my own mind and I'm going to use it!" If that's our definition, then I am an atheist too. Do I believe that a personal God literally created the world, that the whole earth shook when the Buddha achieved awakening, or that the Goddess is a personal reality in our lives? Do I believe that praying to God can make something good happen or prevent something bad? Not at all.
I do believe though that when we come together in community with an openness to hear each other's stories and beliefs, and when we deliberately commit to working to grow and be our best selves, that something very worthwhile, sustaining, and inspiring happens. And - for historical reasons - I call the place where this happens "church".
My idea of "church" is a place where we step aside from the hectic lives we lead - lives that are awash in the materialistic, individualistic messages of the world of business. And in this place, we pause to consider who and what we truly are and want to be - what creates meaning and satisfaction in life - what is important to us. We turn to one another and we share the answers we have found and then we ask more questions together and we search some more. It is a place where we care what happens to each other, where we aim higher, where we strive to include everyone. It is a place where we envision the world we want and then we go out and try to create that loving, just world of our dreams.
Atheists - come to this church. You are welcome.