Atlanta Atheists Are Now Meeting in a Former Church April 11, 2011

Atlanta Atheists Are Now Meeting in a Former Church

I don’t know how many places the Atlanta Freethought Society considered when they were looking for their new headquarters, but they eventually settled on the former Collins Springs Primitive Baptist Church (That’s really its name. The jokes just write themselves…)

After 140 years, the building had been sold to developers, fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being destroyed by vandals. But [Lew] Southern and his friends were determined to bring the church back to life.

AFS bought Collins Springs with the intention of converting it into their headquarters and meeting hall. Cosmetically, there wasn’t much the group needed to do to convert the church into their hall. Primitive Baptists don’t adorn their churches with steeples and stained glass.

“When we took over the building all we had to do was refurbish it back to condition, which was a huge task, but at least we didn’t have to worry, ‘Oh are we going to take down all the old icons and throw them away?’” [chair of the AFS activism task force Ed] Buckner said.

The all-volunteer force renovated the building so it’s now suitable for use. They even kept some of the furniture:

Southern also restored the church’s original pews, though now they’re called seating benches. The lectern also remained, but now it’s used for guest lecturers, not preachers.

Nice touch. The only other major artifact from the old church still there is the sign on the door:

Lots of changes were made to the building, but the one that’s not going to be written about is how now, finally, the building will be dedicated to telling the truth about the way the world operates.

I suppose it could also serve as a larger metaphor, too: If a church can become a hub for atheism, then what’s stopping religious people from becoming atheists? 🙂

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  • After reading the first sentence, it’s hard to finish the rest of this post… The AFS has enough members and money to buy a building for regular meetings?


  • That reminds me a bit of the former Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Minneapolis which is now the offices of the local GLBT magazine

  • JJR

    In Houston we have a micro-cinema, The Aurora Picture Show, that is housed in a former church…they even kept the pews for the audience to sit in.

  • Anonymous
  • When I lived in Atlanta, I went to a few of their meetings… great group of people! Your post has prompted me to finally write about it and post the couple of pictures I took from the interior:

  • Kimpatsu

    In Amsterdam, there’s a former church that has been converted into a gay nightclub. Just the thought of gay men picking each other up in a place that only months earlier had orthodox Protestant clergy condemning homosexuality from the pulpit actually makes my day…

  • CanadianNihilist

    This is only going to feed the “Atheists are a religion!” group.

  • Awesome! This is something I’ve been saying for a while now, that we need to buy churches, convert them how we will, and then talk them up to the media, bigtime. It’s a score!

    Yes, this will amuse the “Atheism is a religion!” crowd. That’s fine. It’s always the same scenario with things like this: We make an advancement into a secular area that religious groups have already gotten into, and it looks like a small amount of surrender. I understand that. But that alone should never stop our advancements.

  • Brian

    As I go around Buffalo, I’m astonished at the beauty of the many churches. How much blood, sweat, tears and money of the faithful were wasted on these? How many hopes of the faithful dashed, as their miserable steel-working lives wound down, unsolaced by a religion eager for money, grandeur and power, but deaf to the cries of the poor and dispossessed.

    Yet, they buildings are grand, and this is putting one to good use. Would that more end up like this, or as nightclubs and low dives.

  • Oh, the irony: an atheist church in a town named after one of the first Christian churches, Smyrna. Wasn’t Smyrna the ‘fallen’ church of Paul’s letters?

  • L.Long

    “Atheists are a religion!”
    and have a ‘worshippinHut’ to pray to Darwin and dress up nice when they go.

  • Rich Wilson

    St. Isaac’s Cathedral. House of worship, until it became The Museum of Scientific Atheism, and once again a house of worship.

    They’re just buildings. Pretty ones often, but just buildings.

  • I wonder if “god” will still be watching over them.

  • Richard Wade

    This is only going to feed the “Atheists are a religion!” group.

    Yes, and instead of it being nothing but an annoyance, it’s an opportunity to open up dialogue:

    C: “This just shows that atheism is a religion.”
    A: “You think so? Well, instead of assuming that, you are welcome to come to our meetings and see for yourself. After all, ‘See for yourself’ is what we’re about.”
    C: “Oh I’d never dream of going–”
    A: “We have good coffee, and one of our members bakes great cookies. You’ll be very welcome and treated with warmth and respect. Don’t worry, nobody can take your faith away.”
    C: “Well, what do you people do there?”
    A: “This week we’ll be talking about starting a Friends of the Library group, and a professor from the local college is going to give us a talk about astronomy. He said it would be understandable for lay people. That’s good, because we’re not all geeks.”
    C: “Well… I’d have to think about it.”
    A: “Great! Thinking is always good.”

  • Maliknant

    This is only going to feed the “Atheists are a religion!” group.

    Because a bunch of atheists started meeting in a building on a regular basis?

    If someone is ignorant enough to think Atheism is a religion because some atheists are meeting in a former church… it’s because of their ignorance. End of.

  • Tina in Houston

    I was raised by a Primitive Baptist mother who never convinced me of the divinity of Jesus. Talk about old time religion, and for a promising feminist, a bit much on the patriarchy for me to believe it.

    Thanks for making my day!

  • ff42

    Churches typically become ‘charitable’ organizations one advantage is to avoid property taxes and to help donors write off taxes.

    Has this or any other atheist group done the same?

  • Brian

    Atheism is a religion as bald is a hair color.

  • Nordog

    Atheism is a religion as bald is a hair color.

    Then this one is a blonde…

  • Stephanie

    ironic, since I just discovered that the building that used to house Cincinnati Women’s Services (a wonderful independent women’s health facility that…gasp…provided abortions!) is now a church of the brethren. wonder if they had any ceremonies to cleanse it of it’s previous use?

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