'We Make Our Own Heaven'

The Humanist Center offers a spiritual home for non-believers.

ByABC News
March 27, 2008, 6:43 PM

March 28, 2008— -- It is hard not to notice the bells that ring on Sunday morning. But at churches, synagogues and mosques around the globe there are some for whom that religion is lost. This group is part of America's atheist minority.

While Christians, Muslims and Jews can celebrate their beliefs, and fellowship in the company of others in churches, mosques and synagogues, where can non-believers find a spiritual home?

One answer lies in Palo Alto, Calif., if you spot the sign by the roadside. It's at the Humanist Community, where for a few hours every Sunday the humanists, as they call themselves, come together in what one might call a congregation. It even has its own Sunday school.

Without church bells, but with music, this group of humanists believe in a lot of things – but God isn't one of them.

They get together and, with lectures for the older congregants and stories and games for the younger ones, discuss not their faith, but the opposite of faith -- the idea that truth arises from reason, from science, from free thought.

"I like to think freely, but still I can really think freely whenever I want 'cause I think thinking freely is good," said eight-year-old Jane Kovak, one of the humanists' younger congregants. Jane's parents, John and Kimberly teach in the community.

"I don't believe there is a God," Jane continues, "but there is a possibility that there can be. I don't really think there is."

When Time magazine wrote up their version of the Humanist Center and called it Atheist Sunday School, some at the center took issue at the description, because humanism, they say, is so much more than atheism.

Peter Bishop is the group's intellectual guide. "People are the force for good in the world and so I believe in people that their goodness will create the goodness that we have in the world," he says.

Bishop is an MIT graduate who works now as a software writer in Silicon Valley. His parents encouraged the idea of free thought during his childhood.