London Atheist Church Model Looking to Expand Worldwide

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An atheist “church” in London has modeled itself after the Christian church and plans to add more locations worldwide soon. Since its launch, The Sunday Assembly has heard from over 200 people who want to start their own location.

The Sunday Assembly’s website says that it is “a godless congregation that meets on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life.” They say that it is a service for anyone who wants to “live better, help often and wonder more.”

Atheist “church” co-founder and comedian Sanderson Jones says in the group’s recent video, “It’s part-foot-stomping show, part-atheist church, and 100% celebration of life.”

“We’ve come up with a plan so that as many people as possible can start having as much fun as we’re having as soon as possible,” Jones says in the video. He went on to say, “We’re pretty sure there are going to be loads of people who are going to want to live better until they’re doing their best.”

The Sunday Assembly says it will provide atheist “church” plant hopefuls with videos, marketing support, and all the resources it can, but will make sure there is creative space left for personalization. Choosing the songs, readings and speakers is up to each individual location.

Written By: Dayna Lovelady
continue to source article at m.christianpost.com

37 COMMENTS

  1. I’m sure this “Church” would be a lot of fun, but I think it’s a terrible idea. I’m already tired of explaining to people that atheism is not a religion. When theist start pointing out the atheist church… damn it. They should just start a new religion. A religion by name only, and just continue to do what they are doing.

  2. ” An atheist “church” in London has modeled itself after the Christian church..”

    Why? Why on earth are some atheists rushing to invest in themselves all the trappings of a church? Won’t this simply reinforce the criticism that atheism is simply another religion? And why choose such a discredited model? Why not model it after Buddhism? Why not just be Christian, if you want to subscribe to that world view? And won’t it just attract as much ridicule as religions do? Perhaps even more?

    This is just such a bad idea.

    • In reply to #5 by Matrix7:

      Take heart — perhaps this is a start to redefining the concepts of church and religion into benign forms that don’t depend on worship of an invisible deity or other supernatural beliefs.

      Words evolve all the time – remember “gay?”

  3. “to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life”

    We can do that anytime, with anyone. Fine if they want to set up some kind of social club but why not on Thursday evenings? The church trappings just lend credence to the argument that people “need” religion to give them a sense of society/community. Very surprised this started up in the UK, where even most christians don’t go to church on Sunday.

  4. Calling these atheist assemblies churches is a mistake. The word ‘church’ has historically established, specific theological implications that no atheist would want to be tainted with. A church is an assembly of people saved from the power of sin and death through faith in Jesus etc. etc. This is what all the singing and preaching is about that goes on in a church. It may seem comical and fun for atheists to call their gathering a church, but it defies plain semantics, and, when sober at least, no self-respecting atheist would wish to be seen dead in a church, let alone participating in the goings-on of a church.

    If a group of atheists shared a particular philosophy of life which they wished to cultivate more effectively and be able to promote publicly, they might form an association or group of some sort for this purpose. The philosophy they focused on might be strictly atheistic, but it would not be the atheism that distinguished the association so much as the particular philosophy itself, say something along the lines of early Buddhism or something based on the teachings of Epicurus or Pythagoras. Atheism itself is not something people can rally around, but reason and science are such things. The RDFRS is a good example of just this point.

  5. Oh Shite! The xtians will be loving this! Atheists with a ‘church’ and modelled on an xtian church service.

    Couldn’t they have found better terminology to define their activities?

    Here we have it atheists unable to be original, they may as well lie down and adopt the pose of the chalk outline on the floor that xtians have drawn for us.

    • In reply to #13 by RDfan:

      Isn’t RD.net a kind of “Cyber Church” for atheists?

      I could live with attending an actual, bricks-and-mortar atheist church if it meant I never had to hear the words “religion poisons everything” again. I am so sick of that phrase.
      It’s become this site’s equivalent of SSDD or YOLO.

      I know religion is poisonous. I don’t need to be reminded of it here. You wouldn’t go on a dentists’ discussion site and constantly say “It’s important to floss, you know!”

      Endlessy quoting one of Christopher Hitchens’s aphorisms doesn’t make you as clever as him. Nor does it do his reputation much good if, out of his entire body of work, the best line you can come up with to memorialise him and keep his philosophy alive is one that’s so trite.

      If you want to please the gin-soaked popinjay’s ghost, RDnetters, please let that line die.

  6. Why do we have to label ourselves as atheist? Why can’t we just BE atheists? This kind of thing will create the us vs. them attitude that pits the religious folk against everybody not of their belief.

    The only goals of atheists should be to attain a separation of church and state and separation of religious ideology from the educational establishment. That’s all we should want and all we really need. We shouldn’t need to unite to do this because modern thinking should do the work for us.

  7. Um, in a word…no.

    In several words, and has been mentioned here already, atheism by its definition is the absence of theistic belief. It does not require anything other than that. This is a bit beyond ridiculous…

    But to hammer the point home further, what churches have brought that atheist need to encourage more is the sense of community and outreach. It doesn’t need to take place in any edifice claiming to be a church, and can be easily integrated into many organizations that already exists. You could focus on bookstores and places of learning that would be able to provide many of these same ideas without the connotation of faith and belief which churches automatically endear.

    It is entirely possible that these people have their heart in the right place, but there are far, far better ways to go about this.

  8. Jeez, judging by the comments up to No. 16, we apparently have a load of humourless atheists out there ! Does it not occur to the poe faced, that these comedians are taking the piss? Does the concept of parody not cross their minds?

    And then of course the Christians don’t like it either ! They have even less sense of humour, – apparently this “church” is dangerous, the devil’s work !

    Matt Slick, president and founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, studies atheism and often speaks at events about atheism. He says that a movement like this is dangerous. “The devil is working through them to replace the Christian church with the church of the devil. Atheism is the ultimate denial of God,” Slick said. “This movement is a manifestation of the enemy of the Gospel trying to replace Christianity, corrupt it and weaken it.”

    I mean come on guys, this joker thinks that Old Nick is behind this, and he is being serious !

    As Richard said at the Reason Rally: “ridicule them”. A sentiment I heartily agree with !

  9. It seems to me that religious people don’t listen to reason. Maybe this is something they will understand. Imagine getting established in America and getting some of those American tax concessions. Imagine how much other religions will start screaming then. Can’t wait to see the results.

  10. I like this. Yes, I do!

    Ok, I may not be the most sociable Atheist out there, but when I think of how interesting it would be to find myself in a crowd of like-minded people who are laughing together and listening to humanist readings, offering access to nonreligious ceremonies such as naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals, organizing to push back religious intrusions into government and donate their money and time directly to the needy, you know what? I’m in.

    I’d like to remind the international online community here that it’s a difficult road for Atheists in America. It’s a serious social stigma for us to be “out” here. I hope the young people are having an easier time of it but I can’t be sure if that’s true. Just think about the advantage it would give to Atheists here, of all ages, to know that there is a supportive community for them to meet in person.

    Our books and our internet community are all extremely important to us and I feel that support every single day, but to this day, it is difficult to meet our fellow Atheists here in the States if they are not organized and visible. For all the wonderful possibilities that the internet offers us, and I say this even as a serious bookworm introvert, it can never replace the positive, personal validation that only another human can provide.

    Think what it would mean to a teen who is living in a family that is deeply religious and intends to indoctrinate everyone in their domain. We have Atheists of all ages here that are still in the closet and afraid to speak the truth of their disbelief, but I focus here on the young people who need help with this because I remember how painful it is to be the one in a family who has a different way of looking at the world than everyone else around them. If young people have access to large gatherings of nonreligious types then they won’t feel so isolated. It would mean everything for even one adult to say to these young people that they are not evil and deviant,that there is a better way to decide what is good and bad, right and wrong, valuable and not valuable and that there is a very positive, inspiring worldview to be had in our community instead of the guilt and sin based one that is being shoved down their throat by their own family, school and government.

    Let’s not call it an Atheist “church”. Ok, we all agree on that. But I admit that I did chortle a bit when I read about how indignant the Theists are over that wording. Still, I leave it to the wordsmiths among us to deal with that.

    I’ve attended two events that were astounding to me and left me really blown away by the effect of being in large crowds of my fellow Atheists. Some time ago the Humanist community had their convention here in Boston. It was wonderful. Then there was the Reason Rally in Washington DC. I can’t even express how important these public gatherings are to the American Atheist community. What if we had other types of gatherings that are smaller of course, but more regular in occurrence, such as this Atheist “church” event? I’m going to say that the benefits out-weigh the costs.

    In conclusion, despite the fact that we have some minor issues with the wording of this event, we need to access the substantial opportunities offered by regular community organizing. Let’s demonstrate an overwhelmingly positive model to the public in REAL LIFE!

    So hey, if I start an Atheist “church” here in Boston, and I do believe we have some beautiful empty church buildings with awesome acoustics available, could I get Tim Minchin to perform on opening day? OH YAH! Standing room only and you know you want to be here for this – come on now, admit it! :-D

    • In reply to #21 by LaurieB:

      I like this. Yes, I do!

      So hey, if I start an Atheist “church” here in Boston, and I do believe we have some beautiful empty church buildings with awesome acoustics available, could I get Tim Minchin to perform on opening day? OH YAH! Standing room only and you know you want to be here for this – come on now, admit it! :-D

      Hey, does any atheist really wanna meet other atheists? Nasty, evil, immoral, godless whew!

      tongue in cheek of course

  11. I wouldn’t worry too much about religious peoples responses to the idea of an atheist ‘church’. More damaging by far is the display here by joyless, humourless, sanctimonious, mean spirited, nasty people, who all, of course, seem to know the true meaning of atheism.

  12. While I understand the danger this creates for confusing atheism with another religion – what are the alternatives to the community support that churches provide? Note that I’m referring to, e.g., the episcopal church or other very liberal denominations – I know how harmful and backwards the conservative churches are.

    Where can you go to meet a whole bunch of like-minded people on a frequent basis, be welcomed immediately, and get involved in charitable programs with them (e.g., helping the poor/elderly/kids/sick/etc…)? Even though I’m an atheist, I don’t really have any friends or family anymore (I’ve been far too introverted the past few years) and have seriously been considering finding a liberal church to go to, because I just don’t know where else I could go. An atheist church sounds like it would be perfect for people like me.

    • In reply to #23 by Nerevarine:

      While I understand the danger this creates for confusing atheism with another religion – what are the alternatives to the community support that churches provide? Note that I’m referring to, e.g., the episcopal church or other very liberal denominations – I know how harmful and backwards the conservative churches are.

      Where can you go to meet a whole bunch of like-minded people on a frequent basis, be welcomed immediately, and get involved in charitable programs with them (e.g., helping the poor/elderly/kids/sick/etc…)? Even though I’m an atheist, I don’t really have any friends or family anymore (I’ve been far too introverted the past few years) and have seriously been considering finding a liberal church to go to, because I just don’t know where else I could go. An atheist church sounds like it would be perfect for people like me.

      You meet a whole bunch of like-minded people on a frequent basis at the pub. You would be welcomed immediately at the pub. And you can get involved in charitable programs where ever they happen to be set up.

      If atheist groups pop up all over the place then eventually it will spawn the inevitable “you’re doin’ it wrong” groups. Personal belief should be nothing more than exactly that: personal. There is absolutely no need to form ranks what so ever.

  13. Nerevarine

    There are apparently a fair number of Atheists who attend the Unitarian Universalist churches here in the States. Just personally, I can’t see myself sitting through their happy clappy spiritual mumbo jumbo every Sunday morning just so that I can access their social network and participate in their social justice events but it seems to serve some good purpose to others.

    I would venture to guess that if Atheists manage to organize their own version of Sunday morning get togethers, then we could poach these UU Atheists away from the Spiritual happy clappy set. Until then, here are the basic principles of the UU church from their homepage.

    http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml

    • I also do not collect stamps!

      However, I am constantly being bullied by those people closest to me who DO collect stamps. Can I join your club? Then we could maybe talk about ways for us non stamp collectors to resist the mean and forceful ways of the obnoxious stamp collectors!

      In reply to #27 by Richard01:

      Strange idea! I’m going to start a club for all of us who do not collect stamps!

  14. In reply to #26 by bluebird:

    “Church of Beethoven”

    Wonderful – and similar to my idea of having a re-enactment of the Catholic mass, with latin chants, incense and the great masterworks of Mozart, Verdi, Bach, etc, complete with an actor priest in fabulous vestments, altar boys and a professional choir

  15. I think this idea’s greatest triumph is to get up the snozzles of the religiously handicapped!

    The only negative aspect apart from the mega-irony is that is does give the religiously bent a crowbar to bash atheists over the head with.

    “You see we theists always said atheism was a religion and this proves it”

  16. Well it’s got right op the nose of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry so that’s not so bad. It seems to have angered many atheists here also. But when I read those comment’s, which do make sense, I get a feeling that by condemning this ‘atheist church’ they are implying that THEY are the ones tied down with dogma. If athiesm truly had NO rules then anything goes. If people don’t get it then fuck ‘em. I for one am not particularly into the idea but atheism must tolerate all that is also tolerant.

  17. Wow.There are some humbug Atheists out there…Or are they jealous americans????The US atheists need to understand our love of irony and that things are very different in the UK….religious people are really a dying breed here so why shouldnt we have an atheist church????? It doesnt mean atheism is a religion – you cant redefine something like that but the dying off of religion does leave a social and recreational gap in the community….Why not get together and have fun on a sunday????….It might help some believers make the transition to atheism….Shame on you for dissiing this but I doubt these church members will care – they are too busy having a good time….

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