Atheist Church Coming to New York City Bikini Bar

The Sunday Assembly, the “atheist church service” that has made a splash in London and beyond, is coming to America this summer and the first service has been scheduled to take place in Manhattan on June 30th at 12:30p at Tobacco Road, a bikini bar and concert venue:

Sunday Assembly co-founders Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans

Normally a “bikini bar” and music venue that features scantily clad female bartenders, the otherwise uninvolved proprietors of Tobacco Road have agreed accommodate a family friendly crowd by asking employees to cover up.

“Lots of people are giving us warnings that it’s going to be different over there, but so far, we’ve just had a lot of support from the people in America,” co-founder and stand-up comic Sanderson Jones told the Daily News.

This is only the first American Sunday Assembly service and it’s part of a larger cross-country trip made by Assembly co-founder Jones — he’s also stopping in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago to talk to people who may be interested in running services and to scope out potential venues.

My hunch is that these services, in those cities, will be as popular here as they have been overseas. The lure is very strong — music, community, inspiration, all without God — and the media attention isn’t going away.

Yes, the detractors will still be there claiming it’s too much like “religion,” but people gathering together in celebration of something they have in common isn’t unique to religion. We do it at sporting events and concerts, too. You may not want to participate, but there’s no reason to trash the idea.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    Just not my thing, but more power to whoever does dig it.

  • DavidalBarron

    I know I made fun of “atheist church” before, but I think I can endorse this one. My only hesitation is if there’s a wet bar.

  • WallofSleep

    Same here, but I wouldn’t mind checking one out at least once, just to see what it’s all about.

  • closetatheist

    With the bar aspect its bound to be more fun than anything stuffy, straight-laced religious folks have to offer…And I can see something like this being popular among recent “deconverts” who really miss the sense of community – or who have been cast out of one – that was available to them in a regular church. I hope things like this become popular for the sake of the many who need it!

  • Rain

    Maybe they have different laws over there in London, but I don’t see how forcing atheists to wear bikinis and smoke tobacco could possibly pass the “Lemon test” of the US Constitution.

  • Ex Nihilo

    i’d check it out if i lived close by but i live in central illinois

  • WallofSleep


  • WallofSleep
  • Sam Chapman

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Who knows, it could become a great movement that gives non-believers, as a group, a vehicle to become more involved in the our communities. It’s certainly worth a try.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Dude, Christians routinely take their kids to church where they worship a book filled with rape, genocide, hate and life-extinction events, and fervently pray that the end come as soon as possible. Surely we atheists are strong enough to bear a few half-naked female bodies.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Then obtain tax-exempt status and spit in the eye of the other churches.

  • Gus Snarp

    That’s basically my view as well.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    I very much want a secular community to be part of, regular meetings, discussions of philosophy, even ritual. Could really do without the booze, smokes, and especially the boob ogling bar. Why say covering up is “family friendly”? I have no kids, but that has nothing to do with my avoidance of ogle bars. Is the choice of venue some deliberate attempt to show how hip and un-prudish we are? We can’t show we’re sex-positive without meeting up at an upscale Hooters? When customers treat sex workers with the same respect as hair dressers or UPS drivers, when I can stop explaining to the clueless why unasked for sexual attention feels very different to a woman than a man, when most guys have no problem having this “service” at a Chippendale joint or gay bar, I’ll feel just fine at a bikini bar. And if we’re so hip and un-churchy, why the churchy language? I don’t want a “church” nor “services”. Is the writer trying to be intelligible to majority Christian readers? Why? Secular meetings aren’t for them. Honestly glad somebody’s making an effort at secular community, good luck to them, but will have to keep looking for my community. :/

  • Emmet

    Catholics have been doing the “religion in a bar” thing for quite some time: Theology on Tap is just one.
    I know, those stuffy, strait-laced Catholic folks, right?

  • Emmet


  • Emmet

    Why is it important to get more involved in the community?

  • newavocation

    The more options we can give people the better.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    UPDATE: I wrote to the Sunday Assembly folks to ask about the choice of venue and they wrote back, and rather nicely too. Turns out they picked that place not to yell “Booze! Tobacco! Titties!” but because it was one of two that was available for booking on their budget in a limited time frame. I honestly thought Manhattan would offer way more options, but apparently that was not the case. There were objections and discussion when they found out it was an ogle bar, not just a music venue, but they decided to go with it in the end for a one off, not a long term thing, because it was larger than the other place, and had a drum kit for their music set. They do understand why the venue would be very unwelcoming to some, and didn’t pick a bikini bar on purpose. I’m glad to have been mistaken about the intent behind the choice of venue.

  • closetatheist

    oh this is cute, I’ve never heard of it before. If I get the chance I might even go to it just so I can get drunk and laugh hysterically at the Q and A segment.

  • Emmet

    Rather than acting like a normal person by trying not to embarrass yourself?

  • Ian Dodd

    5 of us met with Sanderson Jones yesterday here in Los Angeles (at a British-style pub, no less!). His enthusiasm is infections and we’ve got a team of people who are jazzed about this and excited to get started on rolling out Sunday Assembly-LA this fall.

  • Melissa Kreck

    I couldn’t agree more about the venue. So, because I’m “Godless” you think I’m not gonna care that my $ (by donation) will contribute to the objectification and further detriment to my gender. Unbelievable! Sad actually that people that claim a ” good without God” outlook on life would be so insensitive to this issue. I live close to NYC and work there, I would have loved to attended under different circumstances.