The Atheist Church Could Be Coming to Your City!

Sunday Assemblies are breaking out all over. Now, you have the chance to start one in your neighborhood and get a visit from co-founders Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones!

Here’s a list of locations already working to organize regular gatherings*:

Don’t see your town listed above? Well, then you need to start your own Sunday Assembly! Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Go to Eventbrite and see if there’s a local event for your area.
  2. If there isn’t one, set one up for your town under the name “Sunday Assembly XXXX” (where XXXX is your city). Make sure the cost for tickets is free!
  3. Set the date to some time in October (if you’re in the U.K.) or November (for the U.S. and Australia). This isn’t the final date; it’s just a placeholder for now.
  4. Invite your friends and spread the word!
  5. Start a Google Group for your area (Also call it “Sunday Assembly XXXX”).

The deadline for these groups is September 15th. On that date, the 40 locations around the world with the highest number of RSVPs will be selected to get a visit from Pippa and Sanderson in October or November to launch their local Sunday Assemblies as part of the 40 Dates Roadshow!

This is something you’ll want to be a part of, so get on board before it’s too late!

*If you want your event to be listed on this page, post a link to it in the comments and I’ll add your city to this list.

About Ericka M. Johnson

As a lover of science and reason, Ericka M. Johnson has an affinity for evolutionary biology and is the president of Seattle Atheists. She revels in any opportunity for a thoughtful debate on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (especially over a pint.) Follow her on twitter @ErickaMJohnson

  • corps_suk

    Calling it a church is so dumb, I look for realist communities myself, but calling it a church is like saying Alcohol is not a drug.

  • Simon Clare

    Hi there, we´re starting one in brighton uk too! 22nd september. Hemant featured me here before when i did some atheist street preaching in Brighton, and I’m pleased to be involved with the sunday assembly. I understand the concerns of some atheists and am happy to chat with anyone who thinks it´s dumb :)

  • jeffj900

    To each his own. I find it pathetic that atheists feel the need to recreate church like communities. There is a whole wide world of activities and associations one can become involved in if you feel your life is missing something.

    Think for yourselves, don’t join a personality cult or a support group for lonely atheists.

    I guess this phenomenon just goes to show there is a reason the flocks have gathered to be shorn and coddled in the churches, and it has to do with human psychological weakness and dependency. Oh well. If it must be, at least it can exist without the false epistemelogical claims of supernatural entities and the faulty logic of prayer lists and prayer groups and people condescendingly blessing everyone.

    At least I can criticize atheist churches as freely as I can criticize God fearing churches. I know I’m not the only one, but even when I was a Christian I hated churches and the soft coercion and sickly insinuation of that whole group devotion thing. I’m an atheist because I want to stand on my own.

  • LesterBallard

    Sleeping late on Sunday mornings; ahhhhhhhhhhh . . .

  • Christian Kemp

    Agreed, and people like hijacking movements that’s why I am not a fan of the idea.

  • Merry Knight

    There’s an ethical society here in Virginia

  • Dan

    Where exactly is the Chicago assembly going to be?

  • TLibasci

    I’m in Tulsa. I’m not holding my breath. (And, truth be told, I’m OK with that.)

  • Hemant Mehta

    We’re working on those details over the next several weeks. I’ll post information as soon as we have it!

  • Ryan Hite

    I think that people call it a church because it gives everyone a sense of familiarity and it is a word that people associate with easily. I think it would have been a little better to call it an assembly.

  • Ryan Hite

    This might be the thing that causes a lot of people to leave their religious churches.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    Sounds like the old ideas of “brights” and “A+”

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Link has been added to the post. :)

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I expect it will, especially those with children.

  • TnkAgn

    I think Fridays after 4 are better. With snacks and beer/wine. Oh the thoughts we will think!

  • ant-eye-christ

    i’m in seattle & a member of ericka’s meetup group. I’m excited to see our city on the list, but really surprised by the date; FRIDAY November 1st. I realize this date is not set in stone, but I thought it was called a SUNDAY Assembly. Terrible choice if the idea is to get high attendance. Will be really disappointed if I have to miss this one due to work.

  • NateW

    This is an interesting concept to me. What does a gathering of atheists look like? What common thread binds the group together besides what they DON’T believe? Is the focus on being “anti-theism” or is there a different emphasis? If there’s a different emphasis (like, say, serving in the community) isn’t it really a group that is about serving the community?

    In other words, if religion were eradicated and forgotten, could these groups exist?

  • Feminerd

    They’d have to change, but maybe they could continue. As science clubs or book clubs, as community hang-outs and places for communal daycare and learning freethinking parenting (it’s actually really hard), as philosophy clubs.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    P.S. Don’t worry about the nay-sayers. People sitting on the sidelines aren’t making this happen. We’ve had an overwhelming response here in Seattle. People are hungry for this and those who are the most excited are those who aren’t typically part of the atheist movement or readers of atheist blogs.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    What ties these people together is a desire to celebrate life with other godless people. And yes, it’s very much about serving community. It’s about giving people with kids an alternative to Sunday school, about giving people a place to sing with others, about savoring how awesome the universe is in the company of others who’d like to make the world a better place with you.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    It’s certainly not going to be that date. That’s just a place holder. We won’t be confirming the date until we’ve confirmed that Sanderson and Pippa will be joining us. It’s possible the event will be on a weekday but if that’s the case, it will be in the evening. Most likely, it will be in November. Stay tuned! Oh, and don’t forget to RSVP to make sure the come to Seattle. :)

  • Mick

    When the Christians tell us that atheism is just like a religion and they point to the atheist churches as evidence, we will just have to cop it sweet. Dopey idea in my opinion.

  • TCC

    Was…was that supposed to be a pun?

  • TCC

    Comments like this baffle me because they essentially deny the need of people to be in community with others. That’s fine if you don’t or if things other than community with other non-believers can fill that role, but to demean someone else by saying that they are “psychological[ly] weak and dependen[t]” or that these attempts at community are just “personality cult[s]” where people won’t think for themselves is just bizarre to me. We’re social creatures, and it’s no surprise that people who are surrounded by religion would want to find a solace from that in a thoroughly secular community. That doesn’t mean that these communities will inextricably become like churches in toto, and you can be sure that atheists are precisely the people likely to be most aware of the most dangerous elements. It sounds to me like you’ve just jumped at the “atheist church” shorthand and decided that you can dismiss it out of hand because of that, and I suspect that you’ve missed a lot in your assessment as a result.

  • jeffj900

    No, if you read carefully I don’t deny the importance of community. I do say that my peculiar personality doesn’t need the kind of support people seem to want from a church. But I said to each his own, and that there are many kinds of community people can be involved in.

    There are sports clubs, gaming clubs, charities, social clubs, political organizations, academic communities, gardening clubs, business and professional communities, support groups, book clubs, art clubs, cultural organizations, writing clubs, music clubs, drama clubs, and so forth.

    I would never deny the importance of community. Donne’s 17th meditation is dear to me: no man is an island, and ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee (and me).

    What I will deny is that humans need a community that tries to replicate the church’s attempt to be all things to all people. Humanity is richer and more diverse than any one community can competently encompass. I would deny that atheism is a substantial foundation for a community, because atheists are, like humans, extremely diverse with a wide range of interests and needs. To organize along the lines of the non-existence of God seems as relevant to me as trying to organize a group of people who are opposed to wearing purple, or to organize a group of people who do not come from planet Vulcan.

  • Simon Clare

    Thanks Ericka!

  • Michael Sabani

    Hi! Starting one in Marietta, GA (North Atlanta area).

  • Gordon Duffy

    Dopey idea for you, and probably for me (though I’d go to one before settling on a firm opinion)

    But if you want to say having a gathering makes you a religion then every sports game, or concert, or clearance sale is a religion too.

  • chrisalgoo

    This is awesome! I hope one comes to NYC.

  • jeffj900

    First Assembly of No God?

  • allein

    What I will deny is that humans need a community that tries to replicate the church’s attempt to be all things to all people.

    People don’t need all those other specific community options you list either. Sure, to each his/her own, but then you go on to denigrate the people for whom this particular form of community might have an appeal. I’m not one of them, either, but I don’t feel the need to compare those who might be interested to sheep or cult members.

  • allein

    There was one in Manhattan a few weeks ago. I don’t know if/when it’s happening again, though.

  • BobaFuct

    Interesting…even when I was a Christian I hated going to church because Sundays are the best sleep-in days, so I can’t grasp why anyone would voluntarily give that up. Also, as a relative introvert, I can’t grasp the need some people have for this type of social gathering…that doesn’t mean I judge people that do need/enjoy it, but this kinda gives me a “non-theistic religion” vibe. I mean, atheist bookclub I get, atheist weekly discussion group I get…atheist church with a sermon and songs? Nope, I don’t get it…and I feel like such environments, where people group based on a narrow set of beliefs and ideas, are a breeding ground for dogma and orthodoxy.

  • jeffj900

    You make a good point. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used such terms of denigration. But then most atheists defend the right to criticize religions, and atheist religion should be no exception. I suppose there already is an atheist/agnostic church. It’s called Unitarian Universalist. If for some reason I felt compelled to belong, I’d join them.

    It certainly bothers me when atheists behave in a manner that seems to confirm the often heard and very annoying claim of the religious faithful that atheism is just another kind of faith or religion, or that people need the things religion provides. That fact that there are atheists who seem unable to do without the cultural trappings of religion seems to justify their self-serving remarks. My view is that there is nothing religion provides that can’t be had elsewhere.

    I’m really baffled by the idea of atheist church, and I’m suspicious of the motives the people who are organizing it. It seems like just another meal-ticket, a business opportunity for people who take advantage of the P.T. Barnum principle. It’s just another way for charismatic leaders to fleece people and make them servile. Well, it won’t be me.

    Let’s just say I admire and respect atheists who can simply live life and find satisfying pursuits without the need to flock to churches for security, comfort, or support, and I think there is something lacking in atheists who feel the need to replicate the behaviors of religious believers. If that makes me some kind of jerk, so be it, but this is how it seems to me.

  • allein

    On the whole, I actually do agree with you. I guess your wording just struck me as unnecessarily harsh. I’m not generally a joiner to begin with and when my parents stopped taking me to church in high school (not long after my confirmation, interestingly enough, though they stopped going for their own reasons and went back some years later), I never had any thought of asking why don’t we go anymore, or if they would drive me there cuz I really wanna go. Other than volunteering in the church nursery for a couple of years (because I liked playing with the kids) I never went to actual services except for Christmas and Easter, and I stopped that within a few years after college (and by then I was only doing it because it made my mom happy). I did wear a gold cross for a long time (I still have it, as it has sentimental value, but I haven’t worn it in probably 20 years; I may have worn it in college, I don’t remember).

    I remember listening to Jerry DeWitt’s speech at the FFRF convention(?) where he did it in his “Baptist preacher” voice, and while I was entertained by it I certainly wouldn’t want to listen to that sort of thing every week. Even in a secular context, the style just makes me uncomfortable.

  • Ryan Hite

    That doesn’t fit. I’m sure that somebody will find some name that fits. The Unitarian Universalists use church in their name and is not Christian (although they started as such)

  • NateW

    Thanks Erika. That sounds awesome. I’m glad you’re doing this! If you ever start one near Pittsburgh I’d love to take a week off from my church and swing by. : )

    (I hope this doesn’t come across as offensive, I’m sincere. I wish more Christian churches had a mission statement like that)

  • TCC

    I still don’t get this response. Who said that this community is “tr[ying] to replicate the church’s attempt to be all things to all people”? And your criticism about atheism not being enough to base a community on could be leveled against other communities that are pretty solid, like the gaming community. The reality is that even though atheism itself is only about one position, atheists in practice have a lot of common ground (e.g. skepticism), and the ones that do will become part of the community, while those that don’t…won’t. I don’t see that as a problem, either; as you said, no one is advocating that atheists must be in community with other atheists, only that it’s not a bad thing if people want to.

  • TCC

    I’m not exceptionally familiar with UUs (I do know several people who attend one and a UU pastor), but I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterize them as an atheist/agnostic church. You might be able to call them a humanist church, keeping in mind that theists can be humanists as well, and my observation of what others have said about their experiences with UU churches indicates that the record is mixed: some will cater to more non-theistic crowds, but many are still fairly theistic and religious, however heterodox. That problem wouldn’t exist for an explicitly atheist community.

  • logical_hare

    Sorry to jump in late on this, but I think you folks’ve hit the nail on the head about the divide on this issue without realizing it: this sort of thing only seems to be of real interest to ex-Christian atheists, who often have grown up with positive notions about the idea of church communities in general.

    I mean honestly: ‘Sunday Assemblies’? This is a straight up Christian prayer service with a few words and connotations flipped around, from the name to the scheduling to the sorts of activities. Why would say, an ex-muslim, or ex-jewish, or indeed an unchurched atheist care about this sort of thing to begin with? To folks like us (unchurched, personally), as arrogant and condescending as I realize it is to say, such a thing can’t come across as anything but a way for ex-Christian atheists in particular to work through/cling to their lingering emotional issues surrounding their former Christian church communities. I really do deeply respect the struggles of ex-religious folks with and against faith, struggles I’ve been fortunate to not have to face, but the struggle of ex-Christians to deal with their former Christianity in particular is not necessarily the struggle of the entire atheist movement.

    Let me put it another way: If the phrasing were changed such that people were going around establishing say, ‘Atheist Mosques’, with essentially the same ideas at heart but with scheduling and activities more similar to those of Muslim faith communities (in the same way this ‘church’ more or less homages/parodies Christianity), would you ex-Christians be as interested in the whole concept?

    Put simply I, and I suspect many folks like me, simply can’t support any such ‘atheist churches’, for essentially the same reason that ex-Christian atheists can’t support being totally rid of the idea of church. We’ve been brought up with profoundly different understandings of the whole concept.

    If you think it’s insulting or condescending to former believers for me to say these things, well… you’re absolutely right, and I apologize. I just wanted to get the thinking out there so folks can know what’s being grappled with internally on all sides.

  • logical_hare

    I know you probably haven’t seen my above post, so I’m sort of repeating it, but I’ll say it in brief.

    The problem with atheist churches (especially this one), is that they’re literally parodies of Christian churches from the naming to when they are to what they do. Just as some people are attached to and culturally understand churches as good, irrespective of the religion issue, some others have (and indeed prefer to have) no connections to churches and culturally understand churches as repugnant. If the hope is to build community amongst atheists, this way simply won’t work. Never-churched atheists, and I suspect many non-ex-Christian atheists in general, simply having nothing suggesting to them that it is needed or important to filter their atheism through practices modelled after western Christian churches.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Just added the link to the post.

  • TCC

    I see no evidence to think that they are “literally parodies of Christian churches.” Even the name “Sunday Assembly,” which you seem to think is demonstrable evidence of this, isn’t necessarily a parody of a church – it’s an assembly (a gathering) of people that happens on a Sunday. If you want to get into why it has to be Sunday, consider the cultural convenience of doing it on Sunday as opposed to another day. (If it were in a majority Muslim country, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “Friday Assembly.”)

    As for whether atheists with no religious background will gravitate toward these services, that remains to be seen, right? I don’t think you can justify the claim that only atheists who have a background in church and miss it will attend these services.

    The bottom line is that unless you have some specific objection to how a specific “atheist church” (does the “Sunday Assembly” even call itself this?) is being organized and run, I don’t see any reason to object to the idea in principle. Certainly none of the criticisms you or jeffj900 have made ring true to me.

  • awheewall

    It is called an Assembly, the Sunday Assembly. Journalists like to call it a ‘church’ as they fear their readers are stupid and wouldn’t understand if they didn’t use that word.

  • awheewall

    The organisers don’t call it a church, journalists do.

  • logical_hare

    It’s true that I cannot claim to speak for all unchurched atheists, and certainly not for anyone else, and I’m trying to attest to that in my phrasing, but I could be failing. I apologize. I do however think that my logic is probably representative of why some folks close to my profile feel unease or disinterest about the whole concept.

    Sunday Assemblies is indeed what this particular atheist church (ie. linked to at the top) is called. I can’t necessarily make the argument about all other existing or possible conceptions of atheist church-like-things, obviously, but I view this one as a troublesome template.

    My problem isn’t so much how it’s run, so much as for whom it’s supposed to be, and why. You could establish atheist churches, but if they’re like this one, I’m not certain what the marketing logic is supposed to be. Why would a person like me necessarily come? Why would an ex-muslim? It’s true that other ex-religious atheists might decide to have Friday Assemblies or atheist mosques or atheist synagogues, or whatever, but then we’ve turned the movement into something really bizarre.

    I assume that when people suggest this whole idea they’re not looking for that scenario, but rather expect people of all-and-none former faiths to be willing to flock to a sort of universal atheist ‘church’. I presume this is what you believe when you suggest that we can’t know whether or not atheists of different backgrounds would be interested in this kind of thing, and that my logic doesn’t move you otherwise at all, but here’s the thing:

    For a supposedly universal gathering of like minds on the subject of atheism (to try and phrase it in as secular a way as possible), it sure looks and smells a hell of a lot like a western white Christian prayer service. Here’s a simple, visceral sort of example for a guy like me: if you go to the website and look at the way the schedule their gatherings, you’ll see that the speakers and readings (readings?) are broken up with intervening hym- I mean songs. Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to break spontaneously into song at work, but the idea of a bunch of atheists coming together to stand around and sing about, I don’t know, how great reality and science are or something, screams “creepy religious behaviour” to me. It’s inextricable. Hymns and sing-alongs are not a part of how I choose to commune with the universal, or consider infinity, or contemplate my navel, or whatever.

    Now, anyone is welcome to say “nuh-uh!” or “but I do!” or “you’re a jerk!” in response to this, and you’d be right on all counts, but this is what I’m saying: this sort of concept has limited appeal among the broadly-constituted ‘atheist community’, and seems tailor-made for former western Christians in particular. It doesn’t help when folks suggest that it’s transparently designed as a sort of atheism halfway house to lure Christian families into moving away from their theistic churches.

    Our whole debate is a microcosm of this. After all, I’m not just a guy who thinks atheist churches won’t attract unchurched atheists, I’m an unchurched atheist who ISN’T attracted to atheist churches. If, somewhere on that website or buried here in the comments, there’s a pitch aimed at people like me, I haven’t found it. (Again, assuming that attracting a broad spectrum of atheists, of diverse former faiths and none, is a goal of operations like Sunday Assemblies).

  • awheewall

    This discussion is all very well, but you’re all going at it without actually having experienced it. I’m not an ex-anything, I don’t feel I need anything like this in my life. But I went along with an open mind. It’s not a church, it’s not an atheist religion either (great oxymoron though that would be). It’s just a celebration of life, with tea and cake at the end. Plus the chance to sing classic rock, listen to some interesting speakers and join (if you want to) some community groups, etc. What’s not to like about that? But if you choose not to like it without having seen it, that’s fine too.

  • logical_hare

    Yeah, but if it’s just those things, then it’s not really anything. Are we talking about establishing something related to atheism? Or just kind of social and hobby clubs? If it’s the latter, I think the implications are a lot different.

  • jeffj900

    I was the one who said that churches try to be all things to all people, and if you call yourself a church, it’s reasonable to assume it would have something to do with what churches do. Otherwise why call it a church? Church means place of worship or house of the lord, which seems pretty antithetical to atheism.

    If you call yourself a church, then it seems you are taking on the responsibility of being an absolute moral guide for the congregation, the authority on how they should live and think. So if atheist churches don’t want to do that, why call it a church? If it’s an atheist meeting, or atheist club, or atheist group, or whatever, that’s different from being a church.

    Regarding basing a community on atheism, it seems to me that you generally base communities on shared interests, and those are usually a positive assertion of a common activity, common goals, or common needs. The only common goal I can think of for all atheists is that of doing away with churches, which makes atheist church quite a paradox.

    Atheism is not a positive assertion, its an absence of belief in God. What would a club of people who don’t like to listen to music have in common to share? Sitting in silence? No, that doesn’t make sense. If they’re to be a community, they’d have to search for something unrelated to music to share, and whatever it ends up being is not in the least defined by “not liking to listen to music”. It could be they all like to collect stamps or something, but it just doesn’t make sense to come together to not listen to music.

    So if people go to an atheist church, I assume that thing they share is not the absence of God, but rather that they like to go to church. I have nothing in principle against people who like to go to church doing so, whether they are atheists or not. But the thing these people are sharing isn’t atheism, it’s church.

  • allein

    I think you do have a point there. It does certainly seem to parallel Christian more than other religious traditions. While I am an ex-Christian (Methodist), my religious upbringing was pretty benign. I like to say “religion was something we did on Sundays”… Sunday school, church, then we’d go home and play or read or whatever we’d do on any other day off.

    I read someone’s account of their own religious history on another site somewhere a few years ago, and he wrote “I was never a believer with a capital B”; that sparked a bit of a light-bulb moment for me because it’s so true. Most of my church involvement was really just because I had friends there. When I didn’t have friends there anymore, I had no real reason to go, and I didn’t miss it, so I feel no need to replace it.

  • TCC

    To be clear (in case this is either a Disqus error or some other kind of mix-up), I’m in agreement with you, and I think you’ve confirmed some of my points.

  • TCC

    Part of my point has been this: Does the Sunday Assembly even call itself a church? Hemant keeps referring to it as “the atheist church,” but I’m not sure that the SA has really embraced that label with the kind of implications that you’re drawing. It’s one thing to criticize some specific thing the SA is doing; it’s another to battle a strawman of your own construction.

    Also, this is flat-out wrong:

    The only common goal I can think of for all atheists is that of doing away with churches, which makes atheist church quite a paradox.

    This isn’t even remotely the case; as you rightly note in the next paragraph, atheism is only the lack of belief in one proposition (“a god or gods exist”). There are anti-theists who might agree with that, but I would suspect that the problem is religion, not the fact that you call the assembly a “church.” Unless you’re going to claim that having an assembly of non-believers constitutes a religion, then this criticism falls flat.

  • jeffj900

    Also, this is flat-out wrong:

    The only common goal I can think of for all atheists is that of doing away with churches, which makes atheist church quite a paradox.

    This isn’t even remotely the case;

    So are you saying there is no possible goal common to all atheists, or is there some goal you can imagine other than ending faith in what is not real and believing in ancient superstitions?

    Anything else I can think of would find natural disagreement among atheists.

  • KS

    Ive wondered why I couldn’t start a community effort with atheists, but now I would think twice. Many atheists seem to associate it with Christian efforts, after reading these comments. Yes there are many existing groups anyone can join but wouldn’t it be nice to be in a gathering where no one said they would pray for me or “god bless you” at a sneeze. A communal gathering where people that don’t believe in a god could donate time, goods and or money to those in need, a place where gay people, poor people, women weren’t condemned? People could gather, sing inappropriate songs, discuss science and other relative things without the interjection of the god delusion?

  • Christine

    Atheists already meet up in humanist groups, secular societies & ethical societies. There is much to do, e.g. working to make sure that schools are not taken over by creationists. I hope the new assemblies are going to work with existing groups?

  • just somebody

    To reiterate, this is *not* called the atheist church, except by the media. It is called Sunday Assembly.

    It is one of several emerging secular communities that are emerging in different places, such as the Humanist Community in Boston, Jerry DeWitt’s community in Louisiana, and other communities in Colorado and Texas.

    It isn’t intended for *all* atheists/freethinkers/skeptics/agnostics/humanists, etc. It is only intended for those who would *enjoy* or *benefit* from participating in such a social group.

    What are the benefits? Sunday Assembly is a self-managed group of folks who want to help others in their area, as a group, and learn about evidence-based science in bite-size pieces à la TED — from a variety of speakers, and sing good-time classic rock with a live band, and think about various aspects of a different theme each week about living life better, with like-minded folks.

    Science has shown that a great many people get more out of life when they are and feel part of a community, but not everybody. And some people prefer groups with very specific focus, such as ethical discussion groups or group singing or dancing or social activism, while some prefer more general communities that allow many kinds of participation/activities.

    I think Sunday Assembly is worth trying out here. It is wicked popular in the UK so far. Of course, it remains to be seen if the enthusiasm participation holds up and/or if the donation-based business model will work.

  • jeffj900

    Whether it’s called church or not, it sounds like church to me. I don’t see atheism as a common foundation for a community. There are lots of other communities one can belong to that are independent of one’s religious belief or lack of belief.

    The Assembly sounds like it’s not for atheists, but rather for people who like the experience of going to church but also happen to not believe in God.

    Maybe something good will come of it. I haven’t the slightest interest, and most atheists I know think the idea of the Assembly is revolting. But perhaps it could attract more religious people who are natural members of that community of people who like to go to church, but aren’t so keen on the primitive superstitions any longer.

    Of course, it remains to be seen if the enthusiasm participation holds up and/or if the donation-based business model will work.

    This final line contains one of the aspects of the Assembly that turns me off. It is still a business, just like church, and of course the charismatic leaders that members fawn over have to be paid. I’m sorry, but the whole notion turns my stomach.

  • Alex Usher

    Add Cambridge, UK. to your list! Early days but very excited. Go to Sunday Assembly Cambridge on eventbrite to get free tickets!

    And to the knockers (oooer) this is NOT an atheist church as the BBC christened (excuse the pun) it, just a fun gathering on a sunday without worship. Songs, guest speakers (ya might learn sumthin) and possibly some altruistic community projects.

  • Alex Usher

    Apologies, forgot the link

  • just somebody

    Nobody is holding up Sunday Assembly as something everyone nor everyone-of-a-certain-type should participate in.

    It’s an option for folks who enjoy that way of getting a certain set of wants met. Further, research indicates that a significant percentage of current church attendees are actually atheists but find other benefits in being in a community that currently churches do well

    Get your social needs met in ways that work for you. Contribute to your society in ways that work for you. Learn about the world and science in ways that work for you. Enjoy your Sundays and other free time in ways that please you. But no need to spit on Sunday Assembly just because it’s not your cup of tea.

    Economics is a fact of living in a society. If something is of enough value to enough people to cover the costs, then it can happen. If it keeps offering sufficient value, then it can continue. If not, it doesn’t. Certain kinds of community may work best with a donation and sponsor model rather than a per-entry or membership-fee model.

    TTBOMK, Sunday Assembly is specifically working to *not* have charismatic leaders. Instead, they would have an on-going (or rotating) emcee and band, but different speakers for each meeting based on the theme, and with a large volunteer contingent. But venue rental, utilities, marketing fees and such still have to be paid.

    You wrote: “There are sports clubs, gaming clubs, charities, social clubs, political organizations, academic communities, gardening clubs, business and professional communities, support groups, book clubs, art clubs,
    cultural organizations, writing clubs, music clubs, drama clubs, and so forth.”

    Each of these is specific to particular interests or abilities. The whole point of this effort is for people, including all age ranges and families, to join together as a community to become/develop a community *per se*.

  • jeffj900

    You are right, I shouldn’t spit on Sunday Assembly, and perhaps I’ve been too critical. But it remains true that the idea seems disgusting to me, and I fully acknowledge that is only my personal opinion. I apologize for being offensive, but I’m just honestly saying how I feel about it, and of course I won’t attend, and everyone else is free to do so. I may spit a bit, but I wouldn’t try to stop anyone.

    I think your descriptions are making my point that atheism isn’t really the basis for Sunday Assembly. The shared common interest seems to be people who like to go to church, a group I definitely do not belong to. It seems all kinds of “spiritual” people and perhaps Unitarians and other liberal Christians, Buddhists, or other religious believers could also enjoy going to Sunday Assembly. So being atheist is neither necessary or sufficient to make a person a member or interested.

    And if you accept that no God exists, then you have to accept that every church or religious shrine or temple that ever existed was fundamentally atheist, because no God was present or participating; just people enjoying shared rituals that made them feel good, as Sunday Assembly is. Sunday Assembly is just slightly different in that it explicitly acknowledges what has always been true for every church, that God isn’t involved and it’s in reality just people enjoying shared rituals.

    My preference is to abandon the useless rituals and spend my time in activities I derive more satisfaction from.

  • just somebody

    Thanks for easing up on the saliva.

    However, again, please allow me clarify that Sunday Assembly is extra-super explicit about *not* being *spiritual* and *not* involving any degree or type of *woo* of any kind.

    The goal is community, and this community is intended to be about people together with other people to enjoy being with and singing with other people and to help other people and to learn together about __evidence-based__ information about the wonders of our community, our world and our universe.

    If you regard group singing and listening to poetry and doing community service and learning about science and evidence-based ways to improve our community and society as “rituals,” then I guess you use a different dictionary than me.

    But you are correct that Sunday Assembly events will not be blatantly anti-theist either, so folks who might have deity-beliefs or woo-beliefs are also welcome to attend, but those beliefs will not be nurtured there.

  • jeffj900

    I regard making tea every morning as a ritual. Family meals can be rituals. Just that it is repeated makes it a ritual. I think people meeting together at the same time and place, engaging in singing and other common activities is very ritualistic. It may be less rigid than some rituals.

    Certain activities, like singing, listening to poetry, or learning science or other subjects are spoiled when the group gets too large. All sense of intimacy is destroyed, and the complexity of coordinating becomes unwieldy. It becomes a situation where the group behavior is forced and lacking the pleasure and usefulness of doing it in small manageable groups.

    I see absolutely no utility in listening to poetry with the same group I learn science with, or again the same group I sing with, the same group I discuss politics with, or the same group again to engage in political action or civic engagement. The odds that the same group would equally value, enjoy, or participate at the same level in all these activities is very unlikely. It just makes no sense from the stand point of actually enjoying the pleasures of these activities. I guess this is why the whole thing, Sunday Assembly, seems artificial and contrived to me.

  • just somebody

    Ah, I understand now better what you were getting at with the meaning of ‘ritual.’ Thanks.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Sorry for the delay, just got it added. Hadn’t checked back here in a bit.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I believe most of them are being started by existing groups.