The Atheist Church Is Set to Launch in Several New Cities In the Coming Months

The organizers of the Sunday Assembly, the atheist church service that has been so successful in London and several other cities worldwide, have announced where they will be heading on the first leg of their “40 Dates and 40 Nights” tour:

Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones will launch Assemblies in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Leeds, Manchester, Dublin and Crystal Palace. In the US, New York, Harvard, Washington DC, Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and [in Canada] Vancouver. In [Australia:] Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

You can get exact dates and free tickets right here.

The Guardian notes the format of the services and the vision for the future:

Satellite assemblies will agree to the central charter of Jones and Evans’s original gathering — which still meets monthly in central London — and Jones expects them, initially at least, to stick to a similar format, in which a “host” leads several hundred congregants through songs, moments of contemplation and a sermon-like (but secular) talk.

“If we do it in London and there are 400 people who come, that’s brilliant, but if we find a way to help hundreds of people to set one up then we can have a bigger impact than we could ever dream of,” says Jones. Their vision, he says, is “a godless gathering in every town, city or village that wants one”.

I know the services aren’t for everybody, but there are many atheists who would love to attend a celebration of life like this, one that looks and feels like church and does without any of the fiction and superstition.

The Chicago event will take place Friday, November 8. I’ll be there and I hope you’ll join us for the inaugural service! More details on that to come soon.

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.

  • the moother

    Although it’s difficult to agree with this idea in principle, in practice it might make the step for fence-sitters easier to take.

    So, hats off to them and their “congregants” and to the soon-to-be-deconverted too!

  • Darren Wilson

    No, no and no again. This serves no purpose but to fuel theists’ claims that atheism is a religion.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      We already have articles such as this one that have showed up on The Blaze. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/08/21/atheism-a-religion-government-says-yes-for-tax-purposes/

      Which leads to comments like this: Atheism is most certainly a religion. The central tenant is the belief that there is no God. This is similar to the fact that when you choose not to act, you’ve still taken a choice. You’ve still acted by not acting.

      • the moother

        Lol…, I spotted the logical fallacy there… Even a 5 year old could spot it…

      • allein

        We have tenants? Then how come I haven’t been seeing any rent payments?

      • R Bonwell parker

        Obviously the commenter doesn’t understand the concept of negation, but that said, I’m free to say that I actively believe there is no God. And I will happily debate any theist as to why I actually can say my belief is more justified.

    • Mottfolly

      Why would you want theists to loose their record of having 100% of their claims be false?

    • sandersonjones

      It obviously isn’t a religion, so nothing we do will change that. Basically, we don’t let other people’s wrong beliefs change the way we live our lives. Thanks for being interested.

  • jeffj900

    Well, I believe in religious freedom, so to each his own. Despite having discussed it, somewhat heatedly, on other posts here, I still can’t conceive of why somone would want such a thing. To me it feels like this runs counter to the idea that atheism is the absence of religion, and it serves as fodder for the faithful who claim atheists really need religion.

    But I’m speaking as an introvert who avoids people as much as possible. I don’t know how it feels to like going to social clubs. And I can’t help but suspect that this will just replicate some of the worst aspects of religion, the gullible flock being shorn by charismatic and ambitious leaders seeking wealth, fame, and power. All in all, no matter what arguments people try to make in favor of such practices, it still feels to me like religion lite, religion wannabes, a result of impulses born of human weakness, the inability to fulfill the demands of atheism to take individual responsibility for meaning, freedom, and happiness. But then I suppose it is the nature of extroverts to derive meaning more from society and experience, while the introvert derives meaning from the intellect and the intuitive interior response to the world.

    • allein

      Introverts unite! (But, y’know, separately.)

      I agree; social events make me anxious. Something like this would just be uncomfortable for me, even without the pseudo-religious trappings, which would make me uncomfortable either way. But hey, if it works for someone else, good for them.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I’m a very social person but with any social group cliques develop and once they do the gossip will follow. Sure you are with like minded people but you are not going to like everyone and conflict will arise. Then youtube videos will get made and blogs will be discussing it.

      If I attend anything with atheist it will be a small group of fellow atheist who live in Maine at a BBQ or maybe getting together to do charity work but if they ever wrap the words church our assembly around it I won’t be there.

    • Anna

      Agreed. Even if I wasn’t an introvert, I would have deep reservations about atheists promoting “church culture” because I think that our society should be trying to move away from such things, not mimic them. Plus, it normalizes church attendance for children, who may (especially if they are supernaturally inclined) be attracted to that type of ritualized atmosphere. And when they are adults, it’s highly unlikely that there will be an atheist church for them to attend, leaving them easy prey for more traditional religious organizations.

  • ThyGoddess

    Seriously, this is just bad for the atheist movement. Have conventions. Have public talks. But calling it ASSEMBLIES and CHURCHES? That’s awful. Just awful. It’s just fuel for the people who say atheism is just like religion.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

      I understand objections to “church,” but what is the problem with “assembly?”

      • Kevin_Of_Bangor

        This is the problem for me and typing in just assembly brings up “assembly of god” as the first hit.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

          Sure, the word is used by religious people, but that doesn’t make it religious. Avoid it if you think it matters, but I don’t understand.

          For what it’s worth, “Assembly of God” includes “of” as many times as “assembly.” The US Constitution’s first amendment contains “assemble.” Much retail merchandise packaging includes indications that “some assembly required.”

          EDIT: Out of curiosity, I Googled “assembly.” The first instance of “god” I found was in the 214ᵗʰ result.

          • Kevin_Of_Bangor

            Tell 100 random strangers you are going to The Sunday Assembly and I’m willing to bet a large percentage of them will think you are going to a religious service.

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

              I think the presence of “Sunday” in your hypothetical report would have more influence on the impressions of strangers than would “Assembly.”

              Also, I should note that the image you posted in your previous comment wasn’t visible at the time I responded. It should also be noted that the image shows suggestions for “first assembly” rather than “assembly.”

              • Kevin_Of_Bangor

                I know the word first is in front of it but the bottom line is the word assembly is deeply associated with church and religious services.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                  I’m not convinced, but it’s okay if you believe you should avoid the word. I merely wondered why someone might object to atheists using it. You have made it clear why you object.

                • http://cory.albrecht.name/ Cory Albrecht

                  Are you sure it’s not showing up for you because you spend too much time googling abouyt religion after reading Patheos? :-) I had no religious auto-completes for typing in “assembly” into Google Search, and just searching for that word I had to go sever al pages before I got an “Assembly of God”-like church name.

                • Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  Yes, I am sure because I rarely spend time using Google to search about religion.

            • allein

              “Assembly” by itself makes me think of school. But throw Sunday in there and yeah, I’m gonna think church.

          • Kevin_Of_Bangor

            I don’t even have to finish the word assembly and I get god.

            • the moother

              You do realise that your search is tailored to you? Why else would it show Bangor in there?

              • Kevin_Of_Bangor

                I’m well aware Google is using my IP to obtain information but the word assembly is not tailored to me.

      • Anna

        I think “assembly” has a religious connotation in the UK (aren’t school worship services called assemblies?), but I’m not sure why it would be a problematic term in the United States. It seems secular enough to me. We had assemblies at school all the time, and they just involved gathering in the gym, listening to speeches, having a pep rally, etc.

  • s3nw4i k0k

    I thought atheist society meetings, lecture tours and conventions already filled the social hole that religious social gatherings vacated? Oh well. The popularity of such things does prove that the appetite of atheists is wider than we suppose. There’s really a market for everything, isn’t there?

  • LesterBallard

    More power to them, but it is not for me. And what is the “central charter”? I’m too lazy tonight to search.

  • Soren

    Isn’t atheism/freethinking about getting AWAY from the organization and dogma of religion?

    • bananafaced

      You can run but you cannot hide from theists. It’s a little like being gay. If you are one gay person in a group, you are not cool. But if there are two gay people in a group, they have company and assistance in case they need it. If there are three gay people in a group, others just leave you alone. But if there are thousands of gay people that belong to an organization, you can have a charter, open up a 503C or your own PAC and put up a candidate for office. I have a grand vision for the future of Atheists, maybe using this scenario!

  • A3Kr0n

    Will they have robots? I like robots.

  • LesterBallard

    From the charter:
    Has no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.

    But people often do bad shit because of their belief in a deity.

    Is radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs – this is a place of love that is open and accepting.

    Fred Phelps?

    be nice

    Might be easier to be celibate.

  • Mottfolly

    I don’t understand the negative posts, if it’s not your cup of tea fine but why would someone bash a jazz club they never intend to go to because they like Rock?
    Sometimes it’s damn lonely being an atheist, sometimes it’s confusing and painful, and sometimes it’s life changing to find others in your position of being a member of the most hated minority here in the USA.
    I’m all for it, I would love to have one here in SE Michigan.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Because people keep calling it an atheist church which just fuels fundies into calling us religious. They could have used a much better name and choose a day other than Sunday. I don’t want to be associated with anything called or referred to as an atheist church and comparing my disdain to a Jazz club is ridiculous.

      I get tired of having to explain to religious people that atheism is not a religion and now they will say why is there an atheist church then?

      • sandersonjones

        We call it an ‘atheist church’ because it makes people click on headlines and gets editors in the Guardian to write about us. Try to find that phrase on our website!

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          So basically you are doing this…

          • sandersonjones

            Yep. Because what we love what we’re doing, loads of other people do too, and we want to let the world know about it!

            • Kevin_Of_Bangor

              I think you care more about the media and the attention they give you than your cause.

              • sandersonjones

                I think you have no way of knowing that.

        • jeffj900

          Intuitively I just knew there had to be marketing involved here. Getting lots of customers is the first priority for any business. What do you think the annual budget will be? I suppose lobbying for tax free status will be number one on the agenda.

    • jeffj900

      I’ve never been to a Jazz club that tried to teach me how I should live or think, tried to teach me to fear homosexuals or tried to teach women to be subservient, or tried to get me to part with money in anticipation of some possible future performance that hasn’t yet been scheduled, and a venue hasn’t been chosen, and the musicians are unknown, but they say it will be the best show ever and it never ends.

      I guess if Jazz clubs had done all the things religion has done I wouldn’t like Jazz nearly as much as I do.

      Regarding the minority and solidarity thing, being an atheist isn’t quite the same as being black or gay. It’s based on ideas, not biology, and thus is not as much a basis for identity. And I’m not so sure it’s a good idea for atheists to become a herd that hangs together. Atheism isn’t a chosen belief, it is the default human condition, and therefore it ought to permeate all of human society. You can be an atheist musician, rodeo cowboy, bicyclist, chess player, stamp collector, quilter, choir singer, triathlete, bridge player, etc. Atheists can just participate in life and enjoy it for all it has to offer, without having the null hypothesis of not believing in God be a basis for activities and interactions.

    • sandersonjones

      That is awesome. Go here – http://sundayassembly.com/sunday-assembly-everywhere/sae-expression-of-interest/ – and we’ll put you in touch with local people in your area!

  • Mick

    My prediction:
    The atheist church will last for as long as the campaign that attempted to get the atheists to call themselves “Brights”.

  • Bob Becker

    Afraid I’m with the group that considers not attending Sunday services to be a valuable collateral benefit of being a non-believer.

  • Anna

    From the charter:

    Has no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.

    I thought it was supposed to be an atheist gathering. Why on earth would they be beating around the bush about the supernatural? I would expect them to say flat out that the supernatural isn’t a real thing. Are they trying to attract people who don’t believe in gods but do believe in all manner of woo?

    • jeffj900

      I guess they want to be inclusive because it could get really big. Then there’d be TV interviews and lots of money and shit for the leaders.

      • Anna

        Possibly, but if they’re not willing to at least take a firm stance on the supernatural, that makes it even less attractive to me. If atheists want something where people “won’t tell you you’re wrong” for believing in the supernatural, there’s already the Unitarian Universalist church.

        • jeffj900

          Agreed. I made that same point on an earlier thread on this subject. Unitarian Universalists will also not tell atheists they are wrong for not believing in the supernatural, which means it basically already fulfills the role of the “Atheist Church”.

          The “Sunday Assembly” is just a competing “spiritual comfort” business with the Unitarian Universalists.

          • bananafaced

            Here in MS, the UUs do mention God in their gatherings. But then IT IS Mississippi. I belong to an Atheist group that meets at the UU church once a month on a SUNDAY!! Sweet!

  • http://choosingreality.blogspot.com/ ChoosingReality_blog

    Just like I vote with my wallet, I would vote against an Atheist Church by not ever attending. Theists don’t need much evidence, if any, to form their beliefs. It’s hard enough as it is to get them to understand that atheism is a lack of belief in a god, and not necessarily a belief in the contrary. An “Atheist Church” would just be another nail in the coffin, as far as they were concerned, confirming that their misinformed opinion of atheism is correct, “see, they have a church, they share a belief, they are a religion”.
    There are so many other things we could call it, besides mislabeling it as a church; Sunday Secular Social, Atheist Community Center, The Learning Center, etc.

  • confabulatory

    Well that’s just great… Now I have to get my butt out of bed on Sunday mornings again. The kids will NOT be happy about this. Anyone know if agnostics have churches? If not, I’m converting.

  • jfalick

    It’s called an atheist service, but it’s really a humanist service and there’s nothing wrong with that. Humanistic Judaism and Humanistic UU’s have been doing it for years. Jerry DeWitt is interested in it, too. Why wouldn’t we want to examine what works – ceremonially and communally – in religion? Do we think we’ll bring more people over to our way of looking at the world without providing for their basic human needs? For those uninterested, don’t go. There are many, many people who are.

  • Beth

    When I was leaving religion a place like this would have helped…a place where I could go and ask questions…talk to real atheists and confirm I’m not a crazy person for doubting. Luckily I had the internets.

  • bananafaced

    This is great for those who NEED something to do on Sunday or those who WANT to gather with friends on Sunday. Sunday was chosen by Christians to celebrate their beliefs. Non-believers could enjoy Sunday without gathering for some non-belief “purpose”. But if Non-believers want to form a group or movement that furthers the rights and acceptance of Atheists, Agnostics, NONES, Humanists, etc. then I welcome this even though the name (Atheist Church) is an oxymoron.

    • allein

      One of my favorite things about Sunday is that I often have nothing to do. :)

      (Though yesterday my cousin had a party just for the hell of it.)

      • bananafaced

        Also another good thing about Sundays, since blue laws usually only apply to morning, is that I can “leisurely” go shopping. But lately, the stores have been crowded on Sunday. Wonder if they are filled with Atheists or Christians who have discovered the secular side of Sunday?

        • allein

          We don’t really have blue laws in my area; only thing I can think of that’s always closed is the car dealers. When I worked retail I used to put Saturday as my preferred day to work (busy-ness usually made the time go faster, and I was just kinda used to having Sundays as “the day off”)…then for a while I worked Sunday morning on a regular basis and discovered that it’s nice and quiet until after lunch, so I could actually get things done, and by the time it got busy I only had a couple hours left on my shift.

          • Anna

            Car dealers closed on Sundays? Yikes, that seems like spectacularly bad business. Weekends are when people actually have time to go car shopping.

            • bananafaced

              Sundays especially!

            • Kevin_Of_Bangor

              Car dealers are closed in Maine on Sundays because of blue laws. Hunting is prohibited and alcohol cannot be purchased until 1 PM. This year when Saint Patrick’s day fell on Sunday they had to pass special legislation so bars could serve alcohol early and up until 1990 departments stores also where closed on Sundays.

              On Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas most stores are required by law to close as well. You will only find gas stations open on those holidays and nothing else.

              • Anna

                I’m surprised that Maine would have blue laws. It sounds like they must make life very inconvenient! We don’t have them where I am. The only day of the year when everything is really closed (except for movies, hotels, and Chinese restaurants) is Christmas.

  • Pithecanthropus

    I don’t understand the concept of “atheist churches” and I never will. Stay home.

  • SansDeus

    Always thought it was funny spending a ton of time in church and hearing about how good a person Jebus was and all the nice things he did for those in need.
    Yet a majority of the people I knew never thought to free up that time to actually help people.

  • R Bonwell parker

    I’m involved with a similar effort in the States (First Church of Atheism) and of course we get the concern ALL THE TIME that by calling ourselves a “church” we open ourselves to all the criticism that churches get. I’m not afraid of the criticism, because unlike other churches, we can defend ourselves with facts and logic. I have no interest in shying away from a debate on religion by saying I don’t “believe” in anything or refusing to defend a doctrine.

  • MOTHERNATURE29

    I can see that you found faith in your anger towards God at a very young age. He doesn’t answer our prayers as we would like but according to His will.

  • YupYouAreFree

    For now it’s ok to call it a church eventhough it’s not. As long as people are coming out and not ashamed. I have always considered religious ppl wel minded!

  • YupYouAreFree

    If religion is a falsehood then no one can call atheism a religion. Who cares what they say!


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