Showing posts with label sundayassembly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sundayassembly. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Sunday Assembly Comes to Toronto

A couple of days ago, I posted a short very informal interview with Seanna, one of the organizers of the new Sunday Assembly Ottawa group. This was after the big announcement that Sunday Assembly would add 33 new groups across the planet this Sunday the 28th!

At the time, I mentioned that I also reached out to Sunday Assembly Toronto. Well, organizer Keshra Hamalainen was nice enough to get back to me today!

Who are you? When did you decide to open a Sunday Assembly in your area? What is your religious background in a few words?
My name is Keshra Hamalainen and along with my husband Jani Hamalainen we are the organizers for Sunday Assembly Toronto. We decided to open a Sunday Assembly in Toronto around February of this year. After reading an article in Mashable about Sunday Assembly we thought it was necessary to have one in Toronto! Basically, SA Toronto started with 5 founding organizers that got the ball rolling. We met together at a local pub after getting in touch with the main Sunday Assembly in London who then put us in contact with one another. We usually have around 15 to 20 people who come to the meetings consistently over the summer. We both come from religious backgrounds, and I came from a very religious family and “coming out” as atheist was definitely difficult for both of us.

Are there any things the Sunday Assembly will do to make it more "Canadian"? Services? Language? Etc.?
Future goals is to grow the members attendance to over 100! Sunday Assembly is about getting together as human beings to celebrate life and uplift one another. I’m not sure making it more “Canadian” is a goal, as the Sunday Assembly welcomes all people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Right now, services are only available in English.

Are there any plans to involve in the community? Like charity or volunteering?
Part of the Sunday Assembly charter is to Help Often. That means we plan on continuing our presence within the Toronto community. We have participated in the City of Toronto clean-up day, we have done a school supply donation drive, and for our global launch we are doing a food drive to help those in need (especially with Thanksgiving around the corner). We will definitely continue to do these good deeds because that’s what being a helping and caring human being is all about.

Like poutine? Favourite author and why?
Love poutine, who doesn’t lol?! Although, Jani and I commit to a healthy organic lifestyle so poutine eating isn’t at the top of our list.

Anything else you would like to say?
Come on out to a Sunday Assembly meeting near you! Make new friends, meet new people and inspire others to do good!
Thanks so much, Keshra! Looking forward to visiting an event next time I'm in Toronto!

Check out the Sunday Assembly Toronto homepage! You should also check out the Sunday Assembly Toronto Facebook Page.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sunday Assembly Comes to Ottawa

Good news! Sunday Assembly is coming to Canada -- well, Ottawa and Toronto, but it's a start! I read all about this over at Hemant Mehta's blog but that was a broad post where these two new Canadian assemblies were merely mentioned within a list of 33 new groups across the globe.

So I reached out to both SA Ottawa and SA Toronto, a very short impromptu set of questions. I just got word back from Ottawa organizer, Seanna!

Who are you?  When did you decide to open a Sunday Assembly in your area? What is your religious background in a few words?
I am Seanna. I have no religious background to say. I am un-baptised from a Catholic-Protestant lineage. I went to Catholic private girls school in Hull.

I decided to get people fired up about Sunday Assembly because community engagement is at the core of my very being. I think people are best when they are helping or spending time with others. I wanted to share my passion for life without subscribing to a God that I cannot believe in. I also love the community that church brings together and I find those without a church community are missing out on so many opportunities to interact and meet new like-minded people. 
Are there any things the Sunday Assembly will do to make it more "Canadian"? Services? Language? Etc.?
I plan on MCing the first SA in both French and English, à la canadienne. I also think, whoever is speaking will obviously make it more Canadian, depending on where they are from (Canada being so multicultural I hope to draw on that diversity to make each session more interesting). Each person's story is unique and I hope to eventually capture these stories in the form of monthly Sunday Assemblies. 
Are there any plans to involve in the community? Like charity or volunteering?
Community is my middle name. I will be heading a civic engagement subcommittee. I hope to draw more people into the community through volunteerism or via occasional days of service.
Like poutine? Favourite author and why?
I love poutine! (vice I know... je suis, enfin, quand même un québécoise). My favourite author, might be Alexandra Fuller. She is raw and revealing of faults all while being hilarious and touching. Beautiful writer. Don't let's go to the dogs tonight is an excellent read!
Seanna was nice enough to invite me down for the launch but unfortunately, I already have commitments that weekend. I'll be sure to drop down soon to cover a Sunday Assembly service though! I've been promised photos of the event, which I'll probably pass on in a future post.

Remember, this Sunday Assembly is launching in Ottawa on the 28th of September, 11am. You must reserve your spot over at Eventbrite -- how else will they know how much tea and cakes will be required?

Also, check out the event's Facebook page and the Assembly's page as well!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Columnist: "Why Atheist Church Is Dumb"

Rebecca Savastio over at the Las Vegas Guardian Express has a few words to say about atheist churches like the Sunday Assembly. Okay, she mostly has one thing to say about them.

Why Atheist Church Is Dumb
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of notifications on my Facebook newsfeed about a new, dumb idea called “atheist church.” Every time I see it, I just shake my head in disgust. Atheist church is dumb, and here’s why.
What a minute. So what you're saying here is ...
First and foremost, atheist church is dumb because one of the best things about being an atheist is not having to get up on Sunday morning to go to church.
Right! Got it! Well, you could just stop reading here, but why not test your perseverance?

A quick aside, since this article goes everywhere anyway. I have a four year old, so sleeping in until 1pm on any day is out unless the child dies unexpectedly. So scratch that for being one of the best things. Incidentally, Sunday Assembly's Sanderson Jones brought up that many of his churches provide some form of child care. Believe me, the next best thing to getting sleep on a Sunday morning is to have someone else look after your kids while you go into another room and have fun with other adults for a change.

As for piles of dirty laundry on Sunday mornings, I have memories of this sort of thing back when I was living in my university residence dorms and later on as a bachelor. I do fondly remember using the smell test more than once before embarking on the weekly trek to the laundromat. But these days, I own my own washer-dryer and tend to have clean clothes on hand. Although there is no Assembly in my town, I do believe I could be persuaded to put on a pair of jeans and t-shirt to venture off to meet other like-minded people and have a little fun. You know, that's what this is supposed to be?

Oh, and then she tops her dumbs with a duh. If we were at Sunday Assembly we could even sing!

Dumb... Dumb... Dumb.. Duh! 
Dumb... Dumb... Dumb.. DUH!

Right, so It's at this point that I begin to wonder if this piece is actually some kind of voodoo reverse psychology experiment to make Sunday Assembly look cool and those who eschew it look rather pathetic.

Listen, I can understand why some people may not be into the dorky or cheesy singing and clapping that seems to be involved with the Assembly -- although the last U2 concert I attended also had us all doing this as well, as do most concerts

It's really the odd sarcastic self-abasement that has me wondering whether the author is truly being sincere here. 
[attend a service] ...with a group of (most likely) well-educated people who are smarter than me an undoubtedly more charitable too. Why would I want to be surrounded by people who are better than me? I think I’ll stick to the self-esteem destroying power of Facebook, where the confidence busting happens virtually with no real human interaction required, thank you very much.
So long as these people are not condescending, one could learn something. But this sounds pretty sad to me. I'm sure it's meant to be self-deprecating humour, but it didn't work - at least as far as I can see.

And again.
Yeah, like I really want to watch some super accomplished guy who’s younger than me remind me that I’m not really doing much with my life. Ugh.
Playing on the whole self-esteem and self-conscious theme a little further, Rebecca points out that Christians may call us hypocrites for going to church and claiming we can be good without god. I sort of see her point there, a bit.  Some Christians may not realize that church is not the same thing as god and need not include god -- the whole point of the Sunday Assembly and similar churches.  But since when do we require the approval of Christians to have fun together on a Sunday? She links to this sorry video where the commentator calls atheists the R-word for wanting to get together and organize themselves.

Well at least she's citing her sources.

As for lack of diversity. Yes, I know. But these churches are no whiter than what we already know atheists and nones to be.

She then offers her most compelling reason for thinking the churches are dumb. I've been waiting for this. I'll quote it here in full.
Possibly the most compelling reason why atheist church is dumb is because it is so freaking embarrassing. It’s really dorky. I dread every time someone asks me about these atheist churches because I don’t want to be associated with the concept in any way, shape or form. What the heck do they do there, anyway? Congratulate each other? I don’t understand the purpose. Some say it’s for “community.” Why not spend time with your friends and neighbors? Why not bring the old lady down the street a casserole? Wouldn’t doing actual community building activities be more productive than sitting around patting other atheists on the back? Supposedly, the service includes “sing-alongs” (dorky) and “poetry” (ok) along with “trying to figure out life.” It sounds suspiciously like some weirdo 1960s Hippie commune mentality; and there’s a reason why that mentality never got anyone anywhere.
Just, wow. Yes, 'dumb' and 'dorky.' What's most compelling about this paragraph is the question what the heck do they do there anyway. Well, before you slam it, why don't you find out? And what's wrong with saying nice things to each other? And there is nothing wrong with casserolling people. And, according to Sanderson's interview, they are doing worthwhile things. I mean, more worthwhile perhaps than sleeping in until 1pm -- not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that.

I give up commenting about the rest of this article. I think I've made it far enough and it just goes down hill into over-generalizations and name calling (pushy vegans and naval-gazing intellectuals).

Anyway, please excuse the frenetic nature of this critique. After the introduction, no single point gets any more play than one  paragraph in this story. I must admit that I felt compelled to just slap bullet points in front of each paragraph and call the post 8 Reasons Atheist Churches Are Dumb. Alas, the point lurches to and fro so rapidly that I find myself suffering from a kind of acute cerebral whiplash. Or that could be my palm smacking against my forehead.

Look, I know a lot of atheists out there have problems with these godless church and offer their well thought out critiques. More power to them. In fact, the most common negative reaction to the Sunday Assembly by atheists has been declarations that it's just not for me and this is reasonable because it's not one size fits all. This is not meant to be some kind of Borg-like catholic church.

Rebecca, I think we get it. You think atheist churches are dumb. Feel free to sleep in on Sundays then and I'm certain the folks at Sunday Assembly and other similar organizations are perfectly cool with you giving their services a miss.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Okay, "Schism." And?

Okay people, listen up! This big schism in the Atheist movement is about as significant as the last time I was involved in four-way battle with friends about which toppings should go onto our pizza. Really, I've seen arguments over games of Monopoly more violent than this Sunday Assembly vs Godless Revival thing.

But the CNN wants to make as much hay out of this as they can. Hits can mean money and they got over 4,000 comments for this one...

After a schism, a question: Can atheist churches last?

I wonder if Christians asked this question the countless times that religion has split?

Some other notable articles as other news outlets latch on to the story like those big ugly octopus things in the Matrix grabbed onto their space ship thingy.

Bitter Split Riles Atheist Church

Atheist Church Split: Sunday Assembly And Godless Revival's 'Denominational Chasm'


Denominational chasm? The only chasm here must be the bottomless void that the news cycle needs to fill. Groups split off all the time.

From the last link:
Three members of the New York cohort apparently broke away and formed their own group called the Godless Revival, with founder Lee Moore accusing The Sunday Assembly of having “a real problem with atheism.”
The Sunday Assembly: very small. The Godless Revival: very small. It's not like we're talking about the Catholic Church here!

Anyway, the splitting off of groups is not only healthy but to be encouraged. We started out with one organization, Sunday Assembly, and now we've ultimately got two organizations with the creation of the Godless Revival. There is more choice here, not less.

Remember the whole Atheism+ thing? Schism in the American Atheist Movement!  Oh no!

Yeah, and so now we have another group. Problem?

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Atheist Sunday Assembly Congregation Evicted From Their Church

Sanderson Jones is one of the creators of the Sunday Assembly. His venue
went missing without warning and nobody really knows why. (image source)
Only a couple of weeks ago atheist musician Shelley Segal had to find an alternate venue for her Tacoma show.

The coffee house that had agreed with no sign of discomfort or protest decided at the very last minute that they did not wish to host the show after all and Ask an Atheist host Sam Mulvey was left scrambling. Now there is a new bit of apparent discrimination across the pond. 

It seems that the Sunday Assembly, probably the world's most non-militant group of atheists, have lost the privilege of congregating in the deconsecrated church they have been calling home since the group's inception in January. I've been following this group since the beginning and it's really hard for me to figure out why anyone would have it in for them. I guess it's because they don't believe in the big guy in the sky.

Sunday Assembly pastor claims UK’s first atheist congregation evicted from church by moralistic Christians

I suppose this may be the first ever eviction of an atheist congregation from a church. I suppose it could be considered (non)religious persecution?
As far as I can tell, the Assembly was leasing St Paul’s Church, a deconsecrated Nave, which has a capacity of around 200 from the Steiner School:
St. Paul’s Steiner School is an independent, non-selective and non-denominational school for children aged 3 – 14 years old. 
Housed in a beautiful 19th century church in central London, St. Paul’s is a Steiner-Waldorf School. We provide an education that supports the development of well-rounded human beings who are resourceful, creative, responsible and curious; ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century with the problem-solving skills required for a sustainable future.
You know, it looks like a really nice school. Although non-denominational raises a red flag for me personally. Judging by the article, it may not have wholly been their decision to give the Assembly the boot. It turns out that the trustees of the school were leasing the premises from the good old Church of England.  Is there no fiendishly evil plot they are not behind? Maybe renting the building out to a bunch of atheists -- albeit indirectly -- made them blush too hard.  Perhaps it upset their digestion.

Away from mere conjecture and back to cold, hard, unfriendly facts. One of the school trustees e-mailed Jones on Friday.
“The Sunday Assembly is regularly drawing crowds of up to 500 people, if we go beyond capacity we could be held in breach of health and safety law and we would be in very serious trouble,” he said.
Okay, sure, it's a fairly good argument, but according to the article, the Assembly was already looking for a new venue.  In fact:
Although the Sunday Assembly was searching for larger premises, Mr Jones arranged to use the Steiner School building in Balls Pond Road, which trustees lease from the Church of England, one last time for their monthly meeting in May.
Surely, the school could have kept their promise for this one last time?  They had done it before. And if crowd size was a problem, surely some well placed bouncers at the door could have rectified the problem.  Perhaps the service could have been streamed via web to smartphone carrying congregants outside or a couple of televisions could be set up?

No, this apparently came out of the blue and it seems downright uncool - like someone just pulled the plug out of some kind of spite.

The worst thing is that they waited until the last moment thus screwing over the atheist group in much the same way things came to pass in Tacoma.  You know, when I was a kid my father taught me to let the fish chew on the worm awhile before reeling it in and not to jerk the line as soon as I got a little nibble. Well, we'll never know if this was an intentional thing but it is fishy nonetheless.
But last Friday Mr Jones received an email from Gary Bridgewood, one of the Steiner School trustees, apologising for “messing up” the booking. 
He said he had “failed” to make clear the results of a meeting with Mr Jones, and had “upset a considerable number” of his community.
On an announcement at the Sunday Assembly website, Jones makes a few amusing speculations about exactly what put certain members of the school's board over the edge resulting in their reneging.
Sadly the committee members who took against the godless congregation didn’t spell out the precise reason for their disapproval. Was it novelist Sarah Dunant’s talk on the art of the Resurrection? Vicar Dave Tomlinson’s meditation on the power of metaphor and stories? Or the congregation singing Run Rabbit Run during April’s Easter service?
Exactly, it must have been that rascally rabbit.

But all is not lost! The May 5th meeting has been moved to the British Humanist Association's Conway Hall, which appears to have ample room.

But the fitting character of a crumbling and dilapidated deconsecrated church, that will be missed.  It was so symbolically fitting, like a phoenix rising from ashes.
Pippa wanted to add: “A deconsecrated church with just the right level of shabby chic was perfect. If anyone else can suggest some venues we’d love to hear about them. We’re homeless. Help!”.
 If anyone knows of a nice venue, they should get in touch with the Sunday Assembly here.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Uber Fun Atheist Churches: Why The Hell Not Start Your Own?

Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones en masques.
I've been covering the Sunday Assembly for longer than I can remember.  I like them. It's that atheist church in the UK that I wish we had here in Canada.  Well, it turns out a lot of other folks around the world are interested in perhaps becoming franchisees.

Well, the creators of the very very successful so far Sunday Assembly, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones,  have put up this video with the following message in the description:

"If you want to start a Sunday Assembly please get in touch with us. Hope you like the video. Best, Sanderson and Pippa x"

These two are the sorts of people I would definitely invite to my dinner party.  Or just hang out or learn German with while exercising.  I'd even go to church with them.

On their website they've described this initiative as their Sunday Assembly Everywhere framework.
Would you like to have a Sunday Assembly in your town? Do you think that a regular meet up to sing songs, hear great talks and generally recharge the batteries sounds like a good thing? Great. Here’s how you can do it. 
We have come up with Sunday Assembly Everywhere, a framework that will allow you to have the great Sunday Assembly experience, while making sure that it always stays true to who we are. 

Here's the promotional video.  Look at these friendly atheists wanting you to go to their church. Watch it.

I hope someone here in Montreal does this.  God knows, we've got enough empty churches lying around.  Maybe Pippa and Sanderson should get together with the Clergy Project and arrange something?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Video Report By Nimrod Kamer On Atheist Church

Nimrod Kamer.
Over the last couple of months, I have been covering the rise of a new Atheist Church in the UK called the Sunday Assembly. I think this is generally a good idea and I'd love to attend a service.

The church leaders are now set to make a couple of appearances in Scotland as well.  So, perhaps this good idea is on the spread.  I am beginning to wonder now if there could be a valuable tie-in with the Clergy Project here?  Could this work in the United States?  There are plenty of atheist ex-ministers that may be able to fill the pulpits.

The church’s founders believe that they have tapped into something that has gone unsatisfied for quite some time in the non-theist community: The urge for a sense of togetherness. This is a phenomenon in the atheist community that the TheBlaze has analyzed extensively. Examining past events that activists have organized like the Reason Rally and Rock Beyond Belief, it is clear that many non-believers are seeking community and a cohort of others who, like them, reject belief in a higher power.
The article includes an embedded video report by Nimrod Kamer, who features frequently on VICE website.  It's mildly amusing yet quite informative.  Check it out!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Atheist Church In UK Keeps On Stompin'

The most recent service contained a science lecture. (source: BBC)
Over the last couple of months I've been following the story of a new atheist church, the Sunday Assembly, opening up in Islington, UK.  Well, they've just had their second monthly service and their congregation lined up outside waiting to get in, forty minutes before the service.  In fact, it's so popular they are seriously considering adding a second Sunday service to handle the overflow.

In this BBC coverage, What happens at an atheist church?, which includes a video report at the bottom, the service is said to be packed with mostly young, white, middle class people... or in other words, the typical demographic for atheists.  No surprise there.  But the way they're really connecting with the service is interesting.
The audience - overwhelmingly young, white and middle class - appear excited to be part of something new and speak of the void they felt on a Sunday morning when they decided to abandon their Christian faith. Few actively identify themselves as atheists. 
"It's a nice excuse to get together and have a bit of a community spirit but without the religion aspect," says Jess Bonham, a photographer. 
"It's not a church, it's a congregation of unreligious people."
Yes, this church is not full of die-hard atheists - although there could be a few there.  It's riding a wave of nones - those who choose not to be affiliated with any particular religion and may not believe in any god, necessarily but may not go as far as identify as atheist.

This is completely fine with me.  If anything, I feel that monthly get togethers at a pub eating over-priced food and drinking over-priced beer while talking about random stuff is not exactly the same community building experience as attending a service full of song, awe, and celebration of science.  But that's just me.  This church may not be for everyone - and that's okay - but I do think there is a niche that it may fill.

In a Guardian article about the same thing,  'Not believing in God makes life more precious': meet the atheist 'churchgoers', there are those who are skeptical about this church's lasting power.
Might the early popularity of the Sunday Assembly hint at the start of something that could take off on a large scale? Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, is sceptical, noting that a wave of atheist churches were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but petered out because people found other forms of social organisation that suited them better. 
"I think it's an interesting development but it's something that's been tried many times before. What's probably different is that there's a strong entertainment element. It's an entertainment as well as a communal activity. It just happens to be on a Sunday morning."
David Robertson, director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and a Free Church of Scotland minister in Dundee, basically said it was a phenomenon of the middle-class cultural elite.

Yes, okay this could be a fad.  But who cares?  They're having fun, not hurting anyone and having a deep need fulfilled... all without iron age religious claptrap.

Around 300 attended the Sunday Assembly.  Next door a regular church managed... 30.  Watch the video toward the end.  It's amusing.
The Sunday Assembly certainly did better business than at the evangelical St Jude and St Paul's Church next door, where about 30 believers gathered to sing gospel songs and listen to Bible readings. 
But Bishop Harrison, a Christian preacher for 30 years, says he does not see his new neighbours as a threat, confidently predicting that their spiritual journey will eventually lead them to God.
Sure, sure.

Friday, 11 January 2013

More On Atheists In Churches

A child singing (or perhaps yawning) in church.
So just last Sunday the Sunday Assembly held their very first Atheist church service to much media fanfare.  It seemed to go down quite well and their next service is scheduled to take place on February 3rd.  Well, Alain de Botton gave us all a friendly reminder that the Sunday Assembly is not actually the first atheist church in the UK.
Mr de Botton, whose School of Life centre in Bloomsbury hosts Sunday gatherings of atheists, said: “We want to wish the comedians all the very best on their venture, while modestly adding that we have been ploughing this furrow for many years and they shouldn’t therefore claim the idea as their own.”
Alain is talking about the School of Life in London which doesn't really look like a church to me at all. I initially looked at the site via a Google search and went back to Alain's website to verify the link.  Honestly, the site looks like some kind of DJ/Music scene magazine to me.  The front of the school seems to resemble one of those high-end designer clothing or furniture stores here in Montreal.

I'm not trying to knock the school or cause any kind of schism here.  I'm just stating first impressions.
The School of Life’s Sunday Sermons are not based in a church building and cost £15, while the Sunday Assembly is funded by donations.
Last time I checked, £15 was around $30.  So, for a couple this would be $60.  For my small family it would be $90.  Unless kids get in for free, just imagine how much attending sermons would run you?  It's a little steep... and then you've got to feed and clothe kids too!  But looking at the material being presented and the general je ne sais quoi of the website design and style - I would guess that kids are genrally not really brought to this place.  It's not really churchy, Alain, you know what I mean?

Speaking of bringing your children to church, a short and curious little article in Christianity Today, What Brings Atheists to Church? Their Children, Research Shows, says that Children are statistically significant factor in church attendance by atheist scientists.

The article seems to be little more than a thin description of a December 2011 study that showed many Atheist parents bring their children to church for various reasons.  Skip to the video if you like.

The theory is Atheist parents bring their kids to church because they are married to someone who is religious; they with to use the church to instill morality and ethical behaviour into their kids; or they wish to simply expose their children to religion (the opposing point of view) for the sake of intellectual honesty.  I'd add religious immunization.

The researcher in the video sums this last point up rather well.
And the third reason, that was the most surprising to us, was that scientists who are atheists take their children to a religious organization out of a kind of intellectual honesty. 
I thought, perhaps stereotypically, that they might want to have their children also be raised atheists, similar to the way that many religious people try to take their children to religious organizations so their children could be religious like they are. 
But instead, these scientists actually wanted to expose their children to a variety of choices.
So long as the children are being exposed to as many points of view as possible, then why not?

But in the case of point #2, the instilling of positive morals and ethics into children.  Does this point to a kind of failing in the Atheist community?  Does this point to a niche that is very real that Atheist churches like the Sunday Assembly actually fill?

The article goes on to mention Patheos blogger Nicholas C. DiDonato of Science on Religion:
But the scientists don't cite spirituality as one of their top reasons for attending church services, DiDonato points out. Rather, they may bring their children to church in order to teach values and morals.
In Nicholas' post:
In many circumstances they favored a religious upbringing because, third, they believed it would provide children with moral orientation. One scientist, who does not have children, said he would raise his children in the Catholic Church because he was raised Catholic and believes Catholicism teaches children important values. 
Finally, atheist scientists raise their children in a religious setting because of the community it provides. Religious communities have a strong moral outlook and allow for intimate relationships. 
Perhaps surprisingly, very few scientists listed spirituality as a reason for having their children go to church. One couple stressed that they sought a religious community that practiced their own personal form of spirituality, but for the most part, the scientists interviewed did not stress spirituality or giving their children spiritual community as a reason for joining religious communities.
It really seems to me like we may be seeing more Atheist Churches on the horizon.  Well... there is a niche there at least!  I can see this as being a hot button topic in the community and would be interested in your opinions.

Note (12:55pm): Minor edit to paragraph about feeding and clothing the kids.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Atheist Church Holds Its First Service

St Paul's Church, Essex Road, Islington
Remember the Atheist church services that were to start in London in the new year?  Comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans came up with the idea and then - well, it just happened.

And I feel very little worry or outrage at it at all.  Perhaps I should?  In fact, I'm rather keen on someday attending such a service.  If you're into the whole church experience but don't believe in God then why not?

In fact, the whole thing seems to be part of a new venue for the comedians to put on a show and poke parodic fun at religion at the same time.

According to the congregation's website,,  the church's Sunday January 6th services would be:
Starting things is so hard. There’s the dread of work, the bogeyman of failures past, and future, and all manner of mental booby traps that prevents you from getting going. 
Luckily people like Andy Stanton, fantastic children’s author and creator of the cult Mr. Gum series, show that it can be done. Hear how his first book took almost a decade of dropping out and dead end jobs to write.
And it would appear there was indeed some fun to be had.  The Independant reports in Comedians of the Antichrist give first atheist church their blessing.
The 200 worshippers crammed into The Nave, a performance venue housed in a beautiful north London church building, had dressed in their Sunday best to hear what would turn out to be a mixture of good comedy and dreadful motivational claptrap.

The reporter who wrote the above piece mentioned that things did get dangerously spiritual at one point.
But there was a dangerously spiritual part in which people were asked to close their eyes “and think”, and a speech about not fearing failure that would have had a rapturous response at a corporate function or pep rally. The theme of the service was “beginnings”, and one individual spoke out to say her New Year’s resolution was to “disseminate knowledge for the greater good”. There were chants of “life is good, life is great”.
But the more I hear about the service the more it seems like pure parody.  Here thinking could be seen as the ultimate reverse of a normal church service - Think! Don't Pray!

This seems to have already confused some religious folk and they are already lining up with I told you so's about how Atheism really is a religion afterall.

Brad Hirschfield over at the Washington Post religion blog For God's Sake wrote:
First, principled atheism is as much a faith as is theism; no matter how much many atheists would have us believe otherwise. Second, the human longing for community transcends the often bitter divides about where to find it and how to celebrate it.
The first point is a pathetic old trope that refuses to die.  But the second, the one about community, is very true.  I for one welcome meeting places like this church.  Even the word church which is so charged with negativity in my mind now may undergo a change of meaning if more groups like this sprout up in the coming years.  But I could be wrong - so do comment!
Like their predecessors, the newly founded atheist church of England, seeks to create meaning and offer a sense of belonging for those who lack what one of its founders describes as “the good stuff of religion.” They see no reason why “theological disagreement” should keep people from enjoying that so-called good stuff, and especially in a world where decisions about worship are made increasingly based on what works for the worshipper, not based on some pre-existing theology or creed, that seems like a more than reasonable claim.
Editor's Note: The original post didn't include the next section from Huffington Post.  I reverted to draft and added it before re-posting.

Sanderson Jones himself was brought to deny that he thought Atheism was a religion.   He just wanted to build community.  This Huffington Post article, Britain's First Atheist Church The Sunday Assembly Meets In North London, goes into that.  Apparently it's stirred up quite a few Atheists as well.

Yet the idea has come under attack from both atheists and the religious. Aside from accusations that the comedians are merely publicity seeking, some have criticised the concept of an 'atheist church' in itself. 
Critics have suggested by holding the meeting in an old church, (albeit deconsecrated) and by following a format of songs interspersed by reading and addresses, the comedians are at risk of turning atheism into its own sort of religion. 
This is something Sanderson denies.

Could Atheism be in risk of being redefined as a religion?  Is there a problem here or are people seriously over reacting to a couple of comedians who started their own little church/dinner show?  Comment!  Let me know!

Future events and speakers can be found on their Events and Speakers page.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Atheist Church Could Be A Foot-Stompin' Good Time

Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans.
Remember that guy Alain de Botton?  He's the guy who proposed Atheism 2.0 at TED awhile back - Atheism with a twist of religious ritual, but not really Humanism.  Remember the Atheist Temple he proposed building in the middle of London awhile back that sort of stirred up a mixed bag of responses from the atheist community (read: general furor)?

Well, little more than a year later, someone else is proposing pretty much the same thing - okay, probably not that much the same thing.  This new proposal by stand up comedian Sanderson Jones might just work - and it is likely to be a whole lot more fun.  Then again, I don't believe I've ever actually seen one of Sanderson's routines.

Take a look at this story from the Islington Gazette: Stand Up Comedians Launch UK's First Atheist Church In Islington
News of the church, which will meet on the first Sunday of every month starting with a service on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6, comes after the census results revealed last week that nearly one in three residents are atheists.
And this isn't just a bunch getting together every second Saturday of the month for some pints at their local sports bar (not that there's anything wrong with that).  There's going to be plenty of music to compete with those Theist churches.
He continued: “It’s part atheist church and part foot-stomping show. There will be a speaker on a theme each month but there will also be an awesome house band, which Pippa will lead. We’ll be helping people try and stick to their new year’s resolutions in the first service.”
At least one local religious authority seems to be taking this whole thing a tad too seriously.

But the Rev Saviour Grech, Catholic parish priest of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Amwell Street, Finsbury, said: “How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to? 
“It is important to debate and engage with atheists but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far. I’m cautious about it

Yeah!  Those Atheists coming onto our turf is going too far.  Maybe he's afraid the servies will be more funny than his - then what?

Part of me still wonders if this is for real or if it's a stunt.  If it is real then it could be fun.

In other news: Stanford Gets Chaplan For Atheists.

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