The Sunday Assembly movement began in the UK and is sponsoring ‘atheist churches’ around the world for the growing number of nonbelievers to get together regularly for fellowship and to work for good causes around the motto “Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More”.
Sunday, September 28 is going to see the launch of a large number of such atheist churches around the world including Cleveland, Columbus, and Pittsburgh in this region. The first meeting of the Cleveland group will be at 10:30 a.m. at the Old Town Hall in Strongsville located at 18825 Royalton Road and all are invited. Subsequent meetings will take place on the last Sunday of each month at the same location.
The organizers have kindly given me the honor of being the first speaker and my talk (sermon?!) will be on the topic “Why it is the Non-religious Who Can, and Must, Save the World”. It will be a bit of throwback to my days as a lay preacher without the prayers and other god stuff.
Some people have criticized this movement as somehow granting some legitimacy to the claims of religion. I don’t see it. Although I myself am kind of asocial, I am also a ‘big tent’ sort of person and from my point of view, if something meets the needs of some nonbelievers, we should accommodate it as much as possible. Organized religion is good at providing a sense of permanent community and serving as a vehicle for mobilizing people to do good works, and there is no reason to not co-opt those aspects of it for those nonbelievers seeking such an outlet. There are already meetup groups for freethinkers and to me this seems like a variation on the theme with a little more structure.
The two people in the UK who started the movement explain what prompted them to do so.
Two comedians, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones were on their way to a gig in a car (VW Polo, if you like detail) when they started talking about the idea of a church without God. Pippa had been a Christian and found, when she stopped believing, she missed church (community, volunteering, music) rather than God and Sanderson had noticed the joy at Christmas created by carol concerts and wondered if it was possible to harness all those good bits to celebrate the awesome fact that we are alive.
And so they decided if they had both thought of it, probably more people had thought of it, so they should just get on and do it. In Jan 2013 they did just that. Over 200 people turned up to the first event and since then and more turn up every fortnight in London. They haven’t looked back, with 28 Assemblies across the globe to date.
Co-organizers of the Cleveland group are Layla Nelson and Eric Tawney, who can be reached at email@example.com, have prepared the following press about the debut of the local group.
Mano Singham Welcomes Atheist Church to Cleveland Area
Dr. Mano Singham, theoretical physicist and outspoken atheist, will speak on “Why it is the Non-religious Who Can, and Must, Save the World” at the opening meeting of the Sunday Assembly Cleveland. Singham is a physicist and the Director of UCITE (University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education) at Case Western Reserve University. He is also the author of three books, numerous articles, and a blog.
The Sunday Assembly Cleveland is holding its first meeting on September 28th at 10:30 a.m. at the Old Town Hall in Strongsville located at 18825 Royalton Rd. The group will meet once per month on the last Sunday of the month. The Sunday Assembly is part of an international movement to bring a godless church to any city that wants one. The motto of the Sunday Assembly is to “Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More.”
Singham shows his support of the Sunday Assembly Cleveland by serving as the featured speaker at the first meeting. He recognizes the predicament that atheists face when they want to participate in a community of like-minded people that can perform many of the worthwhile but non-religious activities in which churches often engage. The meeting will also include a live band, poetry readings, and a spotlight on a charitable organization in the community. Congregants will be encouraged to join in the social outing and charitable event planned for October.
At the Sunday Assembly, nonbelievers can enjoy an event reminiscent of the church-like services many grew up with without betraying their personal views. Like a church, the Sunday Assembly places heavy emphasis on volunteerism. Organizer Eric Tawney says, “The Sunday Assembly is a great alternative to church for people looking for a sense of community, service to others, and a desire to learn about our glorious world.”
While the movement for a “church for atheists” has endured criticism, there is a population of freethinkers in every community that miss the communal aspects of religion. According to a study by the Pew Research Center (2012), over 13 million Americans identify themselves as atheist or agnostic, and nearly 20% of Americans are not affiliated with a church. Layla Nelson, another Sunday Assembly organizer, explained that, “The increasing membership in our group shows that Cleveland has needed a godless church for a long time. With the guidance of the Sunday Assembly Headquarters in London, we are now able to pull it off.”
While dozens of Sunday Assemblies are already well established, September 28th is the official launch day for new Sunday Assemblies around the world. Nearby, other Sunday Assemblies will hold their first meetings in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh on the same day. The Sunday Assembly has been a topic of interest in the media recently, being featured on NPR, Good Morning America, and Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man series. Articles about the Sunday Assembly have also appeared in the Associated Press, Huffington Post, Washington Post, New York Daily News, and many others news sources.
Those interested in hearing Dr. Mano Singham speak at the Sunday Assembly Meeting should RSVP by emailing the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the Sunday Assembly Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sundayassemblycleveland. We are also on Meetup.com at www.meetup.com/Sunday-Assembly-Cleveland/.
I look forward to meeting up with some area people there.