My morning at the ‘The Sunday Assembly’ aka the Atheist Church

by Daniel Rodger

So this morning I took the trip up to Holborn to visit the Sunday Assembly with a few other Christian friends, this was mainly because I wanted to find out what it was like for myself after reading about it in the papers. The Sunday Assembly are a savvy and friendly group of people who clearly have a number of skilled people at their disposal, this may explain the spawning of what is really now a global movement of godless ‘churches’. There are now Sunday Assembly’s in Nashville Tennessee in the heart of the US Bible belt, with several more all over the UK, US and Australia (forty in total I believe). All this in just a year, statistics that any church planting group would probably have to describe as miraculous!

If I’m honest I thought it would be full of single weird men who love to tell Christians how deluded they are on twitter. But I was rather shocked that there were people from all age groups and quite a few young families. Not what I was expecting. 

So what did I think? I had been looking forward to going to the Sunday Assembly since we first arranged going and I wasn’t disappointed, I enjoyed it basically because it was fun. When we were singing and dancing I felt like I was at a kinda weird wedding, the sort where I was having fun but I wasn’t quite sure what I was celebrating. I suppose that’s what a lot of Christians have been critical of, after-all what are they celebrating and why are they so happy?

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My observation was that as human beings we are relational beings, that is to say we generally flourish best in a community of shared beliefs and values. So on a prima facie level the Sunday Assembly is simply another expression of that human need and desire to be around other people who are like us. It’s why many people go to football each week, to spend time with like-minded people who share the same interests and passion for their team combined with the lifting up of hands in a worship like fashion. It’s difficult to look at the human race and not come away with the idea that we aren’t innately disposed to worship which is what has led the human race to be referred to as ‘Homo religiosus’. I suppose Blaise Pascal and CS Lewis would have something to say about that. Is the Sunday Assembly just another expression of our innate human religiosity?

I spoke to a few people while I was there and it was nice to hear that there are a number of people there who are not just atheists, agnostics and secular humanists but Christians and those with other beliefs. So in some sense I suppose it’s not really accurate to call it the ‘atheist church’ even if most people there may in fact be secular humanists. I can now say with experience that it was a very friendly environment, they certainly have the church seeker friendly model well honed with tea and biscuits to finish and even a bookshop. Secular humanism really is the friendly face of the new atheism.

But even though I enjoyed it, it was still a little strange…

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