Atheist mega-non-churches


I don’t believe atheism is real, where’s the proof, man?


The New York Society for Ethical Culture has been doing that since 1876.


But, but… The best part of being atheist is sleeping in on Sunday morning.


I heard about this pretty recently, coincidentally a couple of months after I’d started wondering how hard it would be to put an organization like this together. I was brought up in an occasionally churchgoing family, and I always missed the community spirit, the ice-cream socials, the charity and good-fellowship and all that happy crap. I heard that there’s a Sunday Assembly congregation getting together on the Westside of L.A., but honestly I think I’d prefer something a bit smaller and more neighborly, as well as closer to Pasadena. I may never get around to joining, if for no other reason that I have always appreciated my uncommitted Sunday mornings since I stopped hanging out with the formal God-botherers back in the 1980s, but every now and then I think about it.

I probably have neither the time nor especially the competence to put together my own community, but if a congregation starts up somewhere east of, say, Silver Lake, I’ll swing by and check it out.

Whether or not it meets my own needs, however, I heartily approve of the idea. With or without the superstitions, we are a very social species, and I can see this doing a world of good for people who miss out on the community of church membership but can’t stomach the silliness.


Let’s call it God-light.

I’m just disappointed Salt Lake City isn’t one of their 40.


Oof, tour’s almost over : (

400 people isn’t close to being a megachurch. It’s respectably large, but the Catholic parish near where I grew up was maybe 1000 people and wasn’t considered exceptional. You’re not really in megachurch territory until you’re up to 5-10,000, getting into Texas-sized empires.

The real problem you run into with more than 100-200 people is how to build community when you’ve got a group that’s too large to know most of the people. Yeah, you can go to events, but you need to feel connected and be able to spend time with other members, be a participant and not just a spectator, and that usually means that a larger organization spends a lot of effort on creating smaller subgroups that people can find where they can do that.


If you remove God from the Gospels they are still filled with lots of useful advice about living a good life, avoiding situations that can lead to suffering, and making the world a better place. In this regard, creating a church that isn’t a church makes perfect sense. Any activity or group whose goal is to increase the good in the world should be encouraged.


Isn’t this basically what the Unitarian Universalists do?


More like what Ethical Culture does. Unitarians aren’t quite atheists.


I don’t know whether to admire them for being upfront about the fact that they’re telling people in their crowdfunding video that the organizing couple is carving out 60K (12%) of their 500K pound goal for themselves or whether to laugh at their audacity. Why exactly does this concept need a professional 3 person web dev team at 240K pounds?


Their site is in a .com domain, implying a commercial entity.


Wow, 10 comments and not yet one “I have no problem with atheists, I just hate those militant atheists.”

Or even “How do you know if someone’s an atheist/feminist/vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you”?

Someone’s slacking.


Initially I thought that the Sunday Assembly might be aimed more squarely at godless people than the UU would be, but it seems both of them are happy to scoop up people from all conceivable philosophies. To quote only part of the SA’s “About” page:

The Sunday Assembly

Is 100% celebration of life. We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.
Has no doctrine. We have no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources.
Has no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.
Is radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs – this is a place of love that is open and accepting.

All of which is very friendly and tolerant and wonderful, but rather makes me feel like I might as well just attend a church made up of Target shoppers, or Left-Handed-People.

Divisiveness and sectarianism obviously present problems, but I’m having trouble seeing an overly-huge tent as being a strong force for good. Seems to me that more might be accomplished faster by a community of people who have pretty definitively left superstition behind.

Eh, but what do I know?


I grew up Christian, but I’m not a believer anymore. (Here, incidentally, is an argument for anonymous commenting, because I’m still practicing the religion to a degree, and it would hurt me and others who are not me if the ‘truth’ were revealed.) But my point is I’m still practicing in part because I value the family and community connection of church services, and I value being ‘forced’ to think about good behavior and people other than myself at least once a week, and I value being peer pressured to volunteer every now and then. (I like the music, too.) I’m glad there are similar options for atheists.


At least in America, “The Sunday Assembly is a 501©3 charity…”

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Very true. (Also a factor in running or working for large companies or engineering teams.).

I didn’t like big churches in my church going days, but I did like that they were younger demographically (this may be a uniquely US phenomenon). Finding personal connection meant joining what were literally called ‘small groups’, which were great. Eventually I stopped going to service and just went to small groups. They kicked me out when they found out. But that’s another story.