As a very public atheist (secular humanist, really), I don’t find the idea of getting together on Sunday morning with a bunch of heretics unpleasant. Our stimulating Feed Your Brain series at CFI-Los Angeles has been running for over a decade on Sunday mornings, and is still going strong. And there are lots of folks who’ve formed solid friendships from their Sundays at CFI.
When I heard that an atheist church was coming to L.A. from London this past Sunday, I knew I had to check it out. So last Sunday I rode my bike over to the godless gathering during the 2nd quarter of the Chicago Bears game. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of atheists out there who think getting together on Sunday morning, singing songs, and hearing inspirational words sounds horrifying. (Isn’t that what many of us specifically left?)
But the Sunday Assembly doesn’t call itself an “atheist church”, even though that’s pretty much what it is. Assembly co-creators Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans answered that negative “atheist church” sentiment in the first couple of minutes at their Los Angeles kick-off by joking about what is the proper way to not believe in God. And they’re right. Who’s to say how we get our atheist jollies? There is very little ritual on our side of the God question – mostly just preferences.
Something like 400 people showed up to this event held at a local musicians’ hall. Some, like me, were curious to see what recipe had worked in London and wondered if it would play to an American audience. Others may have wanted to feed some social yearnings once satisfied in a church they had left.
The meeting itself consisted of music, upbeat speaking, a dash of comedy, a little inspirational information, and some socializing. The positive tone was similar to that of a high school pep rally, and was devoid of any god or religion-bashing. Most people seemed to want to feel good, not angry.
Aside from some poor acoustics and being too close to the daycare area, I wouldn’t say anything negative about the gathering. The attendees seemed to be pleasant and happy to be there.
Would I go again? Probably not. I’m just not a pep rally kind of guy. Even as a football player, I rolled my eyes at too much rah rah talk. Too much optimism makes me uncomfortable. Besides, I already have wonderful friends and am not looking for anything more to do on Sunday mornings.
But I will say this: I hope the Sunday Assembly continues on. If non-believers want to gather and sing and feel good about themselves, more power to them. The secular among us should find as many ways to get together and be happy as they can. Just because it’s not my cup of tea doesn’t mean others shouldn’t participate.
The secular world needs a sense of community too – just not while the Bears are playing.