An atheist "church" in London has modeled itself after the Christian church and plans to add more locations worldwide soon. Since its launch, The Sunday Assembly has heard from over 200 people who want to start their own location.
The Sunday Assembly's website says that it is "a godless congregation that meets on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life." They say that it is a service for anyone who wants to "live better, help often and wonder more."
Atheist "church" co-founder and comedian Sanderson Jones says in the group's recent video, "It's part-foot-stomping show, part-atheist church, and 100% celebration of life."
"We've come up with a plan so that as many people as possible can start having as much fun as we're having as soon as possible," Jones says in the video. He went on to say, "We're pretty sure there are going to be loads of people who are going to want to live better until they're doing their best."
The Sunday Assembly says it will provide atheist "church" plant hopefuls with videos, marketing support, and all the resources it can, but will make sure there is creative space left for personalization. Choosing the songs, readings and speakers is up to each individual location.
Co-founder Pippa Evans, a comedian, writer and improviser, says in the video, "at the moment we're two people trying as hard as we can to keep up with an insane level of interest."
Matt Slick, president and founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, studies atheism and often speaks at events about atheism. He says that a movement like this is dangerous. "The devil is working through them to replace the Christian church with the church of the devil. Atheism is the ultimate denial of God," Slick said. "This movement is a manifestation of the enemy of the Gospel trying to replace Christianity, corrupt it and weaken it."
"It might be that they become united and become a stronger front against Christianity. That is my concern. This has potential to do a lot of damage to the Church," Slick said. He also warned that Christian pastors need to no longer teach the "comfort-me gospel" and need to preach and teach true Christian theology so that Christians do not go out to seek places such as this.
Writing about the order of service, The Sunday Assembly says on its website, "To begin with we are following a format which people are familiar with and it is just going to get better from there as we hone the heck out of it."
The order of service includes what many Christian churches do on Sundays: a welcome, notices, a song, guest speaker, reading, final address and another song.
The atheist congregation also wants to build a community around The Sunday Assembly, sharing volunteering opportunities and showcasing ways to join in locally.
On the day that many Christians around the world will be celebrating Easter this year, March 31, the atheist "church" plans to have its first service outside of London in Glasgow. The event's title is "Easter Service with Susan Calman."
Attempting to explain the contradiction of an atheist "church" holding an Easter service, the leaders say on their Facebook page, "An Easter service in an atheist shindig, that doesn't seem right? Don't worry, we're as rational as they come but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater."
They go on to say, "There have been spring festivals since time began, and wouldn't it be a shame to lose 1400 years of British history over a minor theological difference? Yes. It would. Also, we love chocolate eggs!"
An upcoming service highlights speaker Luke Ryan, a cancer survivor. The invite encourages people to come, "as we contemplate how very bad things that will definitely happen to us."
As a Christian apologist, Slick states, "The Christian church has to realize that we are in war. Every Christian should understand the war mentality. In Luke 22:36, Jesus said to his disciples to sell one cloak and buy a sword. He's not saying go out there and be violent. What he is saying is that we are supposed to be ready for the battle and defend ourselves in the world by going out and preaching the Gospel to those that are lost."