A godless congregation in London, which meets monthly on a Sunday "to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life" with no hope of the hereafter, is launching satellite assemblies in over 20 cities across the U.K., the United States and Australia.
The Sunday Assembly, which came into existence about eight months ago, will announce on Sunday the formation of satellite congregations in more than 20 cities across Britain and beyond, including in New York, San Diego, Melbourne and Sydney, The Guardian reports.
The "godless congregation," as they describe themselves, plans to plant 40 atheist churches in one year, and as many as 1,000 worldwide within a decade.
The NYC chapter of the "godless church" plans to have its first meeting at Connolly's Pub in mid-town on Sept. 29, the group's website says.
Nick Spencer, research director of Theos, a think-tank, says the idea is not necessarily new. "This contemporary idea of people who are not religious but wanting to maintain some kind of church-like existence has got form. We've been here before," Spencer was quoted as saying.
The Sunday Assembly was founded by stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. "It's a service for anyone who wants to live better, help often and wonder more," says the website.
"We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let's enjoy it together," says the Public Charter of the Assembly, which has "no doctrine... no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources... no deity."
"We don't do supernatural but we also won't tell you you're wrong if you do," it adds. "Sometimes bad things happen to good people, we have moments of weakness or life just isn't fair. We want The Sunday Assembly to be a house of love and compassion, where, no matter what your situation, you are welcomed, accepted and loved."
"If we do it in London and there are 400 people who come, that's brilliant, but if we find a way to help hundreds of people to set one up then we can have a bigger impact than we could ever dream of," Jones tells the British daily, adding that their vision is "a godless gathering in every town, city or village that wants one."
A member of the assembly describes the nature of services, saying, "It's unashamedly copying a familiar Church of England format, so it's part of the collective consciousness."
"When I had the idea for this, I always thought if it was something I would like to go to in London then it was something other people would like to go to in other places," Jones says. "The one thing that we didn't take into account was the power of the internet, and I think even more than that, the fact that there is obviously a latent need for this kind of thing. People have always congregated around things that they believe in. I think people are going to look back at the fact that it didn't happen as the oddity, not this part."
Some members of the assembly want to set up a free school guided by the group's principles, raising the prospect "of Christians one day lying about being atheists to get their children into school," Jones adds.