Tenn 'Atheist Church' Grows to 2 Services in 3 Months

A "godless congregation" in Nashville, Tenn., has expanded to two services to accommodate growth in just three months. To celebrate the progress, services this weekend will be led by the co-founder of the London-based Sunday Assembly, Sanderson Jones, and an agnostic documentary filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock.

The Sunday Assembly
The Sunday Assembly event in Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2013. |

"It's been three months, and they are now already going to two services a day… because the last one was… full, overcrowded," Jones tells The Tennessean.

The congregation, known as an "atheist church," also provides child care. Volunteers from the Nashville branch feed homeless population, according to their Facebook Page.

Jones, a stand-up comedian, founded the U.K.'s Sunday Assembly along with his colleague Pippa Evans about a year ago. The group launched the East Nashville branch last November. Branches were also started in San Diego, New York and other U.S. cities.

Jones says God or religion is not mentioned when they meet once a month to "celebrate life."

Spurlock, from CNN's "Inside Man" series, is scheduled to lead the services Sunday, the church's website announces.

"Each Assembly is about an hour of great sing-along songs, an address by someone also trying to figure out this world like you and me, some poetry and other ways to celebrate this one life together that we know we have," the website says.

"I'm a recent transplant from South Florida, and the community here is based around church and religion. For me, with a young daughter, there wasn't anything that provides a support system," said organizer Kris Tyrrell of Hendersonville, Tenn. "Sunday Assembly is pretty new here, but we have ideas about who we want to be and where we want to go."

"But why accept a cheap imitation when you can get the real thing, possibly down the street?" wrote Jerry Newcombe, a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Legacy Library and a Christian TV producer, in a column for The Christian Post after the Assembly launched branches in the United States in November.

"The idea of atheists going to church brings home to me the notion that we are all hard-wired by the Creator to worship," he said. "The whole idea of organized atheism (especially the militant, full-time kind) seems contradictory: Because they spend all their energies fighting against God, whom they claim does not exist. If they really believed it, they wouldn't care."

However, the U.K.'s "godless congregation," as they describe themselves, earlier said they plan to plant 40 atheist churches in a year, and as many as 1,000 worldwide within a decade.

"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."

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