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As more Americans disavow religion, atheist mega-churches pop up across US



Published: Sun, November 10, 2013 @ 5:09 p.m.

As more Americans disavow religion, atheist mega-churches pop up across US

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES

It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Hundreds packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

Dozens of gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors are springing up around the U.S. after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles attracted more than 400 attendees, all bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.

The founders, British duo Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, are currently on a tongue-in-cheek “40 Dates, 40 Nights” tour around the U.S. and Australia to drum up donations and help launch dozens of Sunday Assemblies. They hope to raise more than $800,000 that will help atheists launch their pop-up congregations around the world.

They don’t bash believers but want to find a new way to meet likeminded people, engage in the community and make their presence more visible in a landscape dominated by faith.

Jones got the first inkling for the idea while leaving a Christmas carol concert six years ago.

“There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in,” Jones said. “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?”

The movement dovetails with new studies showing an increasing number of Americans are drifting from any religious affiliation.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study last year that found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the last five years. Pew researchers stressed, however, that the category also encompassed majorities of people who said they believed in God but had no ties with organized religion and people who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.”


Comments

1JoeFromHubbard(875 comments)posted 5 months, 1 week ago

"atheist mega-churches"

Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron ?

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2AtownAugie(697 comments)posted 5 months, 1 week ago

"The only thing missing was God." Sorry, AP. But God was there. Oh yes, He was there.

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3bunkpatrol(49 comments)posted 5 months, 1 week ago

Yeah -god is always there. Spreading disease and hunger. Giving cancer to children. Raping women and children. Floods, earthquakes, typhoons; hurricanes, tornadoes.

Oh-and especially to pass judgement.

Good thing the world is flat and Santa Claus will end this misery on Jesus's Birthday...if you are rich enough.

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4Irishone(1 comment)posted 5 months, 1 week ago

I do not believe that God has anything to do with Natural Disasters or that of bad decisions made by people, but I am agnostic and do believe people making right and wrong decisions. I could see how an “atheist mega-churches” could come off Hypocritical, the word Church is a place for religious services. However I am intrigued by this idea of other non-religious individuals having a place to share thought feeling and ideas without having to feel judged by their beliefs. As an agnostic I have never pointed my finger at someone and told them they are wrong in following God or tried to persuade someone into believing things my way. Being part of only 20 percent of the Americans they have no religious affiliation, I find it difficult talking with others when the topic turns a religious corner. I visited many chat rooms where the topic is discussed even debated over and feel it would be nice to have conversations with other like-minded people in person where we don’t have to defend our beliefs.
I think it is good the non-religious people are taking a stand and saying that my beliefs do not mean that I am bad hateful person. I don’t go around breaking the law and am a member of this community, I pay taxes and have a family. I only have more questions as to what does it mean to be a member of an “atheist mega-churches”, if it is not religious what is the structure? If you are not reading from the bible then what takes place other than a meeting like any other meeting of a particular group that shares the same interest or commonality. As stated in the article “singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?” Who is to say that this has to be on a Sunday morning, and who is to say that Church is the only thing taking place on Sunday morning?

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5JoeFromHubbard(875 comments)posted 5 months, 1 week ago

Did you ever hear that old saying:

"There are no atheists in a fox hole?"

It's true, I have witnessed it in Vietnam.

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