Just You Wait: Church for atheists, possible trend for 2014

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     Founders of The Sunday Assembly

    Founders of The Sunday Assembly

    A church for atheists is spreading. Could Philly be next to host non-religious gatherings where the motto is to “Live better, help often and wonder more?”

    This group actually is called The Sunday Assembly. 

    In an online video the creators of The Sunday Assembly posted, they explain what it’s all about. “It’s all the best bits of Church but with no religion and awesome pop songs. It’s a celebration of life. And it’s not a cult.” The video uses lots of humor, it makes sense given that its starts, the creators of The Sunday Assembly movement, are in fact comedians.

    Since the gatherings started in London a year ago, Sunday Assemblies have sprouted across the globe and are popping up in the United States. That makes sense since polls show a growing minority of Americans identify as atheists or at least agnostics, that is people who aren’t sure if there’s a God.

    Still, some feel isolated, said Janice Rael of Clayton in South Jersey. “Atheists tend to feel excluded because we live in such a religious society.”  

    The Sunday Assembly gatherings are self-described: energizing doctrine-free radically-inclusive deity-less celebrations of life that run on donations and volunteers. The goal of Sunday Assembly is to “make the world a better place.”

    Janice Rael said she got to talking about it with some friends about starting a Sunday Assembly in Philadelphia. “We kind of decided that people who are interested in that might already be going to the Ethical Humanist Society or to the Unitarian churches.”

    Rael said for now, she thinks existing options fill the need for Philadelphia area non-believers to meet, greet and eat. “There already is an outlet for people who want this Sunday meeting thing where someone gets up and gives a talk and perhaps inspires you or educates you.” But she thinks it could take root here even so.

    Wendy Seiferheld said she hadn’t heard about The Sunday Assembly movement when she posted on Facebook looking for a place to gather with others on Sundays. “I said I wish we had something like church with music you know and friends, maybe interesting speaker that makes you reflect on things maybe or just something that’s non-religious that non-religious people can do on Sundays.”

    Seiferheld, a single mom who lives in Philadelphia’s East Kensington neighborhood said after she learned about The Sunday Assembly movement she got interested. She reached out looking for tohers who might also be motivated to start a Sunday Assembly in Philadelphia, but didn’t get much response.

    She said for her, part of the appeal is hearing new ideas without someone trying to convince you join a group or convert. “They’re not preaching atheism, they’re just offering something for people who aren’t religious.”

    Seiferheld said she thinks if more people learn about it, the The Sunday Assembly could take off here.

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