I say interesting things

I’ve submitted a piece to the Pod Delusion, the partner podcast of the British Humanist Association. It’s a podcast about interesting things.

You can find me speaking about the Sunday Assembly and it’s success here in Leeds on their website, where they’re just giving it away (so consider subscribing)!

I’ll probably end up submitting a few more bits in the future but for now, I’m just proud of being part of such a great show.

Tonight we launch an atheist church

It’s been a busy few days as we close in on the launch of Sunday Assembly Leeds, the atheist church that isn’t purely atheist or really a church.

We’ve had over 200 RSVPs and confirmation that BBC Look North will be filming live on location and BBC Radio will be doing a segment as well. Over the past week, we’ve had coverage in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Real Radio Leeds, and BBC Radio Leeds. And that’s in addition to the international attention that The Sunday Assembly continues to attract.

It should go well and we have a great team of volunteers working on this. With luck this community will grow and thrive and live up to its motto of getting people to live better, help often, and wonder more.

Tomorrow afternoon I head to Barcelona for a few days, so I may not be able to post an update right away but I’ll try to write a follow up.

For now, read Harrogate Skeptic’s founder Michelle’s take on what value this type of community has had for her.

The scientific case for Sunday Assemblies

I like to think that my drive to see The Sunday Assembly succeed is not driven by a religious fervour and blind faith but an argument, based on evidence, that godless congregations are likely to help us live better, help often, and wonder more. I want to make this case based on the demonstrated benefits of communal singing and meditation and the link between religiosity and civic engagement.

Continue reading The scientific case for Sunday Assemblies

Ambition and Momentum–Sunday Assembly

This morning The Sunday Assembly live-streamed their London service to a few hundred viewers across the globe.

I watched from Leeds and saw people on Twitter watching it bright and early in America and late in the evening in Australia. Conway Hall looked near capacity and many groups held get-togethers so it’s hard to know how many people saw the service, which featured two speakers and several pop anthems (ending with Meatloaf’s I would do anything for love).

You can re-watch the event online if you want to get an idea of what The Sunday Assembly looks like (note: you’ll need to register for the site or link with Facebook).

Continue reading Ambition and Momentum–Sunday Assembly

Sunday Assembly Schism!

No sooner had I talked about how churchy the Sunday Assembly is/isn’t then news breaks that several of the New York organizers have left the brand to form the Godless Revival.

It sounds mostly amicable, with a difference in emphasis being the primary difference. The Sunday Assembly is moving slightly away from the atheist brand, while the New York contingent is hoping to play up atheism and mock religion a bit more.

…we have [had] our first organizational division and it is at Sunday Assembly New York. The chief split is between those who are more on the atheist side of the fence, and then those who want to have a more inclusive message. This division has meant that the inclusive contingent resigned from the board. This then led the remaining gang to start a new group called The Godless Revival.

In the non-religious marketplace of ideas, the more the merrier. I’m happy to keep working with Sanderson and Pippa’s model that has evidence for its appeal (at least in secular Britain) but will wish well to the Godless Revivalists.

Sanderson will still be visiting the New York Ethical Culture Society (who have an incredible building that I hope to one day visit) to (re-)launch Sunday Assembly New York, and I look forward to hearing of their success.

One thing worth noting is that Sanderson is quite supportive of each group going their own way and the web-based infrastructure that will be crowd funded for later this month will eventually be used to help build godless congregations of all sorts (not just Sunday Assemblies).

Nevertheless, I guess one characteristic of churches I missed earlier was the tendency to schism over (a)theological differences.

How ‘Churchy’ is the Sunday Assembly?

Disclaimer: I’m one of the organizers for The Sunday Assembly Leeds and have met both Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans.

One of the key ingredients to the early success of The Sunday Assembly, in my mind, is the use of the paradoxical phrase “Atheist Church.”

It simultaneously describes exactly what the event is trying to do – host a church-like service for those who don’t believe in god – while also drawing attention by way of the oxymoron.

However, given the number of pedants and the psychological baggage of various terms, people have complained about the usage of the phrase. Atheism is not a religion, so there isn’t really such thing as an atheist church. Furthermore, although non-belief in god is upfront, The Sunday Assembly is open to everyone and many agnostics or spiritual people find enjoyment in the services.

This has lead to Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans distancing The Sunday Assembly from the word atheist.

But that leaves the question about the other word: How much church is there in the atheist church?

Continue reading How ‘Churchy’ is the Sunday Assembly?

Launching the Sunday Assembly Leeds!

Over the past few months, I’ve watched with keen interest as Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, two British comics that I hadn’t heard of before, founded and started hosting The Sunday Assembly in London. They billed their show as “part foot-stomping show, part atheist church” and set off with the goal of encouraging people to “live better, help often, and wonder more.”

What really got my attention was how successful they were in such a short period of time. The paradoxical marketing as an “atheist church” clearly had legs and was picked up by media around the world. The coverage created curiosity and a crowd of a couple hundred started to grow and spawn interest in America and Australia for more of these things.

Continue reading Launching the Sunday Assembly Leeds!