The Sunday Assembly has a Problem with Atheism

In the past, I have spoken highly about the Sunday Assembly; let me explain how my view has changed.

When Sanderson Jones brought his show here to New York, I jumped at the chance to volunteer as an organizer at the first Sunday Assembly here in America.  I signed on because it looked like a great opportunity to inject a bit of positivism into our irreligious community.  After all, this movement has been known to be a bit negative from time to time.   Once Jones had left, the organizers went to work on recreating his show for an American audience.  It didn’t take long for us to start finding issues to disagree on.  A minority of organizers wished to make the event not a show but an actual church service and agreed with Jones about cutting out the word Atheist, not having speakers from the Atheist community, avoiding having an Atheist audience, and moving the show out of a bar setting to a more formal church-like setting.  We even had one organizer who wanted to avoid having anyone from what he called “The black t-shirt crowd.”  In order to deal with some of these issues and keep the show running smoothly, we decided to have a board of directors, to which myself and 6 others were elected.  The majority of the board shot down all of these anti-atheism ideas and pushed for a show that was both a celebration of life and our godlessness.

As a group, we put on some excellent and well-attended events and enthusiasm was high.  Everything seemed to be going really well, so it came as quite a surprise when we discovered a few from the anti-atheist minority had been conspiring to steal the show.   The majority was notified via skype shortly after our last show that the minority was resigning from the board en mass, with the intent to turn the Sunday Assembly into something  more like a Unitarian church service.  Jones informed us shortly thereafter that he was with the minority, and we were no longer a part of the official Sunday Assembly.

What started out as a comedic Atheist church wants to turn itself into some sort of centralized humanist religion, with Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans at the helm.  As Jones and Evans are preparing to launch their 40 days and nights tour, designed to open up new Sunday Assemblies across America (and relaunch the new milquetoast show here in New York), you might be asking to what end.  From an insider’s perspective, it would seem Jones and Evans are trying to get rich from their new-age religion.  The fundraiser for this tour was, in part, to pay themselves some pretty hefty wages according to sources inside their organization.  It only takes some grade-school addition skills to see why they feel a pressing need to spread across America.  After all, we saw how well that worked for L Ron Hubbard.

A 21st century great white ginger Jesus, and like all those saviors before him, wants your money

Sanderson Jones.  A 21st century, great-white, charismatic, ginger Jesus… and like all the saviors before him, he wants your money.

Jones has been quoted as saying,”I’d like to make this as un-atheistic as possible. Atheism is boring. We’re both post-religious.”  This may be true on his side of the pond where the majority do not identify as religious, however here in America, Atheism is a struggle for equality and recognition from our long-standing religious majority and their institutions.  It can be a painful and arduous struggle at times, but I would never describe it as boring.

The idea behind having a comedic, godless, community-building celebration isn’t a bad one.  Its a shame Jones and Evans left that idea behind in favor of a more profitable one.  There is, however, an alternative rising from the ashes of the cast-off majority.  Michael Dorian, a former NYC SA board member and NY State Director for American Atheists, has teamed-up with Don Albert, another former board member and musical director for NYC SA, and myself to bring you something new.  We have named this new endeavor The Godless Revival, and it will be the celebration of Atheism that you deserve.     We have no centralized leadership or rules to follow, and we are not trying to get a paycheck out of it.  The sole goal is to promote a godless celebration of life, and with that intent in mind, the first one will take place November 24th right here in NYC.  Sean Faircloth will be the first speaker, and you can also look forward to great music, tasty beverages, and a fun atmosphere.  If you want to know more about this project, check it out on facebook.  If you are interested in starting up a Godless Revival in your own city we would be happy to help you along the way.  I hope to see many of you this November in NYC.