A recent study came out stressed the benefits of atheist church for atheist and those who are godless. The study followed a number of people on different continents who are involved in The Sunday Assembly movement. Secular church helped those who needed community who are no longer religious.
Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More
Sunday Assembly motto
“Secular congregations may be a good alternative for non-religious people who want the health benefits religious communities traditionally offer,”
Dr. Michael Price on the benefits of secular community.
Flying over Central California
Today we are going to look at the benefits of attending a godless church. There is some news in the atheist community that I wanted to highlight and feature. But before we continue let’s look at a atheist church movement that was born out of the United Kingdom.
What is the Sunday Assembly Movement?
The Sunday Assembly movement was found on January 6, 2013 in London. The key people who founded it were two stand up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. What they wanted to do was create a church service but without God. The first event was attended by over 300 people. They have grown slowly and now feature at least two services a month. In October 2013 they did an Indiegogo campaign to build a digital platform and allow for other assemblies to be created. Its motto is, “Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More.” Assemblies today sing, do social work and are encouraging to better human kind. This is their charter:
- Is 100% celebration of life. We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.
- Has no doctrine. We have no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources.
- Has no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.
- Is radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs—this is a place of love that is open and accepting.
- Is free to attend, not-for-profit and volunteer run. We ask for donations to cover our costs and support our community work.
- Has a community mission. Through our Action Heroes (you!), we will be a force for good.
- Is independent. We do not accept sponsorship or promote outside businesses, organisations, or services.
- Is here to stay. With your involvement, The Sunday Assembly will make the world a better place.
- We won’t tell you how to live, but will try to help you do it as well as you can.
- And remember point 1… The Sunday Assembly is a celebration of the one life we know we have.
The movement took off in time and now is present at 70 locations in a large number of countries in Europe, Australia, Africa, and the North America. In Europe you can find a Sunday Assembly in Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Hungary, and France. In Africa they exist in South Africa. In North America they are in a large number of major cities in the United States and Canada. If you want to find a Sunday Assembly near you, you can do so here. The Sunday Assembly movement has received a lot of press and publicity. You can read more about it in the following articles below.
- Washington Post, “Nonbelievers take Sunday Assembly for a spin.”
- NPR, “Sunday Assembly: A Church For The Godless Picks Up Steam.”
- Huffington Post, “Sunday Assembly ‘Atheist Church’ Provokes Criticism.”
- Daily Beast, “Sunday Assembly Is the Hot New Atheist Church.”
- ABC News, “Sunday Assembly: A Godless Service Coming to a ‘Church’ Near You.”
Recent Study Highlights the Positives of Atheist Church
Recently a major study came out that featured the benefits of secular community. It was done by a psychologist who monitored and followed 92 members of The Sunday Assembly in different congregations in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Australia. The results were published in a journal for Secularism and Nonreligious. People’s emotional well-being and mental health had increased and been helped by the community. What people felt most helpful was the community and friendship formation that grew from the experience. The statistics are at 34 to 48% respectively. You can read the original study by Michael Price and Jacques Launay in, “Increased Wellbeing from Social Interaction in a Secular Congregation.” Hayley Jarvis of Brunel University in London also wrote about the psychological benefits of secular community through the university she works in. Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist featured this development recently. As I like to cover and report about atheism I decided that this needed to be written about.
Analysis of the Study and Secular Church
When I had my faith crisis in 2009 that lasted for half my 30’s the concept of secular church was not possible. At least at the time I never heard of it. That said, I did go to secular humanist and atheist events. For example I showed up at a few Center for Inquiry functions here in Washington, D.C. When you lose your faith one of the hardest aspects is when you lose community, friendships and sometimes even family. I pushed back from a number of people at the time and found the process terrifying. Walking in a faith crisis was really being alone. That is what the experience was like for me for the most part. I did have a couple of people who I was close to, but most of all many people avoided me.
Having a community that the godless and secular can go to and make acquaintances and more is a step in the right direction. This movement is going to be a challenge for churches because it will show that you do not need God for fellowship or community. Just the opposite to be honest. Its my goal to attend a local Sunday Assembly here in Washington, D.C, and observe, participate and write about it. But for those who are going through a faith crisis this is a strong and healthy alternative for many people. If anyone who reads this is involved in a Sunday Assembly in the United States and wants to write about it, this blog will gladly give them the space to explain their experience. That is it for the day please know that you are loved.