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Sunday Assembly – a Teetotal Pub or an Idea Whose Time Has Come?

November 8th, 2014

In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Boton proposes Atheism.2.0: an upgrade to the rather coarse offerings of Dawkins & Hitchens, which were perhaps necessary purgatives to bring much of the insanity of religions to our attention. De Boton suggests we avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and explains in his witty way that we don’t have to believe in God to benefit from religion: from the beauty of its places of worship, its art and literature, its ability to bring people together and offer a sense of meaning.
Now two comedians in London have put this idea into practice and their project Sunday Assemblies has caught on all over the world. In over 300 locations you can gather on a Sunday morning and sing songs, hear inspiring talks and meet up with like-minded people, all under the banner of a ‘godless congregation that celebrates life’ with the motto: ‘Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More’.
The need to gather together in community is something we see as a strong dynamic in the druid group I help to run, and as the Sunday Assembly website says, 1 in 10 people in the UK say they have no close friends, and 40% of Americans say they are lonely, so any attempt to bring people together to live better, and help and wonder, should be applauded. It’s a fascinating idea and one day I’m going to pop along to a meeting in Brighton to see what it’s like.
I only have two reservations. The first is I wonder whether it will feel like visiting a teetotal pub. They tried creating one of those in Letchworth Garden City, which George Orwell famously lambasted when he talked about its patrons being ‘bearded, tee-total, lentil-eating, and sandal-wearing’. It didn’t last long. The beer didn’t taste that good.
The second reservation I have lies in a contradiction I see in its 10 Public Charter Points (surely not a take on the 10 Commandments?)
Point 1 says: We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.
Point 2 says: (Sunday Assembly) has no doctrine.
But I don’t want to be picky. The overall feel of this project is positive and energised. Have a look at De Boton’s TED talk if this subject interests you!

3 Responses to “Sunday Assembly – a Teetotal Pub or an Idea Whose Time Has Come?”

  1. What you’re describing sounds a lot like Unitarian Universalism here in the States. Many Unitarians are atheists, although they can follow any religion. The Sunday services follow the basic format of a Protestant church but don’t involve worship of any particular deity. It’s basically a community of liberal humanists.

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