A growing godless congregation has some atheists in a state of disbelief.

The Sunday Assembly, which recently embarked on a 40-day tour around the U.S., Canada and Australia, is being branded an “atheist mega-church” by the media. The founders, two comedians named Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, say they just want to celebrate life and help people live better without all that God stuff, but many atheists say the whole effort defies the very definition of atheism, which is not a belief system but the absence of a belief.

The assembly held events this week in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and elsewhere -- where willful atheists turned out to sing songs and exchange messages of positivity. The events evoke the experience of a traditional church, according to one account from the Associated Press, but they’re not centered around a deity. According to the Sunday Assembly website, the assembly is a “place of love that is open and accepting,” but its aim is to celebrate the “only life we know we have.”  

“We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together,” the founders write.     

The assemblies are free to attend and volunteer-run, and the founders say they don’t accept sponsorships or promote outside businesses. They will, however, take your money -- a notion that mimics the underpinnings of churchlike greed a little too closely in the minds of some atheists.




So how much does it cost to run an atheist mega-church? The founders are seeking to raise £500,000 ($804,100) on Indiegogo, and they’re off to a strong start. The campaign has raised £29,556 with a full 31 days left to go. Many of the commenters on the campaign thanked the assembly for creating something they’ve been searching for. “Been waiting for this type of thing for a long time,” one commenter wrote. “Can’t wait to get involved!”

There is an element of satire and performance art to the whole thing -- as evidenced by this video featuring Evans dousing Jones in a giant glass of red wine -- and given that the duo are both comedians, it should come as no surprise that already-skeptical atheists are questioning Jones and Evans’ motives. But the founders swear they are serious about the assembly’s core concept. They say that, despite the media’s characterization of “atheist mega-churches,” they are celebrating life, not atheism. On Twitter, this week, Jones spent time defending his organization against detractors.










The assembly’s Australian tour begins Sunday in Perth and continues through Nov. 24. Watch the group’s Indiegogo video below.

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