November 16, 2013

Nonbelievers unite: Athiests find community at megachurch services

The movement is fueled by social media, offers lively activities for getting acquainted and is spearheaded by two British comedians, but it’s no joke.

The Associated Press

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Heina Dadabhoy, left, plays a game with an unidentified attendee at the Sunday Assembly, an athiest congregation founded by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, on Sunday in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press

“There’s something not OK with appropriating all of this religious language, imagery and ritual for atheism,” said Luciano, who blogged about the movement at the site policymic.com.

That sentiment didn’t seem to detract from the excitement Sunday at the inaugural meeting in Los Angeles.

Hundreds of atheists and atheist-curious packed into a Hollywood auditorium for a boisterous service filled with live music, moments of reflection, an “inspirational talk” about forgotten – but important – inventors and scientists and some stand-up comedy.

MAKING JOYFUL NOISES

During the service, attendees stomped their feet, clapped their hands and cheered as Jones and Evans led the group through rousing renditions of “Lean on Me,” “Here Comes the Sun” and other hits that took the place of gospel songs. Congregants dissolved into laughter at a get-to-know-you game that involved clapping and slapping hand with others and applauded as members of the audience spoke about community service projects they had started in LA.

At the end, volunteers passed cardboard boxes for donations as attendees mingled over coffee and pastries and children played on the floor.

For atheist Elijah Senn, the morning was perfect. “I think the image that we have put forward ... we want to do destructive things kind of image....” he said. “I’m really excited to be able to come together and show that it’s not about destruction. It’s about making things and making things better.”

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