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Sunday Assembly is a “Godless” Congregation. What does that mean?

The public charter for the Sunday Assembly states:

The two comedic founders of Sunday Assembly:  Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans.
S. Jones

“The Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that celebrates life. Our motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Our mission: to help everyone find and fulfill their full potential. Our vision: a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.”

Notice that this one paragraph uses the phrase “godless congregation” twice. From experience, we’ve seen that many have questions as to what this phrase means.

The first word of the phrase raises the most questions, “godless.” The word “godless” simply denotes that nothing related to belief in God or the supernatural is ever mentioned. We treat it as if the “God hypothesis” is irrelevant. We don’t mention “God” because we have no need of God. For example, if we want to discuss how to have a meaningful life or how to have a great moral code, this has nothing to do with God.

Some people further ask “Is this ‘godless’ word just another word for ‘atheist?’” No, we are not simply using it for a replacement word, for several reasons. First, very few people self-identify with the word “atheist,” even if they are an atheist. For some, that label just brings too much negative baggage. Secondly, there are many people we are trying to reach who would prefer other such labels, such as “agnostic” or “spiritual but not religious.”

While we do not promote anything supernatural, we also abide by the charter rule #3 which states: “Has no deity. We don’t do the supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.” For this reason, Sunday Assembly may be a perfect solution for many people who would like to attend a church-like gathering but really do not want to hear anything related to supernatural beliefs. Or they may be involved in a mixed marriage (one believer and one not); so by our group not putting down the supernatural, we could be an option for this couple.

As an example of a person in a mixed relationship looking for a solution of a type of congregation to attend, consider this Dear Abby letter which could be representative of a significant segment of the population. (Note that Abby did not have a solution; perhaps she doesn’t know of Sunday Assembly.)

“Wife's Devotion To Husband Stops At The Church Door” By Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY:

About a year ago, my husband, "Scott," started attending church. He had never gone in the few years we dated.

We discussed our feelings about religion before we became engaged. He comes from a family that attended church every Sunday and believes in God. I was raised the exact opposite; I'm an atheist. I told Scott that if we had children, I would be OK with him taking them to church, but I would not join them. It bothered him a little, but we talked it over and moved on. After a difficult year that led to some mild depression (for which Scott sought help), he started going to church. I was happy for him because it seemed to help him.

After a few weeks he asked me to go with him. I went several times, but felt uncomfortable. I feel like a fraud sitting in the pew. Scott says he "wants my support" and that means attending with him. I suspect he's embarrassed to be there without his wife. I do not enjoy it. I have been offended by some of the messages that were imparted, and I would prefer having a couple of hours to myself on Sundays.

Abby, what should I do? Is there any middle ground here?
-- FEELING COERCED IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR FEELING COERCED:
Tell Scott that you are happy he has found comfort in going to church, but that you are not comfortable with what is being preached and find some of it offensive. Remind him that church attendance was not part of your agreement when you married him and that you value your solitary time at home the same way he appreciates the service. While you might relent and go with him on major holidays -- some non-believing spouses do that -- there really isn't a middle ground, and because you feel so strongly about it, you should stand yours.

The second word “congregation” is very simple: it just means a gathering of people. Some might this this is a religious word that corresponds only to religious gatherings, but most people understand how this word can also be used in a secular sense and doesn’t really imply anything at all regarding religion.

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Links:
1. Sunday Assembly Public Charter: http://tinyurl.com/nyumysf
2. Sunday Assembly Portland on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/ldtmtp9
3. Sunday Assembly on Meetup.com: http://tinyurl.com/m3k63xm
4. Sunday Assembly Portland on the web: http://tinyurl.com/lznz2ce