Atheist Megachurch? Non-Believers Convene in New Atheist Spaces

Atheists have built large communal gatherings across the country--sort of like church.

Minnesota Atheists march in the Twin Cities Gay Pride Parade on June 26, 2011.
Photo Credit: miker /

Atheists and nonbelievers are taking cues from Bible-readers: convening large gatherings filled with music, inspiration and reflection.  The Associated Press reports on a new trend among non-believers: “atheist megachurches.”

On Sunday, hundreds of people attended such an assembly in Los Angeles. Similar assemblies have been held around the country, including in San Diego, Nashville and New York.

The trend has its roots in the efforts of two British comedians named Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans.  Currently on a tour titled “40 Dates, 40 Nights,” the comedians are trying to raise money to build more of these atheist assemblies. They’re not vitriolic anti-Christians. Instead, they told the AP they want to create spaces to meet similar types of people and build community.

If you think about church, there's very little that's bad. It's singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people - and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?" Jones told the AP.

Their efforts to build up atheist spaces comes as new data shows Americans moving away from organized religion. Last year, the Pew Forum released a poll showing that 20 percent of Americans with no religious affiliation, an increase of five percent since the last five years. But that number also includes people who believe in God but are not involved in organized religion.

The “atheist megachurch” effort has been met with some pushback. “The idea that you're building an entire organization based on what you don't believe, to me, sounds like an offense against sensibility,” blogger Michael Luciano told the AP. “There's something not OK with appropriating all of this religious language, imagery and ritual for atheism.”


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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