I see this question a lot on forums, and see the claim made frequently. It appears (click link here, please) some would like it to be as close to a religion as possible.
This sort of thing boggles my mind. What is the purpose? Is it the notion that more people would be atheists if they just had a local Sunday support group? That it is really about the singing and the sermons and the calls for contributions and help? Perhaps they are going to offer plusher seatings than the standard pew? I am pretty sure it is not those things that bring people to church.
Let’s look at the three aims of the Sunday Assembly. And remember these aims when we get to their 10 item Sunday Assembly.
We are here for everyone who wants to:
Live Better. We aim to provide inspiring, thought-provoking and practical ideas that help people to live the lives they want to lead and be the people they want to be
Help Often. Assemblies are communities of action building lives of purpose, encouraging us all to help anyone who needs it to support each other
Wonder More. Hearing talks, singing as one, listening to readings and even playing games helps us to connect with each other and the awesome world we live in.
Can anyone point to a single thing here that is different from… oh, say… church?
I have one question. Why point number two? Help often? Why? This is atheism we are talking about! Except for some “you scratch my back and, if you ever need it, I’ll scratch yours” I see no point to this whatsoever. What is the ground for helping another person? Sure, I can get a great one going for helping my parents, friends, close relations. How do you get the help part for a rotter in an atheistic framework? Or are we to assimilate the morality of Christianity (and it is Christianity we are talking about, the Sunday Assembly would have exactly one meeting in any Muslim slum-hole before ending in carcasses) as well as all the bells and whistles?
Let’s go over their ten points for the Sunday Assembly
Is 100% celebration of life. We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.
I do not know what a 100% celebration of life is supposed to be. Nor, for that matter, do I know what a 78% celebration of life is. Since the Sunday Assembly seeks to do pretty much what every other church already does, sans God, I don’t know how Sunday Assembly is 100% celebration of life. Does that mean Sunday Mass is only 48% celebration of life? The vagueness of humanism marches on.
We are not born from nothing. We are born from one sperm and one egg. Who the hell doesn’t know that? Besides that nitpicking, who the hell feels like celebrating after hearing “We are born from nothing and go to nothing”? You will die and your body will rot, whether it was for something or for nothing at all, after a 100 years it means as much as a wolf’s lonely crap in 56BC.
Hip hip woo hoo! Hip hip woo hoo!
2. Has no doctrine. We have no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources.
Has no doctrine? What about not believing in God??? Shouldn’t that be a bare minimum? But to be completely fair, what possible texts could they have? On The Origin of Species? What determines what texts are to be used? What determines what is wisdom and what is not in a vacuum? By what standard(s) are we choosing right and wrong, wisdom and non wisdom, what is a proper source and what is not?
3. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.
Then what is the point? What is the purpose of the “Assembly”? To feel good? Hey, I can do that for you where I work. And I am pretty good at dispensing good “wisdom” I haven’t the sense to use myself.
4. Is radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs – this is a place of love that is open and accepting.
I thought they were trying to show some difference from a church?
5. Is free to attend, not-for-profit and volunteer run. We ask for donations to cover our costs and support our community work.
Again, where is the difference? There is no cover-charge by a bouncer at the local church. As far as I know they still pass the plate. Looking at my local Catholic church website, they have a donation button on their website.
6. Has a community mission. Through our Action Heroes (you!), we will be a force for good.
Can get this from church. Or any number of community volunteer organizations. I fail to see why being part of a group of people who share a disbelief in something adds anything to the experience. For that matter, what would be the difference if I joined a bunch of people to be a force for good, but what united us was that we didn’t believe in UFO’s?
9. We won’t won’t tell you how to live, but will try to help you do it as well as you can.
But you already have. Item one asserts a positive belief of no afterlife, of being born of nothing and returning to nothing, item number three asserts that a believer in the supernatural is welcome and will not be told they are wrong. So, apparently, one is to keep their mouth shut.
The clear cut doctrine here is a tone of total non-judgement on lifestyle, belief , action and everything else. One can only surmise one rule out of all of this: Thou Shalt Judge Nothing. That is telling you how to live.
It is repeatedly stated that it is a lovable place where wisdom is shared and we are encouraged to go out and be “Heroes” i.e., helping others. That is telling you how to live. How would they get you to do this? Hey guys wouldn’t it be cool to put some warm jackets on these children for no reason that I can possibly think of? How could they make an atheist take the action of charity? By arguing that it is correct behavior, that it is right and proper to do so. That is telling you (alright, suggesting) how to live.
It’s really very sad. There is no reason these people could ever give me as atheists why I should not live out my life in the most coldly calculating serving of my self and its needs without a care in the world.