The Atheist Church | Have a Little Faith with Zach AnnerOtis Rodgers October 12, 2019 100 Comments
-There is no God! That’s something
I usually only exclaim when I’m out of ice cream or there’s not a movie
I can watch on Netflix. But Atheism is a very important
belief system in this country. And today we’re gonna meet one
from Los Angeles. Her name’s Sarah,
and she actually started something called
the Sunday Assembly, where a bunch of atheists all get together with their families
on Sunday mornings, and there’s singing
and food and community. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Kind of like
a church for atheists. So let’s go see
what this is all about, and we’re gonna have
a little faith in people
who don’t believe in God. Hello! -Hello!
-Nice to meet you. -Hi, Zach, I’m Sarah Barker
with Sunday Assembly. -Awesome!
Nice to meet you. So, are you ready
to talk all about atheism? -Absolutely.
-All right. Let’s go thank science
for this beautiful day. -Let’s do it.
-Wait, there’s got to be
an easier way to do this. Is this cool?
Does this look cool on camera? Hold on. Bye! We just met
like three minutes ago. -Yes. [ Chuckles ] -Can you tell me
a little bit about yourself? -Sure. I teach
at Pasadena City College. -What do you teach?
-I teach TV, radio, and film production.
-I was a major of that. -Were you?
-You’re an atheist. -Yes, I am.
-And that’s why we’re talking. What is an atheist? -I think most of the people
that I’ve talked to who identify as being an atheist
would say kind of, like, what I feel about it,
you know, which is, “I need evidence
in the existence of some kind of supernatural deity,
an interventionist deity.” And then for some folks,
they’re a lot more hard-lined. They absolutely don’t believe
in the possibility. And then others are a little bit
softer on the other side of it. I think it’s kind of
a squishy subject. -It’s squishy.
-It’s squishy. -Atheists are kind of defined by
what they don’t believe. Are there any things
that all atheists do believe? -You know, I don’t think
that all atheists — You know, if you are an atheist,
X, Y, and Z. Fill in the blank. You know,
“All atheists think this,” or, “All atheists feel this.”
I think there’s a spectrum. For instance,
I think if you were to ask a lot of people
that founded Sunday Assembly, they would say, “I do believe
in celebrating life ’cause we’re here
and that’s awesome.” They would say, “It’s important
to be of service to others. It’s a part of our human
experience that gives us joy.” -I think celebrating life
is wonderful. But how do you not get depressed when you think about
the rotting-in-the-ground part? -I think it makes
me appreciate life more because I don’t think I’m gonna
be going anywhere after I die, and so this is the shot
that I have. This is it. And how can I leave the world
a better place? I think life is miraculous.
I think evolution is miraculous. And I look at it
as a great adventure. You know, who knows what’s
gonna happen after this life? -What do you think atheism has allowed
you to experience in life that religion couldn’t? -Whatever kind of life
I’m gonna have, it’s really up to me
to create that life, and I can do that through
actions and words and deeds. So in a way,
I think it’s very freeing. There’s a freedom there.
-You choose your own path, and, you know, a lot of people that are Christian
or from other religions say, “Well, if God’s not watching,
what’s to keep atheists from, you know,
thieving and murdering and doing all sorts
of bad stuff?” -We know when we do something that’s hurtful
to ourselves and others. You know, it’s experiential.
You feel it. It really kind of demeans
our human evolution to suppose that we can’t be
kind and generous and not go out and kill
a bunch of people just because we don’t
have a God concept. -That’s a good segue
into where we are now. We’re at the Sunday Assembly. What is the Sunday Assembly? ‘Cause
when I heard about it, I thought it sounded
like an atheist church. -Sunday Assembly was founded by
Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. They’re actually
stand-up comedians in London. We all kind of got together
and we looked at the model and we said, “Hey,
here’s somebody who’s trying to keep the focus
on, you know, celebrating life and celebrating the one life
that we have ’cause this is it.” ‘Cause we believe that after — I believe that
when I’m dead, I’m dead. I’m gonna be in the ground,
and my body’s gonna deteriorate. It wasn’t this negative bashing
of religion. It was, “Let’s celebrate life.”
-Wait, wait. Can you tell me what happens
at the Sunday Assembly, what I can expect
when we go in there? -There are aspects of it
that are a lot like church. But there’s singing.
There’s sing-a-longs. [music] But you got to keep
your head up, oh [music] [music] And let your hair down, yeah [music] [music] But you got to keep
your head up, whoa [music] [music] And you can let
your hair down, yeah [music] [music] I know it’s hard… [music]
-We also have an emcee. Today we have Amy Boyle, who’s one of our organizers,
will be emceeing it. There’s an icebreaker.
-We do icebreakers because we think
that it would be very sad to sit in a room for an hour next to strangers with like
values and ignore them. You got to pair up with someone
you don’t already know. You’re gonna give that person
three compliments. -I’m originally from Buffalo. Just moved to Los Angeles. Now I host a show on YouTube
that’s being filmed right now. Well, first of all,
you’re a very snappy dresser. You’re a confident person. I wish that I had your mustache
is what I’m getting at. I’m enamored already,
even though we just met. -Zach, I can tell about you that you are a very social
person, that you’re a person who can put themself out there
with absolute confidence and be on a social platform, which is something
that I really envy. -You want to hug it out, man? -I absolutely
want to hug it out. -There’s also science. You know, there’s also speakers that come and talk
about science. -You have people
come and talk about science in the same way
that a preacher would educate people
about Scripture. -Yeah.
-Next up is our keynote speaker. He’s an author of several books, including one coming out
called “The Secular Life.” Please join me in welcoming
Phil Zuckerman. [ Cheers and applause ] -Look,
if you’re secular, this is it. This time, this world,
this life. We could talk
about other pillars of secular society —
other values, like reason, rationalism, making decisions
based on evidence. There is one area where religious culture
tends to do a bit better, and that is
strong communal bonds. And I have one answer
to that, and it’s got two words — Sunday Assembly.
Whoo! [ Applause ]
Thank you. -It’s completely volunteer-run. We all just show up.
We pitch in. We’ve been turning out
pretty big numbers. So there obviously is
a real interest and need here, but in terms of what it is, I think we’re still trying
to figure that out. -The question for me is,
“Okay, if God’s not watching, why are we still getting up
so early on Sundays,” right? Can’t we have this
on Tuesday afternoon? -Yeah, and that’s
a really great question. -And why can’t I come
in my pajamas? -Well, you could.
You could come in your pajamas. -Oh, I could have?
I just did not get the memo. -Yeah, we should have put that
in the e-blast. -Now it’s time
for everyone’s favorite. We have
some attractive volunteers in the back with colorful boxes. This is the other part that makes
Sunday Assembly possible — the collection. -Wait, I’ve got more cash.
Here’s $2. It’s just like church. Is there a danger of something
like the Sunday Assembly becoming a religion in itself? -I think there could potentially
be a danger there because, you know, you’ve got people
who are coming here who — Maybe they’re just now
coming into what they identify as atheism. And then you also have people
who come here that are
really hard-lined atheist. How do you find
an experience here that’s pleasing
to all ends of that spectrum? ‘Cause
you can’t please everybody. You know, I think we kind of
have some growing pains still. We’re still trying
to kind of work it out. What’s it look like? -If you’re not doing anything
for lunch and you haven’t filled up
on pastries, we will be heading
over to the Cat & Fiddle on Sunset,
just west of Cahuenga. They’re expecting
a big group of us. It’s a lot of fun. So if you’ve got a little time,
that would be excellent. -So Sarah invited me
to the Cat & Fiddle after Sunday Assembly ’cause apparently it’s where all the secularists hang out
together and just talk
about science and assembly. So far,
it seems like Sunday Assembly is just like church
but without God. So let’s go drink
in the afternoon because no one’s watching. Hey!
-Hello! [ Chuckles ] You made it! You made it.
-How’s it going? -[ Chuckles ] -What do you normally do here? -Eat and drink. -Is this the cool table? -This is the cool table. -You are at the cool table. -Have you all been atheists
for many years? -Only about 53.
-53. And how old are you right now?
-53. -Sunday Assembly
is not an atheist organization. It’s a secular organization.
At least my understanding. And we want people
to feel comfortable there. -I looked around
at Christianity, looked around at all
the other things, and I thought, “Personally, I just thought that atheism
seemed the most logical to me.” -What made you guys decide
on the Cat & Fiddle for your post… -The founder of Sunday Assembly
from London — I had e-mailed him and said, “I’d love to get together
with you for a beer.” And we came here
to the Cat & Fiddle, and that was the beginning
of Sunday Assembly Los Angeles. And so we have come here
every single Sunday after the Assembly. -This is almost
what the equivalent of, like, a holy place would be.
[ Laughter ] -This is like
the pilgrimage to Mecca. -That’s right.
-Everybody here — Our largest crowd here at
the Cat & Fiddle is here today. -I’m gonna head out,
but thank you so much for sharing your story with me. And everybody’s been
so wonderful and welcoming. I really appreciate it.
-Can I give you a hug? -Hugs… So, I’ve had a really lovely day with a bunch of humanists
and atheists and secularists, whatever the difference is. What I’ve learned is
that whether you’re religious or believe in God or not, we’re all trying to figure out
this crazy life. And atheists are no different
just trying to find meaning and trying to provide service and help to others in need. And that’s universal, whether you believe in God
or not. So I would like to say to all my
atheist and secularist friends, “No one bless you, but you’re
awesome just the same.”