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California Sunday Assembly Offers Church for Atheists

Growing numbers of Americans have no religious affiliation. Some call themselves skeptics or atheists, and others say they are spiritual, not religious. Now, some are getting involved in a movement called the Sunday Assembly, a sort of church for non-believers.

There is inspirational music, a dramatic poetry reading, and a collection to pay for the rented hall.

The Sunday Assembly movement, which started in Britain last year, has come to Los Angeles, one Sunday each month.

Amy Boyle helped set up the Los Angeles Assembly, which she says is godless.

“The organizers do not believe in a personal god, and we realize that most of the people attending do not," she said. "We do not spend a lot of time belaboring that point. We feel like, if that is our starting point, then the next question is what do we do from here?”

Meeting other skeptics is part of the attraction of the once-a-month assembly, says Louise Monaco.

“Because a lot of people who are atheists and agnostics and skeptics and so forth feel very isolated in the mainstream world, and it is difficult to find a community in which you can speak honestly and openly without expecting some degree of religious condemnation,” she said.

Instead of a Sunday sermon, a visiting professor of secular studies highlights the blessings of disbelief. The Pew Research Center says one in five Americans has no religious affiliation - and one third of those under the age of 30. Professor Phil Zuckerman says many have no need for Sunday meetings.

“But there is a percentage of people who have walked away from religion who still crave the things that religion provides, other than the supernatural beliefs - like community, things for kids, moral and ethical engagement with the wider community out there, causes for social justice, music,” he said.

Members have the chance to volunteer with charities. Some help children with their studies at an inner city housing project.

Organizer Ian Dodd says members of this movement see some value in religion.

“It has been said before, but we are trying to take the best bits of organized religion and just jettison the part that does not work for us. In a way, we are trying to keep the bathwater while we throw out the baby Jesus,” he said.

And create congregations for growing numbers of non-believers.