Bitter Split Riles Atheist Church

New York non-believers break off from London group
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2014 6:10 PM CST
Atheist Church Angrily Breaks Away From Franchise
British comedians and co-founders of the Sunday Assembly, Sanderson Jones, right, and Pippa Evans sing a song at the Sunday Assembly on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Atheist-church leaders in New York have bitterly broken away from their central church in London, creating what may be the first schism in modern organized atheism, CNN reports. Late last year, Lee Moore and two other members of The Sunday Assembly's franchise in New York broke off and created the Godless Revival. Moore alleges that Sanderson Jones, co-founder of The Sunday Assembly in London, wanted the New York group to "boycott the word atheism" and have no "speakers from the atheist community." Jones also wanted members to meet in a church-like setting rather than a Manhattan dive bar.

Jones called the schism "very sad," but said he hoped "there will soon be communities for every different type of atheist, agnostic and humanist." The breakup highlights just how diverse atheist churches are, from warm-and-fuzzy groups that experience wonderment at the universe to hardcore atheists who gather in a bar. The Assembly's Los Angeles chapter has moved toward so-called "big tent" atheism, to include various humanists and freethinkers—and why not? A Pew poll says 20% of Americans have no religious affiliation but don't consider themselves atheists. So does this divisiveness mean it's better to keep atheist churches local and unorganized? "Actually," says Moore, "we do have expansion aims." (More atheists stories.)

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