Sunday, 9 February 2014

Atheist Gathering - "an emotional experience"


A few months ago I wrote about why I would not be going back to 'Atheist Church'. I just stumbled across this article from thejournal.ie 
(http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/atheist-gathering-dublin-1219658-Dec2013/) about the evening. I remember speaking with the Journalist who wrote the piece and my quote is accurate. What is interesting is Sanderson Jones' reply to the point I raised, which I was unaware of until now. 

"Aisling O’Brien (sic) was there as the sole representative of Atheist Ireland (I wasn't, I was there on a personal capacity). Many other members were away in Galway for the Convention on the Constitution where Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland, continued the on-going fight to get blasphemy removed from the constitution of Ireland.

Ms. O’Brien had similar misgivings to Mr. Keegan. “For me, I was just preached to for the night and that was a total turn off”. Ms. O’Brien, who organises gatherings for atheists and agnostics on MeetUp, didn’t enjoy the lack of a communal dialogue. “I think there is a need for an atheist community. And that’s why we have MeetUps so we can get to know one another. It’s not about bringing everyone together and saying ‘Hallelujah!’ It’s a quick-fix way to create a feeling of community; a blunt tool to use”.
Mr. Jones said they purposefully use the church service format as their priority is to reconnect people with a sense of wonder about life “and you see people that have that feeling of wonder being connected with God, so we just take the same techniques and use them to connect with other things”.
When confronted with Ms. O’Brien’s complaint about the one-way nature of the dialogue, Mr. Jones responds: “Does Lady Gaga offer a Q & A session? No! She offers an emotional experience.” That’s what he claims The Sunday Assembly also aims to do: “We’re creating an experience designed to appeal to people’s heads and hearts”.
I think if Lady Gaga was claiming to "to help everyone find and fulfill (sic) their full potential" (http://sundayassembly.com/about/) as the Sunday Assembly is, she would possibly take the time to enter into a reciprocal dialogue with those she is claiming to help. Jones is a performer (his background is in stand-up comedy) and I can’t help but wonder at his motivation for this initiative. Is he answering his own need for an audience? Atheists are constantly being told that Atheism is a religion and the setting up of an ‘Atheist Church’ does nothing but confuse this issue further. However, even more worrying is if the co-founder of this ‘Church’ feels that its purpose is just to arouse emotional responses in its ‘congregation’. I believe that the organisers and volunteers who are involved with the Sunday Assembly at a local level have nothing but the very best of intentions and motivations but I have concerns about the motivations of the co-founder of what is fast becoming a global network.

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