Can 'Atheist Church' Sunday Assembly Go Global With New Crowd-Funding Campaign?

The Sunday Assembly, often called the "atheist church," wants to be a “global movement for wonder and good." Over the weekend, the organization launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to make that dream a reality.

Founded in London by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, who call their atheist movement a "godless congregation that celebrates life," the Sunday Assembly seeks to raise 500,000 pounds (about $800,000) with the Indiegogo campaign, launched Oct. 20 and ending Nov. 25. The group plans to use the funds to establish a Sunday Assembly "in every town, city and village that wants one.” As of Monday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $18,000.

Though the funding goal may sound overly ambitious, the founders told Vice Magazine that the sum reflects their "massive and totally inspiring mission: to help everyone live this one life as fully as possible."

Critics and fans alike colloquially refer to the organization as an atheist church, but the founders prefer to think of their group as “the best bits of church, but with no religion, and super pop tunes.” Sermons can include anything from a "reading from Alice in Wonderland to a power-point presentation from a particle physicist," according to the BBC.

Jones and Evans see their Sunday congregations as a fun alternative to the meetings held by Humanist and Unitarians-- which Jones calls “dour."

“Why on earth aren't people clapping and dancing around and jumping up and down at those gatherings?" he wondered in an interview with ABC News.

Sunday Assembly's approach has attracted a considerable amount of interest. The group’s original London congregation has swelled to 300 members, and the comedians say they’ve received hundreds of letters from people who want to know how to establish their own local congregation. The founders anticipate establishing 35 congregations worldwide by the end of the year, according to their Indiegogo page.

Despite this sunny forecast, Sunday Assembly has acquired its fair share of critics, who fear that the movement risks "turning atheism into its own sort of religion."

One outspoken critic, Lev Lafayette, helped establish a Sunday Assembly in Melbourne but later broke away from the group. In a letter he eventually published on his blog, he called the organization a "business with a volunteer network," and he warned that the group is a "private, for-profit company that will receive income from the volunteers and congregation members."

The Sunday Assembly responded on its blog, calling the group's private status a temporary measure intended to enable its expansion. The post added that, in the meantime, "there have been zero-profits, only costs."