We spent a long time this afternoon with TIME Magazine reporter Josh Sanburn at their offices in Manhattan. We talked with Josh all about our film and our observations on the unprecedented, exponential change in America’s religious landscape. We actually had a great time with Josh. Simply put, it was fun to be able to have an intense conversation with someone who is observing and writing about the same things we are. As well as a great affirmation that what we are covering in the film is noteworthy of at least mention at the highest level’s in media and news. We wonder what life will be like when we actually get a publicist!?
NYC’s First Sunday Assembly – June 30 at 12:30 – In A Bikini Bar
The idea of a “Sunday Assembly” is not entirely novel. Atheist or godless congregations have been springing up around America and Canada for a few years now. Mike Aus, a member of The Clergy Project, spearheaded Houston Oasis – a Sunday morning “service for nonbelievers” after leaving a 20-year career in ministry. Gretta Vosper told her congregation in Ontario she didn’t believe in God or the fundamental tenets of Christianity, and her church’s board supported her and much of the flock happily went along. So, this is already happening. What’s novel is the modified concept of British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, who started London’s Sunday Assembly in early 2013. They’re now trying to get them started in America. Executive Director of The Clergy Project Catherine Dunphy contacted us in April to put us in touch with Sanderson, who needed help launching a Sunday Assembly in New York City.
What we learned in traveling much of the country conducting interviews for the film was that many people who’ve left religion say that the thing they miss most is the “sense of community” that church formerly provided them. Now, whether this will prove applicable or appealing to NYC’s notoriously sophisticated, somewhat hip, and truly diverse residents is yet to be seen. It does seem though that there is benefit from growing a secular community. So, toward that end, we will be participating in NYC’s first ever Sunday Assembly. We will be showing a brief clip of REFUSING MY RELIGION and speaking to the “congregation” about our experiences making the film. There will also be a live band doing fun sing-alongs to rock tunes you know and probably love, as well as engaging speakers plus the opportunity to meet some other nice godless NYC folks.
Oh, and did we say that the first Sunday Assembly is taking place in a bikini bar? Yup, it is. Finding a venue and arranging speakers and musicians and doing outreach has been no simple feat in the past few weeks, so one of the organizers came across Tobacco Road and it just happened to have everything needed to accommodate NYC’s first Sunday Assembly, including scantily clad bartenders. Not insensitive the “family-friendly” nature of its originators’ concept to include children, the bar has offered to have its employees “cover up a bit” for the event. SA is still considering whether that might be necessary. What’s really most appealing about the space is that there is a back room where bands perform, complete with stage, drum kit and amplifiers for a potentially rocking good time. Whether SA continues to do it depends on several factors, not the least of which is the venue’s future availability on Sundays.
In any case, the first Sunday Assembly is taking place at 12:30 p.m. on June 30th in Tobacco Road, 355 W. 41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. The NY Daily News and The Gothamist have already covered the story. And the Daily News is sending another reporter back to cover the event. Should be fun. A NYC godless congregation hosted by an English comedian in a bikini bar? What’s not exciting about that?
To learn more about the Sunday Assembly visit them here: http://sundayassembly.com
NYC Press about this event:
REFUSING MY RELIGION
Sometimes Finding Salvation Means Losing Your Faith
This story could only take place in America. What happens when preachers lose their faith and become atheist activists?
WHAT IS THIS DOCUMENTARY ABOUT?
Our feature-length documentary, REFUSING MY RELIGION, examines through intimate first-person accounts the experiences of clergy members who have left their careers in ministry, renounced religion, and gone on to become prominent figures in the secular movement.
When ministers lose their faith and “come out” not only as non-believers but as atheist activists, this is a clear indication that our society is transforming right before our eyes. We are making the definitive film about the unprecedented and rapid changes to the religious and cultural landscape of America.
As the internet and access to information continue to shape our world, religion now finds itself in a place it has never been before.
The Clergy Project is an online safe haven for former or active ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, etc. who have “moved beyond faith”. The website went public in March of 2011 with 52 original members; since then it has increased to 425.
The Clergy Project grew indirectly out of the 2010 Tufts University study “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” conducted by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola. In 2011 The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science provided funding to help launch TCP. Some of TCP’s founders include Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, clinical research consultant Linda LaScola, Clergy Project Executive Director Catherine Dunphy, and Executive Director of the RDFRS Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell.
“I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself”
Candace Gorham, Ex-Shevangelist: The Rarest of Atheists
Truth be told, Candace Gorham is a microscopically tiny sliver of the overall shifting demographic trend toward non-belief in America. Like a little-known-of, truly rare specimen in the wondrous biosphere of human life, Candace might well be one of just a truly small few, if not the only black female former evangelical minister turned atheist. Who came out! And who now is writing a book: The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking out on Religion—and Others Should Too
But getting to Candace was no easy feat. With an almost anthropological determination, we picked up pieces of stories, discovered names, and were led in the right direction. In the midst of everything, Catherine Dunphy’s vital support as Executive Director of The Clergy Project facilitated an exchange between Todd Stiefel and us. Many know of Todd for his Stiefel Freethought Foundation’s philanthropy within the atheist movement. But what many don’t know is that he’s also a dedicated hands-on activist. As soon we were in touch, he began offering to help. He then facilitated interviews for Refusing My Religion with Dr. Bruce Little of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and with Christian radio-show host of Called2Action Steve Noble. And then at a Triangle Freethought Society meeting in Raleigh, of which Todd is also a part, that night’s speaker was Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. She was giving a presentation to a huge room packed with atheists in the belly of the Bible belt about the “rise of the Nones” and how this directly affects the movement’s lobbying efforts in D.C. It was an extraordinary atmosphere, given the geography. So, through due diligence and the efforts of numerous people willing to help along the way, we eventually met Candace. And this is how it’s been time and again while making this film. An intricate odyssey of truly impressive people and unforgettable experiences all interwoven “like it was meant to be.” Our ramblings eventually caught us up with the one and only Candace Gorham.
Then, we were interviewed on the radio last week by another journalist also with that same anthropological hunger, Jamila Bey. Jamila is one of the few others so dialed into this evolving socio-cultural landscape that she also knew of Candace, and of what Candace does for Recovering From Religion, Darrel Ray’s organization which has been at the vanguard of supporting refusers of religion. (You can hear us on Jamila Bey’s radio show here discussing Candace and the making of Refusing My Religion) http://voicerussia.com/radio_broadcast/72286564/110545611.html )
Candace, rare as she may be, can speak for untold numbers of black women in America who feel suffocated by a faith they no longer have. Or anyplace where women are oppressed by religion for that matter. How many will she inspire to live truthfully regardless of the inevitable consequences? And, how important is her book, The Ebony Exodus Project, to the Secular movement… ?
So now, a glimpse of REFUSING MY RELIGION’s interview with the courageous and pioneering Candace Gorham…
CANDACE’S BOOK LINK:
ALL OTHER LINKS:
We are so fired up to be on the air with the great Jamila Bey this Thursday, April 11th from 6-7 PM est. We will be on for the entire hour discussing our experiences making our documentary REFUSING MY RELIGION. Please listen in and feel free to share the info. Listen to us here live: http://ruvr.condensa.ru/ruvr05_eng_us.html Thank you!
Jamila’s show is also carried by:
Washington, DC: AM 1390 AND WTOP 103.5 FM HD-2
NYC: AM 1430
Chicago: WILV 100.3 FM HD-2
Miami: 99.9 HD-2.
Jamila’s website: http://sparwithjamila.com
Jamila Bey is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., where she hosts the weekly radio show: SPAR with Jamila Bey, which airs on AM 1390 in Washington and AM 1430 in New York City.
Jamila is also a contributor to the Washington Post blog, “She the People,” and a frequent guest on the MSNBC show, “Up With Chris Hayes.”