Friday, January 03, 2014

In response, the founders of Sunday Assembly [for nonbelievers] — Ms [Pippa] Evans and fellow comedian Sanderson Jones — have travelled across the US seeking to implant new “assemblies” in coastal cities, in Chicago and even in Nashville, deep in America’s Bible Belt. Jonathan Tobert, 67, a semi-retired research physician, was appointed to serve as a sort of archbishop for this vast new diocese.

Like the Pilgrim Fathers, they have met with controversy and schism. There was even a solitary protester who stood outside one meeting declaring Mr Jones — who has a luxuriant red beard — to be an agent of the devil.

The New York congregation endured what Mr Tobert called “a healthy split”. “One group wanted a more edgy thing, in bars. We called them the hawks. We, the doves, wanted to have it more churchy. Sanderson agreed that was more his vision.” The hawks split off into a separate movement called “The Godless Revival” which meets in a bar near Times Square. “This has always been a problem for secular people,” said Mr Tobert. “They are by definition free thinkers. It can be like herding cats.”

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