LAAG TALK, "What is an 'atheist religion'? (Rev.) Pakula explains Unitarianism

  • December 9, 2013 · 7:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

We're delighted that (Rev) Andy Pakula, from New Unity Unitarians has graciously agreed to do a talk for us this month, so we can find out more about Unitarianism and why some atheists are unitarians. Andy will be discussing "what is an 'atheist religion'. He'll ask what it is and whether there is a place for it in the 21st century. I'm sure we will give him a friendly LAAG welcome, as well as asking frank questions! Andy has an interesting background ...


Andy Pakula is a Unitarian minister, a scientist, and an atheist.
Born in the US, Andy spent the first several decades of his life training to be a biologist and then working in the biotechnology industry.

Around midlife, with no less antipathy toward irrational belief, but with an increasing interest in the power of community, he found himself part of a Unitarian congregation - a place where questioning is almost a religious obligation. Feeling at home in that good-focused and god-optional environment, Andy became increasingly keen to use his talents in service of such communities. He began training to become a Unitarian minister and began his first ministry at New Unity in north London when he and his family moved to London in 2006. He continues to serve New Unity, which is now a thriving and diversity community of people intent on helping each other and working to make the world a better place.



£5  non members/ non RSVP'd members
£3  LAAG/CLHG members, £2 NUS (if RSVP'd)

Please note:

People who are no shows more than twice in a year (from 10/9/13) will not be eligible for discount, so please update RSVP's ;-) RSVP facility will close automatically, at 17:00 on the day of the event.

★★★ If you have a genuine issue after that time, or are a 'maybe' for some reason etc., just please LET US KNOW in the comment boxes below & that'll be no problem ★★★

This is guide only & we won't be draconican in the case of occasional slip-ups, illness etc so don't worry!... but people just showing up or no shows makes organising difficult (& possibly denies others from attending fully booked events) so we do ask for this small courtesy, please.


19:00- 19:20 General arrival upstairs (please get drinks and order any food DOWNSTAIRS first)

19:30 Discussion /Talk starts PROMPTLY, till latest 21:30 (but flexible)

Social time, drinks & nibbles, till 22:30


From the New Unity website:

In the Western world, we expect religion to be defined by belief and by scripture. We are most familiar with a kind of religion that begins with “I believe” and then everything else flows from that. 

Unitarians are different.  We define our religion by the kind of people we want to be, by the work we do for others, and by the communities we create and sustain.  When people of open heart and open mind unite in community to share their stories, their beliefs, their joys and their sorrows, what emerges is a spirituality that comes from deep within - a spirituality that is more felt and immediate and personally relevant than anything that can be written or taught. 

Unitarianism nurtures each one of us to grow toward wholeness and connection and unites us to do the hard and essential work of creating a better world.

We affirm and promote:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person;Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;The goal of free, just, and peaceful world community;Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.


- For atheist unitarians, why bother with religion at all?

- How does unitarianism differ from humanism, in essence?

-  Feel free to add your own questions or comments in the comments boxes below (these comments boxes are for pre and post event discussion TO DO WITH THIS PARTICULAR MEETUP - please use the forum to start discussions about anything else)

Though these midweek events are usually structured talks/debates/discussions, they are nevertheless fairly informal; so the bar is usually open upstairs in the break and feel free to order food and have it during the event (simple but pretty good we've been told).

We start the discussion promptly at 19:30. As a courtesy to others, please try to turn up by 19:20 ... if at all possible :-)   If a late arrival can't be helped, no worries, just come in quietly :-)

The usual end time for discussion is 21:30pm, but this is flexible if people want to continue with the discussion, and usually we have some social time afterwards until 10:30pm (or until the pub closes!)

The meetup fee either goes towards costs of running the group, including  where applicable, equipment, room, prizes, nibbles etc, or towards specific campaigns and causes when we can cover other costs.

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  • Georgi L.

    David Miller suggested 'Jedi' instead of Rev ;-)

    December 13, 2013

    • Alex D

      That might cause confusion with the Universal Life Church I mentioned earlier, as they do have an "Order of Jedi" :-) http://en.wikipedia.o...­

      December 13, 2013

  • Kieron

    Hi Andrew, I don't know who your 'target market' is, and tbh I'm not sure you do either. Calling yourself 'reverend' is hardly the best way to attract non believers to your 'ministry',,, quite the opposite in fact. Imv your title should reflect what you do do,, not what you don't do.

    December 11, 2013

    • Andrew

      Thanks Kieron. I think you're right about that. I'm not usually called Reverend, although that's the title I earned (with a heck of a lot of work, mind you). But anything that is an impediment to reaching everyone who would like what we offer should go! When I got my PhD in biology they neglected to mention that evolving is not for the faint of heart! Everything that isn't adaptive to the new environment has got to go, no matter how attached you are to it or how hard you had to work to get it.

      December 11, 2013

  • Eric

    Well how about we have some light hearted suggestions for a suitable campaign slogan for the Unitarians ... I am going to put my thinking cap on

    1 · December 11, 2013

  • Eric

    Very interesting talk by Andy... I think his group need some better PR though

    December 10, 2013

    • Andrew

      you sure you don't do PR? Volunteers welcome!

      1 · December 11, 2013

  • Andrew

    Hi all. Some of you asked for the slides. Here's a link to see the whole set.

    Thanks again for such a warm reception. You're a lovely bunch of folks and I will be back (in the audience, this time!)

    December 11, 2013

  • Andrew

    I'll post a link to my slides here in a day or two. Thanks so much for the warm welcome!

    3 · December 10, 2013

    • Georgi L.

      Many thanks Andy, and thanks for the talk - it was a pleasure having you along. (and a warm welcome to LAAG! .. hope to see you at some of our other events perhaps :-) A couple of the people yesterday said they are going to come along to your church.

      December 10, 2013

  • Georgi L.

    Many thanks to Andy Pakula for an interesting presentation. I found him very likeable & warm, & also appreciated that he seemed to be really thinking about & answering questions genuinely. I can see why Andy's style and warmth would appeal, but as he did say himself, it is probably the exception that his 'church' allows questioning etc - more down to him that to Unitarianism.

    December 10, 2013

  • Daniel

    Hi all

    Sorry I was stuck in a meeting to 19.00 last night and by the time I got out it was too late to attend the talk. I could also not get to a computer to change my rsvp. Hope my space didnt go to waste.

    Hope it was good.

    December 10, 2013

    • Georgi L.

      No worries Daniel, thanks and see you soon

      December 10, 2013

  • Pete P.


    December 10, 2013

  • Georgi L.

    Here is a link to similar stuff that's happening in Holland where 1 in 6 clergy are atheists! :

    December 4, 2013

    • Andrew

      This is an interesting link. They seem to be reinventing Religious Humanism from the early 20th century http://en.wikipedia.o...­

      December 9, 2013

    • Georgi L.

      Popin' custard, there's loads of atheist religions! Who knew.

      December 8, 2013

    • Andrew

      Atheist religion has been around for a very long time. It's nothing new, but it has some new embodiments lately.

      December 9, 2013

  • David M.

    Sorry cannot make this one, work commitment. Will be able to make Friday though.

    1 · December 9, 2013

  • Andrew

    Can anyone help me understand how Unitarianism can be of assistance to any rational atheist?

    December 4, 2013

    • Georgi L.

      I guess for some people that's where they fit though. Can we expect people from every background, circumstance, intellect, and stage of their lives (age) to be able to leave the familiar scenario altogether? I think as the non believing community becomes better at Community as well as confident challenging of faith and divorcing it from morality (as I think we're doing here at LAAG), then perhaps some people will see alternatives but right now there isn't really that perception is there? I think Unitarianism, the S.A, Humanism all have a part to play in taking down classical religion, and all appeal to slightly different mind sets perhaps. Not sure about the "Church of the Sub Genius" though!

      December 8, 2013

    • Adrian

      The church of the Sub genius is surely Subway, those cunningly over-priced baguette shops. It doesn't fit the model of a traditional church though because for the contribution you receive actual nourishment (a conveyor-belt sandwich) rather than ethereal nourishment (i.e. fuck all packaged with a mild form of brain damage).

      1 · December 8, 2013

  • sandra

    I'm going to attempt to put flowers on Mandela statue first. Anyone else?

    December 6, 2013

    • Georgi L.

      Did you mean to post that here Sandra ...or am I missing a link between Mandela and unitarianism/ atheist religions ;-)

      December 7, 2013

  • Roger

    Unfortunately I can't make Monday evenings during term time.

    November 13, 2013

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