Just for a laugh: London gets its first church for atheists

TODAY sees the launch of a new church in the UK, and, unless it’s within a satirical context, there’ll be very little sermonising about that dirty bugger, Jesus.

Comics Pippa and Sanderson

Comics Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones

The church, in Islington, has been set up for for the godless by stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, and, according to this report, will bring together an atheist congregation in the Nave in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury for a variety of “services” – with wedding ceremonies and funerals for non-believers even on the cards.

News of the launch of the church, which will meet on the first Sunday of every month starting today with a “service” on the Feast of Epiphany, comes after the census results revealed recently that nearly one in three residents are atheists.

Jones and Evans, a musical improvisation comedienne, who had a BBC Radio 4 show called Showstopper, came up with the idea for The Sunday Assembly after agreeing they liked many aspects of religion but didn’t believe in a god.

Said Jones, who recently became the first person to sell out the Sydney Opera House by personally selling all the tickets:

We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement. It’s part atheist church and part foot-stomping show. There will be a speaker on a theme each month but there will also be an awesome house band, which Pippa will lead. We’ll be helping people try and stick to their new year’s resolutions in the first service.

The comics will invite speakers to talk on a different theme every month, starting with children’s author Andy Stanton, who writes the Mr Gum series, on the topic of “Beginnings”. Future guest speakers include fellow comedians Josie Long, Lucy Porter and Arthur Smith.

Jones added:

We all should be ludicrously excited every single moment to be alive in one of the best countries in the world. If the church becomes a useful place for others, that would be a good thing. We just want people to feel encouraged and excited when they leave.

But the Rev Saviour Grech, Catholic parish priest of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Amwell Street, Finsbury, is sceptical:

How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to?

It is important to debate and engage with atheists but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far. I’m cautious about it.

According to the Christian Institute, last year Alain de Botton, a philosopher and writer, wanted to build a 46-metre tower to celebrate atheism as a positive force.

But Professor Dawkins said:

Atheists don’t need temples. I think there are better things to spend this kind of money on.


21 responses to “Just for a laugh: London gets its first church for atheists”

  1. Marky Mark says:

    (How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to?)

    Can’t they sing just for the sake of singing, to make beautiful harmonies? This is a perfect example of the religious thinking, only THEY are capable of being happy and bring joy to others. But the “Others” are always a select few that they approve of.

    Their hypocrisy is never ending, especially since Rock & Roll was once considered the Devils music and now they use it in their church to recruit young people.

  2. remigius says:

    ‘How can you be an atheist and worship in a church?

    Rev Grinch seems unaware that the nascent Christian church commandeered pagan places of worship. Perhaps holding a rational service in a Christian church will cleanse it of its ambient stupidity.

  3. remigius says:

    And Sanderson Jones looks like Baby Jesus!

  4. Chris Hughes says:

    And Sanderson Jones looks like Baby Jesus!

    How do you know what Baby Jesus looked like? Don’t tell me you found his driving licence…

  5. remigius says:

    I walk past him every day. He’s nailed to a plank outside my local church.

  6. remigius says:

    Baby Jesus, I mean, not Sanderson Jones!

  7. Ryan morrigan says:

    As an atheist, I find this “atheist church” crap offensive. To suggest that you need a church to foster community events is ridiculous. Have your atheist meetings and events, but don’t call it a “church”. “Church” has a specific meaning; one that implies ignorance and blind adherence to superstition. Us atheists are trying to separate ourselves from that. These atheist “churches” just validate all those religious nuts’ claim that atheism is just another religion. Even if this is just a mockery, the headlines will all read “hypocrisy”. Not helping our cause.

  8. Matt Westwood says:

    This calls to mind the Sunday Sermon, hosted by Preacher John. It was an open mic night that ran in Reading for a while a few years ago. It was kickin.

    I think this idea is brilliant. Mind, I’d only go if I were already up at that time on a Sunday and at a loose end – Sunday morning is usually when I’m either getting plenty work done or catching up on sleep.

  9. Broga says:

    Next there will be atheists on TfTD? Where will it all end.

  10. RabbitOnAStick says:

    I just realised is her middle finger out for a reason?
    Look at Pippa in the photo.

    I don’t think that’s a proper chord is it?

  11. barriejohn says:

    Broga: I bet there are atheists on TFTD already, but no one realizes it!

  12. Georgina says:

    Not the first church, I am fairly sure that I heard that the First Atheist Church of Britain was called B & Q, and that was 20 years ago.

    Thousands flock(ed) to its portals every Sunday morning.

  13. tony e says:

    I have to agree with Prof Dawkins on this.

  14. Angela_K says:

    Atheist church, a contradiction in terms surely?

    Why waste time and money on something that the religious will use as a stick to beat us? We should concentrate our efforts to expunge religious interference from the political and law making process.

  15. barriejohn says:

    I agree, @tony e & @Angela_K. They are ALREADY ridiculing atheists over this (see above link).

  16. Joe Thomson says:

    An atheist ‘church’ is a great idea and the very word is not exclusive to so called christians for the use of it. Truth is, that most atheists/humanists can show most of them better godless examples of goodness to fellow mortals than the history of many established churches who worship an invisible god/entity.

  17. David Anderson says:

    I regularly attend an atheist church here in Spain. It’s called Mulligan’s Irish pub where they serve Murphy’s Red and a surprisingly good Guinness. We have regular talks about politics and religion and after a few pints of the afore mentioned, sing a few irreverent(I’ve taught some rugby ditties to my Spanish friends) songs.

    Just seeing the name of that gilipollas Alain de Botton makes me sick, especially alongside “philosopher”.

  18. 1859 says:

    ‘There once was a church for the godless,
    Who somehow looked vaguely religious,
    They wanted to sing hymns
    And discuss their sexy sins,
    But there was no one to give them forgiveness.

    So instead they…..’

    Any takers?

  19. Marky Mark says:

    (but don’t call it a “church”. “Church” has a specific meaning; one that implies ignorance and blind adherence to superstition.)
    …Well one can now be tax exempt if their org is now a church. Why should the religious people only be tax exempt for their gatherings? An Atheist Church is an excellent idea, not only are they tax exempt but they can now solicit business and corporations for tax deductible donations.

    The church uses their tax exempt money to buy TV stations to spread their word, wouldn’t it be nice to see a atheist TV station? Airing programs on the hypocrisy and stupidity of ancient religious beliefs, more science and logic, and critical thinking debates.

    So instead they…stood and shook hands, and united they stand to preach the good word about logic.

  20. Ryan morrigan says:

    True, but is it worth the hit to our image? The world already thinks we’re hypocrites just following another faith. This church crap just gives them fodder. Every article I’ve read on the matter in recent days only confirms this. Eh, who cares. Atheists like myself have always been hated, misunderstood, feared and marginalized in every arena, and we always will be. These forums and lawsuits and meetings and whatever, while I support them, wont change the tide. Humanity has always inched ahead on the shoulders of the thinking few, to the derision of the ignorant and faithful many.