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.