‘Atheist Church’ in London Will Hold Its First Service This Weekend

British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans are about to begin a free, once-a-month communal gathering for atheists called The Sunday Assembly.

Everyone else, as you might expect, is calling it an “Atheist Church.” Still, it sounds like a wonderful idea:

“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,” said [Jones]…

The Londonist blog describes the monthly morning meeting, held at a former church in Islington known as The Nave, as a “godless gathering for people who want to hear funny and interesting people talk, sing songs and celebrate life.”

Additionally, The Sunday Assembly’s motto is to “live better, help often and wonder more,” and will include an array of inspirational speakers touching on a new theme each month.

The press is quick to point out that Richard Dawkins once blasted Alain de Botton‘s notion of an atheist church, but it’s not like Dawkins would oppose this kind of gathering. Dawkins thought it was a waste of money to build a huge temple for the sole purpose of promoting atheism… something that’s not happening here.

The first Sunday Assembly takes place this weekend, so if you’re in London, stop by and let us know how it goes!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Picky

    It sounds interesting but a bit soft and fluffy- there’s no mention of skepticism or methods of improving yourself which are backed up by reason and evidence. Just personal anecdotes, albeit probably funny ones. It does come with the magic word- free! Shame it’s in London.
    Calling it a church seems like a stretch…it’s more like a comedy gig, crossed with a lecture.

  • jose

    Alain de Botton didn’t really want to build an atheist church, he was simply building hype to sell his book. Notice his book was published shortly thereafter.

    This assembly thing does sound like a church. They say it’s a congregation and a service. They’re certainly using the language of religion. I suppose it would be too much to call their songs “hymns”… gotta stop somewhere.

  • OCRazor

    I hope it’s standing room only! Maybe they’ll get some positive media attention as well.

  • Philbert

    Watch out for those who claim atheism is bad (despite being true) because it doesn’t offer the community interaction and other fringe benefits of religion lining up to mock this initiative.

  • SparkStalker

    I think it’s a great idea. I’ve thought about many times, but not having the time nor resources to donate to it, I haven’t followed through.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bailey.bednar Bailey Bednar

    Sounds like a TED conference

  • AlaJackd

    This is nothing new. Atheists have been congregating for a very long time now – also known as ‘Star Trek Conventions’.

    • http://twitter.com/CarriganGlen Glen Carrigan Neuro

      I love star trek as well as a lack of religion :)

      • AlaJackd

        I know you do, that’s what I just said.

  • Lance Finney

    There are already Ethical Societies in London (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Place_Ethical_Society). What will this new group add that the existing groups don’t already have? Or is the idea to simply have more options?

  • anniewhoo

    It sounds interesting. I hope someone who attends will let you know how it went. I’m curious to see how this may differ from a humanist meeting.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    I’ve been skeptical of the concept ever since I heard the name Alain de Botton, but a good skeptic reserves judgement untill the data comes in. If it brings in a crowd of atheists and nones eager to spend a sunday morning there, I’ll be fine. If it doesn’t, I hope they stop. If it’s so successful that it crosses the little pond, I’ll try it once or twice and if I enjoy it I’ll have something to do on sundays. Whatever happens, at least they’re trying, and that’s a good thing in my mind.

  • Peaslepuff

    I think it’s a lovely idea, although I’m sure some people on certain forums are going to complain that this is only going to promote the fallacy of atheism = religion. Anyway, I wish I had an option to attend something like this where I live.

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    I wonder what songs they would sing. It’s not like everyone will know something automatically, like A Mighty Fortress is Our God or Ein Kaloheinu.

    The only things I can come up with are Lennon’s Imagine, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Bad Romance. Well, singing those *will* build community. Or at least hilarity.

  • http://twitter.com/Alexthethinker Alex Abbott

    I say kudos to Jones and Evans. The greater the number of alternatives for non-religious people to share community experiences, the better. If the idea of a community for non-religious people doesn’t appeal to you, then simply don’t participate. Easy solution. As for me, I don’t live in London, and I wish there were far more similar options here in America. The lack of in-person interaction with other non-religious folks that isn’t solely about activism (because, let’s admit it, that gets old after awhile) is a huge disadvantage to being an atheist, agnostic, or humanist.

  • http://twitter.com/CarriganGlen Glen Carrigan Neuro

    It might be a nice focal place to meet up for people in that area. It could help engender a sense of community that may be otherwise absent. I, however, think that Universities should be regarded as atheist “churches” in providing proper secular education and debate around actual issues that matter.


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