It turns out that the “atheist church” started by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans is only getting more popular. The initial gathering a month ago had about 200 attendees. Yesterday’s gathering drew in about 300!
Esther Addley was there and was drawn in by what she saw:
The service opens with a song, led by Evans and an enthusiastic band at the front; instead of a hymn, however, it is “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen (“We’ve chosen something that allows hamming it up to the max”). The service features a reading, a moment of reflective silence, even a collection to pay for the rental of the church, during which people are invited to turn in the pews and greet those sitting beside and behind them. The plan in future is to engage members in community-based good works.
There is also a sermon, of sorts, on the day’s theme of “wonder”, which sees Dr Harry Cliff, a particle physicist from Cambridge, talking about Dirac’s equation predicting antimatter (“the most amazing theory in history”) and the enormous statistical odds against the universe existing in the first place. The congregation then stands to sing Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
It would be a mistake to dismiss this idea just because it too closely resembles a church service. The idea of gathering as a community, celebrating life, and doing good work is not owned by any religious faith. The idea of indoctrinating people with made-up stories parading as truth is. We can do without that.
I really hope this takes off. Not because it’s necessarily something I would attend myself, but because it would be so wonderful and meaningful for a lot of atheists who want that sort of experience.
For now, Jones is only expanding the church by having a second service in the afternoon next month. But who knows where this could go…