‘Not believing in God makes life more precious’: meet the atheist ‘churchgoers’

21

Queen and Stevie Wonder instead of hymns; a science lecture instead of a sermon. Can church work without belief in God? Esther Addley joins 300 people who say it can

“I feel sorry for the church next door, waiting for their three people to trickle in,” says Nick Julius, glancing at the small adjacent hall that will shortly be hosting its own gathering.

There are still 40 minutes before the Sunday Assembly, an atheist service run by two standup comedians, is due to begin, but a queue of eager congregants is already forming outside a grand but crumbling former church in Islington, north London, hands shoved deep into pockets against the cold.

Julius arrived an hour early, just to be sure of a place at the service, which is described by its organisers as “a godless congregation that meets … to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate life”. But why? “I came last time and really enjoyed it. It’s got all the good things about church without the terrible dogma. I like the sense of community – and who doesn’t enjoy a singsong?”

This is only the second time Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans have hosted the monthly event (motto: live better, help often, wonder more), and they admit to being a little overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which the event has already been greeted.

More than 200 people came to the first event; today there are perhaps 300, with several dozen more carrying on a parallel discussion in a local pub. Inside the nave of the deconsecrated church, volunteers have been bunching chairs closer together, adding extra benches and children’s seats in every scrap of space. It is not a problem most vicars struggle with on a Sunday morning.

ones, a tall, bounding figure with a hairstyle and beard verging on the messianic, says the idea emerged from his comedy, where he encouraged those coming to his gigs to get to know one another, and they in turn pressed him for ways to stay in touch and even build small groups. There was clearly a thirst for community, he decided, and perhaps others felt, as he did, that words such as awe and transcendence shouldn’t be the preserve only of religious people.

Written By: Esther Addley
continue to source article at guardian.co.uk

21 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like fun, Interest clubs will always trump religion as people come to trainspotting club because they want to share with like minded individuals and not because someone has told them they will burn forever if they haven’t seen a BR 086 (86070) before they die. The fact that there is an atheist slant to this interest club doesn’t mean that all atheists should turn up every week and pay homage to prof Dawkins, though if anyone is interested in doing that there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.
    The only problem I can see with this is that religious folks will point it out and say. “Look, atheism is a religion too, they meet regularly so they must be!” But so what, Idiots will be idiots and my current favourite saying, namely ‘Just because you say a thing doesn’t make it so!’ which I read somewhere on this site should be a good starting point in pointing out that idiocy, or something.

  2. As a recent convert to Atheism, and a middle aged vicars daughter whose ‘leap out of faith’ has been some what distressing, I found this article refreshing and optimistic. Could do with a ‘Sunday Assembly’ (or indeed any day of the week!) in the area I live.

  3. In reply to #2 by EmC:

    As a recent convert to Atheism, and a middle aged vicars daughter whose ‘leap out of faith’ has been some what distressing, I found this article refreshing and optimistic. Could do with a ‘Sunday Assembly’ (or indeed any day of the week!) in the area I live.

    That’s the trouble with the names of weekdays. They’re filled with religious symbolism.
    I am all for atheistic meetups. The sense of community is something we all long for, no matter how ex-religous we are or where we live for that matter.

    As an honest 7 on the Dawkins scale, I can’t wait for the day when this is a possibility.
    Sundays would be fine, so I’ll jumpstart this shindig by giving you a virtual hug.

  4. Right back at ya :-) ‘live better, help often, wonder more’ – I like it! In reply to #3 by Jesper Both:

    In reply to #2 by EmC:As a recent convert to Atheism, and a middle aged vicars daughter whose ‘leap out of faith’ has been some what distressing, I found this article refreshing and optimistic. Could do with a ‘Sunday Assembly’ (or indeed any day of the week!) in the area I live.That’s the trouble with the names of weekdays. They’re filled with religious symbolism. I am all for atheistic meetups. The sense of community is something we all long for, no matter how ex-religous we are or where we live for that matter.As an honest 7 on the Dawkins scale, I can’t wait for the day when this is a possibility. Sundays would be fine, so I’ll jumpstart this shindig by giving you a virtual hug.

  5. I do a little private reflection and get a sermon on the falseness of faith, via youtube, from the handsdown expert at tearing down religion, Christopher Hitchens. I even joked one time with a Jehovah’s Witless who asked me if I attended services on Sunday. I told him I attended a private mass every day, not just sunday, and I really learned a lot from those sermons. he asked who the pastor or priest was and said it switches between Hitchens and Carlin with some Tyson and Krauss thrown in for flavor. I’m still waiting to see if the guy figures out he’s been duped.

  6. I’m not sure about this. ‘Atheist church’ has all the conotations of becoming some sort of doctrine with a leader. I suppose you can take the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition as ‘not believing in god’ but I suspect he originally meant it as anti witchcraft/pagan beliefs, because Wonder is very religious. Bit ironic in a way.

  7. To me, Stevland Morris, – aka Stevie Wonder – ,is head and shoulders above all other popular musicians, but he’s profoundly inflicted by religion, so why is he sighted in the headline?

    Prima facie this seemed like a good development, but after a little consideration I’ve decided that it’s silly.

  8. In reply to #10 by Stafford Gordon:

    To me, Stevland Morris, – aka Stevie Wonder – ,is head and shoulders above all other popular musicians, but he’s profoundly inflicted by religion, so why is he sighted in the headline?

    Prima facie this seemed like a good development, but after a little consideration I’ve decided that it’s silly.

    You meant ‘cited’? Great news to him if he were indeed ‘sighted’!

  9. Can’t be a bad thing- mocking the ‘church’ concept.

    Stevie Wonder may be a great musician but his NOT including religion in the definition of Superstition says much about his state of mind. “…when you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer… superstition ain’t the way” Ironic.

  10. In reply to #12 by Nodhimmi:

    In reply to #10 by Stafford Gordon:To me, Stevland Morris, – aka Stevie Wonder – ,is head and shoulders above all other popular musicians, but he’s profoundly inflicted by religion, so why is he sighted in the headline?Prima facie this seemed like a good development, but after a little consideration I’ve decided that it’s silly.You meant ‘cited’? Great news to him if he were indeed ‘sighted’!

    Oh fuck it! So I do. What an unfortunate mistake.

    Thanks anyway.

  11. What a load of bollocks! If these dickheads feel the need to go to a former church and have some hyper- enthusiastic long haired idiot get them singing along to pop songs, they might just as well take a piece of quiche each and eat it to Elton John! it reminds me of ‘The Young Ones’ with Rick Mayall staying out until after 8 pm without his parents permission.Get a fuckin Life!

  12. My friend’s church has a book club and they listen to interesting talks, sometimes about a certain author, sometimes an idea, and they sing Girl Scout camp songs and the like. It sounds like fun. =) I wish there were more gatherings of these types, though we kind of do well with our skeptic & atheists brunches, bar nights, speakers, and potluck dinners where I live. I do miss singing with people though.

Leave a Reply