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Britain's First Atheist Church The Sunday Assembly Meets In North London

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ATHESIT CHURCH
The Sunday Assembly held its first meeting on Sunday(file picture) | Alamy

Britain's first atheist church held its inaugural meeting on Sunday, gathering at a former church in North London to sing songs and celebrate life - just with no mention of the man upstairs.

The Sunday Assembly is a godless gathering set up by comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans but is more than just a live comedy show.

It is championed as chance for disillusioned former believers, nostalgic atheists and anybody searching for a sense of community, to meet and "turn good intentions into action."

With the tag line 'live better, help often, wonder more' the brainchild has the pastoral aims of provoking kindness and encouraging people to volunteer in their local community.

The gathering focussed on the subject of 'Beginnings', ushering in the New Year and the first meeting with musings on how to 'start things' and avoid 'mental booby traps.'

Songs such as Oasis 'Don't Look Back In Anger' were sung and guest speaker Andy Stanton, the children’s author who created the cult Mr. Gum series explained how he achieved his success.

Yet the idea has come under attack from both atheists and the religious. Aside from accusations that the comedians are merely publicity seeking, some have criticised the concept of an 'atheist church' in itself.

Critics have suggested by holding the meeting in an old church, (albeit deconsecrated) and by following a format of songs interspersed by reading and addresses, the comedians are at risk of turning atheism into its own sort of religion.

This is something Sanderson denies.


sandersonjones
hey guys, we're not saying atheism is a religion at all. We're just build a useful community.

sandersonjones
The sign that is a good idea? I'm getting criticism from atheists and the religious.

Revd Saviour Grech of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Roman Catholic Church in Clerkenwell told the Islington Gazette “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.”

Whatever the critics say, their first meeting proved popular with over 200 people flocking to the Islington venue, according the Independent, a much more robust gathering than many churches scare up for Sunday services.


Alom Shaha
Packed house at The Sunday Assembly "church" service. Clearly an interest in / demand for this sort of thing?

With religion in decline, those identifying themselves as having no religion has increased by 10 percentage points from 15%, 7.7 million people, in 2001 to 25%, 14.1 million, last year, according to the latest census.