An atheist church?


A group of comedians in the UK have launched what they claim is the first atheist church (though Unitarians might quarrel with the claim).

Stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans will bring together a godless congregation in the Nave in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury for services – with wedding ceremonies and funerals for non-believers even on the cards.

He continued: “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.

Not everyone is on board with this idea.

But the Rev Saviour Grech, Catholic parish priest of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Amwell Street, Finsbury, said: “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.”

I have mixed feelings about this. I personally do not see myself attending such a ‘church’ if one should start in my neighborhood but that may be because I am rather asocial and not one who seeks company. But I can understand that some nonbelievers feel the need to create a community of like-minded people the way that religious churches fill a need for believers.

Comments

  1. kevinalexander says

    David’s right. Much comedy depends on absurdity– like King Arthur riding on an invisible horse or that Korean guy doing the same thing to music.
    What could be more absurd than an atheist church?

  2. says

    Seems like a lost opportunity to say, “of course we’re a church that doesn’t believe in what we say, but … that puts us in the majority.”

  3. Paul W., OM says

    The North Texas Church of Freethought is an atheist church, for “atheists” in the sense of nonbelievers rather than the narrower sense of disbelievers, and it’s been around for years and years, for real. IIRC it is legally a church, not just a nonprofit, having won a legal fight about it with the Attorney General of Texas. (Along with Buddhists, who the AG had also denied church status because they don’t generally believe in God.)

    http://www.churchoffreethought.org/

    The North Texas Church of Freethought is a Fellowship of Unbelievers. We do what all the other churches do, but with one less god. Our aim is to offer atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and freethinkers all the educational, inspirational, and social and emotional benefits of traditional faith-based churches. We do this by preaching Freethought, a rational approach to religious questions of life, love, meaning, and happiness. Our growing community of freethinkers provides a positive, affirming environment for leading a good life, free of the illogic and intolerance of other religions based on holy books and supernaturalism.

    There’s a church of freethought in Houston too now.

    I dunno if those other people actually think they’re the first, even if it’s just a joke. (Maybe they don’t, but don’t want to make the joke more cumbersome and thus less snappy and funny.)

  4. Paul W., OM says

    Ah, I just noticed that the article doesn’t actually say they’re the first atheist church, or claim to be. The headline says that they’re the UK’s first atheist church.

    Maybe they know that Texans are way ahead of them in irreligiosity

  5. Paul W., OM says

    I have mixed feelings about this. I personally do not see myself attending such a ‘church’ if one should start in my neighborhood but that may be because I am rather asocial and not one who seeks company. But I can understand that some nonbelievers feel the need to create a community of like-minded people the way that religious churches fill a need for believers.

    I’m not the churchy type myself at all, but for atheists who want that, it seems like a good thing. Better than settling for a Unitarian church, which generally has a mix of some atheists and a lot of people who believe in something at least vaguely supernatural. (A vague supernatural God or Higher Power, or just a vaguely supernaturalish Something More.)

    I’m a lot less creeped out by churchiness if I’m sure nobody thinks there’s anything supernatural going on. (Bored, maybe, but not creeped out.)

    And it’s nice to have an atheist community thing with the legal advantages of being a church.

  6. Rodney Nelson says

    But the Rev Saviour Grech, Catholic parish priest of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Amwell Street, Finsbury, said: “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.”

    Has anyone told the Harvard Humanists about this?

  7. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    “Oh God, if there is a God, Save my soul, if I have a soul.”
    – the agnostic’s prayer.

    “The fashion just now is a Roman Catholic frame of mind with an Agnostic conscience; you get the mediaeval picturesqueness of the one with the modern conveniences of the other”
    -Saki

  8. Crudely Wrott says

    Honestly, if I were, for some reason, to walk into an “atheist church”, I wouldn’t have either the first idea of what to expect or what to do. I mean, is it different in there?

  9. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    Many theists claim that atheism is just another religion. But then we have Rev Saviour Grech:

    “How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. […] for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far.”

    Glad to see that the Rev disagrees.

  10. mnb0 says

    ” because I am rather asocial and not one who seeks company.”
    Just like me – I like you better and better. No way anyone will get me in an atheist church, parody or not. I begin to shiver thinking of all the limitations it will set on me. I can seek company for a specific goal – to celebrate a birthday or something or to play chess – but that’s it.

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