What happens at an atheist church?


Not many sermons include the message that we are all going to die and there is no afterlife.

But the Sunday Assembly is no ordinary church service.

Launched last month, as a gathering for non-believers, it is, in the words of master of ceremonies Sanderson Jones, “part foot-stomping show, part atheist church, all celebration of life”.

A congregation of more than 300 crowded into the shell of a deconsecrated church to join the celebration on Sunday morning.

Instead of hymns, the non-faithful get to their feet to sing along to Stevie Wonder and Queen songs.

There is a reading from Alice in Wonderland and a power-point presentation from a particle physicist, Dr Harry Cliff, who explains the origins of antimatter theory.

It feels like a stand-up comedy show. Jones and co-founder Pippa Evans trade banter and whip the crowd up like the veterans of the stand-up circuit that they are.

But there are more serious moments.

The theme of the morning is “wonder” – a reaction, explains Jones, to criticism that atheists lack a sense of it.

So we bow our heads for two minutes of contemplation about the miracle of life and, in his closing sermon, Jones speaks about how the death of his mother influenced his own spiritual journey and determination to get the most out of every second, aware that life is all too brief and nothing comes after it.

The audience – overwhelmingly young, white and middle class – appear excited to be part of something new and speak of the void they felt on a Sunday morning when they decided to abandon their Christian faith. Few actively identify themselves as atheists.

“It’s a nice excuse to get together and have a bit of a community spirit but without the religion aspect,” says Jess Bonham, a photographer.

“It’s not a church, it’s a congregation of unreligious people.”

Full BBC Article w/video

This entry was posted in Interesting, Spiritual. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What happens at an atheist church?

  1. Ben says:

    This is the type of atheist that puzzles me. I understand an atheist who doesn't believe in God and goes about his/her own business. But to gather together and celebrate/worship disbelief in a higher power seems antithetical to that idea. They seem to have replaced worship of a deity with worship of the concept of no deity. So what's the difference? I guess as humans we all just crave that sense of community and belonging, and it must be satisfied in some way.

Comments are closed.