London, England — Atheists gathered in Islington, England this morning to attend the first monthly “church” service for atheists, founded by two popular stand-up comedians in the country.
Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans said that they came up with the idea because while they identify as atheists, they liked many of the aspects of church gatherings.
“We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement,” Jones stated.
Therefore, the comedians decided to organize a monthly gathering, held at the Nave in Canonbury, which, instead of having worship and prayer, will feature secular music performed by an in-house band and special speakers, such as authors and fellow comics.
“It’s part atheist church and part foot-stomping show,” Jones explained. “There will be a speaker on a theme each month but there will also be an awesome house band, which Pippa will lead. We’ll be helping people try and stick to their New Year’s resolutions in the first service.”
Today, the gathering will be listening to a message by children’s book author Andy Stanton, who penned the children’s series Mr. Gum. Future guests will include comedians Josie Long, Lucy Porter and Arthur Smith.
Jones said that the services will be scheduled for the first Sunday of each month.
“If the church becomes a useful place for others, that would be a good thing,” he said. “We just want people to feel encouraged and excited when they leave.”
As previously reported, some “churches” in the United States have decided to host special services for atheists, which remove all mention of God, Jesus, sin or salvation. Markin Lavanhar of All Souls Unitarian ‘Church’ in Tulsa, Oklahoma told Tulsa World that he sees approximately 100-200 people attend his special Sunday services, which feature no prayers, no praise and worship and no preaching.
“Just the word ‘God’ turns a lot of people off,” he said.
Therefore, he opens each meeting with generalized references, such as “This is a day not of our own making.”
Three services are hosted each Sunday: the first focusing on humanism and how each person is the ruler of their own life and destiny, the next on transcendentalism and how Unitarians look to other sources than the Bible for revelation from God, and the third being the traditional Unitarian service.
“By trying to bring together such a wide diversity of people, we’re really trying to bring harmony and unity and peace to the world, and to be an example and a model of that for the world,” Lavanhar explained.
According to an article entitled Do Any Atheists Go to Church? Why Would Atheists Attend Church Services? by Austin Cline, some atheists do attend services hosted by Unitarians because they do not require a belief in God.
“In the United States, there are several groups which count themselves as religious, but either don’t require belief in any gods or actually discourage belief in the traditional God of orthodox Christianity,” Cline explained. “These groups include Ethical Culture, the Unitarian-Universalist Church, and a variety of religious humanist organizations. Many, many atheists are members of these groups and regularly attend meetings or services on Sunday mornings (or at some other time during the week).”
He said that some also attend just for the music or to be with their families.
While most Christians would assert that Unitarian gatherings are not Christian services to begin with, they would also agree that a number of those that attend Bible-believing assemblies are not necessarily true followers of Christ.
“[Y]ou might not realize it, but not everyone in church is a Christian,” said Jim Duke of Trinity Worship Center in Albany, New York. “You see, Christians are not defined as those who acknowledge Jesus Christ. If that were the case, Satan would be Christian, and so would his demons, as Satan believes Jesus exists. He just doesn’t give Him any reverence. And neither do those in your circles who say they know God, tell you they believe in Jesus, but give more reverence to their favorite baseball team.”
“Many Christian churches … are filled with people. But, are they filled with Christians?” he concluded. “Jesus said you will know them by their fruit.”