Search

Nation’s first atheist church launches in Canonbury – but Alain de Botton insists he did it first

13:00 10 January 2013

Sanderson Jones speaks at the first Sunday Assembly gathering. Photo by tim.dalinian.jones@gmail.com

Sanderson Jones speaks at the first Sunday Assembly gathering. Photo by tim.dalinian.jones@gmail.com

Archant

A Sunday gathering billed as the nation’s first-ever “atheist church” got off to a flying start this week – despite irking one the UK’s most famous non-believers who says he did it first.

There was standing room only as some 200 people descended on the first congregation of the Sunday Assembly, cramming into an ex-church in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury.

But writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, who is known as one of the most forthright atheists in the UK and last year published a book titled Religion for Atheists, told the Gazette that his organisation beat them to the punch.

Mr de Botton, whose School of Life centre in Bloomsbury hosts Sunday gatherings of atheists, said: “We want to wish the comedians all the very best on their venture, while modestly adding that we have been ploughing this furrow for many years and they shouldn’t therefore claim the idea as their own.”

He added: “We wouldn’t want to start a schism so early on in the movement.”

The School of Life’s Sunday Sermons are not based in a church building and cost £15, while the Sunday Assembly is funded by donations.

It takes place at the former St Paul’s Church, now known as The Nave, and the inaugural gathering on January 6 was devoted to the theme of “beginnings”.

Attendees enjoyed uplifting talks, readings, music and some time for quiet reflection, as founders and stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans led proceedings.

Mr Jones said: “We’re huge fans of Alain’s and would love to get him down to talk, if he wants to. We don’t really want to get involved in a ‘who did what when’ conversation.”

Mr Jones describes the assembly as a “godless congregation”, and says the idea is to take the best bits from religion and “celebrate the wonder of life”, while weddings and funerals could be on the cards.

He added: “Even as an atheist, there’s just as much going on spiritually, in a non-superstitious way.

“So many people turned up and were getting really excited, it was just overwhelming. It seems people just loved the idea and it far surpassed our hopes.”

The next gathering is on February 3 and comedian Lucy Porter will be among the speakers.

0 comments

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 17:00
Twitter icons

Join the London Social Media café for their October networking event tomorrow.

Yesterday, 16:27
Inside HMP Holloway in 1970 Pic: English heritage

The brutal and politically significant history of HMP Holloway is the subject of a TV programme which airs tonight.

Yesterday, 14:00
Cllr Andy Hull joins headteacher Harsha Patel, staff and pupils at Copenhagen Primary School to celebrate the school's accreditation as a Living Wage employer.

The town hall took a swipe at Arsenal’s pay conditions as it geared up for gala celebrations to mark Living Wage Week.

Yesterday, 12:29
An image of a suspect in the robbery of a Ladbrokes in Islington has been released (Picture: Metropolitan Police)

CCTV of a masked suspect wearing an Arsenal football shirt during the terrifying robbery of a Ladbrokes in Islington has been released by police.

Most read news

Looking for a holiday? We know a company that are keen to flog you a trip to the land of Kim Jong-un.

Biffo and Bobo better stay away from the town of Vendargues this Halloween.

As a state of emergency is declared in Burkina Faso, what does the future hold for its president and people?

It might not be moving very fast but it’s still causing problems.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the $m.global.archantvariables.NewspaperTitle e-edition today E-edition