Comics' atheist church seeks £500,000 | ...as Nine Lessons And Carols is axed

Comics' atheist church seeks £500,000

...as Nine Lessons And Carols is axed

The atheist church set up by two comedians has launched a £500,000 crowdfunding appeal – just as Robin Ince axes the annual gigs which first married rationalism with comedy.

Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans are passing around their their virtual collection plate to fund an ambitious website that would help spread their Sunday Assembly idea around the world. It would be put like-minded people in contact with each other, so they could from congregations to celebrate life and community, without the need for a god.

Meanwhile, Ince has announced that this year’s series of rationalist comedy shows Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People will be the last – at least for a while.

Writing on his blog, he said he needed to find a new challenge now the ideas and style pioneered in the show had become more widespread in the six years since he started it.

‘I think it is time to shake things up again, to find a new way to deal with new ideas,’ he wrote.

‘We are losing the element of surprise. When I first suggested the idea, I was deemed misguided at best and an idiot by others. I believed it would work, and I am glad it has. Now this sort of thing is all over the place and TV people are working out different ways of filching elements of it, so it has done more than I might have hoped.

‘I have got lazy, I must kill the thing I love... I am not sure I am doing the right thing, but whoever is?’

The night, a fundraiser for the Humanist Association, began at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 2008, where it returns this December for a ten-night run featuring the likes of Stewart Lee, Phill Jupitus, Lee Mack and John Lloyd. Details. In 2009, it was televised on BBC Four as Nerdstock: 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People and released on DVD.

Evans and Jones’s venture is different in that it is about taking the community aspects of religion and building on that, without the need for faith.

He said the idea came from a shared car journey: ‘We were discussing how cheap, anti-religious jokes are ten a penny and a bit boring now: “Well done, you don’t believe in God.” And they’re normally done in a room full of people who also don’t believe in God, so: “Well done you for smashing preconceptions.” We both had the idea of having a church without religion.’

Some critics have claimed that the last thing atheism needs is to behave like a church, but the idea has proved popular. They started the sessions in London, and the idea has spread around the world, with the first American Assembly this summer - which also attracted the first protestors. At the weekend, the pair started their 40 Days And 40 Nights roadshow to spread the word, and also launched their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, where it has so far raised £11,500 or ifs £500,000 goal.

If they hit their target, the cash will be spend on hiring three web developers over two years, and also paying a full-time salary to Jones and part-time salary to Evans to create the documentation and provide support to new congregations, as well as tax, fees and rewards for investors.

Here is their video that explains it.

Published: 22 Oct 2013

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