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to go to church if I don't believe in God?

(53 Posts)
ChristYoni Fri 12-Apr-13 18:31:35

I think I might start going to church. A couple of conversatiions lately have set me off.

My Uncle is v religious, used to be a minister and a missionary, he's one of my favourite people. Has devoted his whole life to helping others.

So we were debating religion, as you do, and I was saying about loving the whole community aspect of church but, what with being an atheist and all, I dont' go. And he replied that he thinks many many anglican priests/ministers are in fact atheists, but that the church is the best medium to really make a difference. And that in his experience many of the best and nicest Christians aren't necessarily terribly devout, that faith in your actions and living well is the real point. And that you can serve God without believing in him.

Then today we went to this Kids club thing today that we've been going to all week, which is put on by the local church which is v happy clappy. And while the kids wre playing I had a free manicure. And I was chatting to the lady about how fab the facilities are but for a £ per child they can't make any money. And she smiled and said, the money's not the point, it's about serving the community. And then she invited me to the family service on Sunday, where the kids go off and do fun stuff and the adults have a sing song and a bit of prayer and do all the god bothering.

And I though, yeah, I coudl get on board with that. Dip my toe in and see if it suits. I certainly like the ethos and I've been going to the toddler group they run for years and they are all REALLY lovely people.

So, whaddya reckon? Is it morally objectional to join a church for the community do gooding and free manicures? Do you think I'll end up believing and being all devout and stuff, despite my fairly solid atheist leanings?

Is this my worst idea ever or my best?


Toasttoppers Fri 12-Apr-13 19:03:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

headintheclouds Fri 12-Apr-13 19:04:37

This is a subject close to my heart. My DH and DCs are Catholics and Im not. I am agnostic..I want to believe but am not convinced and I disagree with alot of the whole RC teachings/ sinners guilt thing..But my Dcs go to Catholic schools and are given a wonderful foundation for how to live life well and behave in a 'good' way. Personally I believe that its about how you live your life and treat people ,rather than how often you go to Church etc... I attend infrequently but when I do go I do feel hypocritical ,but I also enjoy the whole community aspect of it.( I go to try and set an example to the Dcs..) when they are old enough to make an informed choice its up to them whether or not they continue with it.

CwtchesAndCuddles Fri 12-Apr-13 19:04:39

Don't overthink it, just go along and see if you like it. If you do you can go again, if you don't then noone will be offended and you can keep going to the toddler group.

HorryIsUpduffed Fri 12-Apr-13 19:07:29

I don't mind church being Goddy - I'm fairly high church Anglican. But there's a difference between Sunday schools that look at "how to be nice to each other" with reference to Bible stories, and those that get age-inappropriately deep into theology.

mumandboys123 Fri 12-Apr-13 19:08:00

this is interesting. I am currently working in a Catholic school and I would say I am an atheist/agnostic. I expected to hate it. I don't. I find the prayer aspect of it (which is every morning in briefing, in a once a week assembly and also in morning registration) strangely comforting: it is a moment of reflection in an otherwise busy, crazy kind of world and it's a moment of reflection that I never used to have. The messages in prayer I find are entirely logical and reasonable and are about kindness and decency and respect and caring...and all sorts of other 'good stuff'. We (should) all have time for this in our lives, even if we can't find it in religion. And yet, I think, we don't. Or at least I didn't. It has started something in me and I am looking for that moment to last a little longer by other means in my life - not found it yet, but just to know what I'm looking for is half the battle, I think. I am more at peace with life as a result. As I say, interesting.

LifeSavedbyLego Fri 12-Apr-13 20:03:43

I go to church, but am a Richard Dawkinsesque atheist. I like the sense of community I like singing the hymns and I like the fact that the whole village know (and like) my DCs. Dh is a believer. We go to the family services and also our church does a Baker Ross fest once a month.

However the dc will be going to Sunday school over my dead body.

thermalsinapril Fri 12-Apr-13 20:10:03

YANBU. It's entirely up to you whether you'd like to go along to church, there's no need to have a particular reason. It sounds like a really nice church - friendly, serving the community and not too in-your-face.

KatyDid02 Fri 12-Apr-13 20:15:32

YANBU, go, and I hope you enjoy it and benefit from it.

StinkyElfCheese Fri 12-Apr-13 21:19:51

I went with the dt's not particularly religious but I wanted them christened.

I loved it bit of singing nice story some hand shaking then back to the hall where my babies were whisked away played with held fed and changed while I drank hot tea and chocolate biscuits that were bought over to me.

We have moved now and I still miss the church

ZZZenagain Fri 12-Apr-13 21:28:04

It is fine for you to attend IMO as an atheist.

However: "The first is that if you are a vicar/priest and don't believe in God then a career change maybe the way forward." I agree with this, if it is not a 'dark night of the soul' period but a real conviction that God does not exist, I don't see how a decent person could continue as a priest/minister and fake it. Surely that isn't the right thing to do.

ZZZenagain Fri 12-Apr-13 21:31:02

maybe it is too early for them to retire and too late to find other employment and/or they worry about how them leaving would negatively affect church-goers and the church I suppose. Still find it a weird concept. I wouldn't appreciate someone teaching me about God , praying with me in times of trouble and advising me on how to live according to God's will etc if the whole time that person did not believe in it himself.

kerala Fri 12-Apr-13 21:32:27

Another atheist who enjoys going to church love the peace, old buildings and music.

EmmelineGoulden Fri 12-Apr-13 22:44:25

OP have you heard about the new atheist Sunday Assembly?

BlackeyedSusan Fri 12-Apr-13 22:53:16

why not give it a go. you have nothing to lose and maybe a few good friends to gain. if you don't like that one, you could try another sort. they are all different...

Binkybix Sat 13-Apr-13 07:42:51

My parents (one atheist, one with a vague belief there might be something) sent me to Sunday school purely for the lay-ins and some 'adult' time. Yuck.

Didn't really do me any harm smile

Mrsrobertduvall Sat 13-Apr-13 08:03:04

I know where you're coming from op.
I went to a C of E church school, went to Sunday school back in the sixties. Not a religious family and as an adult I have no faith. But I like singing hymns of my childhood and enjoy a carol service.

I started going to local church to their child friendly service as it was something to do on a Sunday morning, met other mums, helped with the children. Then I had 2 weeks off and came back to find in my absence I had been appointed "Den mother".
And I kept being approached to do the Alpha course.

I liked the community aspect of church, the helping other people bit...but not Jesus. blush I felt I was being sucked in to do things I really didn't want to.

signandsmile Sat 13-Apr-13 08:10:21

All sorts of people at all stages of belief and unbelief go to church, as far as the church themselves (the people not the building) they will be fine with people who aren't christian being there, go, make friends, have fun, see where it leads...

myfriendflicka Sat 13-Apr-13 08:13:14


in my humble opinion (ho ho).

Organised (that's the rub) religions: thousands of years of misogyny, homophobia, AIDS in developing countries due to condom use being outlawed etc

Acceptable end of it (to some people). Lovely middle class sing-song with childcare on a Sunday. Community (which you can access in other ways). Lovely people (of course there are no lovely people outside churches).

And yes they want you to go, they hope you will stop being an atheist.

Also if people are so lacking in imagination they can't work out how to live a good life without dancing to a rich anti-abortionist's sect's drum, oh dear.

I wouldn't, but there you are...

Bananapickle Sat 13-Apr-13 08:38:05

YANBU. I am a Christian, I go to what you would probably classify as 'happy clappy' and what you've describes sounds very similar to the way we run things. Our church is about serving our community, loving them, supporting them.
Do we want our community to know God? Of course but actually our main aim is actually just to come alongside those who need some support, whether a mum needing someone to talk to or their dog walking because they've had an op.
As a result people come to our church services, it's great, we welcome them and we expect nothing of them. We will be praying for them but only because we genuinely believe that having a relationship with God is better hen anything this world can offer.
Go, enjoy it and meet new people. They won't be forcing you or your kids to do anything and you can just enjoy the community and what that offers you.

Moominsarehippos Sat 13-Apr-13 09:28:37

I'd go and see what the people are like. You might find that they are genuinely nice folks. Part of my work brings me into contact with 'godly folk' and they are a lovely lot - very open minded and not scary at all. After working in the City for 15 years I do still do a double take when someone apologises for being late/missing a deadline or gushing great thanks at me for doing my job! I get all embarassed (not used to praise at all) and they tease me for it. We have a laugh too and the vicar swears on occasion, so its not all po-faces.

Anthracite Sat 13-Apr-13 09:38:56

Of course you can go to church if you don't believe in God.

You can't believe in God unless someone tells you about him. You can't learn without the counsel of Christians. Church is one place where you can find out about God, Jesus and Him crucified.

The Christian faith is all about relationships, and these are built within a church family, regardless of where people are on the Christian journey.

My experience is that clergy are very aware that many people in the congregation are not Christians, and may be there out of curiosity or because they enjoy being part of a church family. Quite often in sermons, they will speak directly to these people.

firesidechat Sat 13-Apr-13 09:50:30

I'm a Christian who doesn't go to church at the moment, but who did for over 25 years and, honestly, I would recommend it as a place to go. Just pick carefully is all I would say.

They are fantastic for meeting all sorts of people and many are very active in the community (and not just religious stuff). I met a lot of my very close friends through the various churches we have attended over the years. They are now relationships built on the ups and downs of life and enjoying each others company, rather than a shared faith.

I don't think my grown up children would call themselves Christians now, one definitely wouldn't, but I feel they did benefit from another community of people who cared about them and were a positive influence, with one or two exceptions.

Church communities are a long way from perfect because they are full of ordinary human beings with their own issues. Some will be lovely, some will make you want to slap them, hard. If you don't set your expectations too high you might enjoy it.

Moominsarehippos Sat 13-Apr-13 10:02:47

Churches are full of young adults who have just had/about to have kids are realised that a good attendance could help with school applications. The vicars can't not know this!

I suppose you go, join in, don't commit to anything you aren't happy with and see if you enjoy it/find 'something'.

twofingerstoGideon Sat 13-Apr-13 10:41:39


Most posters seem to be portraying the church as this lovely, cosy, benign institution full of fluffy people who want to serve the community, etc.

Flicka is the only one who has come close to mentioning the other side of things. If you can overlook (quoting from Flicka here - hope that's okay) thousands of years of misogyny, homophobia, AIDS in developing countries due to condom use being outlawed etc and all the rest of it, you might find it all perfectly cosy and comfy.

My local happy clappy church actively supports Abort 67, our friendly, local anti-abortion group, which stands outside clinics waving graphic posters in the faces of women who are exercising their legal entitlement to have a termination. They also hang out near local sixth form colleges and universities with their banners to try to 'get their message across.' And then there are the evangelical groups like Westboro Baptists (American, but possibly coming to a church near you soon...) who just beggar belief.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of organised religion (understatement) but would defend anyone's right to believe or not believe whatever they wish.

CwtchesAndCuddles Sat 13-Apr-13 10:52:14


Please don't be put off going by other peoples perception of what that church may be like. Churches are like people - all very different!

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