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Do people who don't believe in God go to church?

(26 Posts)
trinot Thu 08-Sep-11 20:29:06

I am having a debate with my SIL at the moment and both of us think the other is crazy!

She says that quite a lot of people who go do church don't believe in God but still go and take their kids 'because that is just what you do'. She was using the example of a friend who started going to church again after many years of not because she now has children and 'that's just what you do'.

I think that people who go to church might be doing it because of reasons of traditional but I also think that most (as in like 99%) of people who go to church believe in God (have faith that there is a God). If you don't believe in God you don't go to church...

nancy75 Thu 08-Sep-11 20:32:21

i don't believe in god, the only time dd has been to a church is on a school trip. I doubt that people who don't believe in something then go on to teach their kids that it's real.

curlyredhair Thu 08-Sep-11 20:35:26

I go and take my dd. She is a firm believer in Christianity and is too young to go alone. She knows daddy and I are atheists.

nancy75 Thu 08-Sep-11 20:36:58

carlyredhair - how old is your dd and how did she become a believer if you're not (if you don't mind me asking)

AMumInScotland Thu 08-Sep-11 20:37:10

In areas where there are highly-ranked church schools, quite a lot of families go for that, rather than any belief. And people who have vague beliefs but haven't done anything about it for a while maybe go because having children has got them thinking about the big questions again and they have enough residual belief (or habit) to go to church to think about that kind of stuff.

But I certainly don't think it's something most people do - the churches would be packed with young families if she was right.

bran Thu 08-Sep-11 20:37:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

curlyredhair Thu 08-Sep-11 20:41:15

She's seven. She's at a C of E school and takes great comfort from the idea of heaven. I support this as I feel the finality of death is probably too much for her to cope with. She can question it all later.

meditrina Thu 08-Sep-11 20:41:31

An atheist friend of mine goes with his DW because he enjoys the spectacle, is a fairly contemplative type, is broadminded and respectful of difference, appreciates a spiritual dimension to life, and he likes the community.

He knows she's been praying for his conversion for a couple of decades now, and is still sure that ain't going to happen. But he enjoys both the ritual and the pleasure that his participation gives his wife.

samex2 Thu 08-Sep-11 20:47:27

From what I see of people who go to church my opinion from little is that lots of people go for the socialising and just-in-case but some go because they believe in something "higher" and some go because they believe there is a God. Now I'm older I see a lot of people going because of schools as well as the above. Old cynic that I am but you asked. Me I used to go would like to now only because if you don't get too involved it's quite a nice place to go now and again.

BirdOfPassage Thu 08-Sep-11 20:52:27

Yes quite a lot of people, at least in the traditional churches (less so the new ones I think) have departed from a LITERAL belief in a god, or the bible. This includes some bishops (famously David Jenkins, who got into trouble for saying he didn't believe literally in the virgin birth or the resurrection). However I think most of the trouble he got into was stirred up by the gutter press.

Check out the Sea of Faith, which sees religion as a human creation but nonetheless worth pursuing. There is also a subgroup 'Sea of Faith in the Churches' for members who stay in their churches

BleughCowWonders Thu 08-Sep-11 20:53:15

I think people go to church for all sorts of reasons, including all those listed on this thread. And there are also those who go just for the tradition, music etc or just habit even if their beliefs have changed.

LawrieMarlow Thu 08-Sep-11 20:59:31

I go to Evensong in Cathedrals occasionally. Am agnostic possibly I think. Like the music and the spiritual feeling.

thejaffacakesareonme Thu 08-Sep-11 21:02:05

I think some people go because they're not sure what they believe in and want to find out more.

trinot Thu 08-Sep-11 22:04:41

thanks everyone for your responses, i've read them to my SIL and we both think it is quite interesting what has come back. I guess a lot of people go to church for lots of different reason, some truly believe, some don't...
but I have to say i still think it is a weird concept to go church 'that's just what you do'

chocolatchaud Thu 08-Sep-11 22:11:28

I don't particularly believe in God but go to church for various reasons;
-I am still undecided
-There is a very good church school near us and I want to keep my options open
-It is a good opportunity to get together with other families in the village
-'That's just what you do' in the sense that I don't think it will do any harm and might just instill some decent morals in the children smile

LikeACandleButNotQuite Thu 08-Sep-11 22:13:47

I don't beleive in God. I would only go to Church if invited by someone I know for an event that is important to them, eg Wedding or Christening. If I attend a wedding or christening of someone I know is a church-goer, I am able to enjoy their happiness and the service as I know it is important to them. If I attend a wedding or (especially) a christening of someone who I know is not religious, does not go to church and does not call themselves a Christian, and does not take what they are saying seriously, I have to force myself not to do cats bum mouth.

I would politely decline being asked to be Godparent as I genuinely could not stand in church and promise to help raise a child in accordance with the teachings in the Bible.

If I am invted to a Christening, I take a relevant, religious gift as to me, it is a religious ceremony. I don't think they are always well receive.

I have only ever been to a Humanist funeral, so cannot comment on church visits for that reason.

Should anyone intimate to me about an upcoming event of theirs that they are doing it in a church because "that's what you do, isn't it" I will disagree wth them andexplain my feelings, but not to change their mind, I just don't want to uphold this belief.

trinot Thu 08-Sep-11 22:21:15

'I don't beleive in God. I would only go to Church if invited by someone I know for an event that is important to them, eg Wedding or Christening. If I attend a wedding or christening of someone I know is a church-goer, I am able to enjoy their happiness and the service as I know it is important to them. If I attend a wedding or (especially) a christening of someone who I know is not religious, does not go to church and does not call themselves a Christian, and does not take what they are saying seriously, I have to force myself not to do cats bum mouth.'

I am a Lifeparent to a child and the ceremony was a Humanist one.

What's the religious gift thing about? Why do you think they are not well received, do they think you are taking the piss? Are you?

PootlePosyPerkin Thu 08-Sep-11 22:22:28

I was definitely brought up to believe in God (my grandfather was an archdeacon & my dad had a degree in theology and was an RE teacher) but I do not, and have not, taken my DCs to church. The eldest is now 14 & a definite atheist. DS2 does believe in God to some extent but has no interest in attending church or Sunday school. I suppose I've always felt that religion is a very personal thing, even to the extent that you have to let your children make their own minds up. IME nothing is going to make a young child resent God & the church more than being forced to sit through service upon service week in, week out.

I do not think that people who do not believe in God should (or would) go to church regularly. What's the point? A belief in God is kind of crucial to the whole concept IMHO hmm.

Popbiscuit Thu 08-Sep-11 22:26:41

I go occasionally with my Christian DH who takes the DCs from time-to-time. I like the hymns and the music and the IDEA of God. I don't like the touchy-feely aspects like hand-shaking, group hugs and I'm the only person in the congregation who doesn't go up to the front during communion. I usually like the sermons too as they are not always attached to being religious; more about being a good person etc.

LittlePushka Thu 08-Sep-11 22:57:05

Both my parents are atheists. As a 7 yo I asked them if I could go to Sunday school and I went, on my own, took confirmation classesat 12 yo and was confirmed at my request (my father would not even come to church to see me confirmed). never was religion ever discussed in my house and I had all of my chats with God in secret to avoid ridicule

i lost my faith somewhat in my late teens and twenties as is so often the case, although I came back in my 30's. i went to church often to justify my atheism if you see what I mean. To try and "undo" what I had done in my early life.( After all, THE most untrendy thing to be when you are 19 is a Christian...!)

Anyway, to get to the point, (yes I have one!), when my DC were born I was adamant that they would not be either forced to come with me nor pilloried if they did: - and if they did come, I wanted them to worship with me and not hived off in the vestry away, like nuisances, from the main adult congregational worship as I was. So I was very conscious NOT to just repeat my own experiences - not to just do what was done - for them to feel they had choice and a valid voice

However, they come voluntarily and they love sunday school which (despite my reservations) is largely held away from the main service. But the church I go to ie the vicar AND the congregation are very very welcoming of children and it is impossible not to enjoy the sense of community which it brings.

Finally I do think that individuals may go to church for different reasons during his/her entire lifetime - but that is as it should be. Faith is (IMHO) a non- static, organic thing and life experiences shape it in many ways - and it is all the richer for that.

LikeACandleButNotQuite Fri 09-Sep-11 09:31:55

Trinot I give religious gifts for christenings (Illustrated bible, or the like) as it is a religious event, seems appropriate. I do not think they are well received as the parents are in the main, not religious, and therefore do not have need for the gift given iykwim.

NotADudeExactly Fri 09-Sep-11 12:07:37

It might depend on just how religious your environment is. But FWIW both my maternal grandparents went to church each Sunday and referred to themselves as good christians. However they both agreed that they did not believe in a god.

I'm an out and proud atheist and will go on christmas eve if I'm at my mothers - simply because it's a family traditition and I like the local vicar's style and agree with much of what he says, even if I look at it from a secular POV. It's not a touchy feely group huggy type of church, though; I'd never do one of these places to myself voluntarily.

FagAshLill Sun 11-Sep-11 09:03:46

I dont go to church on a regular basis, but I have noticed myself going when under a lot of stress or pressure. I think it's more of somewhere that's quiet and calm so I'm able to think and out of my usual surroundings more than anything.

I do feel better afterwards though.

CaptainMartinCrieff Sun 11-Sep-11 09:07:14

I'm an atheist but go to church on remembrance sunday. It's something I've always done and it feels very important to me to be in church on that day.

SageMist Sun 11-Sep-11 13:53:57

I'm an atheist and I love going to churches. Don't go for any services though, just to wander about the building. Church buildings are often beautiful and peaceful and I like to admire the effort and craftsmanship.

I wouldn't however take my children to a church service, as I don't believe. So no it isn't something that I would consider 'just what you do'.

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