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Atheists - is there anything about faith that appeals to you, would you like to believe?

(411 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Wed 27-Mar-13 10:51:43

Hi, I've been reading a few threads and I've heard atheists say stuff in the past about belief in God. Stuff like they don't believe in God but they would like to or they can see why it would maybe give peace or would be nice etc. I am just curious how atheists feel a bout this and if they want to talk about it?

I am a Christian, I hope I am an open and tolerant person and I would not want to cause offence. I am just curious, as we come into Easter if anyone wants to chat about this.

If not, may I wish you a peaceful and happy Easter, even if all it means to you is some chocolate eggs.

FloatyBeatie Wed 27-Mar-13 11:00:01

I'm an atheist who admires faith. I think of Christianity as being deeply expressive of important truths and important uncertainties (often expressing them better than non-religious language), even if it also (as far as I am concerned) contains falsehoods. I sometimes show up to Quaker meetings, in a spirit of pro-religious atheism.

cestlesautres Wed 27-Mar-13 11:00:20

Well, I'd like to, but I'm damned if I can find a C of E church where people have a Christian attitude towards other people.

Italiangreyhound Wed 27-Mar-13 11:12:12

FloatyBeatie thank you for responding, how lovely, I like that 'in a spirit of pro-religious atheism.'

cestlesautres, thank you for posting. I was worried no one would reply! I'm just curious, is that all the people in the C of E church you've been to, or most or some? I was C of E for most of 30 years as a Christian and then for kind of geographical reasons we switched to a Free Church. I find the people equally lovely in both, but there were and are always people I don't agree with. Just curious is it is limited to the C of E. My expereince is that Christian groups like all groups of people contain good and bad.

BlissfullyIgnorant Wed 27-Mar-13 11:14:06

Well now, where do I begin...
I like the community feeling you get with a church: I know a bit about this as DS sings with a church choir and we've been to some of the events. You probably get the same with a synagogue but that's outside my general sphere of experience apart from one wedding and one bar mitzvah. I haven't sampled any others, not entirely sure I'd want to as I didn't much like the enforced segregation at the Jewish wedding. Even DH said its a shame we don't do faith/ religion as he quite enjoyed the community feel (he's Jewish/born again atheist). I like the routine of gathering and singing, although I think I might like it more if there was an atheist friends meeting group with attached choir nearby grin

I want to move away from Suburbia and to a semi-rural place with a church and 2 pubs. If the church is CofE I might even join the gang. I couldn't do RC - too much fear and guilt.

What I don't like is people who think they know better/are better because they have faith (such people will often deny this and claim to be free of bigotry). People like me are not 'sinful', we mostly know right from wrong, are ethical and philosophical, but we don't do good deeds to ensure our place in heaven because we don't believe in it. We do good deeds by applying thought and consideration and because its good to be kind in the here and now, rather than follow some artificial tale in an ancient book that religious people use as an instruction manual for life. By way of example, I wouldn't do as the bible says in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 because it is fundamentally wrong. (It tells you that if you have a rebellious son who back-chats, you should take him and have him stoned to death by the elders of the town. Tempting as it might be...)

slug Wed 27-Mar-13 11:17:44

I think it would just be so easy. I love the idea of not having to really apply myself to think through dilemmas or morality but to be able to rely on a set of pre-prepared instructions and guidelines.

I'm not saying that my personal brand of morality does not broadly line up with Christianity, which did, after all, borrow theirs from previous cultures, but I do veer away in some cases. Mostly, admittedly this is in the area of human and especially women's rights.

However, having said that I think I'm going to have to contradict myself and suggest it must be really difficult to try and reconcile modern thinking and religious dogma. I would hate, for example, to be a Christian woman with a deeply unwanted pregnancy. Or even a C of E woman with a vocation and a talent for leadership.

Blu Wed 27-Mar-13 11:23:59

I am an atheist and there are aspects of faith that I think are valuable human experience on a philosphical / psychological sort of way.

I might not be able to explain this very well. I think there is value in human beings being able to surrender themselves to something. Such as in a trust game where you fall and people catch you. An experience giving yourself over to another, with trust. It is very strengthening to understand that you can be safe that way, as well as having strong independence and self-sufficiency. In the secular world, this is where I see the value of love or deep friendship.

The other thing which I see faith offering is a sense of something which transcends the material understanding of things. Such as the seeling I get fom great art or music or poetry. Some people call this 'spirituality', perhaps. A very very prminent theologian once told me that he sees the arts and religion fulfilling something of a common function in that way, and I agree.

None of this leads me to feel I would like to believe, I just don't. But I think that some of the quallities and experiences that faith offers are of value for humans, through whatever medium.

I am talking strictly of faith, not the church or any particular religion.

greencolorpack Wed 27-Mar-13 11:25:08

Slug I agree with you about an unwanted pregnancy, that must be hard to reconcile.

I went to a c of E church and led bible studies, and enjoyed it very much. I did not fancy leadership. I come from a feminist background and my Mum was horrified I went to a church without women leaders. But my argument is this: there have been many schisms within the Protestant church over the last x number of centuries and thusly there ARE churches out there with women priests/ministers/leaders. God gave us brains to use and gave us choices to make. So if I had had a burning desire to lead and be a female minister, I would have toddled on down the road and worshipped God in another church that did have women leaders.

When an issue doesn't really matter to you but in a list of pros and cons the church you are in has more pros than cons then you might as well stay in the one you are in even if there are no women leaders.

I was highly respected by men and women in that c of E church and given a lot more respect and understanding for my life choices than my mum the feminist ever gave me. When I was home with the kids my mum kept going on about how I ought to be looking for a job. I was able to be home with my kids so I was. My church was full of people who respected my desire to do this. Men and women. Women were in no way looked down upon and I never ever heard a chauvinist or misogynist comment from anyone in the leadership team.

FloatyBeatie Wed 27-Mar-13 11:31:38

I like your post, Blue. I too think of art/literature and religion as being very close. The difficulty is in conceptualising what they both offer. I think of it as something to do with providing an immediate, embodied, aesthetic experience of truths that are learned elsewhere -- truths that aren't specifically religious (they may for example be scientific or philosophical ones), but which cry out for the resources of distinctively religious practices or imagery.

cestlesautres Wed 27-Mar-13 11:40:36

OP, I think the splits and rifts within the C of E have led to some very weird people becoming clergy, and that the viciousness of the church politics filters down to the culture within each church. It is hard to find any kindness or compassion or generosity of spirit.

FloatyBeatie Wed 27-Mar-13 11:46:09

There is a blog post that I like here about the value of religion even to an atheist as a means of experiencing certain truths and doubts. It also looks at the question of whether it is possible to actually be religious without holding any beliefs in god or any other similarly religious entity.

HarrietSchulenberg Wed 27-Mar-13 11:47:11

I would like to be able to believe in something blindly, without question. To have the comfort of "knowing" that I will meet everyone I've lost and will lose again. I would like to think that someone else is controlling my actions and that everything that happens to me is for a reason, a good reason.
But I can't because for me it's not true.

AltogetherAndrews Wed 27-Mar-13 11:51:09

I am an atheist. I don't think that I would want to be religious, as the idea is completely alien to me, however, there are some aspects of it that I wish I could experience.

I think it would be amazing to have the comfort of believing in an afterlife when you lose a loved one. Being able to feel that you would see them again must make such a difference. But it isn't available to me.

I also think that for some people, but by no means all, religion allows them to have a very positive outlook in life, and allows them to see hugely positive messages in the most trivial of things. To me, it all sounds very naive, and often like rubbish, not that I would ever say that to them, but I suppose, it must be nice to live that positively. I think this is probably only true of a small number of religious people though. I do try to live a reasonably positive life, and I don't think religion is needed to do that, but it does seem to be a handy thing for when life grinds you down a bit.

I also find the ritual side of things appealing. It is nice to be able to mark occasions and the passing of time, to be able to devote time specifically to the memory of someone, or the changing of the seasons. I don't think that religion or faith is at all essential to this, but as atheisism is not organised, these things don't, well, get organised. I just join in with DH's stuff- he is pagan. We mark the seasons, and candles are lit for people, but I am not required to believe in anything.
As to the question of whether i would like to believe, I find it kind of odd. It's like asking if I would like to be someone else. I don't think that the person that I am is capable of religious faith. It just isn't there. It's like asking if I would like to believe in fairies or the Loch Ness monster. I don't mean to be offensive, but that is how it feels to me. I struggle to understand how people can have faith to be honest.

greencolorpack Wed 27-Mar-13 11:51:54

Harriet if it makes it any better, probably not but, I recently lost someone and she was an atheist and I am pretty sure I will not meet her again in the next life. Because she didn't want God, she rejected Him forever. The comfort of being a Christian is there if other Christians die, but apart from that all you have is heartbreak and hope that maybe they did repent on their deathbed, something you can't possibly know, unless you were there at the time. Sorry major buzz kill.

Blu Wed 27-Mar-13 11:54:48

Floaty - it is because of the things that you talk of in your post of 11.00, "important truths and important uncertainties " , and the things that between us we are trying to articulate, that I never slag off faith per se. (though I am v critical of the role of religion in different spheres)

I think people need to think carefully about what faith is, and stop comparing it to science and saying it is worthless because the existence of God cannot be proven. To my mind, that is the whole point - the whole point of faith is to believe something with faith not evidence. The whole point of science is to test a theory and draw measurable and evidence based conclusions. The intended outcomes are wholly different.

We should not 'believe' in the Higgs Bosun particle, we should keep seeking the evidence for it or otherwise. Nor is it helpful to seek proof and evidence for god as the focus of faith. They are different things.

WhispersOfWickedness Wed 27-Mar-13 11:55:19

Haven't got time to answer now, but would like to so am marking place!smile

MsGee Wed 27-Mar-13 11:55:49

I am an aetheist and have often thought it must be nice to just believe.

I don't though obviously grin.

I guess the thing about faith is that its either there or not? It would be nice to be able to (convincingly) tell my DD that we are all still together after death. I can see the stories of heaven are much more appealing to her than my 'you're just dead and can't feel anything so don't need to worry' explanation. And I would desperately like to believe that myself.

I also think that it must be comforting in times of suffering to believe that there is a plan or a higher being watching out for you (although suspect this comes with its own issues when in pain). Or a community of people there to support you. I went through a difficult loss a few years ago and was struggling and my GP asked if I went to church! I sometimes wondered if faith would have helped me then, rather than having to just reconcile myself to the fact that we were unlucky.

On a greedier note, I would quite like some of the foody rituals that often go with religion.

mintymellons Wed 27-Mar-13 12:05:46

I'm an aetheist and can see the appeal of having a faith, but I simply cannot believe in anything so ephemeral.

To me, the concept of Gods and religious figures is just too fantastical and doesn't make sense.

I know quite a few people who have faith, and on the whole they are a kind and happy bunch, but I don't think that status is unique to them.

Italiangreyhound Wed 27-Mar-13 12:06:08

Oh my goodness so many replies!

I am afraid have got to go to a meeting now and do some work but I will pop back later and read all your comments.

Thank you.

aliasjoey Wed 27-Mar-13 12:08:26

I'm agnostic and desperate for religion. Not for the moral issues, as I think we have to work those out on our own. I do have confused morals, but this leads me to listen to others and sometimes even learn something new.

I like the idea of community, especially for lonely and elderly people,but I think there ought to be non-religious alternatives.

My main desire is for an afterlife - not in a wanting to live forever sense, but just the fear of not knowing what happens after you die. Can there really be nothing else? Also when I feel angry about atrocities or evil people who go unpunished, I don't exactly think they should go to hell, but I hope they will one day achieve enlightenment and understanding.

I have thought what I need is a week-long course of religious taster sessions (you know like those trial packs of mini perfumes?)

I am ripe to be sucked into some wacky cult.

slug Wed 27-Mar-13 12:16:13

Alas greencolourpark women may be leaders in your church but they are not allowed to be Bishops, or sit in the House of Lords as such, nor lead the whole church. The church seems to have the same idea as the banking system i.e. it's OK to have a few token ones around to make it look like they are going through the motions but they ain't going to give you the top job.

Waspie Wed 27-Mar-13 12:18:00

I’m an atheist and very happy and content with my belief that there is no God. However, like others who have posted, I would like to experience the feeling of having faith.

For me it is organised religion that I don’t like – the hypocrisy, exclusion and misogyny associated with some organised religions which pretend to preach “Christian” values but then exclude women, or prevent women making choices over their own lives and discriminate against various sectors of society based on some tenuous allegorical chapter from Leviticus (or wherever) whilst ignoring most of the other things that are apparently “forbidden”. This hypocrisy is abhorrent to me. I have no desire to be associated with an organised religion or any person who uses the bible to excuse his or her own prejudices.

But people with a faith – these people I enjoy talking to and spending time with and talking about their beliefs.

For example, when I was a young child I knew a missionary; she was our next door neighbour. She had spent decades in various parts of the world – India, Cambodia, Nigeria aiding refugees and trying to make their lives better. She did this because she believed it was her Christian duty and she embraced her God and celebrated him/her by helping others. I admired her very much and as a child I thought this was what people who believed in God did – they put others first.

I have no desire to believe in a heaven, or an afterlife. If I did I would be Buddhist smile

headinhands Wed 27-Mar-13 12:53:17

I'd love there to be an atheist 'church' in my area. A place where we can gather for learning and organise some charity type stuff for our community. I have looked at the nearest Humanist society but it's too far away to be local. Ideally it'd start with meeting in a pub and work from there.

Waspie Wed 27-Mar-13 13:14:43

When I was 15 I lost a very close friend in a car accident. At his funeral his mother told me that in the most awful, horrific, terrible time in her life she still had her faith and belief and so she knew that P had gone to a “better place”. I’m glad she had her faith. At that time, I would have liked to share it.

LaundryFairy Wed 27-Mar-13 13:19:37

I am an atheist who actually worked for the church for a few years, and saw that there was much good that it could do. I admired some of the communities, as well as much of the wonderful art and architecture associated with it.


My favourite quote about religion is still this one from John Stewart:

"Religion is a great comfort to people in a world torn apart"

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