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Atheist wanting to join church

(60 Posts)
CougheeBean Wed 28-Mar-18 10:47:48

I'm having a really shit time at the moment and despite being a staunch atheist I have always had a huge admiration for the hope and community in religion. I live in a very diverse area with lots of churches and mosques, but a lot of the services are in languages I don't know. I just want some comfort, maybe I'll find God or maybe I'll find some brief relief or maybe I'll find it all pointless. I don't know where to start.

I have no religious friends and I work long city hours. How can I get involved in a low-pressure way and see if there's a faith which is right for me? I have anxiety and am very nervous about just showing up. It's clear that I won't culturally 'fit in' in most religious settings near me as most women have these fantastic traditional sunday outfits and obviously have incredibly strong community and family bonds.

DadDadDad Wed 28-Mar-18 11:38:18

I'm sorry to hear you are having a hard time. I believe that the Christian church would have something to offer you, but some are more geared to welcome newcomers / inquirers than others, and wouldn't care what clothes you wear, or making you do or say things that you weren't comfortable doing. I suspect going to a church with a large congregation might be easier, as you can merge into the crowd. But there are many varieties of service, so don't give up if the first you try doesn't feel right.

One way to start might be to search for websites and look for churches that make an effort to welcome those who have no faith. You could try this website too, as it might show you a local church that runs a course specifically aimed at those with questions:

(You try Alpha courses in a similar vein).

Final suggestion: post on your MN local board and ask for specific church recommendations.

PatriarchyPersonified Wed 28-Mar-18 13:19:03


If you think its going to make you happy then go for it, but I'd caution you that you will almost certainly come away with some form of religious faith. Taking in people who are emotionally vulnerable and looking for any kind of support is the main recruitment model for converting adult believers, which is why churches put so much effort into prisons/hospitals etc, and why Jehovas Witnesses hang on the doorbell of single parents and haunt military communities when their husbands have been deployed.

I suppose its a toss up between whats going to make you happier, religion or not having to give up critical thinking.

There are plenty of non religious social organisations that you can join as well if you need support, just search in your local area.

pallisers Wed 28-Mar-18 13:22:15

I think a lot of people go to church without any strong belief at all but they like the idea of a community, praying together, the rituals and ceremonies, the idea of coming together for support.

I would steer away from any churches that are full-on and try desperately to recruit (JW for example) and instead look for a church that is welcoming and inclusive. The Unitarian church in the US is perfect like this - hardly requires a belief in god but is a very welcoming community. Not sure if they are in the UK.

DoneDisappeared Wed 28-Mar-18 13:25:10

pallisers I was going to suggest Unitarianism - in the US we joke that it's where atheists with children go on Sundays 😂 No need to believe in God when you go and no one pushing a religion

TinLizzy Wed 28-Mar-18 13:27:45

I'd love to join my local church, and I'm an atheist. I cant see why you can't follow the teachings of Jesus, as a historical figure and all round good-egg, without going down the 'son of God' route.
I'm tempted to email the vicar and ask if he'll do a community based sideline thing, for the non religious.

BertrandRussell Wed 28-Mar-18 13:30:00

Do you have a Quaker meeting house near you?

DadDadDad Wed 28-Mar-18 13:31:46

Taking in people who are emotionally vulnerable and looking for any kind of support is the main recruitment model for converting adult believers

Please don't tar all churches with the brush of JWs. I'm not aware that we have a "recruitment model", beyond believing that if we honestly and patiently explain the message about who Jesus is and what he came to do then some people will accept it and come to faith. If anything, from experience, the most likely route to conversion is through genuine friendship (ie someone sharing with a friend and over time demonstrating their sincerity in what they believe, rather than befriending a stranger intending to "brainwash" them into belief).

ElizaDontlittle Wed 28-Mar-18 13:47:10

The URC do exist in the UK, and you'll get a similar welcome at some CofE/Methodist/Independent/Baptist churches etc.
The Christianity Explored site is a good idea, or use Google maps to look at the web pages of those that are near you til you find something that looks in English and casually welcoming.
And anyone with belief or not should be welcomed at church. I think that's one of the best things about it. Love that asks nothing in return. Whilst there's no perfect church if they ask for your agreement to their teachings or your money when you've just arrived, don't go back. There are other churches.

DadDadDad Wed 28-Mar-18 13:51:27

Eliza - URC is different from Unitarianism

mintich Wed 28-Mar-18 13:54:14

For a Catholic church, you just turn up. People will say hi but there is no pressure to keep coming back. It's not something you have to join, you can just turn up and listen to see if you like it

mnahmnah Wed 28-Mar-18 13:56:26

The Sunday Assembly sounds perfect for you. All the community love, hope and support without God. Lots of them around the country, just google it

DairyisClosed Wed 28-Mar-18 13:57:46

We occasionally just turn up for the service in our local cathedral. We aren't religious. They don't mind.

Weezol Wed 28-Mar-18 13:59:10

I'm a Catholic, so I can only really speak from that perspective. If a new face turns up at the churches I've been to, initial assumptions would normally be that you're a visitor, new to the area or similar.

Unless you choose to tell someone the reason you are there, nobody will want to know. You'll just be another person at Mass. There are no questionnaires or sign in books. I have found the same at C of E and Methodist services in the past when I was questioning the Catholic hierarchy (not a fan of the previous pope, to put it mildly) and trying other churches. I was just accepted into the service as if I was a regular.

Wannabecitygirl Wed 28-Mar-18 14:00:06

I go to an Anglican Church. I just use to sit in the back and not really get involved until I was ready. They do courses which helped me

ElizaDontlittle Wed 28-Mar-18 14:02:57

Apologies Daddaddad my mistake. URC probably similarly welcoming and liberal as those churches described by American posters above which is why my assumption. Thank you for pointing it out.

M0RVEN Wed 28-Mar-18 14:07:06

Most mainstream Christian churches would be very happy to have you attend as much as you want and become part of their community, regardless of your beliefs.

They usually require some profession of faith if you wish to become a formal member or take up an official position in the church. But otherwise it’s completely open.

It’s very common to have people who don’t have any religious faith still attend various events, sing in the choir, help at toddler group , guides etc etc

It’s nonsense to suggest that you can “ require “ anyone to believe anything.

chloworm Wed 28-Mar-18 14:09:51

I have never been in a Christian church were I haven't felt welcome and valued. City centre large churches in particular seem to attract people of all walks of life. Christian values are tolerance, kindness and respect, so of course you can live by those without being a believer or regular church goer. Have you see 'This Country'? It's a bit of a piss-take but the two main characters (non-Christians) receive a lot of help and guidance from the parish priest, which they don't get from neighbours/family. Definitely try a few places. If you feel pressured or uncomfortable, try somewhere else.

chloworm Wed 28-Mar-18 14:11:40

M0rven - that sounds like my community. The church is the centre of community life for everyone.

Goodasgoldilox Wed 28-Mar-18 14:12:11

I have found many different Christian churches welcoming. The big ones don't always know if you are new. None of them tested me on my faith (I suppose non of the early followers of Christ were actually Christians. )

The quaker meetings I went to were the most diverse. Any kind of dress seems fine there: hats, turbans and very modern haircuts were all in evidence. They seem to welcome people of all faiths or none. There was a woman at the door who spotted me looking a little uncertain and she offered to explain what would happen (mostly quiet and listening). She did this ending with a smile - and adding that sometimes it was a moving experience - or that sometimes it was an hour's peace and very welcome on a Sunday morning. The group seemed very active in the community and keen to act as Christians in a very charitable way. They gave me an hour's peace and lunch.

rogueantimatter Wed 28-Mar-18 14:33:47

I would recommend you try Triratna Buddhism if there are meetings any where near you. This branch of Buddhism was founded by an English man. It was formerly known as Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.
Buddhism places huge importance on cultivating a healthy mind and body for the benefit of yourself and everyone around you. You can be as secular or as religious as you like. Most centres do classes for beginners/interested people like yourself and more advanced classes and everyone who has done a class is welcome to join their regular day retreats and gatherings. There's a centre in Croydon and, I think, central London. A few in scotland, sorry I don't know about the rest of uk.

I totally get you OP. I'm the same. Utmost respect for the values and discipline of religious communities but no belief.

I occasionally go to christian services and often go to my local buddhist centre.

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts Wed 28-Mar-18 15:06:35

Try this website which will give you some idea about the Church of England churches near you

Other denominations are available......

If you are a city worker then check out your local cathedral which might have lunchtime services or talks.

BertrandRussell Wed 28-Mar-18 16:59:31

Honestly, Quakers are the way to go.

vdbfamily Fri 30-Mar-18 10:20:42

St Helens Bishopsgate has plenty going on during the week for city workers. All Sould also.

DrEustaciaBenson Fri 30-Mar-18 10:35:45

Is there a church near your workplace where you could go in your lunch break for ten minutes quiet reflection or meditation? If you are in the City of London, there are many historic and beautiful churches. Visiting them can have a spiritual benefit (for want of a better phrase) even if you don't have any religious beliefs.

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