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Christians: The Top 20 Reasons This Militant Atheist Goes to Your Church (Sometimes)
Several atheists discuss going to church, and many in the church are a bit apprehensive about these critical tourists entering their sanctuaries. Others think this is proof that, deep inside, we really believe in Christ. I've found that neither of these perceptions are accurate, at least in my case. So, to bridge the divide between atheists and Christians here, I thought I'd address this subject. Why do I (and perhaps other atheists firmly against Christianity) occasionally attend churches, especially after a dramatic break from them?
1. Because I want to build relationships between Christians and Atheists.
2. Because church is the natural place to talk to Christians about their religion.
3. Because I want to visit the version of myself that was a Christian. Like someone might go to a gravesite, or to their old place of employment, or even to a place that was once full of fear that they no longer feel.
4. Because I still feel like a part of the world, and the fact that I'm an atheist gives me freedom, not bondage. I can walk into a Buddhist temple, a Mosque, a Catholic Church, a Mormon Church, a Christian Church, and that of other faiths precisely because I don't believe in their creeds -- because I believe in mankind and love people. I'm more, not less, a part of the world than I was before.
5. Because, from the outside, Christians can look oppressive and monstrous. Even having been a Christian, from the outside Christians seem to do and say terrible things that make me angry and furious, so I need to go to church in order to see the real people behind the insults, the horrific doctrine, and the destruction of human rights in society. Sometimes I get absolutely livid, and then I go to church and smile and talk to these people as people, and then I can go back to separating my hate for what they believe from the people, whom I love dearly, and when I talk to them I can become more understanding.
6. Because I like the music, even if I don't like the words.
7. Because I'm trying to remind my family and closest friends that I still "belong" even though I no longer believe -- I still am a member of the same humanity they are.
8. Because I'm curious -- different churches have different communities, different ways of looking at the world, and I just want to see another corner of humanity.
9. Because, maybe, the ritual is like a hobby. Like, when you haven't done something in a long time, and you kinda miss it -- not enough to do it all the time, but just to sample it once in a while.
10. Because, when I talk to Christians, I want to know I am speaking to them where they are actually at (conceptually, socially, etc.), and not where I think they are at.
11. To make new friends.
12. So that I can find more reasons and ways to deconstruct Christianity, hopefully saving others from the cult.
13. So that I can show people that you don't need to be ashamed going to a church or any house of religion as an open atheist. Maybe I think my courage will give doubting Christians the freedom to embrace their doubt.
14. Because I hope for the understanding that has eluded me from most in the church and even some atheists.
15. Because of the atmosphere -- I don't like the sermons, I can't stand the words in the songs, and my heart breaks at how hard people are trying to dedicate their lives to a lie...but I know the atmosphere, the discussion afterwards, and the chatting about life at a nearby restaurant or someone's home.
16. Because I'm trying to understand -- not just the doctrine, but the FEEL of church, because I think that's necessary in talking to Christians -- at least, it's necessary for me. Books will only get you so far, but trying to get the feel, and dissecting it...that, I suspect, will give me more progress.
17. Because I'm hoping to shake hands with old friends.
18. Because I want to show people that I'm open minded, especially since most of the people who knew me as Christian think I'm very closed minded towards Christianity these days.
19. Because of my respect for the people I care about. I don't believe it, but it seems, for some people, it's still a way of telling them, "I respect you as a person, even though I don't like your beliefs."
20. Because I have thoughts about how the church "works" and indoctrinates people, and I want to go to see if these theories actually hold true.
Every time I go something makes me very sad, something makes me smile with a bit of nostalgia, and something makes me more understanding. It's very emotionally draining, so I only go once every 6-8 weeks. But if you're wondering why -- there's part of my attempt at an answer, best as I can give it.