An atheist goes to church.

I am indeed a reverend, believe it or not! Ordained by the Universal Life Church, even before you could do it online at

I don’t remember how I felt about it before recent events (and there are more bad ones than the death of my Dad) but now I am not offended at all. Best wishes are best wishes, and I need all I can get right now. At worst, I will consider someone that thinks I’ll go to heaven as simply wrong, and not being offensive.

Revtim, along with many others I applaud you for showing respect and love toward your mother’s faith.

Revtim and Badtz Maru. Both of you express a wish that you would have the faith that some religious people have, yet I am guessing you are both unconvinced by the apologetics put forth by religious advocates. My only advice is to actively seek truth and do good. Many have found faith late in life(C.S. Lewis is one well-known example) and there are many righteous people who never found what they were looking for(I would put Camus in this grouping). Oftentimes the journey can be as important as the destination in many facets of life.

As far as the hijack on communion practices Roman Catholics and some Lutherans(LCMS I think) believe in Transubstantiation. Eastern Orthodox maintain that that the Eucharist is indeed the body and blood of Christ but do not subject it to the microscope of transubstantiation. It is symbol AND substance, mystically. Most Protestants(Methodists, Baptists, Charismatics, Wesleyans, etc) maintain that communion is a symbol only and done in remembrance of the Passion of Christ.

I’m kind of amazed to find out I’m not the only athiest who wishes they weren’t - I always thought that was some bizarre…quirk or mine. I completely lost faith five years ago, kind of regained a little bit a while ago, but then my rabbi (I’m raised Jewish, tried out various religions, have yet to find something I can handle) managed to completely alienate me from all organized religion.

One grandmother is Jewish (non-observant for the most part) but I’ll go to the high holy day services with her becuase she’s in her last years and it would break her heart to know I’ve completely sworn of Judaism. Other grandmother is a devout Catholic (whole side of the family is, actually) and I get dragged to Christmas mass with them every year, despite them all knowing (but not accepting) my lack-of-beliefs. I do my best to shut up and be happy that religion means so much to my family, but their church is generally of the ‘burn in hell if you’re not us’ variety. However, I’m incredibly jealous of the comfort and especially the sense of belonging it provides them all with.

ELCA Lutheran here, but raised Missouri Synod. Missouri used to celebrate communion once a quarter, and anyone who wished to commune had to contact the pastor ahead of time and register (and possibly have a little chat!) These were strictures intended to protect the holiness of the sacrament, but over time they came to be used in a very judgmental way. Since the basis of Lutheran theology is grace, once this was recognised the LCMS started to encourage more frequent communion. However, since there is nothing in the known universe more resistant to change than religious practice, I read recently that most LCMS congregations are now only up to once a month.

ELCA is the result of a merger of several different bodies with different traditions, but the “official” policy is to encourage frequent communion. Most congregations celebrate at least every other week. Both LCMS and ELCA tend to offer both grape juice and wine. The big debate right now is on communing children. More and more ELCA congregations are moving to communing anyone who wants to partake, including children and adults not yet baptised and baptised but not confirmed children. This is still playing out, but my guess is that it will probably settle on communing anyone baptised.

I also wanted to comment on the nature of faith. We tend to define faith as a matter of “believing” something. What does that mean? To think that something is true? To wonder if it could be true? To never doubt that things that cannot be proven are factual? These are very intellectual definitions.

I don’t want to give the impression that faith has never had an intellectual component, but for most of the history of the church universal, faith has had much more of an “action” component. What you believe is what you do. Patristic sermons are full of what is now called “character ethics” (Stanley Hauerwas is a major theorist), that is, what you do is who you become. A common comment about Christianity (by both Christians and non-Christians) in the early centuries was that even the uneducated lower classes (and women!) lived in certain ways - what they believed and what they did were inseperable.

All that to say that most of us worry way too much about what we are thinking, about all the voices and doubts and arguments in our heads, when we really should be looking at what we are doing. In my mind, the local congregation is the reason that the church still exists. It isn’t theological debate, or philosophical argument, it’s what ordinary people do for one another, day in and day out, in good times and bad.

Revtim, I appreciate that you are able to be kind to your mother in this. Probably because of the way some Christians have behaved over the years, too many atheists/agnostics never let an opportunity pass to mock and belittle Christians. Thanks for being open-minded enough to realize that there are positives in the mix!

I am sorry for your loss Revtim
I understand how you feel about religion. I’m agnostic/athiest debending on whether I sleep more on my left side or right i guess. My daughter (10 almost 11) drowned last April. God I wished I believed in God!( the irony is not lost on me) I see the comfort others feel when in their community and I wish…
If I could believe I could see her again everything would be a lot better. Once I even got almost to the door of a Catholic church (I was born into a Catholic family). I couldn’t go in, the hypocracy was too much for me. Me, a non-believer wanting to take time from a priest to ask dumb questions. Knowing I would completely doubt his answers (more than likely).
I generally respect the religious beliefs others have until the condescension towards me begins. Fundamentalists of any belief scare me. You treated your mother well, be happy wth this.
Every day. I wish…
If wishes were fishes no-one would starve and the place would stink to high heaven.

I am very sorry for your loss tunabreath, I see that we are feeling much of the same things. The thought of attending church on my own (now that I’m back in Fl) has also crossed my mind occasionally , but I also feel that would be too hypocritical.

As a confirmed agnostic and a decided unbeliever in organized religion, I would actually urge you to try finding a church of your own, Revtim. It is not hypocritical to look for answers. What is hypocritical is saying “I’m open-minded” and then resisting any and all efforts to let possibility exist.

My sympathies on your loss.

Revtim, I am sorry for your loss.
Now for the religion part… Perhaps you should do some searching outside of the Christian faith. I was very nearly an athiest until I stumbled upon Judaism. Christianity simply wasn’t right for me; you may find that another religion suits you and makes you feel “warm and fuzzy” inside. I know this will get me in trouble with the fundies, but expiriment! Try different things. You may like the open-endedness of some of the Eastern religions…


I’ve watched you grow on this board right along with me. And now to hear what boundless love you have for your mother helps so much to explain why you have this capacity for growth. You open not just your mind, but your heart as well. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Your father must be a great man. If I may lend you any support, let me know, and I will arrange to make my e-mail available to you. God go… Well… I love you.

I was raised in the Episcopal church. We attended church every Sunday, from my earliest memories until I left home at 19. I attended Sunday school every week; I was an altar boy, serving at least once a month; I “volunteered” for various work duties around the church at least once a month; I attended a Catholic college with required classes in religion; I have read the Bible cover-to-cover at least once, parts of it multiple times.

I have been an agnostic since the age of 12, when I first learned what that word meant and I realized that this stuff didn’t make any sense to me.

I have been an atheist since the age of 16, when I realized that this stuff didn’t make any sense at all.

But when I reached a certain age, 20-24, I also realized that I envied the simple faith that religious people have. And I mourned the faith I once had as a child. To seek truth and go good is indeed the path to follow, regardless. But I despair at times when I look at this life, and this world, and these people, and think “This is it?” But I still keep trying. I watched my father die of cancer over an 18 year period. Do you know what kept him alive through three bouts of “terminal” cancer? His faith.

I have tried different flavors of Christianity. I have studied the Bible. I have read C.S. Lewis and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. (Remember the Catholic college above.) But I just cannot put my faith in the God of the Old Testament or the new “god” of the New Testament. Jesus’ message was a good one; but no religion I am aware of follows it.

I really try to have respect for the religious beliefs of others. I really do. I only ask two things:

  1. Respect my “religious” beliefs as well. Just because I don’t believe the same things you believe doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

  2. Understand what your religious beliefs actually are.

My brother and I are not on speaking terms right now. Why? He recently divorced his wife of many years, with whom he had had three children, to marry his (Catholic) girlfriend. He contacted his archdiocese to arrange an annulment so that they could be married in the Roman Catholic church. His bishop sent me a survey so I could testify that his marriage to his first wife wasn’t real. I contacted him and declined to participate, because I believed that his first marriage was real. He was furious.

My wife’s mother told me that I was going to hell because I am an atheist. Also because I was living in sin with her daughter before we got married. Oddly, she is today living in sin with a man for the past seven years. I should mention that she teaches catechism for her local church and has recently joined the Carmelites as a lay member.

And fundamentalists scare the hell out of me, too. The moral difference between Jerry Falwell and your basic Islamic mullah advocating the death of America is mainly in their headgear.

Anaxagoras wrote:

Well, then, silly! Don’t follow the religion; follow Jesus. :slight_smile:

Who was it who said, “Agnostics are atheists who don’t want to argue about it”? I, too, am either atheist or agnostic, depending on the phase of the moon.

Other than weddings and funerals, I haven’t been to a church service in over 30 years, and am not sure exactly what the rules are any more. (Do people still get dressed up?) I went through my evangelical atheist phase, trying to spread the good news of rationalism. Since then, I guess I’ve got a tad more humility. I’ve met people who were smarter and better than me, and who are Christian. Who the hell am I to tell them what to think? And I’ve envied them somewhat. It would be nice to believe in Heaven and a benevolent supreme being.

I take kind of an anthropological view point any more. If I visited a mosque, I’d take off my shoes. If I’m having dinner with a friend whose family prays before dinner, I’ll bow my head, not because I’m a Christian, but out of simple regard for a culture that’s important to someone I respect.

However, I demand the same respect in return. Do not assume that I haven’t heard “the word,” or that I don’t want to be bothered with morality.

Come to think of it, I think it was Barry Longyear in Saint Mary Blue.

Sorry to quote myself.

"The Bible says ‘Love thy neighbor’ " said Sanford’s son.
Sanford said “Well, whoever said that didn’t live in this neighborhood”

Now to a more serious note. I think that I have never met a religion that didn’t have beautiful things to say. I think Judaism may be close without it’s trappings.
“But all the religions that I tried were about the same, one grain of truth mixed with confusion caused by man.” John Kay

Anaxagoras, I must clarify, I don’t “generally respect” any thing. I respect all until I know better. The shadow(s) of doubt rule supreme! better to think better and be sadly proved wrong. I really don’t like being wrong about these things.
Think well of others. Be nice, be civil. Help others. Other rules as may apply.
That’s about all the preaching I can do Yorick.

humility, one day…


I wish there was an easy answer to give. I suspect that a reason that many religious people are not taken seriously by society is when they advocate that life is simple and all you need to do is follow X + Y to get Z. In reality, life is hard, and many lessons are only learned in retrospect. Christ said that his yoke was light but he also said that it was impossible to do the things he advocated. There are many paradoxes in life and religion and they are not all easily resolved after reading some clever book.

Despair is the real enemy. While at times it seems that answers cannot possibly exist and there must not be a reason for being I would ask you not to give up on your search. I cannot promise you will find an answer right away, but if you are persistant you will find truth. Or perhaps truth will find you. I wish you well on your journey.


God bless you Revtim, and your mother.

Perhaps you can find a church that accepts atheists.

And if there isn’t one, then I ask the Christians, damnit, why not?

But, failing that let those of us who are willing give you that fellowship. Find the folks that do the loving, and tell them, “I have not the faith, but wish to get in on the giving and loving. I want to care for others, and be cared for, as well.”

That’s a challenge any one who thinks he is following Jesus should be happy to take up. Come to think of it, they pretty much have to. I think. Don’t we?

Well, anyway, Do what you think God would want you to do, if there was one. Because the stuff such a God would want would be good, right? So, it would still be good if He didn’t exist. You can believe in that, can’t you? Fellowship in service to the needs of your fellow man can’t be a bad thing. And it seems to be helping a lot of people to do the helping, as well.

So, be an atheist for Christ’s sake. It could catch on. You could start a church of your own. Get on the Intern . . . wait, nevermind. Just go back and do the good works, because they are good works to do.

Of course, I happen to think you will end up saved, and in Heaven, and all that stuff if you do, but I won’t mention that, because I don’t want you getting away.