I am an atheist. I promised my on-again, off-again semi-Baptist wife that I would go to church with her at least once a month. Foolish, I know. Anyway, since I will honor my word, I am wondering if I can avoid a super-conservative congregation that will offend and/or infuriate me by attending a Unitarian Universalist church. Do any of you with experience in these churches have helpful observations either way?
That is, unless you're fine with attending meetings ("services") at an organization that officially says this about your atheism:
Looking at the religious aspects of many intergroup conflicts, at the violence carried out by zealots in the name of religion, some people conclude that the world would be safer "religion-free." They may even try living this way themselves. But too often they only practice a form of self-delusion. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the human spirit. As C.S. Lewis said, the opposite of a belief in God is not a belief in nothing; it is a belief in anything. Sweep the demon of religion out the door and, like the story in the Gospels, you may only succeed in making room for an evil spirit worse than the first — this one accompanied by seven friends (Luke 11:24-26; Matt. 12:43-45). Zealous atheism can perform this role of demonic pseudoreligion.
Join a local Humanist group, and get your wife to agree to go to one of their meetings every month.
Seems only fair and reasonable.
Bet she doesn't agree to it, though.
Yes. I have just come back from a UU service. In a recent survey 25% of that church's congregation listed themselves as atheist. The pastor is an atheist. Last year the previous pastor began his Christmas Eve sermon by criticizing Christians for stealing the Roman/Pagan holiday. After today's service I joined a small discussion - 3 of us were atheists, and the other was a former Roman Catholic nun who still believes in god, but who lost faith, as her Church defines it, because of its assumptions of inequality. In today's service, the only mention of God was in readings from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail", which of course is critical of Christian leaders.
It is in an old neo-Gothic 19th century church, and services still have the trappings - the pastor wears a black robe, the choir and congregation sing traditional (though reworded) hymns and spirituals - today the choir sang U2's "MLK", and its standards include Benedetti's Argentinian praise of revolution "Te Quiero" - but it is because they are parts of our culture's 'imagining' of spiritual activity.
I think the UU church would be ideal for a couple like yoursevles. The UU's accept atheists as well as theists, so both of you would be accepted.
I forget what talk show I saw this on, Letterman maybe a long time ago, some actress saying this about UU, "I don't understand Unitarians. If you believe like that in England, you don't go to church at all." From my limited experience with UU (maybe two services, 20 years ago), I'd say she is right. I got that probably all they believed in was being nice, and having coffee after the service.
If it isn't too late to renegotiate this deal, ask her to go with you to a National Atheist Party meetup with you once a month, quid pro quo. Local chapters usually have something going on, and it will be more fun than any church service, even UU. Though seeing a UU minister demonstrate how the bible was put together by ripping apart a stack of magazines and having the kids pick up the shreds actually was pretty entertaining.