Many times over the past year, my mother has invited me to go to church with her. It is clear that this gesture would make her happy. However, I am a little apprehensive about accepting the invitation. The problem is not that I am threatened in any way by church services... I'm not. It's that the church my family attends is still the same one that I attended before I deconverted. I have... well... some mixed feelings about that church. There are many good memories, but I also have to remember the faith and friends I lost and that time of darkness and uncertainty right after my faith collapsed and I was left reeling without an identity or purpose in life. I don't know what to do. Help.

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If it makes you uncomfortable, I say definitely don't do it.  Does your mom know you're atheist?  If so, it sounds like she needs to accept it.  If not, it sounds like you need to tell her.  Have you explained it to her like you did above?  That it's not "church" that bothers you, it's just *that* church.  Then maybe suggest an alternative, like some other activity (or even another church) you can both enjoy and bond with.

My mom does know I'm an atheist. Pretty much my whole family does. They don't like it... but they are learning to live with it. Most of them have long since given up on trying to convert me back and they have even made brave steps to try to understand my new "perspective." The mark of a family that truly loves you is one that shows such unconditional love as to try to help you find atheist friends in the area so that you aren't lonely (my mother has done this. She told me that she had found a cincinnati atheist group in the newspaper that was having a 20th anniversary conference and said she was willing to accompany me.) They have become far more tolerant and even ask me real questions from time to time... you know the ones that are actually curious instead of accusatory. I have been asked about what secular humanism is for instance. 

But... despite their unconditional love, my family (esp. my mother) is saddened by my lack of faith - and I still think they are convinced that I'm unhappy without God. However, they have backed off and we have found common ground on many things... we have conversations about college and our wierd neighbors instead of religion... which rarely comes up. The fights are decreasing in frequency and intensity and I can see that they really do still love me.

I think my mother misses having me at church.

If you have a friend you met since your "deconversion," perhaps he or she would go with you (and your mom) to your old church, and help you maintain perspective.  Or, you could decide to go, but be ready to just leave the building and take a walk until the service is over -- if you felt you needed to.

Good luck, hope it works out.

My Mother is a Worship Leader at her church (one step from ordination).  I do funerals and weddings but not christenings.  This means I have done one wedding, one funeral and my Mother's service of confirmation in the last five or so years.  I can just about manage that.

My Niece has the lead in the play at the midnight service this Christmas- I made my excuses.  I am close to my family and see them regularly for secular events.  Twice recently I have missed the service but paid my regards at the party afterwards.

The important thing is to remember the church bit has no validity so you don't have to feel guilty!

I am close to my family too. It's not guilt really (except guilt that I keep declining my mother's offers). It's a feeling of sadness and confusion on my part. I am still a "new" atheist technically. Two years is not that long. I lost my faith in high school... which I graduated from four years ago. I didn't recognize myself as an atheist until 2009. The wounds created when I lost god (rather like when your best friend dies) are still fresh... so maybe I just need more time?

i agree with erik on this one. If you don't want to do it or if it makes you uncomfortable then don't do it.

I went to the song service at my old church once last spring.  A lot of people that I know have died recently, and last spring my stepmom's brother passed away.  I was talking to my dad about it on the phone, and I was telling him how I want to spend more time with the family (my family is very close, and I've luckily not had the experience of anyone disowning me since my deconversion).  Anyway, I said I missed him and everyone because they live far away and I don't see them much anymore.  So he invited me to church that sunday, because he was leading worship, and maybe I'd like to come and hear?  One of the few wonderful memories from my childhood involve hearing my dad play guitar and sing....like, all the time.  So I was feeling sad and nostalgic, and I said I'd love to come listen to him sing, but that I'm not going to stay for the whole service.  So I went, and tried to arrive a little late so I could sneak in the back, sat in the very back row, and listened.  I was afraid that people would see me there and think that maybe "God was working on my heart" or "planting a seed" or something.  A few people saw me even though I was trying to hide, and came up and hugged me and told me they were glad to see me.  Some people were surprised that I looked so good and happy.  Anyway, even though I was feeling smug about the silent prayers I knew they were praying for me, I was still glad I went, because I got to hear my dad sing again, which is something I don't get to do very often anymore.  

So I guess my point is, if your intention is to spend time with your mom, or something like that, then go, and don't worry about anything else.  Obviously, the message at church isn't going to move you to converting back.  Don't let pride or fear get in the way of spending time with your loved ones.  If you are secure in what you believe or don't believe, then it shouldn't affect you.  But if you're just going because you feel nagged or pressured into going, then I wouldn't.  I wouldn't let anyone pressure me into going to church.

Not sure if this will help, but this was my experience:

I was given the advice from my siblings to continue going to mass with the family to "make them happy," and I've had several atheist friends state that they do, because it's, "what they do as a family."  I, personally, have some concerns and objections to this advice.  First, my family does not interact or bond during mass, and there are several other activities that we can all do and enjoy together (play games, dinner, museums, parks, etc).  This may be a rationalization, but I think that choosing to take care of something that I need to do while my family is at mass, frees me up to spend time with them when we are all home together.  Second, before, "coming out," I felt trapped and like I had no choice.  I'd prefer not to go back to that place and pair all of those bad feelings with my family.  Third, I prefer not to encourage confusion between what I say and what I do.  Going to mass has no higher meaning to me, but I'm not going to pretend that my parents understand this.  Last, I do lots of things that help my family and bring them happiness.  I refuse to believe that this is all completely negated simply because I do not go to mass with them.

My advice: 1) Find other ways to be happy and interact with your mother and she may learn to accept you and respect your choices. This is sometimes easier said than done, so 2) If you still feel torn and would like to try to go with her, let her know ahead that it may be hard for you and that you'd like to sit in the back so that you can slip out and take a break if needed.  If you feel overwhelmed, take a 5 min breather and head back in.  You may even want to drive separately and tell her that if it's too much you'll see her back at home and you two can have lunch after and catch up.  Talking about and agreeing to this ahead of time is important so that no offense is taken.  If she seems upset or unwilling to accept this sort of a plan, then I'd advise you to tell her that you aren't comfortable enough to go.

Good Luck!

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