For a good while now, I’ve immensely enjoyed having 2 day weekends. I work Monday through Friday and, generally, don’t work weekends unless my shop is busy during outage season, but even then, it’s not a common occurrence.
When I was a regular church attendee and worked this same schedule, I had a 2 day weekend, but largely felt cheated out of the 2nd day. Why? Well, you’ve got stuff to do! You’ve got to wake up and make yourself look presentable and get your ass to church!
From wake up to walk back in the door of your house, you’re looking at a minimum of a solid couple of hours removed from your “free” day. Since I did this 5 times a week already, a 6th time is a drag, especially when there’s so much other stuff I could be doing, but leaving the church has allowed me to fully enjoy the 2 day weekend!
Oddly enough, the full commitment to the 2 day weekend has had some drawbacks. Mainly in the form of losing a social circle and structure I’d unknowingly relied upon for 29 years.
With that in mind, I’m going to spill the beans, here goes, no more beating around the bush, I’m going to say it *deep breath* atheists really suck at get togethers. Not that we don’t have fun once assembled, atheists are a blast at parties, but we suck at getting together frequently.
I’ve found myself, over the past 6 months or so, craving that consistent fellowship (OHNOHEDIDNTUSETHATWORD) with friends. The catching up, the unrequested and much appreciated offers for help if you mention an upcoming project, the laughter and, yes, shockingly, even the songs.
If you’re a believer and you’re reading this, you understand fully what I’m saying.
If you’re a former believer and at one time were a part of a great church, you’ll have inklings of remembrance of what I’m talking about.
If you’ve never really done church or are a staunch, lifelong atheist, you’ll think I’m bananas and that I need to hop back on YouTube and watch some Hitch Slaps by Christopher Hitchens or reread The God Delusion (I only ever made it halfway through….sorry).
This is not me backsliding into belief. I still label myself as an Agnostic Atheist whose conclusion is agnosticism, but has an opinion of atheism.
So, should I, as an atheist, throw the baby out with the bath water?
I still believe that while religion is capable of doing great deeds of good in the world, it is also a very negative force when used immorally or to subjugate and hurt others.
Being honest with myself, I could never, ever deny the power of community and that’s something that atheism fails at, in my experience, almost completely and that theism is dominant on.
This is the truth because of 2 reasons: First, atheists have no central book of belief to centralize itself around. Christians have the bible to go to and, very literally, build their lives around. Atheists lack that. All that unites us is a lack of belief in a higher power. The second reason is that atheists lack the numbers that believers have. If it weren’t for the internet, I’d probably think I was the only atheist east of Chicago.
The bottom line is that I miss the community of church and I’d like my kids to have the social time with other kids that’s important for their development.
So, I ask myself, can I “do” church? Can I sit in service for an hour and listen to a man I almost fully disagree with? Can I allow my kids to hear stories that I feel are almost fully fabricated? Can I betray all my hard, honest, painful and lengthy, torturous hours of self reflection and study to regain that sense of community? Most importantly, can I give up my 2 day weekends?
For the right church, maybe?
I’m currently, very loosely, on the lookout for a church that’s very large on love, community service and acceptance and super low on hell and damnation. While I can tolerate much of what’s spoken from the pulpit, I have a bit of a gag reflex when someone says I’m born with an unvalidated disease and only they sell the cure. That’s coercion any which way you slice it.
I’m not saying that there are no bad people or less savory character traits, but that natural sin and my punishment of hell is almost a full on deal breaker. I can tolerate hearing it. Roll my eyes and sit silent as I’m, again, told about a loving god that throws you into hell if you don’t love him back (conditional love), but I can’t, CANNOT, allow my children to hear that. Game over. Done.
If there’s a church out there that wants to talk about Jesus and miracles and disciples and how groovy of a guy he was because he stuck up for the poor, weak and less polished of society, I think that’s pretty damn awesome.
I don’t say this to sound harsh, but if my kids asked me about it, I’d compare it to other great characters helping the less fortunate like Harry Potter or Charles Xavier. Good people helping others except Jesus has some songs!
Much good can come from these stories: bravery, selflessness, love, compassion, loyalty.
But I have to draw the line at my kids thinking a place like hell exists and that there’s a remote chance that anyone, not just them, anyone could go there.
So, now the question isn’t if I can “do” church because I think I can.
The question is now, does such a church even exist?