Can Atheists feel comfortable in a Unitarian Universalist setting?

Have considered checking out a Unitarian Universalist "church", but since it's over an hour from where I live, I thought I'd send out some feelers and wondered if any atheists have felt comfortable in such a setting.  Seems to me they do a lot of talking about "spiritualism", and I get visions of wiccans or people who think that humans have a soul of some kind.  I'm definitely not interested in being further exposed to that sort of stuff. 


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We used to have in Albuquerque's humanist group a recovered Baptist minister, now UU.  He led a small church which met in a hotel.  I was annoyed when I visited once to hear him preaching a borderline religious sermon.  As I recall, he said it's what they want.  The minister at the big UU church here clearly doesn't care for non-theists, so we may rent their space at times, but I've never felt welcome there. A very few people belong to both our group and her church.  I know in some cities the two groups get along well.

I'm the OP for this discussion.  I did finally visit a UU church in Columbia, SC on Sunday and was overall very excited.  I'll visit again, even though it is over an hour from where I live.  The forum discussion prior to the service was lively and touched on all the topics I love to discuss.  

A large majority of the members seem to be atheists/humanists, including the minister.  His background is pretty fascinating.  Hope some of you will check out  (A Matter of Doubt-- an Atheist Podcast)  If at that site you do a search for Neal Jones you hopefully could find an interview with this guy.  He is so clear in outlining his deconversion process and explaining how a Southern Baptist born and bred wound up as an atheist minister.  The interview is long, but I was hooked after five minutes and listened to the whole thing.

I'm sorry, but I just have to say this! Can atheists feel comfortable in a Unitarian Universalist setting? Is this not just another "church" even if the many "beliefs" there are not very religious?

Let's suppose that everybody has a dog, and they have that dog on a leash, proudly leading him around. Some want to tell you that it's their dog who is the best dog, and the discussion of which dog is best dominates all the dog lovers. Then you show up without a dog, but you do have a leash and the leash is empty. Is your desire to equate yourself with all the other dog lovers?

My point is why would an atheist be going to ANY type of church, or anything remotely called a church.

Definitely NOT just another church.  I think SOME atheists are interesteed in discussing morality, courage, life passages, caring, loving, anxiety and depression about mortality, social issues and so on with others who are interested in similar topics.  Many people with children would like a place where specifically the qualities of kindness and morality are addressed regularly and methodically and in a fun, happy way.  (Google the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism to see what I mean.)


For sure it's not for everybody.  If I had a more satisfying social group in the small town Southern Baptist community where I, unfortunately, will be living for the next few years, I'm pretty sure I would not seek out a UU "church". No way!  However, my own options are limited, and since my eyesight does not permit driving at night, particularly the hour drive to a larger town which might have an atheist group, I'm stuck choosing from groups that meet during daylight hours.  Again, take a look at and search for the Neal Jones interview.  Atheists will be seconding an awful lot of what he says!

Oops--  I guess I forgot to add, Dennis, that I like your dog leash analogy a LOT and think it makes your point very cleverly and well!

ooppss,    It was Michael who shared the dog leash analogy.I'm a little late, the posts were on Sept 10, 2013. Sorry Michael, I didn't catch it when it happened. 

I suppose the tone of the UU group depends on their mission statement and the attitude of the leader/s. I find our local UU to be very progressive, even as there is a feel of the church to it, and a lot of "woo-woo" factor. Any kinds of superstition do not appeal to me, whether it is Native American ritual, or Buddhism traditions. I do find elements of both helpfull as meditation/contemplation tools, but I can learn such things as "Suffering comes from desire; to end suffering, end desire!" This makes sense to me and I don't buy in to the guru factors that some continue to hold on to. 

As to discussion, it is difficult to build a group with willingness to discuss difficult issues and stay civil. It is possible, however, and I find satisfaction in the Atheist Nexus topics and discussions. Being honest with one's own thinking and feeling, being willing to listen to others' responses, and going on from there seems to work well here. We definitely do not all agree; the issue is not to change another's mind or change one's own mind, but to speak truth as each can best express it. 

Hmmm--  tried to respond to this but guess I forgot to hit Add Reply.  There was some "woo-woo" factor at the UU group I attended which was kind of augmented by a guitar playing, singing lady doing songs and dances of universal peace and that sort of stuff with silence and "centering" and even some group-circle-hand holding-dancing and ceremony at the end in an adjacent room.  I found all of that pretty meaningless and contrived and didn't enjoy that part at all nor did I relate to the responsive readings or the weak singing from the UU hymnal.  I think normally there is a sermon and maybe more sharing from individual members, but the minister is on sabbatical for the next six months, so they are kind of winging it for awhile.


The forum discussion prior to the service was more to my liking and was structured so that everybody had a chance to speak.  I kind of lapped that up since the topics discussed are things I rarely get a chance to talk about in person.  It seemed that folks (primarily atheists or humanists) were extremely respectful of each other with a lot of similar attitudes among the group but different nuances.  For several logistical reasons, a Sunday morning group is currently my best option for making some face to face contacts with non-theists, so I will probably attend again just for that reason.

Clouds of cigarette smoke had for decades kept me out of bars, so when I moved to San Francisco and wanted to meet other non-religious people I went to the UU church.

I liked its hour-long Explorations program before the main service. Some guest speakers taught social sciences at nearby colleges; others were program participants who chose varied topics. There was no woo-woo. Only one man was searching for god; he self-published a book with that title and liked to talk about his search. Whenever he asked to do a program, those of us who chose topics put more effort into finding other speakers.

Instead of going to the main music-sermon-collection-music service, other Explorations folk and I were usually at lunch in a nearby restaurant, some of us waiting for the 1PM Singletarians meeting.

That's where I learned about the straight-bi-gay-lesbian-trans-xdressing-vanilla-bdsm-other goings-on in that fantastic city.

In time I found other things to do and quit UU-ism when I became uncomfortable with what looked like a faith-based passivity. I either hadn't seen it or it developed slowly until I saw it.

I read in atheism for dummies that Unitarians who know religion won't be eliminated soon get together with them to promote their cause

I've never  joined a Unitarian Universalist church, but for many years when I was married we went to Star Island every year to a family week organized by Unitarians and I always felt quite comfortable with them. It seemed to me that most were atheists or agnostics. I even led non-religious chapel services there without any difficulty. Everyone knew I was an atheist and it never created a problem. Most Unitarians I've known are broadminded, intellectual, warm-hearted people and a pleasure to be around. You might give it a try and see what the congregation is like.

I have never attended a UU church service. Going to any of them at all would be a "waste" of time. In my church days it was always a fundy Evangelical church of sorts. AG, COG, and a few spin offs from that. One of them I have affectionately dubbed as the Christian Fiddleshit Church. That puts me back to the waste of time.

A need of fellowship is not going to cause me to be a member of anything that can even remotely be classified as a "church." That's because I have no religion.


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