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.
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 amatterofdoubt.com 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!
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.