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.
It does, FA; thank you.
Thank you also for not letting my remark piss you off.
I used to do a lot of scolding, a result of having been born to sometimes violent but always authoritarian parents who sent their kids to authoritarian Catholic schools. I put them and their religion out of my life but two decades passed before events helped me change my ways. While I live I will react to scoldings, whether or not they're aimed at me.
I have twice attended a UU church service here in Chicago as a member of a guest musical group (saxophone ensemble.) It was just like attending any nondenominational, congregational church, complete with readings from the bible and singing of hymns. I understand that the UU may view the life of Jesus only as a positive moral philosophy for life, but the whole experience was a little bit too "churchy" for my tastes.
There is a UU church across the street from my house so commuting is not an issue. It is in the Woody Allen film "Sleeper" as a futuristic McDonnell.. There are a number of my friends (either agnostic and Atheist) that go to "church" there - including my wife and daughters - all Atheist. I've been in the church a couple of times and there isn't much Jeebus talk - one time they had a harpsichord and strings recital. For those who miss the secular aspects of a church, UU is a pretty good substitute.
I live near Pumpkintown, SC where the first question asked in most social situations is, "What church do you attend"? Most of my good friends attend the UU fellowship in Greenville, but I don't. I've been there for a few of their doings, and usually left about half drunk. I've done some pro-bono architectural work for them because I like the people and would rather they spend their money on booze than on me, or ideally some combination of both. My nephew went to school there from about ages 3 through 5, and came out knowing the rudimentary concepts of evolution, long division and how to peel a pear with a sharp knife.
I went to one of the regular Sunday services a couple of weeks ago because my famous (and atheist) little brother was in town and gave the 'sermon' on the intersection of Christianity, Islam and Capitalism -- pretty interesting. I was surprised at the amount of religious trappings, though they were careful not to make it Christian specific. There were group hymns from books just like in a Baptist church, and expectations to chant certain non denominational things, which made me a little uneasy. The featured singer, accompanied by violin, sang "I don't know how to love him" from Jesus Christ Superstar (rather well I thought, and I may be in love).
The experience, while nice enough, reminded me why I don't regularly participate in such things. I see the value in carrying over the religion-like social structure for those who want it, but I don't. I understand that UU organizations vary greatly, and have heard others say that the one in Greenville, SC is head & shoulders above most, and I don't doubt it -- knowing the quality of the people there. It's just a bit too 'churchy' for me.
In the UU church in San Francisco in the early 1980s, a skeptic described the music and ritual as intended to put people in a mood to put money in the collection basket. I was there for the discussion group that met before the main service and heard many college professors on social science topics, and for the afternoon meetings of Singletarians, a large singles group who heard speakers or visited city restaurants.
Many there were middle age or elderly white folks, and while non-dogmatic, were traditional. They had a Social Concerns group, which I and other activists, successfully renamed the Social Action group. When the assistant minister, a young woman who humorously described herself as a try-sexual, was graduating the divinity school at UC Berkeley and leaving for her own ministry, there was a lot of talk about who would replace her. I told her, "What this place needs is a black lesbian." She chuckled and replied, "We're not ready for that yet."
I sometimes went to the Society of Friends center in what had been a private home in a prosperous part of the city. They had no music or ritual, but only witnessing by those attending and long periods of silence. Some UU-ers envied them their many young couples and their families, but they had done more than the UU-ers to help Viet Nam War protestors.
I find Unitarian Universalist church is a bit of a "woo-woo" type group. Members are great people and I like them a lot; I just don't care for the mysticism. The teenagers I know are great kids, they have been well trained in human sexuality and don't accidentally get pregnant. That is not to say they are not sensual. They just seem to know short term pleasures have long term consequences. The ones I know graduate from high school and seek higher education in interesting professions, and most seem concerned with the environment and find professions that utilizes their natural abilities.
That said, if it is community you want, they are as good as any. If it is being with non-believers then I would build a community of friends who do not have beliefs in god nor have faith in a dogma.
Joan, the "woo-woo" is kinda what I suspected-- people who have discarded the Big God stuff but are into Mother Nature, or "spiritual growth" or "souls". However, enough wondering, it's time to check out the Columbia, SC group or at least their pre-service discussion group. Will report back.
...people who have discarded the Big God stuff but are into Mother Nature,....
B.K., Ma and Pa Nature at least tell us they exist; they send us earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and much more.
Ha! good point about Ma and Pa Nature. I think I was meaning more like some nebulous mother-earth-goddess-entity-being...
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 amatterofdoubt.com (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.