Everyday Religous Practice 4: Church for Agnostics? The slow decline of a Unitarian Universalist community.

“Once you give up one doctrine, it is easier to give all of them up. I am an agnostic.” Man with beard.

It is almost redundant to say that 25 years is a long time. It has taken a complete break from my routinised everyday life to make me realise this. At the time that I left the Catholic church, there were many worshippers and many services on both Saturday and Sunday. I remember regularly attending the Saturday evening service at St Matthew’s, if my parents knew that we would not be able to get there on Sunday. That service no longer exists. Many Catholic churches now have to share a single priest. Times have changed and the world of religious practice has moved on. 25 years have passed since I had stepped into a church. My memory and the reality of religious practice had parted ways without my consent or knowledge.

So I started this experiment thinking that I would be able to quietly slip into the back pew of all the churches I attend. I would make sure that I sit on the right hand side of the church. That would put me on the left side of the room as observed from the position of the leader of the religious community. As most people pay more attention to the people on their right hand side when public speaking, this strategy would add to my ability to remain undetected.

I have failed at stealth. I have never gone un-noticed. At best, I have been in a room of 50 plus people. I failed at stealth in that room. Failure is guaranteed when the room contains only four other people. There are three other men (one of whom has a beard) and a women in the room, all are Anglo-Celtic Australians and over 35 years old. The people talk of the Adelaide community – it is vibrant and children attend the services. This community has existed for seven years – it has never hosted a child at a service.

It is difficult for these people to attract and keep members. But they are not alone in that. I really think that is a pity. All members seem intelligent; they discuss humanism and how to make the world better for everyone. They use reason and logic to do this and they rely on evidence. I am impressed.

Yet they continue to decline. I wonder why reason, logic and evidence are hard to sell in the marketplace of ideas.

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Comment by Randall Smith on September 18, 2013 at 7:04am

I was an atheist Unitarian for 12 years. Met my second wife there. We divorced (13 yrs ago). She got the church, I got my home. But I really enjoyed (and now miss) the socialization and intelligence of that church community.

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on September 16, 2013 at 3:06am

Yes, I agree that the decline of the Unitarians is a bit of a shame.

I used to like the comments and philosophies of many of the famous Unitarians like the former US president John Adams.  Brilliant man.

Also their work in improving Women's Rights and the Suffrage movement.

It was a nice blend of philosophies, with a rational consideration of the world included.

Sort of like spiritual humanism.

Maybe we Atheists should show support for them, as our semi-theistic, agnostic cousins.

We do need to congregate more, since congregation is very important to develop and stabilize a sense of connection between us (mental We-Maps in our prefrontal cortex).

Perhaps we Atheists could join in the Unitarian gatherings to not only help sustain their viability, but for our own benefit of conferring with those slightly towards the other side of the philosophical fence, just to keep our minds open.

Though here in mid Victoria we don't have any such group.

Which is also a pity, as I'd have joined them as a matter of interest.

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