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Why I Never Go to Church

We’ve just about fleshed out the itinerary for our upcoming trip, and I realize now that we’ll be at my parents’ house on Sunday morning.

As a rule, this is something I’ve tried to avoid in recent years, as it brings up the sometimes awkward matter of going to church — or not going to church, as the case may be.

See, I haven’t gone to any sort of church service for many a year. The reason is simple: In every church I’ve ever visited, there is no provision whatsoever for nonbelievers. The worship services are designed with worshipers in mind, and everyone is expected to sing along with the hymns, recite the liturgy, stand up and sit down and pray together.

And that’s how it should be. Worship is serious business, at least to those who believe. I don’t fault churches for this. I don’t expect them to accommodate me. I certainly don’t expect an observation gallery for nonbelievers to be erected in the back.

But this means there’s no place for me in church. Worship services are for worshipers, not for skeptical observers. I don’t wish to go through motions and mouth words which I don’t believe. I have more integrity than that, and furthermore it’s disrespectful to the true believers.

I’ve had arguments with friends, relatives, even Xy about this. Some people just don’t understand where I’m coming from. Even if they’re not religious themselves, they think that the polite or somehow “correct” thing to do is to go to church and go through the motions. Sometimes they justify it as keeping the peace in the family. Sometimes they justify it on grounds of convenience, as the path of least resistance.

I can’t roll with that. To pretend toward a religion one does not embrace is hypocritical. It makes a mockery of sincere religious practice. I don’t know how grown people can do that and still respect themselves. Perhaps they’re just insensitive to the religious experience. But I’m not.

I do worry that Mom might interpret my refusal to go to church as a form of disrespect. Nothing could be further from the truth. To the contrary, I don’t go to church because I respect the religious tradition — and myself.

Published inFamilyTheology


  1. lemming lemming

    Just repeat your next to last paragraph – you are acting on principle, not because you want to sleep in.

  2. Right. And hey, that reminds me — Mom, if you’re reading this, I hope you understand.

  3. pj pj

    I didn’t go to church as a child but I’ve gone a few times as an adult with my family. My thing is go with the flow, but I don’t have feelings of hypocrisy or disrespect. I figure that a quick scan of everyone’s true thoughts during service would not find each of them piously pondering the nature of spirituality, worship, and afterlife. And I enjoy the glow on the faces of the congregation before and after.

    It brings out the best in people. And I appreciate that in my family. But I’d rather read the NYTimes, drink strong coffee and eat a bran muffin. That way when nature calls, I’ll be ready.

  4. Brian Jones Brian Jones

    When in Rome……

  5. WeaselBob WeaselBob

    A little late on this, but I just found the site. Bart, Heinlein would call it the equivalent of “rubbing blue mud” on your belly to fit in. It does no harm, the ones who know you and care for you know your belief and want you to, and going through the motions isn’t going to change your mind. Those who don’t know you, and see you “rubbing blue mud” on your belly, if they ask, you can always tell them you don’t believe but you were there going through the motions to make your family happy. No harm, no foul.

    BTW – Also an atheist (came out of the agnostic closet I’d been hiding in for over 20 years just a few years ago).

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