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January 8, 2011 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Religion filter: I'm really trying to understand religion and why people regularly attend services.

Scroll down for the TL:DR verion. Throughout this I use "service" to mean mass/service/temple etc.

This is not meant to be flippant, but I do not understand the draw that takes adults to religious services on a regular basis. Part of me wonders what I'm missing. Part of me wonders why anyone would go. This question has been kicking around my head for some time, but when I read the following while reading some threads here, it really struck a nerve:

"Yeah, no holes to fill for me. I understand Christianity quite well, I understand what captures people about it and why it is important to some people, but I do not need it. It basically never crosses my mind. Being in a church setting is actually actively uncomfortable for me, because I know I'm just pretending - I'm waiting to get out so I can go back to whatever it is that I want to do, while these other people are getting something out of it." by Medieval Maven 3 years ago here

I was born and raised in the Catholic church. My father was actually a former Catholic priest and my brother and I were sent to CCD and told we had to go to church until we turned 18. I didn't last quite that long due to a weekend waitressing job and then going to college at 17, but I always knew church wasn't something I connected with. Never got anything out of it, probably because I never put anything into it. While in school I also spent some time at a more conservative church's youth group because it was where my friends went and I spent a week at bible camp. I even attended a retreat or two from my parents' church, but I never really felt anything. While at a (private, non-denominational) college I went occasionally with roommates but I've essentially not gone to church for 14 years. It went far beyond a teen rebelling against religion I just felt no connection and no draw back.

I love the idea of religion(s) from a study point of view. As an undergrad I took several religion classes that looked more at religion through a sociological and.or historical lens. I've read Bruce Feiler and have looked through recommendations in various religion-related threads here. I had an amazing trip to Israel in 2009 and am fascinated with the history of the Middle East which is impossible to separate from the religions that have origins there.

I'm not an atheist, I definitely feel a spiritual connection to something. It was acute after my father's passing in 2006 but present far before that. While living in Japan I learned of a dear friend's passing and my instant reaction was to go light a candle. I do think that the people we have lost are still here with us somewhere. I have vague childhood memories of thinking heaven was cumulus clouds mixed with Care-a-Lot. I feel equally comfortable marking any festival/holiday but I can't feel a connection with any organized religion.

I don't have an issue with religious observances. I've attended a large number of seders, festivals at the muslim cultural center & mosque across from where I used to live, celebrations and festivals with friends and coworkers while living in Japan. Family still gets together on Christmas/Easter, but there's no religious aspect to it even though some people attend services. I always try to understand what is being observed/celebrated but that's again from an educational/historical look rather than a desire to be a part of this religion. I enjoy marking occasions with friends and family but I don't see it any different to a birthday party or any other secular celebration. Does that make sense?

TL:DR version: I love reading and learning about religions, especially through historical and sociological POV but I have no desire to attend services or "be religious". Am I weird? Have you been through this? If you regularly attend services, what draws you? I find myself surprised when I make plans with someone and they say they it has to be after church. I guess I struggle with why people would choose to go to church. Those of you who do probably feel the same about my views.
posted by TravellingCari to Religion & Philosophy (40 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, for starters, many religious belief systems require regular attendance at services. So if you believe in God, and you believe that God wants you to attend services at certain times, and you believe that it's important to do what God wants, you'll attend services when you're supposed to.

Beyond that, people go to services regularly for the same reasons they indulge in any pastime. Some people like the music or the sermons. Some people do religious activities, such as educating children, that they enjoy. Some people have friends or family whom they love to see each week. Some people go because they want to be seen there so that others know how pious they are. Some people go because they want their children raised in that faith tradition and want to go with them. Some people just get a positive feeling from the experience of connecting with their faith regularly. There are as many reasons as there are worshippers.
posted by decathecting at 2:31 PM on January 8, 2011


The social aspect is a big part of it for a lot of people- I know it is for me. I go to church regularly, in part, to see all my friends. Being a part of a religious community makes my life better- seeing the same faces week after week and knowing they miss me when I'm gone means a lot. Our church has a lot of elderly members, and for them, the church is a huge part of their social network (if not the whole thing). It's nice to see how they all take care of each other.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:32 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why are concerts so much better than listening to a CD on your home stereo?

For me, it's part of how I reinforce my beliefs, it's where I go to practice being the kind of person God wants me to be, it's where I learn new things, it's where I sit and devote an exclusive period of time to thinking about God and who I should be, it's where I feel like I'm part of a community (as opposed to just experiencing a personal relationship with God, I'm experiencing the group's relationship with God,) it's where I can hear more than just me singing a hymn, it's where I get spiritual direction...

Tangentially related answers from other Mormons can be found here.

(It's also a commandment or requirement in many religions, which is why some people go - that is to say, they don't view it as optional.)
posted by SMPA at 2:38 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to be religious and I have spent all my life discussing and considering religion and the associated behaviour patterns. There are many things that draw people to religious ritual/services/mass. Some people like the sense of human community. Some people genuinely feel that they gain a real, tangible "communication" with god during formalised worship. Some people find the solemnity and ritual function as a sort of meditation aid that helps them feel "closer to god". Some people feel that the ritualised respect of a religious service is just due respect to the deity - it feels right and proper, to them. There are many other reasons and no doubt you'll see some of them listed here.

Anthropology shows us that human beings from hugely different cultures, times and locations mostly share the urge to worship their various formulations of divinity, often in groups. It's fairly clear that worship addresses some deep need in certain human beings. It's pretty hard to imagine that any god worthy of the name would actually require such behaviour from his creation; the behaviour is, at root, something some people are driven to do in order to meet a human need within themselves.
posted by Decani at 2:39 PM on January 8, 2011


As a believing and practicing catholic, I often find myself distracted and bored at mass. I used to be really concerned. Shouldn't I feel re-energized? Renewed? Some close connection to God? But then I read something somewhere that attending mass is worship and when you worship you are giving not receiving. When I started to view mass as a worship and not some sort of weekly spiritual filling station, I started to change what I do there and how it makes me feel.
posted by allthewhile at 2:40 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


My pet theory, something I've discussed with friends quite a few times.

The modern secular life is fairly short on ritual, and many of us tend to forget, just how much power and appeal ritual has. Rituals bond us into groups, break down subjectivity between ourselves and fellow participants, and give us strong feelings of belonging and of not being alone (there's a reason that the crazier political movements make such a big deal out of rallies). They let us forget ourselves and be one with the crowd.

Religious services are an unusually potent variety of ritual, where all the usual appeals of ritual are joined with a felt connection to the transcendent and a kind of group meditation (prayer, singing, etc.) To most people, this will feel really really good.

I briefly and vaguely flirted with religion as a teenager, and I remember the feelings of warmth, love, and belonging that a shabbat service during a trip to Israel aroused in me. I think these feelings were not terribly different from the sensation one gets from dancing in a loud club for the nth hour, merging with the music and other dancers, forgetting oneself, perhaps with the aid of some chemical enhancement. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if modern club/party culture was filling the religious-ritual niche for us modern seculars.
posted by tempythethird at 2:42 PM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why I do, in a nutshell:

Song, stories, faith, hope, support, and community. And Episcopalians can throw a mean coffee hour!
posted by spinifex23 at 2:46 PM on January 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I find this fascinating. I am not religious, but I enjoy religious services. In fact, I love churches and ritual! I think because it is communal and comforting. People like to be with other people. I work in a library, all our resources are available online and no one would really ever have to enter the building. The building is PACKED with students. When we ask them why they come to building, they tell us they love to come to the library, they love the feel of the place and the community. It is something I find almost ritualistic.

I think this is similar with attending church services. People coming together and performing rituals is as old as mankind.
posted by fifilaru at 2:48 PM on January 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Automatic social life.
posted by cmoj at 2:50 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Episcopalians can throw a mean coffee hour!

Oh yeah, how could I forget? There's food after the service. EVERY WEEK! Good stuff. Like the Entenmann's Coffee Cake. One of the great rules of my life is to go where the free food is.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:51 PM on January 8, 2011


I do not attend services regularly but as someone who has previously been a regularly atending "high church" Episcopalian the incense & the music was a big draw. Services like Compline (at my church candlelit and consists of sung Latin) is very peaceful and enjoyable for me and tends to feel spiritual/meditative experience than "religious".
posted by pointystick at 2:54 PM on January 8, 2011


For me, going is reconnecting with God along with the rest of the "family." There is comfort and connection with people I know who are worshiping the same God I am. Our services are rather relaxed-you don't have to get all gussied up altho there is nothing wrong with that, certainly-but it's definitely a time when I feel I am not only recharging my batteries but also with my brothers and sisters, "loving on" God.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:57 PM on January 8, 2011



And Episcopalians can throw a mean coffee hour!

Oh yeah, how could I forget? There's food after the service. EVERY WEEK! Good stuff. Like the Entenmann's Coffee Cake. One of the great rules of my life is to go where the free food is.


Loving all the answers here. This is why I <3 MeFi. But the above? Made me snort diet pepsi. Billing you both for new keyboard.
posted by TravellingCari at 3:09 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Casseroles, gossip, and herd instinct.

You know, the same reasons people attend atheist meet-ups.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:17 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my parish, part of an urban village, it has always been about community. The parish has changed swiftly in the last four years or so, the spirit is gone, and people have left for that reason to go elsewhere.
posted by jgirl at 3:21 PM on January 8, 2011


I spent a lot of time in Episcopal/Anglican churches as a kid, and I never wanted to go. But once I was there, I found the rituals soothing and comforting, I loved the chance to sing, and even now when I go back to those churches on visiting my folks (or going to temple with my brother's family), I love those things -- and the constant reminder to be my best self and think of others.
posted by ldthomps at 3:22 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a totally unchurched, utterly nonpracticing, vaguely Jewish person, and a guy at work gave me a totally new perspective on church the other day. We work at a software company, and our software helps users perform business processes in a particular vertical -- by which I mean few of the end users are really excited about it. We were discussing clients' attitudes toward a particular process (something about invoicing? maybe?) the other day and he said something like,

"It's one of those things you know you have to do, and you don't want to, but you have to do ... like going to the doctor, or going to church."

And I blinked at him, because the gears were suddenly turning super fast, and he added, "Or working out."

So I still can't say, but there's at least one Christian person who thinks of going to church as similar to going to the doctor or working out. I hate to put words in his mouth, but it sounded to me like he saw it as necessary spiritual maintenance.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:22 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


As part of a similar discussion a friend once asked me, "So if you were creating your own religion, what would it involve?" I didn't have an answer right then and there but after thinking about it for a while the result was a set of activities that could seem arbitrary to any one else even though they might be important to me.

This helped me understand that at some point there were decisions made about the activities in popular religions that ended up becoming strongly engrained traditions -- whether they worked for everyone or not. Then when you introduce the fear factor of "If you don't do this, you're going to burn in hell" then you can get people committed to doing a set of things they might not otherwise want or like to do.

So if you're not easily intimidated by or don't believe in the notion of hell, it's easy not to participate in things that seem like a waste of time. That is unless you get something else out of it, like a social life or simply just an excuse to get out of the house or for some just keeping up appearances. For me this is akin to networking groups. I hate them but I go to them because I can get something out of it -- business.
posted by thorny at 4:35 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why are concerts so much better than listening to a CD on your home stereo?
Why do people go to a bar/pub when they could drink just as well (and at a much lower cost) at home? Why do people go to sporting events that are televised, when they could get a much better view from their couch?

We do all these things because we're social animals and, when we want to do something that we enjoy, doing it with like-minded people enhances the experience. Also, we take comfort in ritual, particularly in times of strife. This is why people who almost never do so otherwise attend church services at times like Christmas and Easter and immediately after disasters.
posted by dg at 4:39 PM on January 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess it depends on which faith you belong to but, having attended various Protestant services with friends and family, it seems to me that ThePinkSuperhero is right -- going to church reinforces your social network ties.

Before and after the service I've witnessed many, many people conversing about life and lunch plans and next week's picnic, but have yet to see anyone talk about religion, or the service they just participated in.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:57 PM on January 8, 2011


I go (occasionally) because I like the ritual, I like knowing that I can remember all those prayers that I half thought I forgot, I like having a reason to get up early on a Sunday and get dressed in nice clothes. I like that I can speak to my parents later in the day and mention that I went to church and I'll be praised. I like being able to sit through a 45 minute mass, pay attention all (okay, most) of the time, and feel like a grown-up, because I remember that time feeling like forevvvveeerrrrr when I was a child. I like being able to make a connection between the homily and my life, and using it as a sort of therapy. I don't really believe in a lot of the religious stuff and it doesn't mean anything for me in a spiritual way to hear about how Jesus preached loving your neighbors, or whatever, but I take that time to check myself and say "yeah, I DO need to stop being so judgmental," and take that lesson with me when I leave. I like that the rest of the day, I feel "good" and like I have a solid grasp on how I will be a better person in the upcoming week.
posted by coupdefoudre at 4:59 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can read a lot about the psychological need of humans for ritual, from family rituals to sport rituals to religious rituals. Particularly when one goes Sunday after Sunday (or Friday, or Saturday, or whatever), it sort-of builds up a "home-iness" in the ritual, a comfortable feeling. Whether you're bored, interested, engaged, aggravated, joyful, sorrowful, whatever, you take that to the liturgy, and gradually that same liturgy over and over and over every week becomes full of your life. I was honestly shocked by how COMFORTING it was to go to a Mass -- the same Mass I'd been to every damn week of my life -- when my grandfather died. It was a place all that anger and grief could GO, and it had a sense of continuity and community and comfort. Similarly, when I got married in a Mass -- the same Mass I've been to every damn week of my life -- it felt deeper, more important, like it was more connected to my whole life and the lives of everyone else, like it had to do with EVERYTHING I'd ever brought with me to Mass.

This applies more to highly liturgical religions/denominations, but there's a lot of literature about it if it interests you. And the repetition is pretty crucially important.

Other reasons people go (that I have yet to see mentioned) include rearing children in a particular faith, even if they're not so jazzed about the ceremony themselves, and I know a number of mothers of young children who go by themselves in sit in quiet, unbothered serenity for an hour. Just to sit in quiet, unbothered serenity. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:24 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up, as did my brother and sister, and a long line of mostly German American forebearers from western Illinois and eastern Nebraska, in the simple, cleanly white painted churches of the stern Missouri Synod of the American branch of Martin Luther's great church. There was no picking and choosing of items of belief in the Missouri Synod; it was whole hog, or none. You learned, by rote, as a child Luther's Small Catechism, and most of the hymns in the hymnal, and were verbally examined by the elders of your church in front of the congregation, for your exact knowledge of these texts, as an element of joining the church as a full adult member, 13 to 16 years after being baptized as an infant. During your examination, nobody wanted you to put things in your words, they wanted Luther's word, or the Synod's words, as an exercise in having just the faith of a mustard seed, and the first hand experience of liturgical trial, and of personally rising to the test of faith by commitment and personal dedication.

Much like Luther, himself.

It was a solid faith, and well tested in the agrarian society of late 19th century America in which it flourished, which was a world few Americans of today can easily imagine. But it was a world where just diphtheria, whooping cough, infantile polio, and typhus together, killed an average of 200,000 American children below the age of 10, each year, to say nothing of the further ravages of measles, mumps, rheumatic fever, influenza, and all the other contagions to which mortal flesh was susceptible. But you can still see that world, in some town cemeteries in those areas of America, as broken fields of small tombstones, scattered all about the big family header stones, in graveyards now not so often visited, and too frequently overgrown.

It was a world where the weather could make you, or break you, in a full season of the gentle, needed rains of May, or the violent hail of August, in the space of an hour. It was a world where you could notice one of your pigs sick on a Tuesday morning, and be faced with burying hundreds by Thursday evening. In short, a world still well beyond your control, or even the understanding of the smartest people alive, which could treat you and those you loved with casual cruelty, almost before you could begin to comprehend it.

It helped to have, in those times, I think, a faith that made no effort to explain life's vicissitudes, but that simply attempted to wrap you in the common belief of those about you, as a brace against misfortune, and being forgotten, alone, when and if you and yours were struck down. Because, I think, if you had to bury your children, it was maybe all your reason could still hang on, to see that other children, like yours, would go on, would sing the hymns, would plow ground you knew when you were too old, would want to know what you might have learned, and would come to share an appreciation for what the world did allow them, in humility and grace.

The whole of the 20th century chipped away at that world, and one by one, gave first this person, and then that, the idea that a person could live, maybe better, in a more predictable world, where faith wasn't necessary. Or at least, could be changed to a faith in a scientific method, in vaccination and pasteurization and fumigation and irrigation. It became not only fashionable to believe in the predictability of a world man could understand in order to subdue, but nearly the dogma of social sanity to show one's belief in reason itself, to that extent. The scientific could find no reason in faith, and needed, therefore, no faith but reason.

I understand all that, and have found, most of my adult life, that reason's elements of faith are not only as persuasive as Luther's, but early on cold winter Sunday mornings, a helluva lot more convenient. 49 Sunday mornings out of 52, I've generally preferred having my coffee in my kitchen, with doses of sugar and real cream Luther would rail against if he saw 'em, to joining in old hymns, and swallowing hard to swallow beliefs that prepare me to swallow communion wine and wafers.

And yet, from time to time, when a good church organist peals off the 16 bar introduction, the hairs on the back of my neck will still rise against a freshly starched collar and tie, as I hear myself sing, with others, looking straight ahead and not at one another, as is our custom,

"A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing...
"

And I think, maybe, though my opinion of the matter counts for nothing, that Luther himself smiles, just a bit, somewhere, and joins us, clucking to himself a little, that we're not singing it, still, in German...
posted by paulsc at 5:28 PM on January 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


The first answer is the right one. More than anything else, people go because going is a requirement of a member in good standing of the faith -- which they want to be out of either personal religious conviction, or which they want to appear to be for family, economic, or other reasons. (Religious orthodoxy for appearances sake may be alien to many MeFites, but it's a fact of life in a heck of a lot of places.)

Attendees may or may not enjoy it, or find spiritually enriching, interpersonally rewarding -- but that's not the point. A lot of the things what people above cite as reasons to go are, in fact, things that people organize to make an obligatory practice (more) personally enjoyable.
posted by MattD at 6:06 PM on January 8, 2011


I like chesty_a_arthur's notion of the "weekly maintenance", like going to the doctor or exercising. I attend religious service every week, and for me it has almost exactly the same feel as regular exercise does (well, when I can get my stuff together enough to do regular exercise, that is). It's not exactly a question of wanting to go on any given Sunday (although the experience often turns out to be very fulfilling)-- it's more a matter of acknowledging that trying to live a moral life day-to-day is very difficult and that, being human, it helps to commit to a regular check-in with one's ideals and community in order to keep from drifting too far off-track.

You see a similar pattern of regular, often mandatory, community meetings associated with other sorts of life discipline, too-- think Weight Watchers or AA, or that reading group you join because otherwise you'd never ever make it through all of Nietszche and Philosophy. Difficult things are made easier by a little bit of structure. Not exactly fun, but necessary.
posted by Bardolph at 6:18 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a matter of propriety for many people. Few of us are willing to completely dispense with propriety even today although dispensing with church attendance is now considered personal choice rather than the impropriety it used to be.
posted by Anitanola at 6:38 PM on January 8, 2011


When I used to go to church it was so I would get to go to heaven when I die, or at least not go to hell.
posted by maloon at 7:32 PM on January 8, 2011


I do not go to church now, but I was raised Unitarian (my congregation was predominantly secular humanist), and the church was my family's main social life. We went to church every Sunday because my mom was singing in the choir that week or had to make sure that the kindergartners had fresh play-doh. Or because my dad was in charge of the offertory and had to go to a meeting for one of the committees he was on. And all of their friends were there, too, so they would all chat about football or other non-church stuff and drink coffee. Generally speaking, it was pleasant, activity-driven family/friend time. Going every Sunday structured our time/lives in a social, constructive manner.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:41 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and where we lived (and before the internet), going to church was one of the only ways to meet people who shared your politics/values, and consequently, you were potentially more likely to get along with them than with the folks who lived across the street from you.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:52 PM on January 8, 2011


You know when you're listening to music and watching the time-elapsed thing tick on iTunes or on your CD player, and it feels like the passage of clock-time is irrelevant to the way time passes in the music? It's not so much that you've lost track of time, but that you're experiencing time the way the music establishes it (through rhythm and meter and harmony) instead of the way the clock does.

That's what mass feels like to me. For a chunk of my day I'm in a place where time passes differently, and the way time passes out in the "real world" becomes irrelevant. The passage of time is dictated by the rhythms of the mass and by my own thoughts, not by subway schedules or daily planners or clocks.

For my church, the idea of stepping outside of time is pretty literal; we believe that in the Eucharist we're joined through time to Jesus' sacrifice, so traditional time really doesn't apply (and that's how it's possible for Jesus' sacrifice to count for sins committed after the fact, because in some sense it's still happening). We also believe God exists outside of time, so to me the perceived timelessness of mass is an attempt to understand God as outside of time. When I go daily, each day feels parallel to the day before, instead of a progression forward from it -- all of days I've been to mass sort of become simultaneous.

Anyway, I think something similar happens in most rituals, religious or otherwise -- through them we feel connected to our younger selves and to old friends who aren't with us anymore, because through them the current moment feels parallel to the past. So, when watch football on Sundays I feel connected to my hometown, to my family, to the person I was as a child.
posted by sleepingcbw at 8:00 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]



The first answer is the right one.


Interesting thought, MattD. I never went into this thinking there would or even could be a right or wrong answer. Not sure it's possible. All of them are food for thought in different ways. Different angles. I'm glad I asked it thought, it's making me think even more.
posted by TravellingCari at 9:34 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lots of worthwhile answers here, but I think my favorite response to your question was given by Anne Lamott, in this essay, which was later published in her book Traveling Mercies under the title "Why I Make Sam Go To Church."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:17 PM on January 8, 2011


Weirdly enough, even though I no longer consider myself actively Christian, I never had a problem going to church. Pretty much from the time I was old enough to attend the main service (3 or 4, in my tradition), I was participating in the wider community of the church in a way that made attending Sunday services meaningful for me. At first, it was that my mom was in the choir, and if I promised to be quiet she would let me sit with her in the loft for the whole service. Then I joined the (children's) choir, myself, which necessitated at least pretending to be attentive to the service. If only so that you were on the right page of the hymnal at the right moment. After choir, I was an acolyte, and same deal.

By the time I was a teenager, I was aware of the Sunday service as a particular sort of ritual, with different parts that served different functions. Because I had dealt with the choir and other ritual functions of a church community for so long, I knew the significance of each part. Which made it a lot less boring than your average person just sitting in the pews.

If religion and religious ritual don't mean anything to you, and you are inescapably bored the whole time, there's really no reason to be in a church service at all.
posted by Sara C. at 11:30 PM on January 8, 2011


Church service is a gathering of the believers in Jesus Christ. I attend service weekly because the community there is my spiritual family. I attend because that group of people are my brothers and sisters because they are connected to and follow the God that I am connected to and that I follow. I attend because I get to worship God with a bunch of people that I rarely see the rest of the week.

I cannot imagine having a relationship with God and then having no fellowship with the body of believers. There are things that make Church service enjoyable, sure - like seeing your friends and having free food as mentioned above. But those things in itself can be found anywhere in any community or social activity; as you implied - they are not unique to church at all.

The Church came into existence when those who followed Jesus began to meet together to encourage one another. They were called Christians because of how they lived. Christians WANT to gather together because they seek to grow and learn more. It is not so much of an obligation or celebration or observation of anything. It's just a big family meeting.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 12:53 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


In essence, I think your question puts the cart before the horse. Of course church service has little draw if you are not Christian. There is no point to it. It is just a religious ritual as some people have described it as, with little meaning that can't be obtained elsewhere. If you do profess faith in Jesus Christ however, then life becomes much more different and so does your view of what Church is.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 12:58 AM on January 9, 2011


From a non-theist perspective: I am Buddhist and our "services" are almost entirely silent. But there's something about meditating with other people in the room that you just don't get by yourself. It's a different sort of focus and energy. Community (sangha) is a pillar of Buddhist practice because it "provide[s] the environment most conducive to advancing toward enlightenment."
posted by desjardins at 8:52 AM on January 9, 2011


I'm really enjoying the wide range of answers here. Not sure if/how I can select one bet answer because they're all really making me think in different ways. I especially like the input from different (non)religious POVs.
posted by TravellingCari at 11:24 AM on January 9, 2011


You might find interesting info on the subject at barna.org.
posted by lazydog at 2:57 PM on January 9, 2011


I go because:

-I do like being around all those other people. They're my friends, my family. We have a shared history and see the world from the same general perspective. There's something powerful about worshipping with lots of other believers (though I also value my private time with God).

-The routine helps me through the times that I may not be "feeling it". Something I read this week likened it to saying, "I love you" to your spouse even when you aren't necessarily head over heels for them at that point. Keep up the routine and eventually you'll fall back in line. Horribly unromantic, I know. And I'm always blessed by it--I can't really think of a time that I've regretted going, no matter where I was in my relationship with God.

-I won't lie--I grew up having to go three times a week. Sheer guilt gets me there sometimes. Not that I believe I'm going to Hell if I miss church from time to time but I feel like I need to have a really good reason to skip.

-And full disclosure: it's my job. I've got to at least be there to teach Sunday School.
posted by wallaby at 3:50 PM on January 9, 2011


This short piece is one of my favourite explanations of why I go to Mass every week barring unavoidable absence.

It's also one of my favourite things ever written, full stop.
posted by KMH at 5:52 AM on March 18, 2011


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