I would like to belong to a church. Except, you know, without all that annoying God stuff. Where do I find one?
posted by jacquilynne to Religion & Philosophy (40 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I really admire the things that some/many Churches do. Not so much the Westboro Baptist shit or the anti-abortion protests or other hateful or intolerant activities, but the stuff that's more affirming.
A couple of things recently have really brought home the value of churches as a community:
I was at a meeting about my new condo building, which took place in a church, and a member of the church asked to speak to us about the church, in hopes that we'd consider joining when we moved. She went on to list about 20 different things that the church was involved in -- afterschool programs for kids, job seeker support, ESL classes, all sorts of things. She also talked about their worship community and social activities and community. And it all sounded really ... nice. I would like to go somewhere on a regular basis to meet with nice people, and get involved with their nice projects.
My aunt is very sick, and her congregation is keeping her family fed with regular drop-offs of frozen dinners that they've prepared, and her pastor will either drive her husband to the hospital or get someone else in the congregation to do it at any time. The idea of being a part of a community that will step up to support you, that will make the offer of help without waiting to be asked, is all pretty compelling.
I find the structure of church really appealling. I use to wrap my social life up in my job -- I donated money through the employee charitable fund, I sat on the employee social committee, I joined the employee curling league. And then I left that job and I wrapped my life up in Meetup -- running groups, joining groups, making friends there. But while Meetup has been awesome, and I love my friends, it doesn't have quite the element of stability of community (since every meetup group is different) or long term activities (since they're general one-off events) or personal service that attracts me to church. I mean, I could go out and volunteer on my own, but I don't ever get around to it, whereas I feel like there'd be enough social pressure and easy opportunities to contribute in a church-like setting to overcome my inertia. I also like the actual rituals of churches -- the combination of music, personal reflection, that thing they do where you turn to greet each person around you and wish them well, even the idea of a weekly lecture that offers wisdom to help you live your life.
The problem for me, though, is that I don't believe in God. I don't particularly want to believe in God, and I don't think I could believe in God even if I did want to -- I'm just not wired for believing in things. I actually think believing in God is pretty silly and irrational, though I do try not to make that point to my friends who do believe.
I've looked at the websites for the Unitarian Universalists and the Secular Humanists, and I'm not sure if either is right for what I'm looking for. But maybe you've been involved with either group and can tell me more?
The UU website mentions religion an awful, awful lot. They're explicit about accepting athiest members, but it still feels like the framework is all *very* God-oriented and based in spirituality and religion, and that's just not me. That said, they seem to offer all the other community structure, social action and such that I'm interested in.
The Humanists on the other hand, seem a little lacking in community structure and good works. Maybe there's more of that than it looks like initially, but the overarching impression I get from the website is that they mostly just talk about stuff once a week, but don't necessarily actually do anything.
I looked into HAT once before, and it seemed like they spent a lot of time congratulating themselves for not believing in God, which seems even more tedious and silly than actually believing in God. There seems to be less of that, and more of a focus on the world around them in the more recent stuff on their website which is a plus. I'm not opposed to the occasional anti-God wank, but it's not much to build a lifestyle around.
Are there other options in Toronto? Have you attended UU or Humanist events/churches in Toronto and can tell me more about them and how they fit with what I've described above? Are different UU congregations different? Are there other Humanist groups besides HAT?
What about service organizations? I've always admired Rotary, for example, but you can't just join a Rotary club because you want to, and I find the exclusivity of it a little off-putting. Plus, you know, they haven't asked me to join. Are there organizations like that which are more broadly welcoming?