Why Is She Not Going to Church Anymore? March 25, 2010

Why Is She Not Going to Church Anymore?

Pastor David Hayward has a friend who is still a Christian, but she doesn’t want to go to church anymore.

And it’s not because she’s suddenly an atheist.

Why she doesn’t go to church anymore? Because her intelligence, deep thinking and independence are not respected. I don’t mean her feelings are hurt because people don’t applaud these things about her, but because they are simply not respected. Therefore she is not respected.

Here’s what she intuits when she walks into the church: hostility to diversity of thought; pressure to conform her beliefs to the norm; the most immature thinking rules the roost; she can spectate but not participate; anxious adherence to eroded ideas and the fear of questioning them; cold hard adherence to expectations; lovelessness.

Those are qualities that most atheists I know strongly value.

(To David’s friend: Come to the dark side! We respect you!)

Hell, unlike some churches, we encourage her to voice her opinions and challenge us, instead of letting a man speak on her behalf.

(via nakedpastor)


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  • This is the first step for many women towards Atheism. She will get there. For people raised in the church, it seems like a non-option to admit that you don’t believe in god, so many just think, “Well, screw organized religion, I will just be a good person and I think that will suffice.” But eventually after time to mull it over, we come to the realization that there are many people out there who say it’s ok to be an atheist. I remember feeling so alone until I met my husband and started looking around online. It just didn’t occur to me that there was a community at all.

  • Zaz

    Who was saying this? The pastor or the follower? If it was the pastor, then damn.. he’s got plenty of cojones. If it was her, then questions beget answers.. if you don’t go to church. I’m kind of upset by this, simply because there’s no point in consulting a pastor about your religious doubts. Consult someone who majored in religion, along with people IN the same field, i.e. believers, non-believers, people from other religions, I mean you need to get the facts (about others’ beliefs) before you decide to do something so radical as denounce your faith. I applaud questioning religion, as I’m sure anyone else on here does, but at the same time, don’t listen to a pastor, or any other leader of any faith. No matter what they say, they will always steer you towards what they believe. Listen to the REAL people. The people that are regular citizens of every-day life. Why not? That’s the only way to get a (relatively) clear understanding of “god”, or even religion perse. I personally think people that question god or their own religion should NOT (under any circumstances) consult a member of the congregation. It’s like acting as a leper. Consult someone OUTSIDE of your “jurisdiction” and you will find the answer. Only through research can answers be found.

  • Having never been to church except for weddings, funerals and jumble sales I have no idea why anyone would want to go. It doesn’t look like it helps anyone, it doesn’t look like fun and I can’t see how you can learn or grow as a person by going.

    …unless they give away free coffee…

  • Heidi

    Yeah, that sounds like church, alright. If they let you question it, they’d be out of a job. I congratulate her on thinking despite the odds. Might I recommend some fine atheist authors to her? 😉

  • Valhar2000

    Hoverfrog, have you never been to church services? How cane you be so sure they have nothing to offer if you’ve never been?

    I’ve been to some actual church services, as well as the requisite weddings and funerals, and my experiences went from being bored to tears (literally, although, in my defence, I was 7 years old, and had not been warned about how boring catholic services in small town churches actually are) all the way to being strangely interested in the analysis of a biblical story. However, even while I was paying attention to the visiting pastor who was explaining the various interpretations of that story, I never got the sense that there was anything “true” about it, that it was anything other than a story being discussed.

    So, yes, I agree with you that church has little to offer, at least to people like me.

  • Zaz: yeah, that’s a quote from Hayward’s blog, and yeah, he’s a pretty down-to-earth chap, though I didn’t get the impression his friend was necessarily a member of his own congregation. Brother Richard (lifewithoutfaith) sometimes links to Hayward’s articles and cartoons; always worth reading.

    Perhaps Unitarian Universalism is for her? They vary from town to town, and but my impression is that freedom of thought is much easier in a UU church than many others.

  • Andrew

    I have been a Youth Pastor for a few years in a small Vineyard church (non-denominational). I get to speak once a month to the larger church on Sunday mornings and I avoid speaking in regular sermons as much as possible. I always use questions. I think all your comments on questioning things are extremely true. Anytime someone is silenced for asking a tough question, it becomes a red flag that something is wrong. I don’t understand why some leaders can’t just say “I don’t know the answer to that” and be OK. Part of me feels like it is because they don’t fully believe what they preach. I know that my relationship with God has it’s ups and down and that there are plenty on Christians that I can’t talk to about that out of fear of being judged. It’s messed up… but that’s how it is.

    I really enjoy this blog. Thanks for letting me comment.

  • Angie

    ” … hostility to diversity of thought; pressure to conform her beliefs to the norm; the most immature thinking rules the roost; she can spectate but not participate; anxious adherence to eroded ideas and the fear of questioning them; cold hard adherence to expectations; lovelessness.”

    Oy! I’m having flashbacks of my Catholic upbringing!

    I applaud this young woman for taking the first step in her personal spiritual journey. Her church was not helping her find a rich, meaningful spiritual path, and she was right to leave.

  • Erp

    Well except Hayward is in Canada, New Brunswick, so I presume she is also and I think UU congregations are mostly in the US. I would certainly recommend his blog even if he is a pastor:-). His cartoons are quite questioning and Hemant only posts a few.

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    @hoverfrog: hell yeah we gots coffee, and donuts, too. I think it’s common for thinking people to slide from the rigid religions to the more liberal, and if they don’t stick somewhere along the way, then to UU and on out the door. To stay in any kind of fundamentalism requires turning off your brain.

  • Krista

    That’s how I started my path toward (as of yet, mainly closeted) atheism – I didn’t agree with all the practices or beliefs of the (Catholic) church, and when I told my mother, she basically said “Catholics believe this stuff. There is no middle ground – you’re either Catholic or you’re not.”
    After that, I thought to myself “well, then I must not be Catholic…so what am I?” And thus began my steps toward questioning religion, and then God…

  • Shawn

    @Zaz

    there’s no point in consulting a pastor about your religious doubts

    As an atheist, I agree. But from the point of view of an agnostic, there is value in it. That’s like saying don’t bring up doubts about a car you’re thinking of buying to the salesman. There could be value in it, but you have to take it with a grain of salt and always remember their primary goal is to sell you something.

  • Nikki

    I’ve been to a lot of churches, and I can say that there are some that are NOT like this. Some individual churches are not, and some entire denominations are not. If she really wants to attend some worship service, have her look into Unitarian, Unity, Congregationalist (well, some of them), Religious Science (NOTHING like Christian Science OR Scientology), Baha’i, and Quaker places of worship. Most of them do not expect you to check your brain at the door in order to be a part of their community.

    For the record, I’m an atheist who was brought up Catholic, but was also taught to ask questions. There is no one generalization for ANY denomination, even the most strict ones.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    . . .hostility to diversity of thought; pressure to conform her beliefs to the norm; the most immature thinking rules the roost; . . . lovelessness.

    Those are qualities that most atheists I know strongly value.

    You might want to work on making your modifiers less ambiguous. 🙂

  • Hybrid

    I found that discussing my doubts with those within the church (even leaders) most often lead to a few typical responses:

    1. Annoyance, shock, revulsion, and personal distancing (on a congregational level if word got around). This response may go as far as anger, and may win you a reputation as a pariah, heretic, or a “lost” soul.

    2. An understanding and empathy, and much encouragement to find answers for yourself without pressure to reach their conclusions. (This seems to happen with younger individuals who are more intellectual in their approach.)

    3. The revelation that they’re facing the same issues and keep quiet about it for fear of harming the faith of others.

    I’ve never regretted speaking up and questioning. The responses either opened my eyes to others being in the same boat, made me realize that there were no easy answers, or made me realize that I had no business being a part of the group. Win, win, and win. 🙂

  • Killer Bee

    Biblical literalist churches are perfect for some and clearly a bad fit for others.

    People have a way of sorting themselves to their own natural environment if they aren’t too timid to follow their individual composite of personality, intellectual, and character traits.
    Pity those dominated by peer pressure into warring with their own nature.

  • stephanie

    I’m with Falterer, the UUs are good peeps. I’ve taken friends who didn’t know what to do about their beliefs and even gone myself once or twice just to get some community time. They have some wonderful books and, yeah, are a nice, comforting place to hang out somewhere between Christianity and Atheism.

  • Baconsbud

    I have to say congrats to her for her courage and willingness to stand by what she believes. I don’t agree with her beliefs but anyone who is willing to stand for their beliefs as she has is worthy of praise.

  • Hey everybody. I am a first of all a pastor, and secondly one who welcomes and even encourages and also expresses doubts. The latter will prevail. I’m not sure about the former.

  • muggle

    I’m with all those who said sounds like she’s taking the first tentative steps toward thinking freely, wherever it leads her. The symptoms sound vaguely familiar.

    hoverfrog, that’s certainly been my experience in church and mine didn’t have coffee and donuts though occassionally they’d have a church supper or picnic or some such. Synagogue was better. Not only were the services more interesting but, man, the spread they put out after the service.

    Why go? Out of guilt and coercion, of course. A man can’t serve two masters and all that and if you’re not cowtowing in church, well, you’re suspect of not serving the right master…

  • Even though I’ve been a life-long atheist, I did attend and participate in an evangelical Baptist church for about two years as a compromise with my wife. (We left that church about a year ago). They did serve coffee, tea, and breakfast treats for the sermons and even tailored many of the sermons for the “unsaved” trying to create a welcoming environment to attract new people into the congregation.

    After you get to know them (in small group) you start to realize, though, just how extreme their views are. Some in my small group didn’t consider people from other denominations as being saved. They certainly didn’t consider Catholics as real Christians. They thought atheists were either agents of Satan or at the very least unwittingly under the spell of Satan.

    There was a trend at that church that is probably played out in many churches. People come in for various reasons and stay a while. The moderates end up getting their fill of what-ever spiritual quest they were on and leave. The fundamentalist-leaning tend to stay. Over time, the church just becomes more and more fundamentalist.

  • Valhar2000

    Hoverfrog, have you never been to church services? How can you be so sure they have nothing to offer if you’ve never been?

    I’ve never set pierced my testicles with rusty nails either. If there was a very good reason for doing so then I might consider it. (Probably not though).

    It is probably fairer to say that nothing about attending church attracts me. I just don’t see the point. The beliefs that go with it are clearly woo of the highest order and the people (judging from Christians I’ve met IRL) are judgmental and often downright mean. Free coffee is a temptation but I’m willing to pay for a relaxing place to drink it.

  • JJR

    My Ex used to brag about getting kicked out of three separate churches. She had very independent views when it came to Christianity, etc. She was very bright and I thought surely she’d be on the verge of atheism soon.

    Boy was I sure wrong. If anything she found most churches *not biblical enough*, disbelieved evolution, etc. She became one of those “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” Christians. I said she belonged to a religion with only one member, but it was still a religion.

    She also believed in Evil as a supernatural force at work in the universe, springing from the Sin of the Fall, etc.

    We had some very interesting arguments as our relationship fell apart.

    We were mostly united by what we were against (the wars, Bush, laissez-faire crony Capitalism, etc).

    It was funny to watch her argue with her ultraconservative grandfather who was a theistic evolution supporter but also a John Bircher. I sat on the sidelines and kept mum as the lone secular humanist Lefty in the room.

  • Angie

    JJR — Been there, done that! Romantic relationships between nonbelievers and fundamentalists are full of conflict, which is why many eventually fall apart.

  • pod

    agnostics, theist, atheist whatever, the fact remains that organised corporate church has succeeded (and fantastically so)as another social center that caters to the fleshy needs of the people and has absolutely no spiritual significance to the lives of the congregants. I used to attend church in Nigeria. Here’s a lowdown on their activities : 1) we’ve had valentine parties, cooking competition, couples and singles parties in the church auditorium
    2) we even bring a giant screen on the pulpit to watch UEFA finals in church(afterall a 2mins- to- kickoff exaltation can save souls)
    3) the monthly vigils has been scrapped. Too much of prayers arent necessary.
    4) meetings and men’s conventions hold in grand hotels by poolside and lotta emphasies is placed on dress code( sorry i meant ALL the emphasies)
    5) the main pastors of the church are dictators. Materialistic to a fault. they wanto be seen in the biggest of jeeps, wear hip suits with gold markers hanging from pockets and polished/practiced speeches on their lips. they pester the rich congregants with visits and demand for financial support for selfish projects.
    must have bored you enough with all this. though we see even worse things in Nigerian churches every day. a lot of the enlightened and spiritually alive are beginning to see clearly the EXIT doors of the church . wide open….. and IM OUT!!!

  • Brett Page

    Athiests, of course, have just as much right to express their belief in nothing as those of faith do to express their beliefs. Eternity, however, is a bad thing to be wrong about and unfortunately for athiests, they’ll never know if they’re right about an afterlife. Only if they’re wrong. God bless.

  • I think your lumping all the athiests together and all the christians together. That is like being a racist.

    There are some good people that are athiests and not all christians are good people.

    I don’t apreciate athiests making fun of God because I believe that if everyone understood how much He loved them –everyone would love Him back. Am I going to argue this point with you. No-that is your choice.
    Someone out their is thinking –oh sure why does God leave all these bad things happen. I don’t have all the answers but sometimes you have to live by faith. And alot of people blame God for things that bad people do.

    I don’t think christians should make fun of athiests or make rude remarks or disgusting comments about them.

    I think we should all act like adults and do the best we can in this life to be kind and help one another.