Church for the godless? Sacred space for atheists?

comments 15
the godless side / Uncategorized

church-233564_1280Church starts in the morning, in a few hours.  I’m not sure if we will be going or not– our motivations are no longer to please a god we don’t believe in or to feel righteous or even for fellowship as we are on such different pages from our church family now.  We still feel a bit obligated to go for our friends’ sake who don’t know we are unbelievers– gah.

But, there is something in me that still pulls on me to go, for me.  Having spent nearly every single Sunday morning of my entire life in a church service, it feels surreal to just sleep in and chill out.  It feels like I’m robbing my Sunday of it’s meaning and duplicating Saturday one too many times.  I need Sundays to still mean something.  A celebration of life? A weekly hike?  Reading some sort of… um, science book together?? A BBQ with friends? Listening to Vivaldi or Rachmaninoff or Beethoven or Liszt? I need some sort of tradition our family can start together that I can cling to and look forward to like I used to look forward to church.

How can an atheist have sacred space? Is it gone forever from my life?

The Author

I'm a closet atheist christian missionary. Paradigm shifts happen frequently for those who allow themselves to think critically about currently held beliefs and openly about new ones. I’ve developed the skill, or perhaps addiction, for change but the community around me is slow to catch up -- and would damn me if they knew where I stood.


  1. I am assuming you at one time believed in God. What was it specifically that led to your change in beliefs… what issue was it that led you to a new belief system?

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    • Yes, I did believe in God. More than that — He was everything to me. My change in beliefs was due to a lot of things, mostly anthropological. I didn’t understand how so many people would die without hearing of God, why so many people suffer in the world without intervention, why there have been so many different religions and opinions among humanity’s existence — if God wanted to make himself known, he could have. Once I left for theological and anthropological reasons, science became my new anchor for truth. So now, science reinforces my unbeliefs, though it didn’t cause them.

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      • Interesting. I once left for “religious” reasons and came back for spiritual ones. I believe that, for some, God uses science to reinforce their belief in Him. I’m not much for religion, but I am completely convinced God exists and is active in our lives. I also believe that God and science are not mutually exclusive. Please view my blog sometime at where I explain this belief I have much better. Thanks for your honesty in your posts!

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        • How do you define “spiritual”, Doyle? Are you referring to ghosts or how we think and feel about something?

          My idea of “spiritual” is the attitude we learn or choose to approach something. For example, one can do the right thing with a spirit of obligation and resentment or with a spirit of joy and service. One of the key roles of “church” is to help people to feel good about being good and doing good.

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        • Thank you for inviting me to your blog! I look forward to your posts 🙂 Always open to different perspectives. As a Christian, I always believed science pointed to God, never that it proved he didn’t exist. I think otherwise now, but I can relate to you regardless.


  2. I love your ideas already.

    As for sacred space, I have travelled alot, and as a consulted I’ve had to someone’s live out of my back pack for weeks and months at a time. So I used to say, and still do often “gone is where I am”.

    My sacred spaceis my mind and looking at the world around me and actually absorbing what I feel, sense and observe gives me solace and tine to reflect. I no longer need a specific place or time to celebrate my unity, because I feel connected to where I find myself. I can fully appreciate a moment, even when that moment is stressful or emotionally charged.

    I do have a few favourite places though, like the bbq area I made in the back yard. Create your own space and take time everyday to just marvel at the beauty you have been missing in the most mundane things.

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    • I love you perspective. I’ve been thinking along those lines too — about being fully present in every moment. Even if a moment is painful or “bad,” there is still something so human about experiencing it, and I never want to live a day without having fully experiencing what I could.


  3. If you like the Sunday morning church stuff, except for the god part, I recommend you try a Unitarian Universalist congregation. If you are in the US, you can find one at They have services, and choir music, and potlucks, and Sunday school, and all the church stuff, except that they have no dogma. They have seven principles, (listed on the website) and if you are comfortable with those then UU might be a good fit. UU congregations are also pretty variable. In my area we have one that’s almost totally christian, and another that’s mostly atheist, and several in-between. If you are in an area with more than one, try several.

    There are also Ethical Societies, that are even less churchy, but also can be a good alternative.

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  4. My father was a Salvation Army captain who died in a gunfight with his mistress. That led me to question my belief in Hell as eternal torment. I came to the conclusion that there was nothing anyone could do in a finite time on earth that could justify even getting your knuckles rapped throughout eternity (it’s a really, really, long time!).

    I decided that a God who would allow someone to be tortured for eternity cannot, must not, exist. Eventually I stopped going to church.

    At college, there was a Friday night Coffee House at the Unitarian church. I enjoyed it. I also saw a wedding there that I really liked. When I got married, we had the same UU minister (Rev Gold) do ours.

    About 8 years later I got divorced and had my son on weekends. Taking the bus, I ran into a guy from the college library who invited me to attend the UU church here.

    I did. And joined the choir. And one of the choir people got me to sing in several Gilbert and Sullivan musicals done by a local group.

    If you’re missing church, by all means check out the UU nearest you. Atheists, Humanists, Christians, Buddhists, etc are all welcome. Our city manager, who is a Sikh, also attends.

    By the way, they have an adult education course called “Create Your Own Religion” 🙂

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  5. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey with me. Whatever causes the breakdown of someone’s belief in God is so interesting to me. I’m glad you have a good experience at the UU church, I’m excited to check out one near me!


  6. To Marvin, re: How do you define “spiritual”

    Fair enough. I’ll define my use of the term “spiritual” if you will define your term “ghosts”. 🙂

    First, I don’t believe that the four dimensions that we live within are the limits of existance. Some scientists believe there to be as many as ten dimensions. So, if you believe in only four and I believe in more, we don’t have a common frame of reference, and “spirit” and “ghost” might as well mean the same thing, and it becomes a moot point.

    If you do believe there is more to reality than just the “here and now”, then we must at least be able to agree that we cannot experience those other dimensions since we are (at least to our knowledge now) bound by the first four dimensions (space/time). I believe that life exists beyond the four, and that which we cannot experience by our senses constitutes a “spiritual” realm. I believe that realm is real, and I believe we will experience that one day… which begs the question – what community of “spirits” will we live among? That’s another discussion entirely. 🙂

    My original intention with the term was to illustrate that I have many issues with “religion”, which I consider to be a product of man, but that I do believe in God and I do not have issues with Him. I consider that a “spiritual” relationship.

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    • Doyle,

      I don’t believe in the “supernatural”. I believe that all phenomena which appear to be supernatural are either illusions or will eventually be explained in natural terms. Sometimes I wonder whether all minds are connected, unconsciously, in some fashion. It could explain a lot paranormal phenomenon without resorting to ghosts.

      I believe in death after life. Life will undoubtedly continue after I die, but I won’t.

      But I do believe that we are all born into a world of good that we did not create. I believe it was created by people who came before us, who sacrificed personal, immediate benefits for the sake of their children, to make life better for those who follow. And we who benefit from these material goods (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) and spiritual goods (ethics, courage, love, freedom, etc) have an obligation to maintain and perhaps improve upon them for the sake of those who follow us.

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