As some of you may know, both my wife and I are atheists to some degree. I am a lifelong atheist, raised without religion. Growing up, there was more focus on critical thinking than on learning the ways of religion. Church was a place for weddings and funerals of religious family members. My wife grew up Lutheran, because that's what her family was. As the critical thinking and education came, so did questioning religion. "Is there really something guiding the whole universe?" "Why has no one heard from it in over 2000 years?" "Which religion, if any, is the right one?" These are a lot of questions that a lot of people who are raised with religion ask as they grow, mature, and learn about the world.
What happened to us is also something that happens to a lot of people in our situation. When my wife was pregnant and we were still living in Augusta, GA, we started talking about the good things of religion. The community. The acceptance. The giving. The good people. These are the things that as atheists, ours kids would miss out on. We happened on a local congregation of the Unitarian Universalist church.
Around town, we had heard about a Darwin Day celebration. It was celebrating the birthday of a famous critical thinker, Charles Darwin. There was cake, there was celebration, there was lots of fun to be had. Most importantly to us, there was no religion. Just like-minded people, enjoying themselves, while being part of something bigger than themselves. Even better, it was right down the road from our apartment so it was an easy trip there.
We spent the few months that we had left in Georgia enjoying our Sundays with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta. We had community potluck dinners at other members houses. We had great moments making great friends.
Unfortunately, after we left Georgia and moved back to New England (first Massachusetts, then Maine), we never got back to the Unitarian Church. We moved, we got settled, we had twin boys, we had a daughter. But we never took the time to go to our local Unitarian Church.
This Sunday was different. After doing some digging and some research, we decided to finally go to South Church. The building and church date back to the early days of Portsmouth, NH, to the 1700s. Fortunately for our needs, this was a very family friendly church. There's a nursery for our 2-year-old, religious education for our 4 year olds. There's a story and song leading the kids downstairs for their classes, before the sermon. It's a caring church, with staff that love what they do. One of our personal favorite ideas is something they just started: Once a month, your drop your kids off with them and then go explore Portsmouth as a couple for a few hours. If you've ever been, you know it's a great city that you could absolutely get lost in.
For those of you atheists who are on the fence, the basic idea of modern Unitarian Universalism is simple: Be a good person. Accept those around you for who they are. Do good in your local community and the world. There is no centralized religious core, instead teaching the good of all religions without judgement. You may be a gay, straight, transgendered. You may be atheist, Buddhist, Pagan, Christian, Muslim, undecided. No matter who you are, you fit in.
I'll end this with a joke that we heard today before the sermon.
A Unitarian Universalist girl, around 7 or 8, is out in front of her house. An older woman comes up to her and asks her what's wrong. She says that her cat just died. The older woman says "It's OK, your cat's with Jesus now." The little girl says "What would Jesus want with a dead cat?"
I really recommend that if you, as either an atheist couple or as a couple with one atheist and one religious, are looking for community, a great place to be able to spend with your children, that you look for a Unitarian Universalist church near you. If you live in New England, you'll probably find that the old church you never looked twice at might be a couple hundred year old Unitarian Church.
- Why I'm Proud to Be an Atheist (canadian-atheist.blogspot.com)
- Interview an Atheist at Church Day by Kile Jones (feminismandreligion.com)
- Unitarian Universalism (thedailyomnivore.net)
- Bicentennial Birthday: Darwin Day 2009! (23andme.com)
- Unitarians Seeking Those With No Religious Affiliation (atheistrev.com)
- Fun Ideas for the Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony (weddings.answers.com)
- The Quiet Heart of Our Beloved Community (uufp.wordpress.com)
- Secular Parenting and the Problem of Indoctrination (richarddawkins.net)