OK, its time I came out of the closet: I’m an Agnostic Atheist. I call myself an Agnostic Atheist because I’m not really sure which applies to me. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never really seen evidence of god, but I’m not so sure I believe “God” doesn’t exist. For me, it boils down to this analogy: as consumers, we demand information on the services that will be provided to us. People of “faith”, as far as I can tell, make no such demands. They aren’t even clear on what “God” does for us. For those who are sure that god does stuff, their evidence for that stuff, or that god did it, is pretty weak. Therefore, I find no personal benefit to believing in god(s).
Anyway, I’m not writing this post to defend agnosticism or atheism, or to bash people of faith. I provide this preface to allow the reader to understand that I am not currently a person of faith in an external deity. I have faith in a great many things, but my faith in deities is currently pretty low.
But there is a problem–I go to church. I go because my wife goes. I go because we’ve developed an extensive network of friends at the church. I go because a significant portion of our family goes. Fortunately, we go to a UCC church which is incredibly liberal. They allow for “individual interpretation” of Christianity, and I’ve sort of allowed myself the following interpretation: “God” is a metaphor for Universe; “Jesus” is a metaphor for (or maybe really was) a person who modeled kindness as a virtue; all of the stories are intended as metaphors to teach certain lessons. While I’m at church I don’t sing the hymns or participate in the prayers because I don’t want to. The hymns and prayers stretch my metaphors to the breaking point, so therefore I simply can’t speak them. I don’t believe their words, so I don’t speak them.
I know this doesn’t work well, and its been a bit of an uncomfortable truce. But it allowed me to be with my family and see my friends. I’ve even found a few fellow skeptics–other people who don’t take any of it literally, or even strongly metaphorically. I have even joked about doing a FSM Small Group during our education hour prior to service.
Last week, our senior minister announced that we don’t go to church to see friends or family. We only go to give glory to god. (I’ve tried to get a recording of the service so that I could have the direct quote, but both tapes I’ve tried have been missing the part of service where he makes this announcement).
So, does that mean I’m not allowed to go to this church unless I believe I’m giving glory to god? That seems to conflict a bit with the “doctrine” of individual interpretation. Does it mean that my presence, whether I believe or not, is evidence to our Senior Minister of god’s work in me?
To put it plainly, I do not go to church to give glory to god. I go to be with family and friends (whom I do believe in). If the minister declares this to be untrue, how should I to react? I have come up with two possible reactions: I blow off the comment since I don’t believe about half of what he says anyway; Or, I could try to uproot my myself (and maybe my family) and move to a Unitarian church where the God=Universe metaphor is more supported.