Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[personal|religion] So this atheist walks into a church...

Yesterday, [info]the_child, [info]mlerules and I drove down to Springfield, OR to hear [info]daveraines preach. Dave is the pastor at the St. Paul Center United Methodist Church there. I've known Dave for a number of years, always liked and admired him, and finally made the time to drive 100 miles to hear him at his pulpit.

It was interesting going back to church. My Granddaddy Lake was ordained in the Disciples of Christ, and I was certainly heavily churched at points in my early youth under his influence. The Protestant order of service is quite familiar to me. Admittedly, the Methodists come out of a different provenance than the Disciples, but the basic patterns are very similar. The group experience, the singing, the shared interests — as always, I can easily see the secular side of what draws people together. (Though I did have to explain to [info]the_child that balloon animals were not an ordinary part of church.) Dave gave a good sermon on the Holy Spirit, the centerpiece of a lovely service.

Quite a few years ago I made the explicitly self-conscious choice to be an atheist, not an agnostic, for reasons that continue to seem eminently sensible to me. At the same time, I would be the last person to deny the role of spirituality and mythos in the human experience. As a result, I sometimes describe myself as a "low church atheist" — meaning I'm not out to deconvert anybody. I have an absolute respect for the right of everyone to worship (or not) as they please. My quarrels with religion have more to do with the way some believers confuse their private spiritual experience with good public policy, and try to insert their magical thinking into law. Most Christians wouldn't accept Jews attempting to legislate against the eating of bacon, why should the rest of us accept Christianists attempting to legislate their personal religious beliefs into law?

It's also the case that I don't want to impose my personal views of the universe on [info]the_child. After all, if I rail at religious conservatives for confining their children in narrow mental boxes, how big a hypocrite would I be to deny my daughter the same choices I decry them for denying theirs? If she feels a spiritual call, I'll do my best to help her seek out whatever voice it is that speaks to her from within. She had a lot of questions for [info]daveraines at lunch after the service, where we met up with various members of the Wordos.

I don't yet know what this all meant to my daughter. To me, visiting Dave's church was a little trip into my own past, and a much-needed reminder to me, who so often views religion through a contentious political lens, that there are happy, sane religious people all over the place out there.

Tags: child, friends, oregon, personal, religion, travel
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