Hey guys, I think I may be getting a little bit too personal here, since I’ll be mainly talking about personal problems, but since they are related in some sense to my relationship with religion, I think I could get some useful advice from you guys, especially the ones who have been part of religious communities longer than I. Here we go.
I have been raised in a family where my father was an atheist and my mother sort of a non-practicing christian (she does believe in the existence of a personal God, but very little in the bible or in any “formal” religion), and we really didn’t attend church a lot, in fact, I got bored very quickly when I was I child and eventually just stopped going at all, the same goes for my family since they basically went there because of me. By the age of twelve I started thinking seriously about these religious issues and basically became an atheist after some time. It was only last year, at twenty-five (halfway through my PhD) that I started reading material about the science and religion debate, and I noticed that many of my personal reasons for not believing in God didn’t make much sense (I’m not saying all arguments against God don’t make sense, It just turned out that most of mine were flawed), and I eventually started considering the possibility of the existence of God more plausible than not (I can detail the exact reasons elsewhere, but it is not the focus of this topic).
Well, after this introduction I can finally go straight to the point. It’s been about an year since I started my new faith, but I never really saw any need to go to the church at all, nor did I have the habit to do so. However, after talking about my change of mind with some of my close atheist friends, they started to tell me sort of “half-joking” that since I was a theist know, I should really start going to church, because I would probably fit in very nicely there (I’ve had already told them many times how I have always felt bored in most social situations because I’m “too much of a nerd” in the sense of really not seeing much appeal in partying and the likes of that, and always had to pretend that I was having fun). I took their words and thought “well, why not? I can try”. I started going trying to go to church, meeting with religious groups, etc., and my friends were right, I fitted in perfectly. I never thought that there would be such a huge difference between church-attending people and (most of, I was an exception myself) non-practicing religious people or atheists, but this do raise several moral problems for me:
- Is it okay for me to go to the church if my main reason for doing so is not religious in itself?
- Do these people’s worldview fit so nicely with mine only because they have been “indoctrinated” with these beliefs or because they fear divine punishment?
- Most of these people probably believe in God for reasons that are very distinct from my own.
- Even if I ultimately decide to do so, how can I integrate in that new community?
Can you guys give me some feedback on your personal experiences with going to the church and how to deal with these issues? Comments from atheists who identify with these problems would be very helpful as well (how do you deal with the fact that in more secular communities people tend to be more liberal in these issues of drugs, alcohol, casual sex, etc. when you’re not in that mindset yourself? I’m not talking about judging them as “morally wrong” for doing these things, but rather how you end up not fitting in very well because you don’t feel comfortable in participating). I hope my topic is not too outside the scope of this forum. Thank you very much!