Circles. If only mine overlapped, or at least touched.


St. Mary’s has what it calls a Circle Service on Saturday evenings, and I went to one last month out of curiosity. Twenty people were present, 80% of them women, and 80% of them between 55-70. The seats were arranged in a circle, in the middle of which was an altar with candles and communion elements but no cross. The service was led by a lay person, everyone hugged everyone during the Passing of the Peace, and communion was passed from person to person instead of being served by a priest at a railing. I didn’t say the words, and I didn’t sing the hymns, but I did think about how I might do what many Episcopalians do, which is to impose a private meaning onto public expressions of faith. It was a daunting task.

Communion was proclaimed as “open to all,” leaving me free to interpret it in the same way that I interpreted the hugs, that is an act of human intimacy rather than the symbolic consumption of a corpse. When I got home and told Peggy (herself a nonbeliever) that I had taken communion, she called me a phony and said that if she had been one of the communicants and had known that I was an atheist, she would have been outraged. Since about a third of the communicants did know, I wondered how they felt.

I’ve been to two other Circle Services because I enjoy the sense of community and because liturgy fills me in a way that nothing else can. It also enables me to set aside my disagreements with Christians and to meet with them at a heart level. All I require is that they want to meet with me, not as a spectator, but an equal.

Every Saturday, I ask myself whether I want to go that day, and my answer has been about 50/50, mostly because I worry about causing offense. Last week, I went. Judy—who was born in Mississippi 20 miles from my own hometown—was to lead the service, and I looked forward to the heart that I knew she would bring to it, that and her beautiful Southern accent. I first sat on the other side of the circle from her, but when I became aware that I wanted to be near her, I took the empty chair to her left. Before she started the service, Loren (my Yoga instructor) came over and suggested that, if the words of the service didn’t work for me, I use words that did. Priest X* (who also knows of my atheism) arrived, and s/he sat to my left so that I was between Priest X and Judy.

When the time arrived for Priest X to go to the altar and consecrate the communion, Judy whispered that I shouldn’t feel pressured to take it if I didn’t want to. I said that, no, I wanted to do so. She seemed surprised but also pleased. After starting the communion around the circle, Priest X returned to the seat beside me without having taken it, which meant that s/he would be the last person to receive it, and that I would be the one to serve it. I nearly laughed aloud at the thought of an atheist giving communion to a priest.

Serving the bread involved tearing off a piece of it and saying certain words as I put the piece into Priest X’s hands. That being done, I wiped the rim of the chalice with the piece of cloth that accompanied it, and served the wine in the same manner. As all this transpired, Priest X looked me in the eye with extraordinary alertness. I took this to mean that s/he was completely in the moment, although in what way, I couldn’t tell. Only two surmises came to me. One was that s/he was simply struck by the novelty of the situation, and the other was that s/he was looking for signs of disrespect. Aside from these wonderings, I was very much in the moment too. 

Someone later wrote to me that the first priest to consecrate the communion (this was over ten years ago) had wanted to specify that it was for those who were, “seeking a deeper relationship with Christ,” but that the Circle Service community had voted him down. I responded (too bluntly) that any largesse that can be granted by vote can be taken away by vote. I wrote this way because I am the leper, the tax collector, the adulteress, and the woman at the well whom the religious people of Jesus’ day condemned and whom most religious people today still condemn. If Christians believe that the invitation to Holy Eucharist comes from Christ, then I would say to them, who are you to vote anyone in or out? I have no reason to think that they saw things from this perspective, whereas I feel sure that it was hard for them to override the wishes of a priest who had been their leader for decades, and that they were willing to do so precisely because they wanted to reach out to those whom he would have excluded. Priest Y—this church has several priests and deacons—wrote to me: “…no one would be upset that an atheist joined the circle. That's pretty much WHY that service exists, for those for whom the traditional ‘father, son, holy spirit’ language just doesn’t work.”

Part II

After I wrote everything above this paragraph, I went to the Circle Service that occurred the day after the mass murder in Connecticut. I had been very upset by that shooting, and I debated whether Circle Service was a good idea for me since Christian explanations of such events strike me as worse than useless. While I knew what might be said, my growing closeness to the people left me to hope they would do something more meaningful, so I went. It was a mistake. For one thing, I get tense in crowds, and instead of the usual 20 in attendance, there must have been thirty. For another, the laywoman who gave the homily started with, “People always want to know why these things happen, but, of course, there is no answer, not really.” Then she gave a sad little smile which I took to imply that, rational thought being useless, she was ready to offer some thoughts on inner peace. I remembered an old series of Miller Lite commercials that would pose a question (what do women want? is there life on Mars?), and immediately conclude, “Why ask why? Drink Miller Lite,” and I envisioned those thoughts as Jesus Lite.

I looked around at the other people in the circle, and, rightly or wrongly, I took their benign expressions to mean that they liked what they were hearing, and I felt very alone. Then it struck me that when I started going to the Bible study at St. Mary’s, my guess was that people would be offended by my atheism, yet everyone has been supportive. I’m the one who’s offended—at least I was on Saturday—because that brief sermon seemed to verify something I had worried about, namely, is church primarily an escape into fantasy. The people at St. Mary’s are sweet, the songs are sweet, the hugs are sweet, the talk of inner peace is sweet, but the people don’t appear to ask the same kinds of questions that I considered inescapable after age eleven.

You might very well point out that I’m reading way too much into one sermon, and you might very well ask what, if anything, would have pleased me—a Power Point presentation entitled “Theodicy Through the Centuries”? Angry Christians shaking their fists at a God whom many consider willing to help people find parking places and win football games, yet allows children to be murdered? What did I want from them? I wanted something that seemed emotionally real. If they had said, “Yes, sometimes religion seems like bullshit even to us, and, no, we can’t defend it, but, whether you think so or not, we believe it makes us more loving than we would be without it,” I would have felt solid earth beneath my feet. What else would have satisfied me? Tears. Maybe silence. Maybe saying to God, “You know, trusting you isn’t easy when you refuse to do that any of us would hope we would have done, which was to stand between a mass murderer and twenty children even if it meant that we would die without saving a one of them. But maybe none of this would have been real for them. Maybe they really are okay with not asking the kinds of questions that atheists ask. Yet, to immediately turn the focus of Oregon Episcopalians toward their feelings and how they might mitigate their pain over a shooting in Connecticut! Maybe I misunderstood her intent. Maybe prejudice got in the way.

Priest Y also wrote to me: Atheism doesn’t bother me, because I consider atheism, when one arrives at it intellectually and is willing to continue to ask questions and interact with other people as a seeking person on this great journey, to be a valid form of spirituality. Atheists tense-up when the word spiritual is applied to them because they expect the next sentence to be: “You’re too sensitive [or intelligent, or perceptive, or caring, or fine a person] to be a real atheist.” I re-read Priest Y’s email to find such an implication, but when no hint of patronage or condescension appeared, I was forced to conclude that, wonder of wonders, this leader in a worldview (Christianity) that has oppressed and reviled people like me for 2000 years, validates my path. But can I validate his/her path. My answer is that I am trying to be open to the possibility that Christianity at least can lead to wisdom and kindness because I’m tired of the hatred that results from assuming—as atheists often do—that the only salient effect of the Christian religion on its followers is delusion, ignorance, oppression, and buffoonery. If I can’t find some good in Christianity in a church that is willing to include me in its communion, as an atheist, where can I find it? The problem is that, just by looking, I feel like a traitor to those atheists who spend their lives fighting to keep the forces of religious oppression at bay. Im like a person who has become lost in the Arctic and finds himself astride ice floes that are drifting apart, unable to let go of either.

* I feel obligated to keep the identity of most priests private, especially when the opinions they share with me contradict official church doctrine.

27 comments:

rhymeswithplague said...

I am amazed. Also, I need time to process this post. Perhaps I will come back and comment more later.

You may be a better Episcopalian than a lot of Episcopalians.

Snowbrush said...


"I am amazed."

Yay! Whoopee! Thank you, thank you, thank you...I guess.

"You may be a better Episcopalian than a lot of Episcopalians."

Well, I AM an Episcopalian, at least inasmuch as my name appears on a Mississippi church registry. As for me being "better than a lot of Episcopalians," I wouldn't dream of commenting on that until I have some idea what you're talking about, although I suspect you might simply be flabbergasted that I could have found such support anywhere in Christendom.

kj said...

"’ve been to two other Circle Services because I enjoy the sense of community and because liturgy fills me in a way that nothing else can"

snow, the way you say this pretty much reflects why I would go to church or participate in a structured (for) giving and sharing. i'm not an atheist but i'm not much of an organized christian either. i was brought up catholic, which i pretty totally reject in all parts, but the ceremony and liturgy: well, it brings me to a place i remember and what i remember is that it felt good to believe.

i know from my counseling work and from my life that believing in something simplifies. there's a grounding to it.

it is easy for me to be open to most things: okay, not the NRA these days. i haven't liked the emphasis on religion in comforting the tragedy of that school shooting, but i'm glad it helps who it helps.

happy holidays, snow

love
kj

Snowbrush said...

"i know from my counseling work and from my life that believing in something simplifies. there's a grounding to it."

Believing in "something"? I'm sure we all believe in something, but my response will be based upon the assumption that you're referring to a supernatural deity.

First, if you ever run across any data pertaining to how happy atheists are versus how happy theists are, I would like to see it because I really don't know. What I do know is that I can't tell from my interactions with with the two that one is better off than the other. Something else I know is that if a person really doesn't believe, and he or she tries to become a believer, the resultant distress eventually reaches a point of crisis beyond which the effort has to be abandoned. I'm sure there are self-proclaimed atheists who have become theists, but I would assume that nearly all of them were adolescents or young adults who were "trying on" atheism in the same way that young people try on various identities. I would even say that there's not a lot of difference between heterosexuals who think that homosexuals can choose to become heterosexuals, and theists who think that atheists can make the choice to come over to the theistic camp.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. KJ, when I wrote that we all believe in something, I'm afraid I might have sounded flippant, so I want to clarify what I meant. I intended to say that we all (if we're not nihilists) possess values that are so important to us that they give us purpose and sustain us. However, I thought it appropriate--from what I know of you and from the content of my post--to limit my response to belief in a supernatural entity.

The Elephant's Child said...

So many of the issues you raise in this post are alien to me that I will have to go away and think about it. I don't believe I could take communion without feeling hypocritical but I also don't have the grounding and familiarity with Christianity that you do.

rhymeswithplague said...


1. "Serving the bread involved tearing off a piece of it and saying certain words as I put the piece into Priest X’s hands. That being done, I wiped the rim of the chalice with the piece of cloth that accompanied it, and served the wine in the same manner."

The certain words that came out of your mouth, unless I miss my guess, were "the body of Christ" and "the blood of Christ" but if in your heart you substituted "the universe" let me remind you of Psalm 19:14: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."

2. " I'm sure there are self-proclaimed atheists who have become theists, but I would assume that nearly all of them were adolescents or young adults who were "trying on" atheism in the same way that young people try on various identities."

That scenario doesn't apply to the writer C. S. Lewis, who was a middle-aged Oxford don when he became what he described later as "the most reluctant convert in all England." Read him. Also Malcolm Muggeridge.

Marion said...

The circle of life...so amazing. I always think of Emerson's magnificent essay on "Circles" when I see the word. If you haven't read it, you're in for a treat.

http://www.bartleby.com/5/109.html

Love to you and your family, Snow. Happy Holidays!!! xoxo

PhilipH said...

I was wondering whether you were looking for trouble, but no - far from it.
You were brave to venture into this circle. What comes next I ask myself. Dunno.
Has the 'festive season' anything to do with it? No, defo not.
When I lived in Scotland I often felt a strange urge to go to one of the Quaker meetings in Kelso. There is a Friends Meeting house there which I'd often considered visiting - but never did.
Cheers, Phil

Snowbrush said...

" I don't believe I could take communion without feeling hypocritical but I also don't have the grounding and familiarity with Christianity that you do."

I wouldn't even want to in most churches because I wouldn't want to be a member of the community of people that they represent. The Episcopal Church of America (part of the Anglican Communion, at least marginally) is a church that threatens to implode because the values represented by its membership are so diverse and antagonistic within its own ranks. It's a place where a person like myself can either find great support or be run out of town, depending upon which parish he attends. Other than the atheistic First Unitarian Society that I joined in Minneapolis, the Episcopal Church is the only church I've ever loved. It's like a macro version of all the contradictions that I find within myself.

"The certain words that came out of your mouth, unless I miss my guess, were "the body of Christ" and "the blood of Christ'"

They appear to vary based upon which of the committee of laypeople is conducting the service, so Christ is not necessarily mentioned.

"C. S. Lewis, who was a middle-aged Oxford don when he became what he described later as "the most reluctant convert in all England." Read him."

As you probably would have guessed, I have read him. He's considered by many Christians to be one of their Big Guns, but when atheists read his works, they tend to shake their heads sadly and mouth the word rationalization because there's nothing there that he couldn't have known prior to his conversion. Here's a link of other atheists-turned-theists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_Christianity_from_atheism)

I have two thoughts to offer about atheist conversions. (1) Based upon my own knowledge and experience, I would consider it impossible for any number of mature and learned theists to get together with one mature and learned atheist and present him with knowledge that he didn't previously consider which would be sufficiently strong for him to acknowledge any supernatural deity because the arguments are too few, too well-known, and, in the view of atheists, appallingly inadequate. (2) Atheists don't not-believe due to one troubling objection but to scores, hundreds, maybe even thousands of objections.

"I always think of Emerson's magnificent essay on "Circles" when I see the word."

I haven't read it, but I will look it up.

Snowbrush said...

"When I lived in Scotland I often felt a strange urge to go to one of the Quaker meetings in Kelso. There is a Friends Meeting house there which I'd often considered visiting - but never did."

I've personally known two open atheists who were accepted into membership by the Friends' Meeting in my city. I have NO idea if this would be true where you are, but you might want to look into it. Is there a Universalist Unitarian Church in your area? Here, in America, they tend to be so welcoming of atheists that atheists compose a significant portion of their membership.

PhilipH said...

Haven't really looked around in our new locale. Too many madcap car drivers scares the crap outta me now.
Kelso was a much quieter place. I also liked the way that Quakers do not have priests, or a hierarchy, and that they have 'silent' meetings, although one can speak if one wants to.
I also like the way they call their places of worship "Friends Meeting Houses".
However, I do LOVE church and cathedral buildings, especially when they are empty. Wonderful places to find peace, just sitting and quietly looking at and thinking about the way these places were built, often centuries ago.
Phil

All Consuming said...

I'm happy that you were able to go and do this and not come out of it feeling bad in any way, no matter how much I disagree with people on a matters of faith I think it shows they are coming from the right place to welcome all into their company and ceremonies if the person in question is not there to cause trouble. I'm not sure I'm making the sense I want to here as I'm full of drugs for a cold and feel pretty grim, but anyway, one of the things I admire most about you is your ability to suprise people with your openess of mind and actions, and sharing them with us is a joy. xx

lotta joy said...

What I am about to say isn't directed AT you, but merely comes from where I am in life and my take on it.

It seems to me that you are picking at a scab. Or, to offer a different mind/picture: You stuck your finger in the flame once and realized it burned you. Now that you're older, you're sticking your finger repeatedly into the flame to see if you can find a new meaning to it.

Our church has been repeatedly calling, asking Joe and me to "light the altar candles", "read the scriptures Sunday", "lead the congregation in prayer".

I say "NO" without qualification. I never add: "Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt".

Joe, on the other hand, says he doesn't think that - as an athiest - I should BE at the altar.

His statement felt like an insult similar to "Blacks can't drink at the white man's fountain."

I've only attended church because he wanted to go. I hoped merely to find some friends I can enjoy during the weekdays, not because it's Sunday.

I'm not there to learn, compare or even investigate their centuries old superstitions.

You too, have "Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt" and I still can't understand what your driving force is.

Snowbrush said...

I just commented to two people who responded to THIS post, but I put my responses on the last post. I have a good excuse for this, but I'm feeling a little shy about sharing it because it involves a party at my neighbor's house and how much of his Scotch I drank.

"Quakers are QUIET people. You know that, Snowy, as well as I do."

Yeah, they drive me nuts. Do you know how long it takes to get anything done by consensus? You've got to have a lot more patience than I do to be a Quaker, yet I do admire them for their dedication to move everyone along together as opposed to the majority leaving the minority in its dust. I wonder, though, what if the issue at hand is something that some people consider urgent (like gay rights) that might NEVER be resolved by consensus.

"Joe, on the other hand, says he doesn't think that - as an athiest - I should BE at the altar. His statement felt like an insult..."

I would feel insulted too, not because he intended to insult me (which he clearly didn't), but because the fact that he holds such a view would lead me to view him as being tribalistic at the core even though he talks about the love of Christ for all people. You compare his attitude to segregated water fountains; I imagine his view of Christianity as that of an exclusive club that has an inner chamber and an antechamber with you being told that you have to stay in the antechamber while he and the other people who share the Methodist definition of God AS THE ONLY VALID DEFINITION are hanging out together in the inner chamber. On the one hand, all Christians say they love all people and want to reach out to them with the hand of friendship, while on the other, most Christians tell everyone who doesn't subscribe to their partisan interpretation of Jesus that they are unworthy to sit at the "Lord's table."

"It seems to me that you are picking at a scab. Or, to offer a different mind/picture: You stuck your finger in the flame once and realized it burned you. Now that you're older, you're sticking your finger repeatedly into the flame to see if you can find a new meaning to it."

You came up with two darn good metaphors here, but there's more to it than that. I've been meaning to list all the reasons for going to this church that I can think of because there are some that I didn't know about when I made my list a few months ago. Simply by going, I an learning more about WHY I am going. You are concerned about the impact that this church has on me, whereas I am beginning to be just as concerned about my impact on it. When people are as open to me as these people have been, I feel honor-bound to reward their implied vulnerability. It's not just about belief anymore; it's about making relationships work for everyone involved.

Snowbrush said...

"The certain words that came out of your mouth, unless I miss my guess, were "the body of Christ" and "the blood of Christ" ..."

What I told you in my first response to your comment was simply wrong. I've only been to a few of services, and maybe I was distracted, or maybe some people spoke in a low voice or said different words, but in any event, I didn't even realize that the words are the same each week. After I got your response, I wrote to one of the leaders of the service as follows: "I very much appreciate the fact that communion is open to all, yet it is possible that the words that are to be said might not reflect the beliefs of the person serving the communion or the beliefs of the person receiving it." She responded (in part): "The words we speak at Circle Service are: 'Christ is here' and 'The Spirit is with us.' We're not talking body and blood, we're talking heart and soul...To me, Christ is not a person's name, but a title that acknowledges a way of being in relationship with the ineffable."

Snowbrush said...

"Quakers are QUIET people. You know that, Snowy, as well as I do."

Well, my response to you, Joe, was also lacking. I wrote.

"Yeah, they drive me nuts. Do you know how long it takes to get anything done by consensus?"

The two sentences didn't follow, so I want to clarify what I meant, which was that they drive me nuts by simply sitting there in silence week after week in case someone feels "led" to say something. Some weeks, nobody says anything. Other weeks, three or four people might interrupt the silence with what everyone hopes will be inspired reflections. Since neither the silence nor the interruptions to the silence worked well for me, I didn't attend a lot of Quaker meetings. As for consensus, that's how Quakers operate, which means that a great many decisions take months of what would be, to me, unbearably tedious and protracted discussions. I even have reservations about the things I admire about Quakers. For one thing, they're so far from being frivolous, that they can seem dour, and they're so independent that they can seem rigidly eccentric (their independence also adds to their difficulty in reaching consensus). Former Catholics appear to be drawn to Quakerism, presumably because both groups have a leaning toward mysticism. For those who like Quakerism, there's nowhere else in Christendom that they can go for a similar experience, but for those who don't, sitting silently on hard pews that are arranged in a square, so that everyone is looking toward the middle (at least, that's how they're arranged here) is pure tedium. I hope you will go because if you do like it, you might feel (as so many do) that you've come home to a place you always longed for but never knew existed. On the other hand, if you don't like it, you'll know right away.

Charles Gramlich said...

You have got to be one of the most unique atheists I've ever met. You seem far more fascinated with religion that most religious folks I know. You are to be commended for wanting to learn about those who practice religion, though. Few on either side of the debate are willing to cut the other side any slack and actually look at their beliefs.

Lisa said...

ah Snow- in reference to your comment on my blog - in the last 30 years you are the ONLY one to have GOT it.
Yes, his go go go attitude leaves me deflated and with a feeling that no matter what I will ever do, its just not going to measure up.
He is a wonderful father and partner but he cannot get his head around the fact that not everyone feels they need to prove their worth by constantly 'doing'something.
You have given me my best Xmas gift ever;the gift of understanding, of seeing the other side. Thank You for that. Enjoy the break, Lisa xx

rhymeswithplague said...

You may remember (or perhaps I didn't tell you) that my mother was a non-practicing Jew and my dad was what I call a "lapsed Methodist," and I was sent to the local Methodist Sunday School with neighbors who attended there. I was Methodist until the age of 20 and then pow, just like that, I was elsewhere for 50 years. I returned to the Methodists a couple of years ago when I accepted a job as pianist/organist at a Methodist church.

These couple of years have had an effect on my beliefs. I used to believe in "a regenerate church membership" (meaning people should all believe the same required list of things). I now embrace what Jesus said, that the "wheat" and the "tares" should grow together and that no attempt should be made to separate them until the harvest, when the angels will do the separating. Our communion service is open to all (because it is "the Lord's table" and not "the Methodist Church's table" or "this congregation's table") and it is up to each individual to decide whether to participate, and no one is taking notes on who does not. I have become more open (and hopefully accepting and compassionate) towards others, which my former companions might say is evidence of how far I have backslidden.

I suppose one person's backsliding is another person's progress as a disciple.



Snowbrush said...

"You seem far more fascinated with religion that most religious folks I know."

Absolutely. For whatever good it is, I'm certainly interested in religion, although my interest at this point is almost exclusively in the Bible itself and in liberal religion. I've done my time as a fundamentalist (having been raised one), and I gained enough knowledge about that mentality to last me a life time.

"You have given me my best Xmas gift ever;the gift of understanding, of seeing the other side."

Thank you because your appreciation is also a gift. I just hope I didn't muck up your good opinion of me by my assumption that the third comment to your post was SPAM. It's just that I've been getting so much SPAM that I'mve even become cautious about which blogs I sign up to receive comments on.

"You may remember (or perhaps I didn't tell you) that my mother was a non-practicing Jew and my dad was what I call a "lapsed Methodist..."

I had forgotten about your father, but your status as a Jewish Christian has a sticking power in my mind, that and your writing about growing up with a Jewish mother.

"I now embrace what Jesus said, that the "wheat" and the "tares" should grow together and that no attempt should be made to separate them until the harvest..."

You quote Scripture to atheists and do other things that make me think of you as very conservative (in regard to both religion and politics), yet you also have it in you to astound me with your tolerance. I had assumed that you would be outraged that I would take communion, and that you would be further outraged that church people--including clergy--would not only welcome an atheist to their services, but would validate him for being what he is. Was I wrong on both counts?

A Plain Observer said...

There is so much in here, your desire to connect, your bonding with this group after a couple of visits, and your disappointment at them.
I question the why of the shooting also, Snow and I am a firm believer in God. I agree, maybe some tears, some emotional search for an answer would have offered more. I did get that in my church, but that requires a priest who knows how to speak to masses and convey messages. A mere human who knows how to deliver a message to explain what cannot be explained.

Snowbrush said...

"that requires a priest who knows how to speak to masses and convey messages. A mere human who knows how to deliver a message to explain what cannot be explained."

Explaining the existence of suffering within a universe that is run by a perfect deity has represented a challenge to the Judeo-Christian religion since its beginnings (remember the dialogues in the book of Job?), and none of the limited number of explanations that have been offered are satisfying to people who are not members of those religions. My guess is that the explanations don't satisfy most religious people either, which is why a great many religious people take the position of the woman who gave the sermon, namely that such knowledge is unobtainable during this life.

Strayer said...

You crack me up. The atheist obsessed with religion and acceptance into religious circles. Whatever floats your boat and makes you happy!

Zuzana said...

Dear Snow, just stopping by to wish you a wonderful Christmas and a wonderful Holidays with your loved ones. Thank you for all your lovely comments and visits in the past year and thank you for letting me be a part of your world.;)
xoxo

rhymeswithplague said...

"you also have it in you to astound me"

I astound even myself sometimes.

" I had assumed that you would be outraged"

Three years ago I would have been outraged. Today I am not outraged.


C Woods said...

You are a better person than I am, or maybe I've never been able to get over the perceived evil I found in religion during my youth. I've read your opinions of Christianity on this blog, and still don't quite understand what you find in any church that attracts you.

I want nothing to do with religion.

I attended a Unitarian service a year or so ago because Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation was the scheduled speaker. Of all the religious groups in this country, I thought that would be one in which I could feel comfortable. But I found their service way to "churchy" for my tastes. I especially hated a reading with in-unison responses. I've always marched to the beat of a different drummer, so responding in unison was way too much like being mindless automatons to me. The only part, besides Barker's presentation that I liked was when the choir sang Holly Near's "I Ain't Afraid" which has fun lyrics and a catchy tune.

Maybe I just don't need to feel like I belong. I'm rather comfortable alone. And when I do want more company than my husband, I belong to various groups of those with similar interests, like art, photography and writing ---where religion rarely comes up.