I asked Limey from the Confessions of a Y.E.C. Blog to do a contribution post on the topic of dealing with emotional tiresomeness of going to church as an atheist. I asked him because I can already feel the emotional toll it has already taken upon me, so I sought him out, since he has already gone through this experience.
When I first started on my journey from Christian to Atheist I had no idea where it would lead or what would happen. The idea that I would find church tiresome never occurred to me. In fact, when I first started to wonder if atheism was indeed the end result of my journey, I still expected that I would attend church because that’s what my family did and to stop that family activity would be a step too far.
At first it wasn’t difficult to keep going. Pretending was easy because I knew everything; the songs, the rituals, the regular sermon materials, the prayers; everything was so familiar, how could it possibly be difficult to keep going and hide my lack of belief?
My faith died slowly and so the problems with church crept in slowly too. It started with the first conversation that I had with my wife about the state of my faith. I admitted to her I had doubts and I was struggling with the faith I once had. That was the moment when Church started to be a problem. Up until then I kept all my concerns and my doubts a secret and so attending church was not really questioned because I had no public reason not to go.
Once I started to be open about my waning Christian faith the conflict between what I believed (or didn’t believe) and the requirements of Christian belief in church became harder to ignore. It started with being cautious about how enthusiastically to sing the songs, especially those of a more worshipful nature. The more intimate aspects of Christian worship also became a problem; especially communion. After that first conversation with my wife I ceased taking communion, but that was not enough, simply being there for a communion service made me uncomfortable so I stopped attending communion services. It wouldn’t be long before all church attendance stopped, I don’t miss it at all. I now enjoy the alone time I get at home when the family is at church, it’s a time I cherish as mine and I feel would be wasted if I spent it at church instead.
When I first saw the word tiresomeness in the suggested title for this post I stopped to think, “is that how I view church now?” I’m not sure if it is the most accurate word to describe my situation. However, it does fit reasonably well and I am sure there are those who would certainly embrace that description. Tiresome fits because for me as an atheist the goings on in church are meaningless, worse than that, those that attend and take part are simply taking part in superstition and irrelevant ritual. The being they appeal to does not exist and that means the claims on which they base their whole system of belief are without foundation.
That above may sound harsh, but for an atheist stepping into church and attending a service, that is exactly what is being thought. It equates to a climate scientist attending a meeting of climate change deniers, or an evolutionary biologist attending a creationist meeting or an astronomer attending an astrology meeting. When an atheist such as myself attends a church service everything that gets said and done is very familiar, and that means their mind is full of reasonable objections to everything that gets said and done. Relaxing is not possible because the mind is being assaulted by false arguments and illogical reasoning; a recent example being the challenge to “look out at the world and not see God in the beauty of His creation”.
An atheist can’t listen to that every week and not get affected negatively. It is tiresome because the mind has to rebuff attempts to make belief in god logical and reasonable when the real truth is that it is not.
At the start of my journey I really did believe that I could continue it and remain a church-goer. It turns out I was wrong. More than that, it is tiresome to listen to a message that one has consciously rejected. There is also a deeper dimension here that I am only just realizing; if I wish to support my wife in her church activities or to remain friends with the pastor it’s important for me to not be in a place where I view their actions unfavorable, which would be the case if I continued to go to church.
So church can be tiresome for a former Christian and this particular one has found it to be so, which is why he’s now stopped.