Atheists Who Go to Church: Doing It for the Children

He probably won’t get down on his knees, but that fellow sitting near you during the Sunday church service just may be an atheist. And a scientist.

A new study out of Rice University has found that 17 percent – about one out of five scientists who describe themselves as either atheists or agnostics – actually go to church, although not too often, and not because they feel a spiritual yearning to join the faithful.

More likely, it’s because of the kids.

What? Why would somebody who doesn’t believe there’s a god want his own offspring wasting their time in an enterprise he believes has no foundation in fact? Especially a scientist.

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What stands out to me in the article is that the scientists who do this usually do not come from a family with a strong religious practice. So it isn’t as if they have fond memories of childhood which they want their children to share.

The conclusion of the researchers is that, generally speaking, such scientists want to expose their children so that the children can form an independent judgment later… presumably later in life (although the article isn’t clear about that.) Another reason is that they want to smooth over objections from their spouse, who might be more committed to a religious upbringing for the children.

I wonder what do such scientists tell their church-going children. Do they share their skepticism? Do they pretend to believe in God for the sake of the children?

And what churches do they select? Presumably they select churches which do not place a great stress on doctrine, but it would be interesting to find out. Of course, the spouse (at least if he or she is more religious) might determine the choice.

. The surprising thing is that people find this surprising. I see religious people all the time at secular gatherings. No one writes stories about that.

I am a non believer and I sometimes attend Mass also. I see a few faces there who I know also do not believe. Some have children and others, like me, are on their own. Personally I go for the peace and quiet, the singing and the building depending on how I am feeling. I would also have no issue taking my daughter when she is older if she wanted to go.

Yes, but a secular gathering is not an avowedly atheist or agnostic gathering. I think that would be a more accurate comparison of an agnostic or atheist attending a religious service. How often do religious people attend functions which expressly promote atheism?

Thank you, Benjamin, for offering a personal insight. Is attending an aesthetic experience for you, then?

Me too, there is no problem in that. Once I had a visit to a holy place, I entered the Church out of curiosity to see how it looks like from inside, when I came out my friends ( believers) start asking me if I stopped being an atheist.:frowning:

Thank you, Benjamin, for offering a personal insight. Is attending an aesthetic experience for you, then?

It is indeed. I obviously don’t participate in prayer or communion but I do enjoy listening to the sermons and walking around the buildings and grounds. I see it almost as a living art gallery and it allows me time to think and reflect.

It is indeed. I obviously don’t participate in prayer or communion but I do enjoy listening to the sermons and walking around the buildings and grounds. I see it almost as a living art gallery and it allows me time to think and reflect.

I guess I don’t understand why you wouldn’t go to an art gallery or sculpture garden. Is there any part of you that wants to believe?

I feel like it would be akin to a married woman going to a Singles mixer just to have a drink…you can get a drink in other places, and being there would certainly raise a few eyebrows!:slight_smile:

It isn’t an either or situation though. I do go to galleries and other places also. My local church is just more, well, local. It is not that I want to believe it is just I like the aesthetics and the atmosphere. Nothing more to read into it really.

I appreciate the point your are making, and its validity from your point of view. From the standpoint of a nonbeliever, however, a secular gathering is just that. There is no need for us to ‘expressly promote’ non-belief, although I know some do. I imagine you do not expressly promote our non-belief in faeries. Non-believers like me don’t think in terms of proclaiming our unbelief as if it were a belief, so we are no ‘avowedly atheist’. We are just people who happen not to believe in some things you do. In my case I try to discipline myself not to ‘believe’ in anything, but rather to conclude things. But I do get your point. I quite enjoy churches and Church services myself, and if I do attend I suspect I am the person there listening most closely to the sermon. I think this because of the blank looks I get when I try to discuss it with believers who were present, afterwards! I also acknowledge the Christian foundations of much (not all) of our language, thought and and society, so find the intricacies of church art and architecture interesting also.

Church is one of the few venues where it is all right to contemplate and think about the ultimate issues of life. It is not as if these ultimate issues such as who we are, why we are here, of struggling with the problem of right and wrong, and good and evil, all become irrelevant and unimportant when one finds that faith in the divine has disappeared.

A five thousand year tradition of people struggling with such issues does not need faith to be of great value, even for the disbeliever.

Disbelieving in God does not necessarily entail that one does not believe in godliness, in discovering a reality that which other can be possibly conceived of as being better.

Even Mother Teresa confessed that for a large part of her life, she did not experience the presence of God. That never even slowed her down from living a life of godliness.

I imagine it would be because the atheist/agnostic wants their child to choose for herself what to believe or not believe…and not just follow what her parents are telling her to follow just because they say so or because they do.

By taking their kids to church, they give them experience and education so that they can then make their own informed decision about it.

I know one agnostic who takes their kids to different churches/temples on Sundays to expose their kids to all different religions–not wanting to limit them to one religion, but expose them to all.

This is what I imagine an agnostic/atheist would be thinking by taking their kids to church.

Oh my word!

And a scientist.

Noooooo nooooooooo not a sci… scientist! NOOO :rolleyes:

RUN!!!:smiley:

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