A reader speaks up for “church-going atheists”:
We are many. Just not all of us are open about it! I don’t like the term “atheist” (being freighted with Dawkins anti-theism); I prefer the term “non-believer”. I passed through my ex-Catholic/angry-atheist phase to a post-religion phase where I value what we have in common more than I care about what separates us. I go to church because 1) I married a woman of deep faith, and 2) because we found our way to a community that welcomes both of us, when she was effectively driven out of her cradle Catholicism by the horrors of California’s Prop8. In fact, I was lobbying her to become Episcopalian for years, as that seems the logical place for a Vatican II-style Catholic with progressive views of church and justice.
Mutual respect makes our inter-faith relationship work. My wife’s service in church (she’s now the Head Verger of an Episcopal cathedral) is a major part of her life, and I love her completely, so of course I support her wholeheartedly. And she respects who and where I am as well. I too was raised Catholic, so the ancient rhythm of the liturgy is familiar, and the music is simply amazing (thankfully she went “nosebleed high” when she swam the Thames). I guess I am essentially a cultural Trinitarian sacramentalist Christian, even if I don’t believe per se. So I’ll do gladly do Episcopal calisthenics on a Sunday, though I don’t pray, sing, or take communion, because that would be disrespectful of the community.
As the members of my church say, “Whoever you are, wherever you are on the journey of faith, you are welcome here.” Kinda restores my faith in Christianity.
Reading your most recent post on Apatheism, I thought I’d relate the following story of how politics have made this outspoken atheist into a staunch defender of religious freedom.
I’m what you might call a “movement atheist.” I go to cons. I write for a well-known skeptical website. I am 100% for the complete separation of church and state. But in the last year I have found myself in the rather unexpected position of loudly and publicly advocating for the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab, among other public expressions of religious values.
You see, I live in Quebec, where the separatist government’s proposed “Charter of Values” would ban public sector workers – which here includes all university and hospital employees in addition to your standard public servants and primary/secondary educators – from wearing any “ostentatious” religious symbols. This includes not only the hijab, but also the turban and the kippah for observant Sikhs and Jews.
The ban does not, however, extend to employees of state-funded Catholic parochial schools, which receive substantial government funding, or to the giant cross in the National Assembly, which is part of Quebec’s “cultural heritage.”
The brazen xenophobia of the whole endeavour is utterly repellant to me, especially given the province’s worrying history of anti-semitism, but the proposed charter is unfortunately quite popular with the general electorate outside of Montreal (where nearly all the affected populations live and work) and may in fact lead to the PQ winning a majority government in the upcoming election and forcing it through.
Should the measure pass, many committed atheists like myself plan nonetheless to wear banned religious articles in solidarity with our colleagues of faith. Needless to say, as an atheist activist, this is just about the last thing on earth I would ever have expected to do, but racist politics make very strange bedfellows.
Read the whole discussion thread here.