My undergraduate degree was in pastoral studies, but I never made it to the pulpit. Not for lack of opportunity, but for lack of belief. It wasn’t some sudden event or particular argument I could point to, it was a lengthy personal dissection. Essentially, I ceased believing in different bits of my religion over time. Eventually, the only thing that kept me in the pew at all was the relationships I’d built. The community it gave me. The friends and family I’ve come to cherish.
My husband and I never made a conscious decision to quit church, it just happened. We attended for quite a while as nonbelievers, but it became increasingly difficult. It was hard to beat around the bush with where you were in your beliefs, especially with friends. After being out of the church for three years, we finally came out with it. It was well received. Very well received. I’m convinced we have the best friends anyone could ask for.
At some point we decided to find out what other people, secular people, were up to, and very randomly showed up at a freethought group meeting. We met some awesome people there, indeed people who are friends today. We attended a couple of secular conferences, which is like attending a mishmash science and philosophy conference except more fun, and became aware of and connected to national and local organizations for secular people.
While the church brings a lot of people together, and creates community, it also leaves people out. We didn’t belong in a church anymore. We couldn’t say we shared their core beliefs or values anymore, and as such we felt out of place. A lot of the core ideals we liked; such as helping the poor, the hungry, and charity efforts. However, we didn’t like the emphasis on the supernatural. I watched as people (my friends and I) served food in a soup kitchen as we volunteered one evening, and it was our hands doing the work, not something supernatural.
I was trained to plant churches and lead a congregation, but I don’t want to do that. People don’t need to be shepherded, and we don’t need another church. We need a community of reason. A community where people are more important than beliefs, where meaning comes from making a difference, and labels are not required. By partnering with Houston Oasis, I hope to build such a community. Will you help build that community with me?