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Due to family issues, I have come to distance people from me, mainly because the family issues made me a rough person and I am not "easy" to hang around. For the same reasons, I was never close to the Church or God. Now, being an adult and understanding the world, I find it hard to believe in any kind of religious creed. I am, in fact, an atheist.

My question here is: is it considered wrong (by the same religious communities) to seek the company of religious communities (for example, going to the meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses) if it's for the sole purpose of feeling less lonely?

*I am not excluding that I may, with time, find that particular religion suitable for me.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Flimzy, fredsbend the Grinch, David Stratton Jul 23 at 2:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Hi Con7e! That is a good question, however this falls more under pastoral advice or "Is X a sin?" type questions, which don't really fit our format. It'd probably be best to ask the leader of whatever group you're interested in joining. –  LCIII Jul 22 at 13:07
    
In the current form, this question isn't really answerable here. We don't answer truth questions. This could also be seen as a pastoral advice question, which we don't answer, either. For an academic answer, you could change it to ask whether a specific Christian denomination permits non-believers to attend, but I suspect you aren't really looking for an academic answer. –  Flimzy Jul 22 at 13:20
    
On a more personal level, practically any Christian church ought to welcome non-believers and even atheists. Sharing our community with others, that they may see the love of Christ and come to their own faith, is one of the most important aspects of Christianity. However, there are groups of Christians which differ in this view, and unfortunately may be more hostile to non-believers. –  Flimzy Jul 22 at 13:23
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I am torn, because as a Christian, I want to welcome you and encourage you to participate if for no other reason then that is what Jesus would have me do. Unfortunately, this is an academic site that doesn't study what is true, as much as how people study Truth. –  Affable Geek Jul 22 at 13:24
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@Con7e What you're describing does indeed sound less like atheism ("God does not exist" or "God cannot exist"), and more like agnosticism ("I don't know whether or not God exists","God may exist but I don't agree with any formulation about God","God is not part of my vocabulary but may become so if I'm sufficiently convinced"). –  Matt Gutting Jul 23 at 16:46

5 Answers 5

Do Christian concepts of fellowship allow for a congregation to welcome atheists to participate in their community?

In the most general terms, yes - most congregations are open to non-member participation. Saying that, it is possible different congregations have a nuanced stance in this regard - some of their meetings may be closed and it is best to ask the leaders of an individual community what their stance is. Another consideration is that while a particular meeting may be open to non-members, some of the practices engaged in may be restricted to member (or visiting Christian) participation - e.g. taking Holy Communion - so your participation may be partial in that respect (as would be appropriate considering you would not believe all that the congregation members believe with respect to those practices).

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In the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church (C&MA) of which I am a member, you would definitely be welcome when attending almost any gathering of church members, whether large or small, plenary or small group.

Our church has "ministries" for almost every age group and for almost every conceivable interest or need (e.g., divorce recovery, 12-step meetings for a variety of addictions, senior citizens, college and career, single parents, grief counselling, church membership classes, growth groups, and many more).

Even if you are simply a disinterested observer, or are there to enhance your social life, you would be welcomed, accepted, and loved.

Does this mean you are therefore free to "sow seeds of discord," or to proselytize, so to speak, for atheism? Of course not. Honest, open, and even heated discussions are encouraged in my church, but as in most every place besides church (except the Jerry Springer show!), good manners are de rigueur.

Does this mean that every C&MA church will be as equally welcoming? Probably not. Despite a shared denominational identity, each local church within the denomination has its own culture, norms, mores, and folkways. Rest assured I am not making excuses for churches in my denomination which are not as accepting of atheists (for example), but I'm just being realistic about regional and cultural differences, whether in the US or abroad.

By the way, I'm familiar with one local church in the Episcopalian denomination which has an Alpha Course for seekers who are interested in finding out more about the Christian faith. Who knows, there you might even meet another nonbeliever of the opposite sex with whom you can strike up a friendship!

In conclusion, all local Christian churches should--ideally--be welcoming of strangers and non-members, but we live in a far from ideal world. Nevertheless, I encourage you to seek out a local church which has an open door policy and welcomes seekers of all stripes, even atheists. When you find one, however, do not expect perfection, just a bunch of imperfect Christians, all of whom are under construction. In other words, be willing to show the same respect, courtesy, and patience they show to you.

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I attend a C&MA church for many years with a small group focused on Older Couples mentoring Younger Newlyweds. There were 10 couples, and 4 of them did not attend the church. 2 of them were Catholics, and 2 of them were Atheists, but they said the ideas being taught (from the Bible) made sense and they found those discussions to be beneficial to them. There was never a word about their religious affiliation. In fact one of the Atheist couples offered their house and pool for a Baptism ceremony and the church accepted. As others have said this is not always the case, and depends on the church. –  Mark Jul 22 at 20:08
    
@Mark: Sounds like your church has its head screwed on straight. Wish they were all like that. My church's mission statement is "Following Jesus in Diverse Community," and our membership rolls reflect a highly diverse group of people. If you'd like to check out our church's website, it can be found at acac.net. The Lord bless you. Don –  rhetorician Jul 22 at 20:51

From the point of view of a Seventh-Day Adventist, we welcome unbelievers, because many in the church have come from Atheism. You would be welcome with open arms.

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A Catholic Official Position

Catholics absolutely welcome atheists or anyone else to attend Holy Mass. Unfortunately, as suggested elsewhere, we do not feel it is appropriate for most non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion. For example, a norm developed by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (later the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) reminds its readers of the Catholic belief that "the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship", and states:

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers [or, if one does not believe in the efficacy of prayer, simply their hopes and thoughts] for the peace and the unity of the human family.

(emphasis added)

It is often the case, for a few possible reasons, that even a practicing Catholic attending Mass will not receive Holy Communion either; so one who is not Catholic, Christian, or even theist should not feel left out.

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Of course it isn't wrong to fellowship with other human beings. Just remember that it may take some time to find a group who feels the same way, but it will be worth it. Look for the enlightened ones who welcome you with open arms.

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Welcome, CJane! Unfortunately I don't see that this is an answer to the question. The question asks whether particular religious communities consider "seeking fellowship" wrong; you haven't addressed that at all. You can edit your answer to try and address that more directly. –  Matt Gutting Jul 22 at 17:40
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Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This site is different than what you were probably expecting. Please read What this site is about and How this site is different. I hope to see you post again soon. –  fredsbend the Grinch Jul 22 at 17:48

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