How Many People Have Used Church as an Excuse…?

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About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Probably even more common is “How many people lie to their parents about whether they actually believe the religion that they were taught on those Sunday mornings?”

    It raises the serious question… is it better to have a harmonious relationship with your parents but have it built upon lies like this, or better to have a relationship based on truth (even if that causes some rocky patches)??

  • Peter Packiam

    I did that when I was a eleven years young, ‘lying to my parents’….. leaving home every morning to serve as an altar boy or ‘acolyte’ (which I did from the age of eight or nine) and got caught and punished for tarnishing the family name…so cheers to it

  • Nankay

    When I read that this morning I couldn’t figure out if it meant A) the person said s/he was going to church but didn’t or B) went to church without his/her parents knowing.

  • bLaKouT

    I used to let my mom think I was going to church while she taught sunday school but, in reality I’d walk to the McDonalds at the corner and have breakfast and read the paper. I’d walk back just before church was over.

  • WallofSleep

    Much to my poor grandmother’s dismay, I stopped going to church the minute I learned I had a choice. Even when I was a believer I couldn’t stand that crap.

    So no, I’ve never felt I had to lie about where I was going on Sunday. I have had to endure much wailing and lamentation from my poor grandma over the subject, though.

    • allein

      I stopped going to church around age 15, about a year after I was confirmed, because my parents stopped going (though I did volunteer in the church nursery for a couple years, but that was only a couple weeks every couple months, depending on how many volunteers they had), except for Christmas and Easter. They’ve since gone back (my mom more than my dad) and I’ve since realized I don’t think I ever really believed it in the first place.

      • NewDawn2006

        My mother thought I was choosing to go to church. I was just a compliant child. Though in my early years of church attendance I was totally bought in, my latter years were spent attempting to get nursery duty so I could get out of sitting through the service.

        • allein

          I didn’t fight it, but I suppose if it was left up to me I wouldn’t have gone to church as a kid. It was just what we did on Sunday mornings (and I actually liked the Christmas Eve candlelight service – when I was little it meant staying out late and holding lit candles, and when I was older it was just pretty). I was involved in youth group in middle school, and confirmation class was more or less an extension of that (it was all the same kids) and I didn’t really look at as a religious exercise (oddly enough). My brother didn’t do it and my parents didn’t force him, so I know if I had decided not to it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

          I did the nursery because I like kids and I was thinking I wanted to be a teacher at the time. I didn’t go to church on the weeks I wasn’t scheduled in the nursery; closest I got was when I would walk around the building with one particular little one (it was the only way to get him to stop crying) and I would stand outside the sanctuary and listen to the music.

  • DianaMac

    Does it count that I give my dog (who lives in my atheist house hold) an extra chew treat on Sunday “for Jesus”? :D

    • C Peterson

      Only if it’s a consecrated chew treat, and some holy water. Oh wait, holy water is full of feces. Better skip that.

      • Artor

        Nah, dogs love that shit, literally. Just don’t dip your baby in it. It rarely improves the flavor.
        Edit: the flavor of the water, OR the baby.

        • C Peterson

          Sure, our dog eats a lot of shit. But it’s good clean horse shit, coyote shit, and deer shit. I’m not going to feed it the particularly noxious crap that apparently falls out of the people who frequent holy water fonts, though!

    • WallofSleep

      Not really, but you are running the risk of having your dog declare a Crusade should you short him/her a treat on any given Sunday.

  • Anat

    This is the place to link Sabbath Lie by Yehuda Amichai.

    • islandbrewer

      I really liked that. Thanks.

  • onamission5

    For the better part of a year in high school my parents thought I’d decided to return to youth group in support of one of my friends who was having a hard time with her family.
    Oh, I was supporting my friend, but I was supporting her by encouraging her to skip the whole Wednesday night church service for teenagers and hang out with me at the pizza place across the street instead.

  • Artor

    My family would occasionally go to “church” on Sundays. We’d dress up nice and go out to the continental brunch served at a hotel restaurant in town, and skip the whole ignorant babbling part.

  • JET

    Things like this make me appreciate my parents. Even though my father (a cultural Mormon) and my mother (a Catholic) would trot off to chapel and church on Sunday mornings, it was entirely optional for me and my siblings to go with them once we were of an age where we could be left on our own or in the care of the elder ones. I was baptized, communed, and confirmed Catholic in order to keep peace in my mother’s family and went to Catholic school for six years, but when I did go to church, it was with my father because at least they spoke English! As I was transitioning into a non-believer, I often thought that my parents were probably non-believers as well. This was true for my father who had no use for the “theology” of Mormonism, but firmly embraced the social aspects of it. It was not true for my mother who refused to discuss religion at all other that to make me promise that when the time came, I would make sure that she received Last Rites and was buried in a Catholic cemetery. (Which I did BTW.) It was an unusual upbringing, but they were happily married for 50 years and I honestly never felt indoctrinated.

    • Mario Strada

      Sounds like your mother wanted the old “Catholic insurance”. I know plenty of Catholics (being Italian of birth) that really live their lives going to church on Easter and Christmas and then only because there was nothing on the 3 Italian TV channels at the time. Yet, they would baptize their children and insist on consecrated ground for their last resting place “just in case”.

      By the way, they no longer speak Latin at Mass. Unless you belong to Opus Dei or something.

      • JET

        Oh, she was an Irish expert at Catholicism. After kid #7 came along, she went on birth control pills. No problem. Take the pills all week and then just go to confession, say your penance, take communion, light some candles, and *tada!* good to go.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s some of the shit right there that just drives me nuts.

          • Jim Jones

            “Every Christian is a cafeteria Christian”.

      • MineApostasy

        Nah, some churches in some dioceses use Latin (Arlington, VA). There was a reversal of that section of Vatican II during the time of Emperor Popetine.

        • Mairianna

          I used to attend a Latin Mass. I had no idea what they were saying, but the ritual was fun to watch.

          • Pofarmer

            When I go, which is extremely rarely. I look at it as performance art. The whole thing is extremely humorous, but, when you look at it from that angle, you can see how it works. It is performance art the whole congregation gets into and is invested in.

  • Matt Bowyer

    I can count the times in my life that I’ve been to church on one hand, and none of them were of my own free will. I mostly just sleep in Sundays nowadays. My mother still goes periodically, but doesn’t even try to make me go.

  • closetatheist

    Everyone is talking about how they lied to their parents when they were children…well, I lie to mine, and my in-laws, and I’m an adult!

    Is that sad or funny? I’m going to go with funny.

  • pete084

    Hatchings, matchings and despatchings were the only family times I went to church!

    I did sit through remembrance service after the parade when I was in the RAF, the other option was to wait outside in the cold and wet with the Jewish guy.

  • Mick

    Mum used to give me threepence for the collection plate. When I got to church I would exchange the threepenny coin with anyone who had three separate pennies. Then I would put one penny on the collection plate and have twopence left to spend at the lolly shop on the way home.

    [Whenever I tell that story there is always at least one Christian who uses it to prove that atheists are cruel, cold, conniving, unethical bastards --- I just laugh and tell them to get a grip.]

    • Jim Jones

      I got quite skilled at riding the streetcar and avoiding paying the fare – at 5 years old.

  • Paul Zimmerle

    Wow
    “Thou shalt not lie.”

    Vaccinated against hypocricsy…

  • Chakolate

    My mother used to make us go to 7:30 Mass every Sunday. Every.Single.One. Then when I got old enough I started babysitting on Saturday nights, and since I got in late, she let me sleep in and take the car to 10:30 or noon Mass.

    Somehow, I just never got there.

    And to show you how long ago that was, after I drove around for an hour, I’d put $.50 of gas into the car, and worry that she’d notice there was more than when I left. She never did, though.

  • Lagerbaer

    Wait a minute. Now, even if I wanted to skip church (which I totally did), that wouldn’t have worked because obviously my parents would be there. With me. So how’s that supposed to work? And if the parents send you to church and you don’t go and lie about it, then where the hell are you parents that time? If they’re not at church, why would they give you a hard time for not going to church?

  • Gus

    Where else is there to go on a Sunday morning? I can think of 4 things to do early on a Sunday morning:
    1. Sleep.
    2. Eat a huge breakfast.
    3. Zoo.
    4. Sex.

    Not much point to lying to your parents and going to a diner or the zoo. If you’re sleeping, it’s pretty hard to lie since you’re not leaving the house. So it must be the sex. Good for them.

  • JA

    Sort of an inversion, but I went to church at basic training so I could have a one hour break each week from the TIs. Man was it hard to stay awake, because even though the TIs couldn’t get on your case while going to, while at, or coming back from services, they WOULD get on you for falling asleep.


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