I used to be active in a Unitarian Universalist church. That's right, you can be an atheist and a Unitarian. You just have to respect the idea that everyone is on a journey. This was mostly a great experience. I was active for about eight years. I felt warm fellowship from many people and they did help me to get through some hard times. I also met my wife through the church. I enjoyed going to church on Sundays ... smelling the coffee brewing and chatting with friends about the sermon. Yes, religious people can respect science, out-of-the-box thinking and people who are different from themselves.
I am still good friends with many of the people I met through the church, but my membership in the church did not end well. I had a falling out with the church. When I announced I was leaving, I expected a lot of calls from fellow parishioners expressing their concern for me, making sure I was okay. I only received two calls, one from the pastor who seemed far more concerned about something I said about him than concern for me. The other call came about six weeks later when they realized my checks were no longer coming. That caller didn't express concern from me either, just for my money. I thought they were different than other religions, but apparently I was wrong. They are more about the money than the fellowship.
Earlier this week my father passed away. He was 89 years old and he lead a good life. This blog post isn't about how much I loved him or how much he will be missed or what a great father he was. I could write a lot about those and I probably will in the future. This blog post is about bowling. He loved bowling. He used take me and my little sister bowling a lot on his days off when I was a kid. He had two jobs during my youth so he didn't have a lot of time off. We always had a great time.
My father was in the same bowling league for twenty years. He was also a practicing Catholic his entire life. He went to church every weekend for almost 90 years. I stood in the receiving line at his wake on Tuesday and there must have been 30 people, perhaps 50, that told me that they knew my dad from bowling. This is not an exaggeration. These were beautiful friendly people who said such nice things about him. They obviously knew him really well and would genuinely miss him. They described his wry wit and his unfiltered nature and how he'd make everyone at the alley laugh. I was really impressed with the depth of their friendship and they made me feel much better on a really miserable day.
If you are looking for fellowship and life-long friendship ... join a bowling league, not a church. Not a single person said that they knew him from the church.