This is awesome:
I grew up atheist in a Unitarian church (the Unitarian Universalist Church of Corpus Christi, “U2C3”) with a congregation of about 100. I’m just going to kind of dump my hazy, somewhat stream-of-thought memories of my youth here, and you can take from it what you will.
UU church didn’t seem that religious to me, and evidently not to my parents either (who were an atheist and an agnostic, respectively,) which is why we went there. My parents didn’t believe in god, but believed the experience of going to church would be good for us.
We had some wiccans who used our church on occasion for their thing, and there was this one guy who wore a cape and a curly handlebar moustache and smoked a pipe, and called himself a warlock. There were frequent potlucks. Services were mostly about being good to people and how everyone should be treated with charity and love and decency. Very boring crap for me at that age. Sunday school was mostly about other religions. All nice stuff about all of them, but you only learned really basic stuff, with an emphasis on beliefs that could be turned into arts and crafts projects. Drums and dreamcatchers and dreidels and stuff. As teenagers we eventually went around to other churches (with their permission) to experience their services. It was somewhat lazily organized and we only actually went to about three.
Teenagers also went to this sex ed thing at the house of a family (who volunteered to teach it) called “OWL: our whole lives”. It was fairly sex positive and optimistic, which as a pessimistic and malicious teenager I saw as a challenge. I’m told I made this one girl cry, although I don’t remember it. She was super annoying though. She had had cancer when she was like 8 or 10, and would never shut up about it. Felt like she should be the center of the universe. I guess I kind of made it my mission to insinuate that she was a fat stupid bitch every chance I got. I may have been too harsh. They never kicked me out of OWL, but they came damn close, and I toned it down after my parents told me they were about to. I suppose that taught me something about pretending to not be a huge asshole to avoid alienating everyone around you.
Everyone at U2C3 was liberal except for one guy and his wife, who were conservative Bush supporters who were in favor of the Iraq war. They taught Sunday school for a while, but eventually they were pressured to leave, and did. As I recall, pretty much the whole congregation marched against that war, and Bush was super unpopular. But they weren’t bad people, and I wonder if we weren’t a little harsh on them, or clannish.
My mom was run out of the church after she had an affair with one of the other members of the congregation (who was also ostracized). She’s still married to him. Perhaps another example of the church being harsh and mob like, but on the other hand, what they did was morally wrong… Or at least, I and everyone I knew felt it was, and they didn’t have an excuse for cheating on their spouses other than that they preferred each other to them. It probably didn’t help that my mom was the Director of Religious Education, and people may have become uncomfortable about having her in charge of teaching their kids values. Or maybe they just thought she was a cheating ho. I don’t know.
My sister had a fight with some other girl in Sunday school, and after that there was about a year of scheming and complaining between our family and that girl’s family. My sister was almost kicked out of her religious education class over some trumped up charge because of it, but I guess they buried the hatched and she was allowed to stay. She basically quit going after that though. On the other hand, many of her friends into her 20s were people she met at the South West Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SWUUSI). Also, eventually my dad met his current wife at U2C3, although they don’t seem to attend service anymore.
I don’t really know what normal christian churches are like, but my impression is that they’re all full of this sort of low grade drama. So in that respect, a Unitarian Universalist church is like any other church, except liberal and semi-godless. However, they do technically believe in god. I don’t go anymore, since I don’t believe there is a god, and it seems disingenuous to go to church if you don’t believe. Also I’m lazy and I want to sleep in on Sunday.