An Atheist Goes to Church – Unitarian Universalist Church Review

Hey, Thomas Westbrook here! I’m an atheist. And I just went to church! GASP! Full disclosure, the Palomar Unitarian Universalist
Fellowship in Vista, California actually did sponsor several of my videos including this one, in exchange for a shout-out and a fair review. So I went to a local service here in Tulsa,
Oklahoma and I wanted to share what I gleamed from their service. I’m going to do my best to be fair and balanced,
commending the things they do right and calling out anything I don’t support or agree with. Sound cool? Cool! Before I even attended, I read their website
and I noticed that they don’t have any creeds, dogma, or holy books. They overtly welcome people all beliefs and
nonbelief. Which right off the bat, is a heck of a lot
better than churches that hold steadfast to one ancient dogma and are immune to growth
or progress. I really liked how they were supportive of
LGBT rights and even had a humanist service to accommodate the non-religious. The one I attended actually had three services. A traditional service which is more conservative,
a humanist service which promotes fellowship without any of the overtly religious overtones,
and a contemporary service that talked about faith and God but from a very liberal, all-inclusive position. I naturally was drawn to the Humanist service. And honestly I don’t really have many complaints
there. My first impression was that the building
seemed extremely church like, right up to the white walls and the steeple. Even the name, “All Souls” seemed to emphasize the Cartesian pseudoscientific notion of mind-body dualism. But the humanist service never mentioned god,
the devil, souls, prayer, or anything supernatural for that matter. When I first walked in, they didn’t just
have a greeter, they had a guide for new members that showed me around, explained the different
services, answered any questions, and showed me where the coffee was. What?! What?! Woo hoo! Coffee! Yeah, baby! The service started with live piano music,
but nothing inherently spiritual. The theme of the message was transcending
suffering: climbing beyond pain and using our experiences to help others. It focused on three stories: Dr. Viktor Frankl
(a holocaust survivor who became a neurologist), Bill Wilson a recovering alcoholic who co-founded
Alcoholics Anonymous, and Marsha P. Johnson – an African American gay liberation activist. Overall, the message was inspiring without
all the dogma and woo that I’m so used to hearing at a church services. This was followed by more live music which
was actually really good. There’s one life and there’s no return
and no deposit. One life! So it’s time to open up your closet! An area that even bigger churches can sometimes
do horribly wrong. Come O Holy Spirit, all our hopes renew. La …for a city. Afterwards, they had an offering and announced that the proceeds of it would go to a local charity. They did have separate envelope for people
who wanted to donate to the church itself, which I don’t really have an issue as long
as it’s transparent. I mean you need a building to meet in, and there are costs for organizing stuff like that. This was followed by announcements and the
whole thing was over in less than an hour – short and sweet. I didn’t even have time to take a nap. They left plenty of time for people to socialize
afterwards and eat donuts in the foyer. Although, like most churches I’ve been to,
most people just kinda booked it and went straight to their car. Because the humanist service got out early,
I caught the last 15 minutes or so of the contemporary service too. Which was in a much churchier room with pews,
hymnals, and everything. To be honest, it just felt like a super liberal,
Christian church service. Sure, there was no mention of hell. No fire and brimstone. No judgement or dogma. Nobody cannibalized a lunchable-Jesus, and
perhaps I’m showing my own bias against organized religion here, but the standing,
sitting, reading, and singing, all seemed a lot more ritualistic. There was mention of God – although in a
more vague, New Age kind of way. Faith seemed to be revered which I don’t
condone. The contemporary service didn’t use the
hymnals while I was there, and the music was more modern with a drum set and all, but the hymnal – which I’m sure was reserved for the more traditional service did contained
a lot of religious songs like Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing and O Little Town of Bethlehem. So what’s my final consensus? Surprisingly positive. While I don’t support believing in or propagating
any ideas without evidence and I think doubt – or scientific skepticism rather – is
a virtue, not faith, I still liked the way that the Unitarian Universalists attempted to provide a warm, open community that was accommodating to all. It was probably the least judgmental, least cult-like religious fellowship I have ever attended. I have heard that every UU church is a little
bit different, but most of them are extremely liberal when it comes to social issues and
human rights. I liked that they had a strictly humanist
service for the predominantly atheist members, and I respect their support of the LGBTQ community. To be fair, I really should have reviewed the three services separately because they’re so different. But because it is one church, I’d probably give this one three out of five flying spaghetti monsters. I can’t give it a full five, because I don’t
think faith is a virtue. I’m not docking for the building appearance
or the pews (which were very church-like), I actually thought it looked really pretty. I’m docking points because while I loved
the community aspect and the humanist service, the contemporary and from what I’ve heard,
the conservative services still promote the notion of a deity, prayer, worship, etc. ideas
that are not grounded in evidence. Would I go back for the humanist service? Sure. I actually really enjoyed it. And I’ll put a link in the video description
below for you to find a local UU fellowship if you’d like to check one out. I look forward to hearing about your experiences. Lastly, if you liked this video, I’m curious
if you’d like to see me, an atheist, review other churches. I’d be down to attend everything from a Hindu Temple to a Pentecostal Snake-Handling Church. Is that something you guys would like to see this? And if so, let me know where you’d like
me to go in the comments below. Dare to be curious, but don’t drink the Koolaid.

100 thoughts on “An Atheist Goes to Church – Unitarian Universalist Church Review”

  1. Want me to review other churches? Let me know where you'd like me to go. Although, bear in mind: the more bat-shit crazy the church, the more scathing the review is likely to be.

  2. "WE don't have any dogma." is itself a dogma.
    Someone is oblivious to irony.
    And the fact that this group is about as "diverse" as cream cheese; a very White, middle/upper middle class group.
    If it's so valuable, why do so few of their own children stay with it after they grow up?

  3. Ha, I was forced to go to church even though my father knew I am an atheist. For 7 months, I had to endure the preaching and social commentary that wasn't in the best interest of humanity. The preacher even knew I was atheist. I had to listen to the sad stories of how some members contributed to the church to the point of being broke and how they got this huge monetary gift from God just in the nick of time. All in an effort to guilt other members into giving their 10% or more. Oh, and the music wasn't bad, but the singers were all tone deaf. It was interesting.

  4. Great video!! Please go to a mosque, Hindu temple, etc! I’m very interested and I’m sure your other viewers are too.

  5. You criticized this UU church for using the word "faith," but you don't know which definition of the word they were using. It is unlikely they were encouraging belief without evidence. It is much more likely that they were encouraging people to stick with their values and principles.

  6. Okay I'm not even Atheist here and my brush with the UU church was while in college over 20 years ago. What I have to add as a positive contribution to the discussion is that UU churches have more to offer than 'church'. I remember First UU Church of Detroit offered many symposiums on topics related to social justice, had study groups and community outreach. When sex workers in the community were being killed by a serial killer they gave them a platform and legal protection, they helped with aids clinics. They hosted a community theater group which is how I found them, playing a small role in a production of Bertolt Brecht's "Galileo" (which is a play by a German Marxist that would speak straight to the heart of many in the skeptic community). So I may be the mainstream protestant dog in the manger here but I just had to mention my wonderful experience with the theater group. I also wanted to say that U U churches can be off campus community centers around some academic centers and might be worth checking out on days other than Sunday. BTW nice channel Kool Aid, you've got some provocative videos. Especially liked what you said about North Sentinel island in light of your missionary upbringing.

  7. Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning".

    Unitarian Universalists assert no creed, but instead are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth.

    As such, their congregations include many atheists, agnostics, and theists within their membership.

    The roots of Unitarian Universalism lie in liberal Christianity, specifically Unitarianism and universalism.

    Unitarian Universalists state that from these traditions comes a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love.

    Congregations and members seek inspiration and derive insight from all major world religions.

    The beliefs of individual Unitarian Universalists range widely, including atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, deism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, neopaganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Humanism, and many more.

    The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was formed in 1961 through the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association, established in 1825, and the Universalist Church of America, established in 1793.

    The UUA is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, and serves churches mostly in the United States.

    A group of thirty Philippine congregations is represented as a sole member within the UUA.

    The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) became an independent body in 2002.

    The UUA and CUC are, in turn, two of the seventeen members of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists.

    However, some Unitarian Universalist churches today have statements of faith that profess a Protestant Christian identity.

  8. I was raised a Unitarian Universalist. It was a fun experience. I thoroughly study metaphysics. Most of my family have Phd's We believe that human existence has extended for 10s of thousands of years. We believe that we must keep an open mind, be observant of the world around us, and be kind to each other. My grandparents were raised Baptist but converted to Unitarian Universalism when they were in the circles of Academia.

  9. I and my mom did this because we were bored on the weekend
    That was before I had friends
    I did that when I was ten
    I went to a kids class that just taught stories from different religions
    They taught me the biology of reproduction (no love, genitalia, or condoms; just sperm and egg)

  10. This video caught my interest when I searched on "unitarian universalist." I began going to a UU church in New England when I was 7, and being raised atheist. Mom wanted us to have a social circle outside of school and neighborhood. There weren't separate sermons as described in here; it was all God-like stuff, in the little chapel the kids would go to. I didn't mind it, didn't even come close to believing it since Mom had told me it was all nonsense. I just had fun going to church is all I knew. UU churches are great for kids nowadays. My son learned not only about Jesus but also Mohammed and other religious figures. This is a cool video to show those who aren't familiar with UU. Before the term "unitarian" existed, people would say "anti-trinitarian," and John Milton and Isaac Newton fit into that category.

  11. I was raised nominally UU. My mother knew an atheist UU minister. If I got up early on Sundays I might attend, even as an atheist. I had a teacher who described it as a social club for liberals which I think is fair enough.

  12. Holy shit. Was that really Matt Dillahunty? If so, he should really bring that up when the Ray Comfort question of true belief is raised . ‘I believed enough to dance around with a deadly snake in my hands’ would be a pretty strong response to Ray’s no-true-Scotsman fallacy.

  13. I like your channel, but this video had really bad audio. The 'background' music was too loud, your voice too quiet and fast. It was really stressful to listen to it.

  14. they accept anyone that gives money !!! god requires 10% of our income as tithings but when you are broke god will not return your money or give you an advance on your pay till you find a job !!!! odd !

  15. faith and hope is the piper that leads humanity to their slaughter , a poor substitution for action , god is all faith and hope , false promises and no action , god never acts on anything, only bible promises .

  16. Can you please review the Dhamakaya movement/ temple. They have branches through out the US and internationally they are a Buddhist organization that my mother belongs to, I left and became an atheist and suspect this place to be a cult. My mother is still overly devoted which I the only why I still have any connection to them disputes my discontentment for the organization as a whole.

  17. When I was young, my mother’s friend dragged my brother and I to church one day. 3 hour long service, so boring and pointless. So we stole a box of cookies from the church in rebellion. Proudest moment of my life 😂

  18. There was a survey done of denominations in the USA. Oddly, the churches which shared a dogma, were diverse in their politics, world views, and lifestyles, while the UUs, which shared no dogma, had a very open, unified world view, which allows them to be more activist, because they tend to believe – not in dogma – but human rights (for example) and caring for people. I've enjoyed UU's and wish I were closer to mine.

  19. I grew up in Tulsa! Went to Immanuel Baptist church there many years ago.
    Fortunately, I threw off the shackles of religion long ago.

    It should be illegal to teach religion to a child, imho.

  20. Review or churches and temples is something that only atheist or agnostic can do. Any religious person will be like: "I'm not going to infidel/heretic/heathen place!" instead.

  21. No way, you are in Oklahoma? I live in OKC myself (Norman more specifically). Seems there's a decent amount of prominent atheists coming out of Oklahoma and Texas nowadays. 😁

  22. I'm glad you are open to people believing whatever they want. Some athiest comments here show intolerance and control. People can do, believe and go whatever the hell they want and whatever helps them cope.

  23. Ever tried attending a Quaker service? That one time I went, I was too young to really remember the actual content, but I will say that it was conducted unlike any sermon I've ever seen before. It was a group effort that involved everyone attending rather than being something led by a lone person standing at an altar. You should try it. I'm sure it'll make an interesting video.

  24. I'm thinking about attending the UU church in the town that my bf and I are moving too, as someone who's had a rocky relationship with religion, I feel like I'd like to give this one a try.

  25. Unitarians have transformed from being merely a liberal, humanist "alternative" to organized religion into a far leftist, sjw cult of self-righteous, white-guilt, flaky "do-gooders" (often with money, political influence). They are no different to me than dogmatic, far right fundamentalists… just two sides of the same coin.

  26. Atheism for devil worship of course will not have any problems with the uu because it's basically a bunch of people that agree with witchcraft for Satan worship or atheism getting together under the banner of not being able to be taxed to accomplish who knows what. I went to the EU for a few years and realized that it's just nothing there's nothing spiritual about it and well it doesn't upset any feathers I do believe and they're being right and wrong everybody who doesn't believe that there is right and wrong simply is lying to them self because whether you help someone or kill them makes a difference and according to their beliefs it should be the same thing. Anyone who's ever helped an animal and killed in an animal both understand that there's a difference on how you feel afterwards this leads us to consequences for actions but it also leads you to understanding that there are positive and negative reactions to the things we do. Right now we are standing at the threshold of the world either going deep into Satan worship and being unrecognizable to what we've known before or heading to where those people in our government in Hollywood and other high places around the world will be punished openly for the things that they have done in private. And this world those people they thought they were going to be in control as worshiping Satan are going to be punished for the ax of unbelievable morbid actions and the world will start to take on a form that will be enjoyed by all. Well all except for the Satan worshipers.

  27. Interesting. I was surprised to learn there's actually one of these where I live and will possibly check it out one day out of curiosity. So thanks for that.

  28. 1 John 4:1-3
    [1]Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
    [2]Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
    [3]And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

  29. The things you're counting off for are kind of part and parcel of inclusion. If they omitted the element of faith, everyone who came with a faith would be docking points. UU churches have to exist in that space where no one is completely satisfied, and that's how you know they're making that effort.

  30. Absolutely heretical. Not even Martin Luther was that terrible in comparison – though still utterly rotten as he is ultimately responsible for this.

  31. If you are an atheist, it is NOT brave to go to a UU Church. UU Churches are not Christian and they do not claim to be. However, if you ARE a godless heathen, a homosexual, a communist, or leftist of any stripe, or an intellectual narcissist, like the creator of the video, you just might like the Unitarian Universalist "Church".

  32. Thanks for the review. I'm a Unitarian Universalist Humanist, and you nailed EVERYTHING! We even appreciate Atheists and their views! This is what we're all about!

  33. I'm going to a UU church this weekend near me. I'm really excited because although I'm atheist, I do miss the sense of community church can bring and the self reflection it encourages. They don't have traditional vs contemporary vs humanist services. They just have a pre-service Labrynth Walk (first Sunday), QiGong and Tai Chi (2nd Sunday), Meditation (3rd Sunday), and Poetry Reading (4th Sunday). According to their website, each service consists of music, meditation, and a message that can draw from many different books or scriptures in an non-literal, non-oppressive way. Half of their offering goes to charity and the other half goes to the church.

  34. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭8:24‬ ‭NASB‬‬

  35. I'b been to UUC before I wasn't aware some had multiple services. The one I attended just had 1. Interesting look

  36. I depict Unitarian Universalist characters in this novella and would like feedback on whether or not I depicted them credibly:

  37. I am older, one of my favorite Moto's is,never stop learning. Can you get inside a Muslim faith or Jewish temple?

  38. Should bump up to four stars simply because a humanist service was held in the state of Oklahoma.

  39. Anyone that's a member of a unitarian universalist church is fucking retarded. Just go to a bar or club to socialize. You'll meet way more interesting people, probably have sex with them too. The music will also be better.

  40. I am a secular humanist UU. When I first started attending my UU church i was militant atheist but in the 10+ years I've been a UU I've learned that my disbelief in god is less important than that i do believe in – my "faith" lies squarely in human kind; that we are the only ones who can fix our problems. Actually, in addition to the 7 principles of UUism there are also 6 sources of wisdom, which include Christianity /love, earth centered religions, and also humanism "Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;". God isn't necessary to have faith.

    Also, I've learned to be more tolerant of the beliefs of others – what they believe (for the most part) doesn't actually affect me.

  41. I attended a Unitarian Universalist church for a couple months. First off, they promote how welcoming they are but very few of the members ever came up to me and said welcome we are happy to see you here or anything like that. After service everyone gathered in the basement for coffee and cake or cookies. All the members grouped off in their own little clicks. I just stood there looking around. Ocassionally I tried to talk to a few but they didn't seem interested so I left. Second, there is no religion. There was never any mention of god or anything. All the sermons were about social justice this and social justice that. All the Unitarians are, are a liberal social group "posing" as a church. In other words….FAKES

  42. "the conservative services still promote the notion of a deity, prayer, worship, etc" …I'm very confused, what church could POSSIBLY get 5 spaghetti monsters if these are your standards for deducting points? to be clear, aren't those the exact purposes of going to church or being religious??

  43. My uu church only has the humanist sermon if you can check out the Naples Florida uu church if your in the area

  44. The orchestra I used to be in had concerts at a UU church and my very religious parents hated going in every time 😂

  45. Huh, it's super interesting to see what other UU churches are like! My church (attended since childhood) never had a Christian focus while I was there. The main service was always sort of nonreligious, just the Basic UU stuff of being a good person and causing good change in the world and learning and yada yada. I think they did have sort of groups that met on other days of the week that focused more on specific religions thru a UU lense though.
    It was really just a nice place for community. Good resources too- if it werent for OWL (sex ed class) and their LGBT friendly resources, I would've had a much harder time figuring myself out- cuz its not like my school gave me a good sex education for healthy LGBT relationships. My dad was also working very hard to get our church to be super environmentally aware, so that was nice too.
    I'm glad I had it even though I don't feel inclined to attend church anymore.

  46. I’m wondering if you said the principles or not? Also, in different parts of America the service is different. Like my congregation is still a broken off branch of Christianity, it relates more to Jewish and paganism. My parents who raised me into the congregation where even pagan when I was born and had their meetings in the basements. I don’t go to the service anymore because I work in the kitchen and daycare. K toodles

  47. As an Irish ex catholic to find a place like this no where to be an atheists I think it a great thing u can go to meet with like minded people and talk. but me married to person abued by catholic orphanage institutions we are so far behind and cant find any place the chruch made no alternative other then money but it not lost people

  48. I went to a Unitarian church for about a year as a kid! And I remember my best friend's family were staunch atheists and this was no issue at any point. There were general Christian undertones, but none were explicit and it was made to be inclusive. The youth groups usually just consisted of drawing and I remember a few chalices being a symbol within the church.

    Beyond that, there was no fear of hell. I acted in a Christmas play which, reenacted the birth of Christ, but it a waaaay for literal sense. I swear, it was pracitically a Chevy Chase movie LOL.

    I really have no complaints and feel like it gives people the aspect of community without the dogmatic lunacy of relgion.

  49. I visited a couple of Unitarian churches in my local area. I was surprised at how very, very political they were. They were, to my mind, everybit as political as the NIFB, but in a very different way with different ideas.. It is not a great place to learn about god beliefs.
    We have many, many negative examples of what happens when religion becomes political.
    In a long life, i have been both a neo nazi and a hard line revolutionary socialist.
    In the end, they are almost identical. Authoritarian and dictatorial as hell with a strong desire to rule over everyone.
    The unitarians have not gone that far with their politics, given that they do not push the monotheistic thing very hard, they may never become Universalist Stalinists.
    I see very politicized black churches in the States that may very well become Christian Stalinists and are already moving in that direction.
    I do not dislike the Unitarians the way I dislike Southern Baptists but I believe that religion and politics is always, always a bad and dangerous combination.

  50. I think if a Unitarian Universalist Church is doing what they should be doing, it absolutely allows what you don't like, some traditional Christian believers to come and have a service while being more open to others. But, it also is open to Buddhists doing the same, or followers of Islam, or Neo-Paganism, or Helenism, Druidry, or Pastafarianism, or pure raw Atheism, etc.

    My point is that I feel you docked them points because there was a service where those giving the service included belief in a supernatural being. But, had the Unitarian Church failed to allow that, then they should have been docked points. Similarly, if an Atheist wanted to give a service about how we live in a Materialistic Universe where the Supernatural does not exist but we should strive to be good people for non-supernatural reasons, then if the Unitarian Church is open to that give them credit but if it is closed to that then dock them points.

    If you are a Tree Worshipper, you and your belief should be welcome at the Unitarian Church.

    If you worship Aliens from outer space, you and your belief should be welcome at the Unitarian Church.

    That is what makes it the Unitarian Church and only when any belief turns to some socially negative aspect should that be turned away, thus no preaching hate.

  51. I'm totally cool with UU's, they're not judgemental dickheads like so many other denominations. And being an atheist is totally compatible with joining an UU church.

  52. Humanist and otherwise Universalist type churches kind of miss the point. I was raised Pentecostal, I know what church is. I left church, Jesus, etc. because I don't believe any of it anymore. So, to me, the whole "it's church, but it's not all Jesus-y" is sort of a half-step. It's like "this is science class, but we're gonna be loose with it and ignore Biology so we can just hang". It's missing the point. Want to believe in god and go to church? Go for it. But I don't and I'm ok with that.

  53. Protestant here, just watched this video and I intend to see more of your stuff. I don’t agree with you, but I’m curious to see what you think, and you do a good job in structuring your content.

  54. This is a political organization not a church. Tell the indians to take a hike and stop doing it to us and our animals. God damn alcoholic addicts.

  55. I'm a agnostic and have been a member of my UU church for over year. It's mainly about social justice, love and everyone believing in whatever it is that makes you happy in your journey. We have atheist, humanist, lbgtq, straight, believers and non believers. No mention of heaven or hell, or the baby Jesus.

  56. For the record, I'm not a Christian, but I don't see the point in calling yourself one if you don't believe in the existence of Jesus and that he was born divine and rose from the dead. Otherwise it's just a coffee club. Which of course is fine too, but call it what it is.

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