Comedian Jim Jefferies has a stand-up bit in which he talks about how he tries not to be a “bad” atheist. He says he once skipped a friend’s wedding because he refused to set foot in a church, but since then he’s mellowed and realized that such an attitude is just pointless. I have never been so extreme in my opinions that I refused to attend a wedding or anything, but I have often wondered about what is the appropriate level of participation. You want participate enough that you don’t seem like some sort of aloof asshole, but not so much that you’re being a hypocrite.
A few weeks ago I attended a funeral at Catholic church. It’s been a few years since I attended a church service, and it was interesting noticing the subtle adjustments that have been made. Nothing major, really, but I noticed a few of the call-and-response sections were just a little different from what I remembered, and the sang a few songs I don’t recall having heard before. The ceremony was for my wife’s grandmother, and I was asked to be involved. I was a pallbearer, and did a reading. It was the least I could do for my family, and I was happy to do it. Sitting in the church, I listened along to the songs and readings and prayers and whatnot. I stood when everyone else stood, and knelt when everyone else knelt. I felt no reason to make some sort of statement. But I didn’t sing along, and I didn’t recite the prayers. That would have been insincere. I didn’t take communion – that would have been insulting to the people around me. They wouldn’t have known I wasn’t Christian, but it still felt wrong to play along to that degree.
I have no real conclusions here. It’s just something I’ve been wondering about.