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Did you hear the one about the atheist who went to church? It may sound like a joke, but some CU students are proving that the situation is not inherently ironic.
Some CU secular students said they are participating in religious activities for reasons other than faith.
Ted Burnham, a 27-year-old CU journalism master’s candidate who identifies as atheist, said he helps run the young adult group for a Boulder Unitarian church.
Burnham said he thinks faith and religious activities can be separated.
“Community is important,” Burnham said. “It doesn’t require faith in the supernatural and it’s great to find a group that cares about human rights regardless of superficial differences.”
Doug Walter, a 22-year-old fifth-year senior English major who considers himself a “closet atheist,” said there are a few reasons why he attends church regularly.
“A, it’s a habit. It’s only been a year since I abandoned my faith,” Walter said. “B, I am financially dependent on my parents and they’re Christian, so there is a fear of disapproval and a fear of disavowment.”
Walter said though he disagrees with some aspects of Christian thought, he can still enjoy reading the Bible.
“As much as I disagree with the dogma, I still revere the Bible as a wonderful piece of literature,” he said. “It has great poetry, great stories and they don’t touch on the good stuff a lot, but when they do, it’s very interesting.”
Jed Diller, a 21-year-old junior aerospace engineering major who identifies as atheist, said he befriended a few Jehovah’s Witnesses and read some of their literature.
“They had a table downstairs, and being an outspoken atheist, I talked to them,” Diller said. “We started talking about evolution and I really befriended them, we made it through this magazine called The Watchtower.”
The Watchtower is a Bible-based magazine, according to its website. Diller said he read the magazine and talked to the Witnesses to better understand their viewpoint.
“I wanted to learn it from the inside,” he said. “It can be very valuable to understand their viewpoint and to dissect it.”
Scott Mclean, a 24-year-old junior international affairs major, said he considers himself a “skeptic through and through,” and like Diller, said he wants to understand the thought process of other people better.
He said this curiosity led him to join his friend’s Bible study.
“Who knows?” Mclean said. “One day when I go to my friend’s Bible class, he might say something that strikes a chord with me and I’ll look it up and see that it’s true.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jon Tattum at Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org.