Going To Church As An Atheist

A long stair with wide steps that are far apart is leading up a little hill. Behind the last step, the tread, there is a small empty place, before a majestic building. This building made out of stone bricks has two tall towers with pointed roofs on both sides rising up into the air. Between the towers, there is a centrepiece made out of slightly brighter stones. A gigantic wooden, probably oak, door opening every time someone is leaving or entering this building – the church. Inside this building probably built in the 9th century reminds of the Baroque period.  The hall is white, bright and friendly with high rising pillars. A long aisle leading to the altar. On the right-hand side, there are candles flickering.

church lucerne religion

Why on earth would a non-religious person go to church? For sure not out of religious beliefs. I would not call myself an atheist per se because I believe in something maybe not God but something godlike. Over the years I have developed my own view about death and what may come afterwards. But this post shall not be about my somehow religious influenced non-religious notions or, however, one could label it.

Already as a child, I visited churches, be it with my parents or with my school class on an excursion. However, it was not long ago since I started to go from time to time (maybe twice or three times a year to be honest) on my own into a church. But why? I have picked out three reasons which make me want to go into a chapel.

church statue


When I visit a church it would always be at a time when people are at work and only the elder ones or tourists share the same idea to enter the religious building. To pay a visit during working hours is only possible for me due to my studies, as on some days I have lecture starting at 10 o’clock.

Living in a world where your mobile is either ringing or receiving texts with a sound of a beep, or where you are always surrounded by music in stores, in shopping centres or through your headphones which are connected to your mp3-player, it is nice and almost a relieving feeling being for once enclosed by nothing than silence. The tune of nothing has something calming and relaxing to it. Sometimes when I sit on a pew I can hear in the distance some people talking quietly but this whispering sound is not disturbing at all, on the contrary, it suits very well to the atmosphere.

Candlescandle flame

Whenever I am in a church I always lit some candles. This started actually as a ritual by my parents and I just continued this rite. I not only like observing the flickering flames of the numerous candles but also relish the smoky smell created when you press the match head on to the side of the box and through the friction it results into an ignition and a little flamelet.


I never knew that I would enjoy architecture, but I do. I remember the first time I got really excited about lines, forms, structures of a building, it was during my visit in Rotterdam. The Cube House immediately caught my attention with its freaky outline and innovative idea to combine functionality with craziness.

cube house rotterdam architecture

And from that point on I had a new perspective whenever I looked at a building. I enjoyed the modern architecture in Rotterdam, the skyscrapers and the futuristic bridges.

rotterdam architecture skyscraper

 In spite of my primary favour for modern architecture, I also like the buildings from the ancient epoch and from the Renaissance. This explains why I admire not only the outside of a church but also its interior. Fascinating is the significant difference between the interior of a Catholic and a Protestant church. Catholics tend to have fancy, huge and luxuries cathedrals whereas the Protestant church is very simple, plain and appears almost cold. Nevertheless, I definitely prefer the Catholics one not because of the decorative interior but due to the candles as Protestants do not offer this service, which is a really pity to be honest.

And now you may ask yourself what I actually do in church. Because as a non-religious person praying to God is not an option

What I Do In A Church

I walk to the candles which apparently are called votive or prayer candles and lit some of them. In Switzerland you have to pay one Swiss Franc for one candle lit, after putting the money into the cash box and lighting the candles I take a seat on a pew in front of the sea of candles flickering. Then I just sit there enjoy the silence and think of people who are important to me. I also start being grateful for all the experience I am allowed to have, to my health and having such a great support from family and friends. Being thankful is something is often neglected in this stressful time and not cherished enough. Taking time to appreciate all the things you have leaves also a good feeling.

church inside interior

Now you know the reasons behind my visits to church although I do not believe in God.

However, something is still left unanswered. Are there also other non-religious people who search the silence in a church? Let me know in the comments.


5 thoughts on “Going To Church As An Atheist

  1. Yes to all of this! My husband and I are atheists(although depending on the day I label myself differently) but I love the comfort/silence of the rituals of church. Maybe it’s part nostalgia but it also partly the feeling of belonging somewhere in this world. We even got married in a church for a few reasons(that didn’t involve our parents opinions!) 1. I always invisioned getting married in a church 2. The lady who married us is the nicest person ever and lastly 3. I loved the idea of standing where hundreds even thousands have stood before me reciting the same vows. Ya, I know I’m a huge sap. The last time I visited a church was in the summer, I had just lost my grandfather and it was the only way I knew to feel like I was close to him. I didn’t feel like a god was there but I do feel like my grandpa was there.

    Just my ramblings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Elyse, for sharing your thoughts! I found somebody else who visits the church out of non-religious reasons 🙂
      I know what you mean with having the feeling that in the church your grandfather is really near you. I have lost my grandmother some years ago and I do feel the connection whenever I am in church. As you already said, it is not that I get the feeling that god is there but my grandmother and this makes it very personal and intimate.

      Liked by 1 person

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