Almost believers and almost atheists

Listen above to my discussion on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence, on Sunday 8 September, about the idea of “almost believers.” Unitarian Minister Reverend Chris Hudson coined the phrase to describe people who might be on the verge of attending church services.

The host was Liz Kennedy, and my fellow panelists were Thought for the Day contributor Raquel McKee, commentator Sara Cook, and Catholic Priest Father Martin Magill.

The idea for the discussion arose from this contribution to BBC’s Thought for the Day by Reverend Chris Hudson:

Many a time someone will say to me I am not a church going person but if I did go to church I would go to yours. I am sure other clergy have heard the same remark. With me it might be a comment I made on a radio programme or after a joyful event such as a wedding or a special service, like our Pride Service.

It is not an uncommon comment when you hear I am not religious but I am very spiritual, I think I have some idea what that means but not completely. Maybe because I like the sense of being religious, the ritual, worship, communal singing and prayerfulness. Not to mention the wonderful conversation, good coffee, great tray-bakes, after service. I imagine there are people ,who come specially for the social side of church going.

However it is those who say if I did go to church I would go to yours or I am not very religious. I think of them as the “ Nearly Religious” . I apply it to those people, who for some reason or other have given up on church going, it might be that they have been hurt by their respective church or just cannot accept the proscribed creed. But it is sad that some are kept away from church because they feel there is no space for them for various reasons. The almost religious have decided that membership of a congregation and absolute acceptance of matters theological is not for them. I ask myself can we find a sacred space for the Almost Religious or is it just too late?

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