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The whole family went to church with a family friend last Sunday. Beautiful suburban church in a mainstream moderate Protestant denomination. Beautiful day.

As usual in such places, we were greeted warmly by nice and welcoming people. Lovely fellowship, coffee and doughnuts and chitchat in the lobby. A large display invited donations for a project to feed Atlanta’s urban poor this winter. Hardly a minute would go by between people dropping envelopes in the slot. Happy children darted through a forest of skirts and trousers. Pleasantries were exchanged, along with the occasional business card.

Passersby tousled my own children’s hair and asked about school. I met the two clergymen — young, energetic and extremely likeable guys — both of whom I had beat out of the womb by several Olympiads. There was talk of sports.

We entered the sanctuary, which was adorned with greenery and candles for Advent, slid into a pew, and enjoyed the prelude music, a lovely organ arrangement of a Bach cantata.

The service itself centered on the eager anticipation of Jesus’ return, which will herald the end of the world and the casting of most of humanity, writhing and screaming, into a lake of fire for all eternity. The congregation then pretended to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

On the way out, a nice lady gave us a pretty coffee mug full of candy to thank us for visiting. “Come again!” she said, the apparent theme of the day.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.