Journeys to Humanism: Finding Fellowship Outside of Church

Journeys to Humanism,’s regular series, features real stories from humanists in our community. From heartwarming narratives of growth, to more difficult journeys, our readers open up about their experiences coming to humanism.

David Helgager
Sarasota, FL

I grew up in the Midwest and was baptized in the Lutheran Church. When I was young, my parents moved us to a small community of 400 people, where I went to Sunday school, sang hymns, joined Luther League, and had aspirations to be a minister.

I was so involved with the Lutheran Church that I went to a Norwegian-run Lutheran university, and after I graduated and got married, I joined another Lutheran Church on my own. However, I never pursued the ministry.

David Helgager

I began to question and reject God and church teachings in the late 1960s—a period of turbulent times. I was, and am, an advocate for women’s rights and racial equity. So, eventually, I had a falling out with the Lutheran church we belonged to, after my wife and I tried to hold a talk on feminism and racial equity and were told we couldn’t talk about that.

Ultimately we joined a Unitarian fellowship in the area. This led me to become skeptical of a deity and cemented my political views. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that I was actually a humanist.

I was introduced to humanism in the ’70s when someone handed me a copy of the Humanist magazine by the American Humanist Association. I realized from reading it that I was, in fact, a humanist.

I remained tied to the UU Church even though I was skeptical of religious institutions. In the early 1990s when a newly employed UU minister walked into my UU Church with a robe on, I left. I joined the local humanist organization in the early 2000s and never looked back.

Amazingly, I never received any pushback from my parents when I left the Lutheran Church. However, my mother’s friend did tell me I needed to “find the Lord”. Apparently, my mother had been discussing my choice with her friends, but I’ve never looked back.

We all have our own stories of how we came to be humanists, and we want to hear yours! Fill out the form here to be featured in this series.