Mekons’ Sally Timms: ‘not the kind of atheist who’s down on religion’

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Singer Sally Timms of the Chicago band the Mekon on faith: “I’m a humanist. I try and live my life in as decent a way as I can . . . but I don’t desire a God.” | Supplied photo

Sally Timms, member of the band the Mekons, lives in Chicago, raised Protestant in Church of England, grew up in Britain, doesn’t believe in God but likes “visiting places of worship.”

“I’m a singer. . . . I’ve lived in Chicago for the last 20 years. I sing with a band called the Mekons. We are a British band but many of us ended up over here.”

We “started out as a punk band. It was . . . political, pretty left-wing. . . . I’ve moved through country, folk, experimental music. So basically I’ll sing all styles.”


“I grew up outside of Leeds . . . a very small village . . . I’m a country girl.”

“I grew up in a pretty comfortable environment . . . It was the end of a certain way of life, I would say a prewar British way of life where farming was still prevalent, there was a . . . strong community environment, I went to church regularly . . . I was in the choir . . . Sunday school.”

“It was incredibly beautiful and very free . . . My mom always said we went out in the morning as kids, and we would . . . come home and be fed and then just be out again . . . on the farms, just roaming around.”


While in college, “Everything went haywire . . . everyone was . . . involved in punk rock, which was changing the way that young people did things. And everyone wanted to be in a band . . . didn’t matter if you could play music or not.”

Punk was part of “a whole social movement” that “extended beyond music — it was politics, it was art . . . there was an ideology about it which was you can make your own life, you can make your own entertainment, and that kind of stuck with me.”


At her public school, there were “prayers every morning . . . but it wasn’t heavy-handed.”

The Church of England is “religion light. It’s not oppressive.”

Sunday school involved “a lot of coloring.”

“There’s a lot I value . . . It wasn’t dogmatic. It was about kindness and forgiveness and what I consider to be true Christian tenets.”


She’s 57. Her mom was raised Methodist, and there was a Methodist chapel near her home as well as “an old Norman church.”

I think when I got to my teens I definitely lost interest” in religion, though “loved” singing at church and still loves the hymns.

Today, “I would classify myself as an atheist, but I’m not a hard-line atheist where I think that all religion is stupid. I actually think there’s value to religion as long as it’s not being used for perverted means, which unfortunately happens too much in nearly every religion. If people stuck by the actual tenets of their religions, we’d be a lot better off.”


Sally Timms on why she “occasionally” attends church though she’s an atheist: “It’s calming, it’s very peaceful.” | Supplied photo

Sally Timms on why she “occasionally” attends church though she’s an atheist: “It’s calming, it’s very peaceful.” | Supplied photo

On the existence of God: “I’m an analytical person . . . I just don’t feel it’s there, but I understand why people need to feel it’s there. And I think that, in a lot of ways, your life is easier if you can believe in something like that because it’s quite hard to live and think, well, this is all there is.”


Lives in Ukrainian Village, “occasionally” attends services at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, designed by architect Louis Sullivan.

While Russian in heritage, “You have Mexican Americans there, African Americans. Different people go.” The priest there “once said to me, ‘If you ever need us for your spiritual needs, you’re very welcome.’ And I thought that’s a lovely thing to say.”

“I’m not a religious person,” but “it’s calming, it’s very peaceful . . . it’s the most beautiful building.” And as for the services, “There’s a whole pageant to it that is lovely.”


“I’m not the kind of atheist who’s down on religion . . . I’m down on the side that’s oppressive.

“The hellfire stuff” in Christianity, “I think that’s wrong . . . People need to get back to the basics” of love and forgiveness and inclusiveness “and stop messing around with the rest of it.”


“I thought recently I should sit down and read the Bible because I’ve never done it and I know it’s a beautiful piece of writing, especially the King James” version.


“I’m a humanist. I try and live my life in as decent a way as I can . . . I think everyone has to kind of work it out for themselves . . . but I don’t desire a God.”

The Mekons, from <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“Revenge of the Mekons.”</a> | Kristine Larson

The Mekons, from “Revenge of the Mekons.” | Kristine Larson

Face to Faith appears Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times with an accompanying audio podcast, with additional content, available at and on iTunes and Google Play.

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