Possessive expression?

While driving our friends (see below) home, we chatted about our different cultures. They asked, as we passed a large brick building with a steeple, "Do you go to church?"

I replied in a manner that I think is relatively normal here, "No, I do not belong to a church."

Their response was complete puzzlement. How could a person "belong" to a religious institution?

Never thought of it that way. But sometimes a view from the outside can offer insight.

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