What Would You Say in a Church Exit Interview?

Priest and Professor William J. Byron talks about the importance of Catholic churches finding out why people are not attending church anymore (an idea he attributes to a former corporate CEO):

… if businesses were losing customers at the rate the Catholic Church in the United States is losing members, someone would surely be conducting exit interviews.

The church in America must face the fact that it has failed to communicate the Good News cheerfully and effectively to a population adrift on a sea of materialism and under constant attack from the forces of secularism, not to mention the diabolical powers that are at work in our world.

Right. The pedophilia, opposition to condoms, treatment of homosexuals, anti-women policies, and perpetuating a giant myth about God’s existence all take a backseat to my “materialism”…

But I do like the idea of an exit interview, even though the Church would never do it because they don’t even seem to acknowledge that people are leaving the church in the first place. (Good luck getting your name off their rolls…)

Here are some of the questions posed by Byron:

  • Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
  • Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
  • Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
  • Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
  • Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?
  • Do your children go to church?
  • Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

Consider this your chance, whether you used to be Catholic or a member of any other faith.

Pick a question or three. How would you answer them in your exit interview?

(via Faith & Reason)

  • liz

    I am an ‘ex-catholic’

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly? I stopped believing in the religion before I was 18 and stopped attending mass at 17, when my mother finally gave up forcing me to go.

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return? Not really..

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you? When I was 10 I first asked my mom why gay people went to hell and she couldn’t give me an answer that I found to make sense.

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name? At my old church, yes. One deacon knew my name and talked to me frequently.

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage? No, we are both atheists now, I was raised catholic, he baptist.

    Do your children go to church? No.

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community? Not really, since I was 12 I felt I wasn’t part of my church because I had different opinions and beliefs.

  • Anonymous

    (Good luck getting your name off their rolls…)

    Correct. As Friendly Atheist reported in October,

    the Vatican has suspended all processing of individual acts of formal defection from the RCC.

    http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/10/23/the-vatican-blocks-the-exit/

  • Jos

    I’ll give those questions a go. I was raised Catholic, after all.

    - I stopped when I was a kid because Mass was incredibly boring to me.

    - First, they’ll have to prove to me God exists, Catholicism is true and show that God isn’t an incredibly unpleasant being. After that, they’ve got to make an effort to make Mass less tedious.

    - Hell. There’s also a lot of other stances I disagree with (condoms, gay people, female priests and so on), but Hell is the biggest, I think.

    - No. They’ve never even seen me.

    (I’ll skip the next two because I’m not married and don’t have kids.)

    - Technically, yes. As a kid, I did feel part of the village I grew up in, and since everybody in that village was Catholic and went to the same church, I suppose I technically felt part of the parish. Technically, but not really. It was about the village to me, not the church.

  • snoofle

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
    I knew it was all a lie from the age of 7, but was forced to go due to family pressure until I was 16, when I finally felt confident enough to refuse.

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    Absolutely none.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    All of them, really. But mostly the idea that certain people know the mind of God, and can tell other people what to do because of it. And Hell. Because it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. No amount of clever arguing can ultimately cover this fact up.

  • Catherine

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
    I stopped the second I moved away from home at age 18. It NEVER made any sense to me in the least. All I ever said growing up was, “Is it over yet?” As the youngest of five, I could get away with that.

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    Absolutely NOT.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    ALL.

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    Unfortunately, my parents went to a church run by a lunatic that was excommunicated because he refused to go along with the changes that Vatican II implemented. So, yes, the priest did know us because we were a parish of approximately 200. Our “church” was a rented space at a VFW Hall in Hicksville, Long Island; it had a disco ball in the middle. It was nuts.

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?
    My husband grew up without any religious training or coercion. I am an atheist now and he claims he agnostic, but…. we all know where that leads.

    Do your children go to church?
    We don’t have children, but if we did, HELL NO, they would not. They would be raised to believe in truth, reason, and compassion.

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    I hated every minute of it, and at the age of 15, after hearing that I was evil through and through one too many times, I told my parents I would NEVER go back, and if they made me (which I feared they would), I would kill myself. They listened, and for a few years we attended a sweet, happy Ukranian church in another town.

  • http:www.mountaintrail.us Joel Justiss

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    Name a doctrinal issue. It troubles me.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I wonder why the Catholic church isn’t doing this themselves. It seems like such an obvious idea now it has been pointed out. I won’t attempt the questions though because I’ve only ever been to church for weddings, funerals and one baptism (I didn’t burst into flame or anything) and wouldn’t consider going. Honestly it would be like me (a white, straight male) joining the black lesbian alliance.

    Also I wouldn’t have a clue where the nearest Catholic church is. We kicked them out of England in the 16th and 17th century and they still aren’t welcome.

  • lurker111

    The exit interviews would be pointless. The Catholic Church wouldn’t learn anything from them, or do anything in response to them.

  • Kathryn

    The Catholic Church isn’t in the business of asking. It’s in the business of telling. They don’t want to know what you’re thinking unless you’re telling them so that they can correct you. It won’t be anytime soon that they start to solicit info from people who aren’t attending.

  • Lynn

    Kathryn stated things perfectly. I once asked a deacon why they didn’t give people questionnaires to see what people attending the church actually believe. He said there was no need to know what people believe.

    So Kathryn is right-they are in the business of telling and correcting. It’s your silent obedience and your money that are valued.

  • http://quichemoraine.com Mike Haubrich

    Re: lurker111 and Kathryn. You are right. Following Vatican II there was a bit more listening, but then ideas like female ordination started rising and the conservative and more authoritarian track took over again.
    I am an ex-Catholic, too.

    #

    # Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    Yes, the idea that the fetus is inviolate and that nothing should ever be done that may lead to its untimely end. Doctors in some countries are not allowed to end ectopic pregnancies, even though it will cost the lives of both the fetus and the mother.

    Do your children go to church?

    No. I used to think that it is good to send them so that they will be exposed to different religious opinions than my own. In fact, they even went to a Catholic school for a time. Then I realized that I would send them to Republican rallies, so why to a Catholic church?

    • Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    Yes, because I went to my dad’s funeral, and was reminded just how crazy the whole religion is.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I did have an exit interview with my pastor when I left the Baptist church I was attending. I was going there (even though I was atheist) because my wife wanted the family to go to church. I was known to the pastor because I was volunteering in a few of the church ministries. I found it interesting to find out about evangelical Christianity but after a couple of years I had my fill. I responded to an email asking for a 10% tithing commitment to announce my intention to stop attending. For pragmatic purposes, I cited my opposition to the policies and stances of the Southern Baptist Convention. The pastor reacted to my email by requesting an exit interview hoping to clear up any misunderstandings and bring me back in the fold. I’m sure he also wanted to get some data points to better understand why people leave. I agreed to the interview because I like talking about this kind of stuff. He explained to me that his particular church was not part of the SBC and I shouldn’t judge his church on the proclamations from the SBC. I said that was good but then switched the conversation over to theological matters. I said I simply didn’t believe in the concept of an afterlife and the whole fallen, damned, and saved business. He then proceeded to quote the pertinent passages in the bible supporting these notions. I had to stop him and say that I also didn’t believe that the bible was the inspired word of God and I don’t view those passages as evidence of how the world works. At that point, he knew the game was lost. We continued to talk for another 45 minutes but it was no longer him trying to get me back in the fold. He did say I was welcome to go back and attend any time I wanted. I haven’t been back though. Neither has my wife (or kids).

  • Lynn

    “Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?”

    (I was protestant.) They have no interest in hearing my thoughts if my thoughts are critical of what they believe. They are there to instruct people with “the truth.” They are the teacher, you are the student.

    “Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?”

    No.

    “Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?”

    Yes. All of them.

    “Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?”

    Yes.

    “Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?”

    No. Both pretty much ex-Christian.

    “Do your children go to church?”

    No, not anymore.

    “Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?”

    Yes. (a local church)

  • http://gilmoth.blogspot.com/ Mauro Quercia

    I’m an ex-catholic.
    I’m still waiting for the answer to my request to leave the Catholic Church, and I planned to go to speak with the priest of my parish about these issues.

    “Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?”

    Because I stopped believing in God. Everything came as a consequence.

    “Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?”

    None

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    All of them

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    He knows me quite well from the time I attended church and my religious views were very different from now. I think that my letter took him a little by surprise.

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    My wife is much less religious as she was before I became an atheist.

    Do your children go to church?

    No.

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

    Sure. I was an active member in every parish community I lived. I made everything it was possible in a Catholic community: altar boy, played the guitar, read during the masses, organizing events at the parish recreation centre…

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    The exit interviews would be pointless. The Catholic Church wouldn’t learn anything from them, or do anything in response to them.

    QFT. Is the church going to change its theology in response to ex-member feedback? If enough people say they want married or women priests, is the pope going to listen? Of course not! The church’s opinion is that they have exclusive possession of the truth and the only job for everyone else is to fall in line. These “exit interviews” would never consist of an honest interrogation of former members’ views – the only thing they could possibly be is an hour of your priest haranguing you to quit whining and come back to the church.

  • JD

    Do businesses really do exit interviews with customers? I thought that was for employees that leave, and it works that way because you have to be there for employment and I think in some cases, you have to announce your intention to leave. I bet with most former members were regulars but just stop going after a while.

    It’s still funny that they stopped taking people off the rolls though. That really shows how far they stick their head in the sand, or somewhere dark.

  • Sean

    They don’t want the opinion of parishioners. The only opinion that matters is that of the pope, he is considered unfallable.

    Their just another cult, just larger than most of the others. I did the mass thing until 18 then just stopped.

  • Don Rose

    My exit interview would have been about forty years ago, when I was six years old.

    Why did I leave the church? Because I didn’t believe anything they were teaching. I snuck out of sunday school, or went directly out the back door of the church as soon as I arrived. When my parents found out that I had been skipping, and had only been to about 1 1/2 classes (lol), they let me quit.

    Even at 6 years old, I was able to express my thoughts to my parents in a way that they couldn’t argue with. I don’t believe in any gods, and the people who taught the sunday school classes were so “joyful” that they just creeped me out.

  • http://www.NoYourGod.com NoYourGod

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
    - I was raised a good catholic, so we never attended church regularly (unless xmas, easter, and 4-5 other miscellaneous times per year is considered “regularly”).

    * Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    - Strippers, or unconditional cash giveaways, maybe. But seriously, the answer is “no”. As an atheist the church holds nothing for me.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    - Raping little boys and hiding the rapists; denigration of women (see any women priests lately?); denigration of homosexuals; deadly lies about AIDS and condoms; (list continues for 28 pages); and red shoes…. seriously, dude, the only folks who should wear red shoes on a regular basis are women and Tom Hanks (and he only wears one, and it’s a sneaker).

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    - Who’s my pastor? In the town I spent my teenage years the local priest did know everybody in town – catholics and non-catholics. But then, it was a village of 600, and everybody knew everybody. Besides, he had better have known my name – I delivered his morning newspaper every morning for 7 years.

    * Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?
    - When I was married, my ex- was not religious, but she did believe in a god of some sort. Since I’m an atheist (was then, too), some could argue mixed-religion.

    * Do your children go to church?
    - I do not have any children, but if I did, I would not take them to church, just as I would not take them to any Harry Potter camp where the folks believed HP was real. However, if they wanted to go to church on their own (not forced to by a relative), I would let them go, then discuss the service afterward.

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    - My parents did consider themselves and their family part of the parish community where I was born. After we moved, that connection was not made in our new towns. Personally, I never felt part of a parish community at all. As an aside – my father did consider himself part of his parish community where he grew up. He attended the same church from birth through his 30′s except when he was in the Navy during WWII. His parish priest thought so highly of my father’s being a part of that community for 30 years that, when my father chose a protestant who converted to catholicism as his bride, the priest told him to go away – he would not be a part of marrying a catholic to a “protestant whore” (OK – that last part I borrowed from Peter’s American father from “Family Guy”, but effectively, that was the situation).

  • http://scaryreasoner.wordpress.com SteveC

    If I were leaving the church, and were asked to participate in an exit interview so that the church could better figure out why people were leaving in order to stem the tide of people leaving, I would say:

    “You can’t figure out why people are leaving? *Good*. I’m *glad* that you can’t figure it out.” and turn on my heel in the most dismissive way I could manage and walk away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    I kind of concur with SteveC. Why help them figure out how best to dupe people?

    Do businesses really do exit interviews with customers?

    No, but I’ve always made it a practice to let a business know just why they were losing my business. It gives them a chance to remedy what bothers you (a few actually have) and to know what they’re doing wrong. They used to be quite receptive and wanting to know why which makes sense because what money-making venture doesn’t want to know why they’re losing money? However, about a dozen years ago, I noticed a dramatic shift when doing so. A mocking, who gives a fuck, don’t let the door hit you on the way out instead of what can we do to keep you? And they wonder why the economy’s so bad. No one expects a company to change their business practices over one customer but they should keep track of the things individual customers are complaining about so as to spot trends turning large customer bases off. I always felt it was only fair to let a company know why they were losing my business but the last several times I have tried — always politely — I was treated so nastily by their so-called customer service people that I’ve kind of given up the practice.

    However, since I’m a geek who loves answering these sort of things, I’ll give it a go even though I left first Protestant than Jewish (though since I never went through with the conversion, I’ll just concentrate on the Protestant and leave the synagogue alone):

    “Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?” I’ve been reading and studying the bible because I wanted to understand god better and there’s no way that Jesus could be the messiah. The new and old testaments just contradict each other too much and Jesus did not accomplish what the messiah was supposed to. I know you’re going to say he will with the second coming but the predictions of a messiah just say he’s going to come and make these changes, not come, leave and come back again so even the second coming doesn’t make any damned sense.

    “Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?” No, not any you’d be willing to. And even if you were to change the social things I don’t like, it still wouldn’t make what you see as the basic truth you’re selling seem anything other than false to me.

    “Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?” How much time do you have?

    “Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?” Yes. He made quite a show of helping my poor family. We were excellent promotional material.

    “Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?” I was, briefly. Then Agnostic married to a Baptist. However, I get the impression they’re more pointing to is someone of the flock married to someone not of the flock so that doesn’t pertain since I was still a teenager basically when I left.

    “Do your children go to church?” God, no. I would never have allowed it. Any more than I’d allow them to go to a bar or an R or X rated movie. Hell, have you read the buybull? It should be rated R, at least. I would never have allowed my daughter around someone purposely scaring her the way the church would have so why would I the church. Bad enough having to explain it the day she came home terrified because some Christian classmate told her she was going to perish — in the first first grade. Why would I allow her to go into a big scary building with grownups thundering about heaven and hell to be intimidated and verbally abused? I don’t understand nonbelievers who allow their children to be subject to this cruelty.

    “Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?” No. I felt like the token poor taken on to represent the goodness of their heart and accepted because my mother’s family had lived in the area since it was settled by the white man and because my aunt (whose husband ran a large local dairy farm at that time) attended the church and was one of the ones who liked to show off what a good Christian she was.

  • siveambrai

    They don’t want the opinion of parishioners. The only opinion that matters is that of the pope, he is considered unfallable.

    Ok. To be pedantic for its own sake the pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on matters related directly to the morals or structure of the church (i.e. in official papal bulls etc). I had to go to Catholic school for 13 years i need to use that knowledge somehow. And much like reading the bible to know what it says it’s a good idea to understand the organizations we critique in order to make accurate statements about them.

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

    I can no longer listen to the lies and hate coming from the pulpit and organization. Both in official statements by the church and through the indoctrination of individuals who I love and know are good people.

    * Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    No. There are some changes I would consider beneficial but they are really just politics between different humans and would not change my main objections.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    As someone else said, name one and I have an issue with it. Abortion, politics, anti-gay stance, freedom for priests, understanding of education, pedophilia, recruiting children into your system of nuns and priests before they are capable of actually deciding. GUILT.

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    Yes. My siblings and I were church rats. Most of the staff knew us very well as did most church attendees. We attended most social functions and all served as altar servers for at least 5 years.

    * Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    Yes, I was raised RC and he was raised Non-Denom. I am an atheist and he is agnostic.

    * Do your children go to church?

    Hell no. Any children I have (it’s my body and my choice to have children) will not be attending the RC church or any other church. This extends to family members who may attempt to indoctrinate my children no longer being able to see those children (I love my family deeply and this would hurt but I feel it is worth it.)

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

    Yes. I was a very devout Catholic until at least 20 years old and a lukewarm one until almost 25. I was deeply embedded in my parish community and still love the people there. I had many good friends who were priests and have cried at their passing and miss them as people very much.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    my attitude has always been if i ever want to “Pope Up” for jeebus i’ll do it with the Catholics. why the hell not; the Prots are latecomers and posers in that particular scam. i’m Old School, when it comes to that sort of thing. just as Islam is “pure” and Judaism is “more intellectual.” /eyeroll to all three/

    but i won’t. the baby rapers hold no appeal for me, no matter how fabulous their shoes or how many cool nuns have naked art shows on teevee. i have this moral value, you see; i can’t ever defend pedophiles and their assistants. not, like, ever.

    there is this old 60s movie with Anthony Quinn or something, where some unlikely Pope decides to forward world peace by selling off every last valuable thing the RCC has, donating it all to the care and feeding of the poor, and disband the hierarchy of the church, who must then live out their lives caring for the meek. something like that, down to the last silk caps on their heads, and i might take them seriously. otherwise? con men and pedophiles and misogynists. i feel bad for less informed believers, but really. i don’t let anyone tell me what to think, i don’t get the appeal giving away that self-control. i’d rather control my own mind and sometimes be wrong, than answer for the foolery of another. and there is much foolery in the organization led by the teen formerly known as a concentration camp guard.

  • Jim H

    As a recovering Catholic an atheist, I’m not all that motivated either to help the church “keep its customers” or to sound off. They say the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. But I do like to argue. (Thanks, Richard!)

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

    I broke free of the indoctrination!

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    Uh, no.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    “Infallible” authority, supposedly celibate autarchs prescribing (and proscribing) the sexual practices of others, many more.

    [I came of age just after the US war in Vietnam, and my (Catholic!) parents taught me to question authority. This tool has served me well, in ways they never imagined.]

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    1 atheist, 1 “universalist” christian

    Do your children go to church?

    (This one’s not applicable.)

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

    Only until I was 13 or so (i.e., old enough to really think for myself).

    OK, maybe I did want to sound off a bit. ;-)

  • anna nonymous

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

    Because I started University and learned got the urge to question what the old man was preaching. At times, I had to sit on my hands to not raise them to start a discussion.

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return

    No. The problem is not on a parish level.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    there might be no god. Homosexuality is not a crime and should not be hidden. Women are equal to man. the pope needs to go. The church needs to invest more of their wealth into social projects (not a doctrine but still)to proove they are here for a good cause and can be a moral instance. Other religions are just as good as this one, no need to kill people who have another faith.

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

    yes. I was a very active member of my parish.

  • starbolt22

    Okay, these should be interesting to answer..

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

    Well, I never attended mass regularly in the first place. My parents didn’t really raise me Catholic, it was more of my grandparents. They’re the reason I was an altar server, which I was until I was 13, so I only went when I had to serve. After I quit, I stopped going entirely.

    * Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    Probably not. I don’t believe in a higher power, so there’s really no reason for me to attend mass in the first place.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    Yeah. A lot of them bother me, but Creationism bothers me the most because it makes smart people sound rather… not smart when they start spouting it. Though, I suppose you could substitute anything in the doctrine and it would make people sound not smart when they start talking about it like it’s fact.

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    Yeah. As stated before, I was an altar server from ages 9 to 13, so we’d do some chatting while getting ready for mass. Plus, it was a pretty small church, the population of the town being around 400 or so, and not all of that 400 went to that church.

    (I’m skipping the next two because I’m not married and have no kids)

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

    Hmmm… Not really. My grandparents were the ones who talked and chatted the most with people after church, while I would be waiting for them to get in the car and drive me home or to their house(they live maybe a few miles away? Next town over at most). Also, most of the kids my age disliked me a lot, so I didn’t really have a friend to hold me to the church.

  • Rieux

    Re this:

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    I’m an ex-Protestant atheist who has never been Catholic. Still, if the RCC junked almost all of its doctrinal system in favor of a democratically governed secular humanitarianism, I’d consider joining. I think there is value in the community elements of organized religion, though (even if you throw out the obviously screwed-up elements of supernaturalism and male/straight/etc. privilege) they’re not perfect either.

    Of course, if the RCC really did junk almost all of its doctrinal system in favor of a democratically governed secular humanitarianism, no one might notice, because we’d be so distracted by all of the flying pigs.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    I’ll modify the questions to fit with my status as an ex-Protestant.

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Masschurch regularly?

    I stopped believing in the tenets of my former faith.

    * Are there any changes your parishchurch might make that would prompt you to return?

    Not really. The tenets of the church have poor evidential support. That the church members have been fairly friendly doesn’t overcome that rather huge hurtle. Trying to be even nicer, friendlier, more inviting, etc., just wouldn’t help.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    Yes and no. If the evidence showed that the church’s beliefs were in fact true, then I could deal fairly easily with the more uncomfortable bits of doctrine. However, the crux of the issue is whether the church’s tenets are correct. If not, then there’s little point in worrying about whether Hell is cruel or if the atonement is barbaric or whatnot.

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parishchurch staff know you by name?

    Sure.

    * Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    I’m not married, but my parents were in a mixed-religion marriage.

    * Do your children go to church?

    I don’t have children.

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parishthe church community?

    Sure. Again, the problem was not how welcome I felt.

  • Beth

    Former Protestant here.

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday Masschurch services regularly?

    I began to put aside my faith early in my teens but kept going to church (a) because it was a community I enjoyed and respected, and (b) to make my mother happy. Both of those reasons disappeared when I left home for college, and I no longer believed, so why bother to seek out a new church?

    Are there any changes your parishchurch might make that would prompt you to return?

    No. The church I belonged to is one of the finest examples of Christianity you will ever find. But as someone said above, the problems I have with religion exist at a much larger scale than can be addressed by a single congregation.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    All of them.

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parishchurch staff know you by name?

    Yes. My family has been part of the congregation for generations, and I continue to be well known there even all these years later.

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    No. Both atheists. He a lifelong one, and me an apostate. ;)

    Do your children go to church?

    No children yet. When we do have children, we will definitely not take them to church ourselves. However, I would not mind it at all if they were occasionally to go to my childhood church with my mother; the people there are kind, and the experience could be a helpful one for developing critical thinking skills!

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parishchurch community?

    Of course. For many years the church was like an extension of our family. I was active in youth group and the choirs. Even after setting my faith aside as a teenager, I continued to lead Vacation Bible School and teach Sunday School classes.

    (That’s right, a sneaky atheist like me could be teaching Bible stories to your children — gasp! The horror! Actually, as I said, this congregation is one of the best examples of Christianity, and the way they approach children’s education is anything but indoctrination. The Bible is taught to them much in the same way Aesop’s fables might be. Since that’s roughly the level on which I can find any value in the Bible myself, I never had any qualms about explaining it to kids that way.)

  • Gra’ma Banana

    I was raised in the Catholic Church, went to Catechism classes each week to be further indoctrinated and had to listen to my father’s negative rants about the sermons each Sunday. My first inkling that Catholicism wasn’t (or any religion for that matter) my cup of tea was when a priest in my Catechism class declared that anyone who wasn’t Catholic was going to hell. I immediately thought of all the Hindus and Buddhists and concluded this priest was talking out of his own prejudice, but possibly also from something that came from the Pope and the Church doctrine. Unacceptable! That many people couldn’t go to hell. There wasn’t enough room!! Then the priest proceeded to declare that “the missionary method of having sex” was the only one acceptable to the Church and that really ripped it for me. He had already told me I couldn’t use contraception. I declared to him that no religion had a right to tell me what to do in my own bedroom. He said I would be ex-communicated for that statement and I told him not to bother setting up the appointment because I ex-communicated myself. I promptly got up and walked out of the class and haven’t attended mass since. I was 17 years old and that was 47 years ago. I have declared myself Agnostic. Still waiting for someone to prove to me that God exists and that I should believe. Hasn’t happened yet and I’m betting it won’t.

  • ff42

    Ex (well still technically on the roles but haven’t attended in 6 months) Mormon here:

    I have stopped attending church because of the historical and present day fraud that I just learned about (and was blinded to while a TBM – True Believing Mormon )

    There is no way I can return now that I’ve given up all superstitions, gods, demons, promises and punishments.

    The fraudulent content and creation of the founding documents of Mormonism and the current control and bigotry trouble me.

    The ward (parish) members and leadership know me by name and sight.

    I am now in a mixed religion marriage – my wife is TBM and I am a strong atheist.

    My sons continue to attend church with their mother, my daughters do no attend church.

    I was a very active member of my ward, in a lay leadership position as well as other non-leadership ‘callings’ (librarian, facilities, website, etc.) as well as an LDS missionary for my whole life; up to 6 months ago.

    I left because of Prop 8, not because I was gay-sympathetic (I am now), but because I was curious about the change from the LDS church 100+ years ago (“gov stay out of our polygamist marriages”) to (“gov interfere with ‘their’ marriages”). Maybe I was wrong about (“gov stay out of our marriages”), so for two years I read all the history about the church I could get my hands on and boy were my eyes opened. No wonder the LDS members are warned not to investigate the ‘flecks of history’.

  • http://madhominem.wordpress.com/ Mad Hominem

    There’s a reason the moniker isn’t just ex-Catholic, but “recovering Catholic.” :) Although given the age I officially left (16), I subscribe to the Dawkins view and say I wasn’t a Catholic child, but was raised by Catholic parents.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    Aside from the existence of God: The basing of so much doctrine on texts that don’t stand up to criticism — in the New Testament alone, the gospels being written decades after the fact, almost certainly not by the attributed authors, and so often in conflict. And while we’re at it, all the doctrine that doesn’t even have Biblical basis, like the authority of the Pope and the nature of the Trinity.

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    I was an altar server, among other things, so the priest who was there when I actively attended church knew me quite well.

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    Sure? My family is still very involved in their church. It’s a small parish, so it was easy to know basically every “clan” there. I still come into contact with parishioner when I’m at home. It didn’t make a difference with my decision though.

  • Gabriel

    Ex-Church of Christ here. Went for about 7 years.

    I stopped attending because I didn’t believe in it anymore. It took me sometime to stop attending after I stopped believing. The final straw for me that allowed me to walk away was a sermon against education. The preacher said that people shouldn’t go to college because education caused people to stop believing in god. It was better to live in poverty and ignorance and attend church and believe in god. That was it for me.

  • flawedprefect

    Eesh. Talk about pointless and futile questions; they al assume Catholics who stop going to church are still believers.

    Doesn’t it make more sense, that if you are a believer, but are not satisfied with your “club” that you change clubs? Isn’t that why there were at least three big protestant movements?

    I’m not a believer any longer. That makes my number one reason “I don’t believe in God, so Church, its doctrines, mass, sacrements – they’re all kind of pointless. I got better things to do with my time, like live my life”.

    It’s sad, because the article’s author is certainly aware that there are unbelievers out there, but he makes secularism sound like some invading barbarian hoard, and then the questions in the survey reflect nothing of that awareness of un-belief, rather assuming church-leavers are doing so for petty, small stuff.

  • anniesez

    One of the posters above wrote about being “pedantic” when it came to the pope’s infallibility. I am going to be pedantic, too. Too often, I read that ex-Catholics can’t go along with Creationism. That’s a red flag for me as to the poster’s authenticity. Catholicism fully embraces evolution. In fact it was a scientist-priest who developed the Big Bang Theory. There are reasons not to be invested in Catholicism but I would have much more respect if people knew what they were rejecting. For instance, Granma taking cathecism classes at 17? BS. Missionary position only…wouldn’t have been said. I don’t want to think that non-believers are simply embittered no-nothings. I want to have more respect for you than that.

  • Lana

    I plan on applying to take my name off the LDS church rolls as soon as my dad passes away (I fear that final, absolute step would affect his already ill-health in a way that the seeming malleability of inactivity doesn’t). From what I’ve read, I will have to do a one-on-one interview with the Bishop and missionaries to do this. My answers:

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday services regularly? — I find the church doctrines sexist, contradictory, and bigoted.

    Are there any changes your ward might make that would prompt you to return? — No.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you? — Specifically, the way the LDS church strives to bury their doctrinal history and they way they continue to propagate sexism, racism, and homophobia.

    Does your bishop or anyone on the ward staff know you by name? — Since I receive monthly unwanted and unrequested post cards with scripture on them, as well as regular visits from the missionaries specifically looking for me, I assume someone does. I would prefer they did not.

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage? — No.

    Do your children go to church? — No.

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a ward community? — When I was in the singles ward, yes. But never in a family ward.

  • Tizzle

    I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses about 15 years ago.

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
    –I stopped attending because I had issues with doctrine. Very pointedly it was not because I wanted to have sex, or because I had figured out yet that I was a lesbian. I needed it to be an intellectual decision, not an emotional or reactionary one.

    * Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    –Not now, but back then: If some of the more egregious policies had been revoked, maybe I’d have stayed faithful. For a little longer anyway. I left right before the internet became mainstream, so it was probly inevitable after that.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    –That only a certain number of people can or will be saved. That god as they preach him seems kinda mean and violent. God is love =/= what they say his about his actions.
    –Some of those rapetastic stories from the bible really bothered me.
    –That gay people should have to remin celibate, because god cares about things like that. Also, that everyone should remain pure until marriage. Even before I was old enough to be sexually active, I thought god cared just a little too much. I was born to be slutty.
    –Women’s issues: abortion, not being elders, basically being told that I was 2nd class and should like it up there on that pedestal (or in the kitchen).

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    –Yup. Everyone.

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    –Definitely, although it immediately vanished, so I was forced to question the legitimacy of those friendships.

  • Tizzle

    TO: anniesez

    There are a lot of different pastors and parishes, and many of them would say something that wasn’t strict policy. If not from the pulpit, then in person. I’m not Catholic, but saw this in the church I used to attend.

    An example: I know that my aunt and uncle do not engage in oral sex. This policy was never explicitly stated from any sermon I ever heard (let’s say 1984-1993 when I was of an age to understand). But it is a policy that some members of the church preach, at least privately.

    Another: I have heard of over zealous elders stating a literal interpretation of modest dress: the skirt can only be 3″ above the knee when sitting, and cleavage some other measurement. This was too picky to be main church policy, but in that man’s congregation, it was the rule.

    I have defended my earlier faith many times when confonted with ignorance about it. But I learned that the folks who didn’t know much didn’t necessarily have bad intentions. also, that all our experiences are different. Mine was a liberal an upbringing as one could get in my church (not very, but every little bit helps).

  • MV

    anniesez:

    Anyone who states that the Catholic church supports evolution does not understand evolution (or ignores Catholic theology). The Catholic church does not support evolution. They support theistic evolution. Very different. Because Adam and Eve, sin and souls aren’t part of evolution.

  • Mikko

    in Sweden if you are counted as a catholic the Swedish state will take church tax from your salary every month and pay the catholic church

  • TheirSnowGod

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday (services) regularly?

    Because I work hard to support others and myself and since I know that I am going to hear the same platitudes about a god who will provide for me, I need a day of rest on the seventh day just like (H)is lazy ass did.

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    Replace the entire “Church Council” with people who honestly listen to my ideas. You see, I had come to be known as a “question asker.”

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    Yes. Actually, I once spontaneously shared the following concern with my pastor. He did not have a response for me. I do not understand why this church seems to be teaching a moral system which is only suitable for people under the age of 10. With a couple of minor exceptions, I have been living my life by my own rules, and I do not think I have hurt any one very badly. While acknowledging this silly set of rules, I realize if I had followed them to the letter, I would not have succeeded in life. For example, “…if a man asks for your shirt, give him your coat as well.” Really? to what end? I have had my generous moments but did not over do it.

    Do your children go to church?

    Yes, but my 15 year old goes for the social aspects and does not believe in god. My other child goes because their mother wants them to.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    I wonder how sincere this question is? Will they actually do something if the people who leave give say the treatment of gay/women as the cause?

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    I hope that they provide a lot of space.

  • http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com Teapot

    1. I never attended Mass, but if I were one of the millions of Catholics worldwide who stop going to church every year, I’d probably say something like this. When Catholics go to church, they expect certain things: inspiration, community, messages of humility. Instead, their inspiration is quashed by the hardline conservatism that Benedict and his political allies in the church are forcing throughout the church. Instead of community, they get aggressive rhetoric against homosexuals in the community, demands for penance from “liberals,” and the excommunication of women who dare suggest that they are equal to men. These things fracture communities. Instead of humility, they are now being told to give more and more, as the church’s once pornographic-bordering-on-the-smutful wealth dwindles to merely pornographic-bordering-on-the-obscene.

    2. Again, I’m not a Catholic, but if I were one, I might want my parishes to change around their priorities a little bit. Instead of closing Catholic schools one by one over closing churches, I’d sell the churches to be museums and video stores and use that to prop up the Catholic education system for as long as possible because, you know what, *any* accredited school is better than *any* church and Catholic schools get accredited. If the bishop has to take a pay cut for that to happen, so be it.

    3. Doctrinal issues that CONCERN me? Here’s a few: “AIDS may be bad, but condoms are worse.” “Women are naturally inferior to men, though we’re all born filthy (and only the church can cleanse us).” “Reproductive intercourse is a beautiful thing, and anything else is ugly and worthy of our condemnation, and anyone who engages in such sex must beg forgiveness from the church.” “If the occasional priest rapes a child, it’s the church that suffers the most.” “The key to heaven is the literal cannibalism of a zombified Jewish rabbi, whose flesh is magicked into your church by the incantations of the properly-trained acolyte.” “Homosexuals are evil. Jews are almost as bad.”

    4. I’m not a Catholic, but probably he wouldn’t, because priests are getting transferred around and are dropping out in record numbers, always with fewer and fewer replacements.

    5. If I were a Catholic and I were in a mixed-religion marriage, I would know that the church would say that a “mixed-religion marriage” is a contradiction because, to the church, the only real, legitimate marriages are those between faithful Catholics. The rest don’t count.

    6. Given the undeniable fact that the insatiable lusts of the Catholic church’s employees have caused the systematic rape and torture of millions of children in quite literally every country in which the church operates, I would never, EVER let my children into a Catholic church or school. Anyone who does is abusive by recklessness.

    7. No.

  • Nancy

    • Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
    The homilies at Sunday Mass NEVER spoke to issues that concerned my state in life at the time. I was a young (20s), single female. I was not in a relationship. The sermons generally spoke to those who were married with children. I got tired of listening to 20 minutes of how to be a better wife, husband or child.

    • Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    No
    • Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    Just about all of the Catholic doctrine troubles me. The following are particular points of conflict for me:
    • The church forbids contraceptives, condoms, masturbation, and abortions.
    • The church values the life of an unborn being more than that of a wife and mother, even when the mother has children to care for.
    • The church discriminates against women holding positions of authority within the church.
    • The church preaches that my mom, a Presbyterian, is now in hell because, although she was a good daughter, mother and wife, she was not a Catholic.

    • Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name? No
    • Are you in a mixed-religion marriage? I told you I wasn’t married.
    • Do your children go to church? I told you I don’t have children!
    • Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community No

  • AZ Archie

    “Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?” etc etc

    How do ANY of these questions pertain to claims of truth?
    Whether I LIKE something or not does not determine the truthfulness of the proposition.
    The very questions asked indicate blindness to the real issues.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Tizzle Says:

    I know that my aunt and uncle do not engage in oral sex.

    How do you know this? Actually, I don’t want to know.

    I have heard of over zealous elders stating a literal interpretation of modest dress: the skirt can only be 3? above the knee when sitting, and cleavage some other measurement. This was too picky to be main church policy, but in that man’s congregation, it was the rule.

    This and the other rule you mentioned strike me as people trying to codify what amount to practical suggestions for behaviour. The sexual morality laws in the bible come from wanting to set the tribes apart from the (much more fun sounding) pagan practices of surrounding tribes. Clearly this doesn’t apply today.

    What I’m trying to say is if they want to dress up in full body hessian sacks and only have sex in the missionary position then that is up to them. They don’t have any say in how anyone else dresses or shags though and it is presumptuous for them to try to dictate such things.

  • Tizzle

    @hoverfrog Re: sex, oral or not: all the young people ignored any “rules” that were suggested. Kinda like most Americans, really. Oral sex used to be an option, but is now a requirement (Dan Savage).

    The JWs don’t vote, which is a plus. However, they will excommunicate you if you put a foot wrong, and then many family members will shun you.

    This is why I switched their description from “harmless” to “mostly harmless”.

  • shakes

    Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

    I have tried many different churches Catholic being the first..They all seem to believe in the basics.But attack each other on many different interpretations.. I haven’t givin up my faith, I just won’t be part of any church..God is with me everywhere I go and I do not feel the need to attend a church that does not know or can’t prove whether their form of religion is right above all others..

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    Nope!!
    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    I believe that was answered above..
    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    In every church I have been to..Yes
    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    Nope!!
    Do your children go to church?
    Nope!!
    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    At one time but never again

  • http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com considerthe teacosy

    I’ll bite with this one.

    * Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

    I stopped a long time ago. Originally, that was because the cognitive dissonance of being a non-straight teenager made me feel ashamed and broken whenever I went. These days, however, I simply don’t believe in any gods.

    * Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

    Nope, since I don’t believe in any gods.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

    I’m a woman, I’m bi, and I was a kid in sub-Saharan Africa where there were way, way too many people dying from AIDS for lack of condoms and decent sex ed. And then a kid and an adult in Ireland where the RCC is still a major influence in the fact that women are not allowed to access abortions in this country unless we’re actually about to die right then and there. Let’s start with that, and then we can move on to my opinions on undemocratic institutions.

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

    They used to.

    * Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

    Nope, not married. I am in a state that the RCC considers ‘living in sin’, and I consider ‘having a lovely time’.

    * Do your children go to church?

    No children. But they won’t. I would like to keep any of my future kids away from anyone who has carte blanche to rape, torture and abuse them and be protected for such.

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

    Yup. I even sang in choir as a kid! But my belief in gods, and membership of any religious communities, died at around the same time as my belief in UFOs, psychic powers, and conversations with dead people.

  • SeekerLancer

    The exit interview questions seem more geared towards people changing denominations than becoming an atheist. I think “I stopped believing in god” pretty much answers all of the questions succinctly enough.

    But like you said it’s not like these interviews would ever happen because they want to keep counting you when they gloat about how many Catholics there are.

  • Digitus Impudicus

    Former baptist.
    * Why have you stopped attending church regularly?
    Short answer: After swapping partners with a deacon one night, I went with my girlfriend and the deacon and his wife to watch him preach a sermon about fidelity. The hypocrisy was the stone that started an avalanche.
    Then I read Carl Sagan’s Contact and the doubts began regarding biblical inerrancy. QED atheist.

    * Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    Stop taking superstition seriously.

    * Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    See #2.

    * Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    Doubt it.

    * Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?
    I am an strong atheist and she is agnostic/deist.

    * Do your children go to church?
    My cat is also an atheist.

    * Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    Sure. I went to bible camp and was part of a gospel act that traveled to different churches. BTW the charismatic churches are weird! I even went to bars and preached at the poor sinners.

  • Jyothika S

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!
    interview questions

  • Alisha

    Oooh! I’ll do it right here! I left my husband’s Reformed Baptist Church coming up two years from now when it was suggested that I was not saved, I was suffering from a “victim mentality” and that I would not acknowledge that I was the “worst sinner” on earth. My logic took over from that moment. I left, I fight the indoctrination of my children, and have since done my homework and therefore become an atheistic secular humanist.
    But at the time of my departure, I would have answered the questions this way:

    Why have you stopped attending church regularly?
    - Because the pastor is an aggressive, assumptive, power-hungry egotist.

    Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
    - Sever the power-tie between the head pastor and the elder board. They have no check and balance – its simply a group of people who affirm everything the head pastor says.

    Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
    - Too many to name on a short questionaire.

    Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
    - Only because of the bad things the head pastor has unjustly said about my “condition.”

    Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?
    - No. (We are now.)

    Do your children go to church?
    - Yes. (Sadly, still yes.)

    Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?
    - No. It’s too much like a clique.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X