Why She No Longer Attends Church, Part 2

A month ago, a reader named Amanda wrote a great post about why she and her husband no longer attended church.

Now, she’s back with more reasons and I suspect a lot of former Christians will sympathize with her.

I particularly love this part:

I’m currently reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, and my friends would think I was losing my mind if I pulled one sentence from the novel, applied the concept to my life, and then altered my behavior to suit that concept. The Bible is the ONLY book that I know of that can have its nits picked without nitpicking the whole thing. Essentially, pastors are given license to go to town on the interpretation of individual passages while the validity of the entire book is never called into question.

That’s something I noticed during my church visits, too. Most churches are like FOX News Channel: There’s no fact-checking going on, and the person in the spotlight tends to get away saying whatever he wants because he knows no one is going to hold up a sign saying “Citation Needed.”

There ought to be a time before each sermon where someone points out all the factual errors the pastor made the week before. The only problem with that is they’d never get around to the actual sermon…

  • Rich Wilson

    Speaking of modeling your life after a work of fiction, “The Fountainhead Shrugged” comes to mind.

  • abadidea

    I’m still undercover in a deeply religious family. I’ve managed to by and large dodge the church draft with various excuses but I still end up having to go once every several weeks.

    I’ve started listing off all the misquotes of the Bible, mis-mentions of “the original Greek”, and plain factual errors (in particular this guy has a problem with geography) that my mother’s pastor makes.

    She’s never amused. But she has no ground to argue on.

  • http://cafephilos.wordpress.com/ Paul Sunstone

    That’s an interesting comparison to the Fox News Channel. I’m not familiar with churches — the last time I attended a service was over 20 years ago — so I’m wondering whether the comparison can be extended beyond a tendency to play fast and lose with the facts?

    For instance, are church services more entertainment than substance? Are they more about whipping people into a heightened emotional state than about informing them? Are they geared towards scandal and titillation? Is the communication heavily reliant on catch-phrases, cliches, and conventions? I’m rather curious how far the comparison can be taken.

  • Harmless

    This is something I’m currently going back and forth on. I noticed that God doesn’t exist several years ago, but I’ve still been going to church. I like that time of quiet reflection, and I have a group of friends at church. My church is one of those super-liberal churches, and my friends there know I don’t believe in God. But more and more, I find it irritating to hear so many things I’m sure aren’t true. Do I continue to go, and reap the social benefits, or stop? I’m not sure. I’m taking a little break to see how it feels. One thing I know for sure- I can go, or not go, as I choose, and it won’t affect the existence of God or my own ethics a bit. It’s only a choice of which one gives more pleasure, going to church or staying home.

  • JD

    I had fallen away from my church, I went one time because I needed to meet someone in the tech department afterwards. The sermon involved abstinence. It didn’t take any effort to find that the pastor was brazenly lying about the supposed ineffectiveness of condoms, and implausibly stretched his arguments elsewhere.

  • Raven

    Paul, I think that you are on to something there! LOL

  • Steve

    In the 2nd century Marcion had some ideas about the completely different personalities of the OT and NT gods:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism

    So of course he was declared a heretic. Just like dozens of other early Christian sects. His beliefs later resurfaced in the middle ages and were eradicated in a crusade

  • sandchigger

    There ought to be a time before each sermon where someone points out all the factual errors the pastor made the week before. The only problem with that is they’d never get around to the actual sermon…

    This sounds more like a feature than a bug to me.

  • Nicoline

    In Dutch, there’s a saying “Iedere KETTER heeft z’n LETTER” (ketter=heretic), which, loosely translated means, anyone can find some thing, anything, really to support his/her religious beliefs in the bible.

  • http:www.mountaintrail.us Joel Justiss

    There ought to be a time before each sermon where someone points out all the factual errors the pastor made the week before. The only problem with that is they’d never get around to the actual sermon…

    I always wanted a Q&A time after the sermon, but I like sandchigger’s point, too.

  • http://shadesthamatter.blogspot.com Amanda

    Paul:

    are church services more entertainment than substance? Are they more about whipping people into a heightened emotional state than about informing them? Are they geared towards scandal and titillation? Is the communication heavily reliant on catch-phrases, cliches, and conventions?

    A heady mixture of all of them. The church I attended was rather small, rural, and exclusively white, but I’ve also attended larger and more diverse churches and I feel like I’ve seen these patterns just about everywhere. Even as a child, I wondered what phrases like “give your heart to Jesus”, “give the glory to God”, “purify your heart”, and the list goes on. I mean, “spread peanut butter on bread” or “write a sentence” is a pretty direct order, but I have no IDEA what “giving glory to God” looks like (other than church’s prescribed way of doing so).

    You should definitely check out the website for Elevation Church. I think it’s the BEST example of Christianity essentially saying “fuck it, reasoning obviously doesn’t work to attract new members, so let’s go for broke with theatrics and ‘relevant’ stuff like coffee shops and douchey t-shirts”. The sermons are absolutely bats; the entire congregation essentially worships the pastor and materialism.

    Yep, Christianity is doomed.

  • http://cafephilos.wordpress.com/ Paul Sunstone

    Thanks for the link, Amanda! The Elevation Church website is dismaying. The pastor gets described as “wise beyond his years”, but the sentiments he expresses are pretty much along the lines of “I like a good hot dog when I’m at the ballpark.”

    That’s a case for a cite right there: Who called him “wise beyond his years”?

  • richardpaul

    Why just say FOX News? All the major networks do it, some more than others, CBS being the worst.In fact, CBS makes Fox look like a pillar of integrity. What is particularly bad about CBS,ABC, and NBC, is not what they report, but what they leave out.

  • DicePlayGod

    There’s no fact-checking going on …

    I think you’ve hit on the essential reason why religion survives. Some guy claims to have some special knowledge of the supernatural, and people simply believe him. At least in the fundamentalist church I grew up in, no one — NO ONE — ever asked the question: why do I believe this stuff?

  • David

    Way back, I remember trying to point out to a pastor an error he’d made in his sermon. It wasn’t even about a Bible issue, but just an illustration that he used that was based on something untrue.
    It was very obvious that he didn’t appreciate being corrected. I’m sure he didn’t get that kind of response a lot.
    For me, it was just one of the many little steps on the road to reason.

  • http://shadesthamatter.blogspot.com Amanda

    David: when I get the opportunity to go back to TCBC (which is rare and usually the result of my parents’ pleading), I am often horrified.

    This “new” pastor is undoubtedly more opinionated than the rest that I remember from my time as an attendee, and spouts the most vile, awful trash that I am tempted to interrupt his sermon! When he said that no one should vote, but rather pray for individuals in office, because there was no candidate that he supported, and the whole congregation clapped, I think I nearly fainted. My blood just boiled.

  • http://na Mike

    Unfortunately no real fact checking will ever happen if the pastor believes the Bible is infallible. It is like paranormal research. No one ever questions whether Gohsts actually exist. They rationalize instead.

  • http://na Mike

    You know how they explain away the passage that says you can’t die from a snake bite? Explanation = you have to let the snake find you by accident. Weird huh?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    One thing that struck me from Amanda’s post:

    Also, I feel that I should clarify one point that many FA commenters noted: these posts are a critique of the way the Christian church functions, not the validity or truth of the Christian faith. That is a can of worms that I would prefer not to open in this forum, nor do I feel qualified to address that issue. While I attended church for twenty years, I am not a theologian; that said, I will leave that argument to the many, many published thinkers and writers who have already expounded greatly on the subject.

    It’s interesting to me that the Christian community (in general) tends to make people like Amanda feel they have to be theologians in order to dismiss the validity or truth of the Christian faith. It seems like such a double standard, especially since Christians certainly don’t require that she be an expert in any other faith before dismissing it out of hand. How many fervent, believing Christians know anything at all about Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, or Jainism? Yet they feel perfectly comfortable dismissing those religions as false, even though they’ve never read any of their holy books or studied the words of their spiritual leaders. But Amanda (and everyone else in American society) is made to feel that she needs to investigate what the “experts” have to say about Christianity (and only Christianity) before she can come to any kind of conclusion on whether that religion is true or false. Strikes me as yet another example of the religious majority using bully tactics to make people feel insecure about expressing their own opinions. Those people aren’t any more qualified than Amanda. They have no more evidence of the supernatural than anyone else does.


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