Adieu to the Pew

Michael O’Loughlin is a Catholic, but he understands why so many people are walking away from the Church:

To those whose lives fit snugly within the constructs the church accepts, this ultimatum ["adjust your beliefs, join our tribe, and all will be well"] might be easy enough to embrace. But in a society where those constructs echo back to a quaint time that never actually existed, where individuals have more choices, where decisions have become mind-bogglingly complex, where women and men can live full lives without the strictures of religious faith, it’s not that simple.

I’m no longer surprised when a close female friend, successful and well educated, looks askew at a male-dominated church and cringes before she walks away. When those charged with teaching the faith tell their flock to believe or act a certain way because their authority gives them the right to do so, it becomes easier to see why many chuckle as they interpret this as a parent scolding a toddler: do this because I said so. Gay men and women rightly refuse to succumb to bullying in their professional and familial lives, so it’s not a surprise when they leave a church that calls them disordered. And though we are over a decade removed from the revelation of clergy sex abuse of minors, many in my generation will never again give the benefit of the doubt to the Catholic hierarchy on matters of faith, morals, or much else.

That’s really it, isn’t it? The Church just isn’t relevant to people who aren’t part of its hierarchy. Sure, Catholic beliefs are just plain untrue, but that’s only part of the reason so many people belong to one church or another; they need to feel a sense of belonging and hope and community. If the Church’s teachings contradict so much of what you know is right, it’s becoming a lot easier to walk right out those doors.

The Church is fading away and we’re all better off because of it.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    And though we are over a decade removed from the revelation of clergy sex abuse of minors…

    Did it end? Or did they just get better at hiding it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Down/100001310114443 Bob Down

    Swings and Roundabouts. The Church will ride out this storm and in a few decades from now it will be stronger than ever. Priests raping children will be swept out of sight and most believers will never know it happened. Check out some of the official Catholic websites and see the spin they have put on the Inquisitions: they were all about helping people in their time of need – and the executions (few and far between) were performed by the State, never by the Church.

  • Skjaere

    The Church is fading away and we’re all better off because of it.

    I can see why you might think that, and why it might make you feel optimistic, but the fact is that the Catholic Church (and Christianity in general) have been adapting with (or more to the point a little behind) the times for 2000 years now, and it will probably continue to do so. I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

  • icecreamassassin

    Going through the Michael O’Loughlin’s post and the subsequent comments, I find myself getting pretty confused.  He and others seem to be having a hard time with concepts of dogma and of being told what is right and what is wrong.  They seem to think that the problem with the Catholic church is that it is trying to exercise authority on morality.

    But.  Isn’t the Catholic church the established organization of god’s presence on Earth?  If Catholics truly believe that their church is what it is, aren’t they supposed to simply say ‘Yes, god says gay is bad.  I don’t agree.  But seeing as how god is that guy with whom I ascribe abject dominion over all of existence, I probably should accept his decree.’

    I just get lost on a lot of this.  One of the comments states this:
    “Religion has become too much of a head game – it’s all about belief – orthodoxy – rather than about what Jesus taught us about how to live”

    Well, of course.  It has ALWAYS been about that, no?  What exactly is religious about listening to teachers and philosophers and discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of the content of their message?  Film critics do that.  Art critics do that.  Drunken intellectuals do that.  Where does the whole supernatural aspect of various religions fit into all this?

    /end random wall of text.

    • Brian Scott

      You’re right about the church, but religion as a whole is not necessarily about dogma, doctrines and orthodoxy. Heck, I’d say most religions aren’t: the sort of heretic hunting we all know and love is mostly an artifact of the growth of Christianity and Islam.

      The RCC has also always had an on-again off-again relationship with mystics wherein heterodox beliefs are held without brouhaha, so it’s from this background which some Catholics may think that creed should not be an important part of religion, though one would think that instances like the First Council of Nicaea existing in the very earliest histories of the church would disabuse them of the notion that such concepts would be acceptable to the institutional church.

  • Jmi

    I wan’t to know who you think should take its place. Imagine a world without Science ..then Imagine a world without religion .  Most reasonable people would agree we are in dire need of both . 

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Nothing needs to take its place. A world without religion sounds perfectly fine to me! That’s how my world was when I was a little girl, and I didn’t lack anything.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X